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MULTI-PROXY ANALYSIS OF PLANT USE AT FORMATIVE PERIOD LOS NARANJOS, HONDURAS

  • Author(s): Morell-Hart, Shanti
  • Joyce, Rosemary A
  • Henderson, John S
  • et al.
Abstract

Paleoethnobotanical analyses of samples excavated at Los Naranjos, Honduras, provide an unprecedented record of the diversity of plants used at an early center with monumental architecture and sculpture dating between 1000 and 500 B.C. and contribute to understandings of early village life in Mesoamerica. Los Naranjos is the major site adjacent to Lake Yojoa, where analysis of an important pollen core suggests very early clearing of the landscape and shifts in the relative prevalence of certain plants over time, including increases in maize. Our results from starch grain, phytolith, and macrobotanical analysis complicate interpretation of previous pollen core dates, suggesting that maize was not as central as expected to the early inhabitants of the settlement. Moreover, with identification of macrobotanical remains recovered from flotation of sediments and extraction of microbotanical remains from adhering sediments and the surfaces of obsidian tools, we can compare the potential of each analysis in interpretations of plant use. No single method would have allowed recovery and identification of all the plants documented across sample types. The presence of botanical residues on the obsidian tools provides direct evidence of processing. Even in the small sample analyzed, we can recognize tools used exclusively for culinary processing, tools used only for non-culinary tasks, and multi-purpose tools.

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