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Submitted by admin on Tue, 01/29/2008 - 11:01am

The chonology of Pacific Nicaragua conforms to that of the Greater Nicoya region, although far more attentiion has been paid to Costa Rica due to the more extensive range of archaeological projects conducted in the south.  A ceramic conference in the early 1990s resulted in a revised ceramic sequence and chronology:

Greater Nicoya Chronology

[image courtesy of Larry Steinbrenner]

Based on the diagnostic ceramics recovered by Willey and Norweb (Healy 1980) and Niemel (2003), and in our initial season of fieldwork.  Santa Isabel was identified with an occupation spanning the Sapoa and Ometepe periods (AD 900-1520). 

Favorable preservation conditions allowed the project to collect numerous samples of carbonized wood for radiocarbon dating, and seventeen samples have been processed by Beta Analytic in Florida (McCafferty and Steinbrenner 2005; McCafferty, Steinbrenner and Fernandez 2006).  This represents the largest corpus of dated materials from any site in the Greater Nicoya region.  The results were surprising, and contradict the expected site chronology.  The majority of samples dated between 1000-1250 CE (calibrated), while samples from the deepest levels dated to about 900 CE. 


Table 1. Radiocarbon dates from Santa Isabel (RI-44), 2000-2005 field seasons.

Sample #         Unit         Level      Conventional    1-Sigma Range   2-Sigma Range


Beta-196654   N20E30    9           920±50 BP       AD1030-1180       AD 1010-1230

Beta-196655    N21E8     3           870±60 BP       AD 1050-1100      AD 1020-1270

Beta-196656    N30E10 10           980±50 BP       AD 1010-1050      AD 980-1180

Beta-217127   N21E13   F20       1010+40 BP      AD 1000-1030      AD 980-1050

Beta 217128    N21E13   12         1090+60 BP      AD 890-1010       AD 790-1030

Beta 217129    N21E13    7          860+70 BP        AD 1050-1100     AD 1020-1280

Beta 217130    N21E16   F18       1180+70 BP       AD 770-960        AD 680-1000


Beta-196657     S10E50    4         900±60 BP         AD 1030-1210     AD 1010-1260

Beta-196658     S60E41    4         820±50 BP          AD 1180-1270    AD 1060-1080

Beta-196659     S63E51.5  7         970±60 BP         AD 1010-1160     AD 980-1200

Beta-196660      S62E52   F43      1010±70 BP        AD 980-1040      AD 890-1180

Beta-196661      S70E65   9          930±60 BP         AD 1020-1180     AD 1000-1240

Beta-196662      S72E60   4          940±80 BP         AD 1010-1190     AD 970-1260

Beta-196663      S73E61   6          990±60 BP         AD 1000-1050     AD 960-1180

Beta-196664      S73E68   7          860±60 BP         AD 1060-1080     AD 1030-1280


Beta-196665      S82W121 F3       1020±70 BP        AD 980-1040      AD 890-1180   


Beta 217131      N142W123 F2      910+50 BP        AD 1030-1190     AD 1020-1240


These dates were integrated with other dates from Greater Nicoya pertaining to the "Postclassic" period (when Mesoamerican migrants were important in the region).  The implication is that nearly all of the dates relate to the Sapoa period, and there are almost no dates for the later Ometepe period.

RI 44 C14 dates table

Table prepared by Larry Steinbrenner


Based on these dates, it is likely that Santa Isabel was only occupied during the Sapoa period, with occupation about 900 AD and abandonment by about 1250 AD.  Based on this chronology, Santa isabel was not occupied at the time of Spanish contact, and so was not the town where Gil Gonzalez encountered Chief Nicaragua.  Furthermore, these dates are too early in terms of current interpretations of Nicarao ethnicity, and would be more in line with an occupation by Chorotega groups.  Actual ethnic identity remains the subject of ongong investigations.

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