John Hoopes Profile picture
22 Feb, 23 tweets, 7 min read
Since folks have been watching “The Dig,” about the Sutton Hoo Anglo-Saxon shop burial whose remarkable treasures you can learn about by following @NT_SuttonHoo, this morning I’ll be tweeting about what was going on in eastern Costa Rica around the same time (ca. 400-700 CE). 1/
The preceding period in the Caribbean lowlands of Costa Rica, about 300 BCE to 400 CE, is known as El Bosque. This terminology was first used by the late archaeologist Michael Snarskis, who referred to the period from about 400 to 700 CE as La Selva.
These arbitrary names are used by archaeologists to describe periods of time for which we can recognize patterns in material culture. However, the boundaries of these are not clearly defined. For example, the transition from El Bosque to La Selva has long been a matter of debate.
Were they sequential or somewhat overlapping in time? Were there slight regional variations? Maybe. That’s important to keep in mind. The end date for La Selva is also fuzzy. It could have been more like 800 CE or even later.
Last week, I posted a thread about El Bosque drinking vessels. The tradition of fancy chalices continued in eastern Costa Rica at the same time that Anglo-Saxons were swilling mead from decorated horns in the UK.
As with El Bosque, La Selva period artifacts are known mostly from cemeteries. To extend the comparison with the UK, these were roughly contemporaneous with the Street House Anglo-Saxon cemetery in North Yorkshire, not far from my Hoopes ancestors’ homes.…
The La Selva people occupied the eastern plains of Costa Rica, whose rivers drained into the Caribbean Sea. The Anglo-Saxons of the northeastern UK had a similar relationship with the North Sea.

Their descendants would not meet for a thousand years.
For example, Sir Francis Drake (1540-1596) visited the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, where Drake’s Bay is named for him. British privateers plied the Caribbean coast of Central America, raiding Spanish ships that were exporting gold they stole from the Incas via ports in Panama.
The British and the Spanish were engaged in brutal Naval battles during the Anglo-Spanish War (1585-1604), in part due to ongoing pirate raids of Spanish ships bringing massive amounts of stolen gold from the Americas—this was 1000 years after Sutton Hoo.…
It was also 1000 years after the La Selva culture, the first to be using gold ornaments in Costa Rica. These were either obtained through trade or made using technologies developed centuries earlier in northern Colombia.
So, in a sense, the Caribbean trade in gold jewelry during the La Selva period and the master shipbuilding at Sutton Hoo planted the seeds for British pirates of the Caribbean (the inspiration for Disney’s Jack Sparrow) who came a thousand years later.
Archaeologists love to answer the question, “So, how did all of this get started?”

How did the hunger for pre-Columbian gold in Central America got us into our current predicament? Read my article:

Conquest, Imagination, and the Dawn of the Modern Age…
But, lest I digress too far, let’s go back to the La Selva period...
For me, the most stunning chalices of the La Selva period in eastern Costa Rica are the objects archaeologists refer to as Africa Tripods. They do not come from Africa, but were named for a settlement of Afro-Caribbean laborers for the United Fruit Company. Note the rattle feet.
These examples are from the Alberry Collection, curated in the Archaeological Research Collection of the Biodiversity Institute & Natural History Museum of the University of Kansas. They were collected in Costa Rica in the 1960s. This one is decorated with heads of crested birds.
The tripod supports of these chalices are hollow or solid. Note the elegance of this cup, decorated with heads of shamans, warriors, or caciques, that was probably used to drink either alcoholic chicha or a ritual beverage made from cacao. (Residue testing has yet to be done.)
This chalice is decorated with what appear to be playful monkeys with prehensile tails, possibly the Geoffrey's spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi), though they could be any one of four species of monkeys in Costa Rica.…
This chalice, with hollow supports, is decorated with stylized humans wearing headdresses or fancy hairdos. The holes in their bellies made the supports more likely to survive when the vessel was fired. They may be metaphors of thirst for whatever was being served in the chalice.
This chalice is decorated with long-beaked birds, possibly brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis). Note that the supports are hollow, with long slits. Clay pellets inside of the supports turn the vessel into a rattle used in dances or rituals before the vessel was filled.
This chalice, also with hollow rattle supports, is decorated with stylized armadillos (Dasypus novemcinctus). The armadillo was associated in mythology with burial of the dead, so this may have been used in funerary rituals.
This example is decorated with a long-snouted mammal, possibly a white-nosed coatimundi (Nasua narica) in a confrontational pose.
There are many more wonderful vessel forms from the La Selva period, which was also a time during which precious objects of jadeite and gold (including the gold-copper alloy called tumbaga) were used. However, I'll end this morning's thread with a naked but modest beauty. /fin

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More from @KUHoopes

20 Nov 19
The thematic section in the latest issue of The SAA Archaeological Record has contributions by @JenniferRaff, @cfeagans, @JasonColavito, @ahtzib, @DSAArchaeology, and myself.

Pseudoarchaeology, Scholarship, and Popular Interests in the Past in the Present…
Twitter is a completely appropriate forum for questions, feedback, criticism, and ongoing discussion of #pseudoarchaeology and its implications for the advancement of knowledge.

Read the essays and let us know what you think!
Part of my impetus for addressing this topic was the fact that I kept meeting professional archaeologists who professed to have never even heard of Graham Hancock.

I apologize to all of you who would have been better off never knowing about him and his books.
Read 4 tweets

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