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The Rivas Sequence: EJ GHT Relative and Absolute Chronology Introduction As we have already noted, the failure of the excavations to produce a single site in the Rivas region which contained the rather ideal situation of an entire, unbroken sequence, necessitated employment of an analytical method of operation which would serve to bridge the obvious chronological gaps. The prelimininary examination of the ceramics laid out in the laboratory from several deep pits showed suggestive trends of variation and change. The earlier work in northwest Costa Rica by Coe (1962a) and, especially, Baudez (1962, 1967) had given us clear indications of the overall direction of the ceramic sequence and trends. Obviously, to reconstruct the prehistory of Rivas required, first of all, the establishment of a coherent chronological ordering of the events. Absolute dating techniques, such as the carbon 14 method, yield chronologies of varying reliability.As more and more absolute dates are recorded there will undoubtedly be lesser reliance upon other ordering techniques. In the meantime, archaeologists have frequently been forced to rely upon other methodologies— particularly in those regions of the world, like Rivas, which have not been adequately studied—to gain insight into the correct chronological sequence of artifactual remains. Seriation is one such technique (Ford 1962). Equally important, methodologies which deduce chronological ordering through systematic analysisof artifact change can, since the advent of absolute dating, often be used in conjunction with independent dating methods as a cross check on validity. This was the case in our study of the archaeology of Rivas. Seriation is one of the oldest archaeological techniques and its history dates back to Petrie's (1899) so-called "Sequence Dates" of the turn of the century. Basically, the technique arranges archaeological materials into their correct chronological order by linking and overlapping artifacts of similar nature, shape, decoration, etc. It is assumed that during any particular moment in history a culture manufactures and uses a unique assemblage of artifacts. As Brainerd 295 296 Archaeology of the Rivas Region, Nicaragua (1951:304) noted: "Each type [of artifact] originates at a given place, is made in gradually increasing numbers as time goes on, then decreases in popularity until it becomes forgotten, never to recur in an identical form." It is upon this basic premise that identical or nearly identical artifacts are viewed as probably coeval in date; physical similarity is equated with temporal proximity. Once the seriated order is arrived at, then one has to determine which end of the sequence is earliest. In Rivas this problem was eliminated because we had excavated the remains in a stratigraphic order, and because the earlier work of people like Bransford (1881) had revealed that some of our ceramics (Luna Polychrome, Sacasa Striated), found at one end of our sequence, were partially datable to proto-Historic times due to their association with European trade items. Seriation is clearly not a replacement for good fieldwork or for a carefully established typology (Meighan 1959). It is not a technique designed to date specific sites or specific cultural phenomena (Rouse 1967). Seriation merely provides a relative cultural framework; it outlines chronological differences in a graphic form (see Fig. 22, backpocket). Such a gross ordering of the data has been especially useful, as we noted earlier, in archaeological regions which have had little or no prior fieldwork. It has been proven helpful in a number of areas in the New World over the last twenty-five years (Ford 1949; Brainerd 1951; Phillips, Ford, and Griffin 1951; Willey 1953; Meggers , Evans, and Estrada 1965; Tolstoy 1958; Meggers and Evans 1960; Culbert 1965; among others). There are certain preconditions which must exist in order to obtain a valid sedation. The sample, for example, should be abundant ; it should be diverse in makeup; it should be from one particular region; and should cover the entire time span of the region under study. The Rivas materials clearly met all of these suggested guidelines . There were some 80,000 sherds and over 40 ceramic types and varieties, spanning the entire Rivas sequence. Hole and Shaw (1967) have recently shown the amenability of pottery for seriational methods, and we found the Rivas ceramics successfully seriated into known stratigraphic order. There are, we should note, problems and drawbacks inutilizing seriational techniques. Dixon (1956) and, more recently, Dunnell (1971) have pointed out some of these. It has been argued, for example, that there is far too much of a reliance placed upon gross type percentages. Even Phillips (in the Phillips, Ford, and Griffin...


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