San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Scientists Found Clues To Country’s Prehistory

THROUGH the application of new techniques, technology and an accidental find, scientists have forged new roads this year into the knowledge of humans in Costa Rica before the Spanish conquest.


Geographers from the United States and Costa Rica found a rudimentary history of pre-Columbian societies locked in the sediment on the bottom of lakes. In expeditions early this year, they took core samples at sites in the Caribbean and studied the maize pollen grains and charcoal still present in the soil. The pollen indicates the presence of farming societies, and the charcoal reveals slash-and-burn farming practices they might have used.


Archaeologists from the University of Costa Rica (UCR) used aerial infrared photos and radar images of the country taken by three U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) jets to track pre-Columbian road networks.


Before the space-age technology, they relied on word of mouth and hand-held steel rods they sunk in the ground to follow the stone-paved roads.


In August, a team of archaeologists with the National Museum and UCR began excavating a prehistoric dwelling on a “megasite” thought to contain a network of structures 800-1,500 years old.


The discovery was made on a former banana plantation once owned by the United Fruit Company near Palmar Sur on the southern Pacific coast.


The future site of a PriceSmart warehouse store in Tibás, north of San José, temporarily became an archaeological dig in August and September after construction revealed two prehistoric graveyards, part of a complex of three graveyards and a residential area dating 330 to 1,500 years old.


In October, a National Museum archaeologist spoke with The Tico Times regarding a spearhead a field hand found on a pineapple plantation in La Virgen de Sarapiquí on the Caribbean slope. The artifact is the second of its kind found to date and of the highest quality; it is a 10,000- to 12,000-year-old fishtail point, the style used predominantly in South America and not found farther north than Costa Rica. Both fishtail and Clovis points – the kind found in North America – have been discovered in Costa Rica, showing the country was a cultural bridge between the continents.


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