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Architectural remains

Submitted by mccaffer on Sun, 02/03/2008 - 8:32am

When Project SIN began, relatively little was known about architectural practices in Postclassic Pacific Nicaragua, due to the minimal focus on horizontal excavation by previous investigators.  Since architecture is literally a 'framework' for domestic practice, its identification was an important objective of the project.  Because of the coastal environment of Santa Isabel, stones for construction were absent, and no stone masonry was detected.  Surprisingly if this were a Mesoamerican-related group, adobe brick construction was also absent.  What was found was a relatively high presence of burnt daub, the mud covering over 'wattle' walls made of ínter-woven reeds or branches. A typical stratigraphy at the site would be a layer of burnt daub (recognized as a compact orange soil with chunks of daub) over a floor surface, often with floor contact deposits sealed between.

 Collapsed wall at Mound 6     Cane impressed daub

Collapsed wall from Mound 6                                  Cane-impressed daub


Most of the living surfaces found were of packed earth, and consequently were difficult to recognize.  The best preserved floors were at Mound 3, where they were bonded into a cement-like consistency.  X-ray diffraction analysis of floor samples indicated presence of a phosphate as a bonding agent, possibly from crushed shell.


stucco floor on Mound 3     Md 3 stucco floor

Stucco floors from Mound 3


An extensive floor was found at Mount 6, appearing in adjoining Operations to suggest that it may have been part of an elongated structure perhaps analogous to the 'long-house' structures described for Pacific Nicaragua. The floor surface was mottled with gray, sandy inclusions, possibly as a paving material.  A second floor, located at about 1.60 m of below the surface and therefore one of the earliest deposits found at the mound, had a surface embedded with medium size potsherds as a possible surface material.

Mound 6 floor surface

Mound 6 floor surface


Mound 6 floor with sherds

Floor surface with embedded sherds from Mound 6


The mounds themselves show little evidence of intentional construction, but rather are simply accumulations of domestic debris.  At Mound 3 a deep sounding identified eight floor surfaces superimposed over a period of about 350 years, suggesting a new house was built every 50 years.  Only on Mound 1 was there evidence of intentional deposition as a possible means of raising the mound level.  On top of a living surface was a layer of clean sand, measuring about 20-30 cm in thickness, and above that was a thick concentration of broken pottery, again measuring about 20-30 cm in thickness, so leveling the mound surface with about 50 cm of accumulation.

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