The Isthmo-Colombian Area is defined as a cultural area encompassing those territories occupied predominantly by speakers of the Chibchan languages at the time of European contact. It includes portions of the Central American isthmus like eastern El Salvador, eastern Honduras, Caribbean Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and northern Colombia.
In anthropology and geography, a cultural region, cultural sphere, cultural area or culture area refers to a geography with one relatively homogeneous human activity or complex of activities (culture). These are often associated with an ethnolinguistic group and the territory it inhabits. Specific cultures often do not limit their geographic coverage to the borders of a nation state, or to smaller subdivisions of a state. Cultural "spheres of influence" may also overlap or form concentric structures of macrocultures encompassing smaller local cultures. Different boundaries may also be drawn depending on the particular aspect of interest, such as religion and folklore vs. dress and architecture vs. language.
The Chibchan languages make up a language family indigenous to the Isthmo-Colombian Area, which extends from eastern Honduras to northern Colombia and includes populations of these countries as well as Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. The name is derived from the name of an extinct language called Chibcha or Muysccubun, once spoken by the people who lived on the Altiplano Cundiboyacense of which the city of Bogotá was the southern capital at the time of the Spanish Conquista. However, genetic and linguistic data now indicate that the original heart of Chibchan languages and Chibchan-speaking peoples may not have been in Colombia at all, but in the area of the Costa Rica-Panama border, where one finds the greatest variety of Chibchan languages.
An isthmus is a narrow piece of land connecting two larger areas across an expanse of water by which they are otherwise separated. A tombolo is an isthmus that consists of a spit or bar, and a strait is the sea counterpart of an isthmus.
It is a portion of what has previously been termed the Intermediate Area, and was defined in a chapter by John W. Hoopes and Oscar Fonseca Z.in the 2003 book Gold and Power in Ancient Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia.
The Intermediate Area is an archaeological geographical area of the Americas that was defined in its clearest form by Gordon R. Willey in his 1971 book An Introduction to American Archaeology, Vol. 2: South America. It comprises the geographical region between Mesoamerica to the north and the Central Andes to the south, including portions of Honduras and most of the territory of the republics of Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador. As an archaeological concept, the Intermediate Area has always been somewhat poorly defined.
The concept draws upon multidisciplinary perspectives, including linguistic reconstructions by Costa Rican anthropological linguist Adolfo Constenla Umaña and observations on Chibchan genetics by Costa Rican anthropological geneticist Ramiro Barrantes Mesén. It is currently being refined through ongoing studies of the linguistics. genetics, archaeology, art history, ethnography, and ethnohistory of this part of the Americas. This includes more recent study of the relationships between this area and the Antilles within a Pan-Caribbean framework.
Genetics is a branch of biology concerned with the study of genes, genetic variation, and heredity in organisms.
Linguistics is the scientific study of language. It involves analysing language form, language meaning, and language in context. The earliest activities in the documentation and description of language have been attributed to the 6th-century-BC Indian grammarian Pāṇini who wrote a formal description of the Sanskrit language in his Aṣṭādhyāyī.
Archaeology, or archeology, is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. The archaeological record consists of artifacts, architecture, biofacts or ecofacts and cultural landscapes. Archaeology can be considered both a social science and a branch of the humanities. In North America archaeology is a sub-field of anthropology, while in Europe it is often viewed as either a discipline in its own right or a sub-field of other disciplines.
Archaeological knowledge of this area has received relatively little attention compared to its adjoining neighbors to the north and south, despite the fact that scholars such as Max Uhle, William Henry Holmes, C. V. Hartman, and George Grant MacCurdy undertook studies of archaeological sites and collections here over a century ago that were augmented by further research by Samuel Kirkland Lothrop, John Alden Mason, Doris Zemurray Stone, William Duncan Strong, Gordon Willey, and others in the early 20th century. One of the reasons for the relative lack of attention is the relative absence of monumental architecture that is so characteristic of the neighboring culture areas of Mesoamerica and the Andes areas and a long history of ethnocentric perceptions by Western scholars of what represented civilization and what did not.
Friedrich Max Uhle was a German archaeologist, whose work in Peru, Chile, Ecuador and Bolivia at the turn of the Twentieth Century had a significant impact on the practice of archaeology of South America.
William Henry Holmes — known as W.H. Holmes — was an American explorer, anthropologist, archaeologist, artist, scientific illustrator, cartographer, mountain climber, geologist and museum curator and director.
George Grant MacCurdy, A.M., Ph.D. was an American anthropologist, born at Warrensburg, Mo., where he graduated from the State Normal School in 1887, after which he attended Harvard ; then studied in Europe at Vienna, Paris, and at Berlin (1894–98; and at Yale. He was employed at Yale from 1902 onwards as instructor, lecturer, curator of the anthropological collections, and assistant professor of archæology after 1910. He was a member of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences.
There are a large number of sites with impressive platform mounds, plazas, paved roads, stone sculpture, and artifacts made from jade, gold, and ceramic materials. These include Las Mercedes, Guayabo de Turrialba, Cutrís, and Cubujuquí in Costa Rica and Pueblito ( in Tayrona National Natural Park) and Ciudad Perdida in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Maria of Colombia. Research at sites such as Rivas, Costa Rica helps to document the configurations of large settlements in the centuries prior to the Spanish Conquest. Some of the best-known Isthmo-Colombian sculptures are the stone spheres of Costa Rica. Another area that has provided valuable archaeological information is the Gran Coclé region in Panama, largely coinciding with the modern-day Coclé Province.
Jade refers to an ornamental mineral, mostly known for its green varieties. It can refer to either of two different minerals: nephrite, a silicate of calcium and magnesium, or jadeite, a silicate of sodium and aluminium.
Gold is a chemical element with symbol Au and atomic number 79, making it one of the higher atomic number elements that occur naturally. In its purest form, it is a bright, slightly reddish yellow, dense, soft, malleable, and ductile metal. Chemically, gold is a transition metal and a group 11 element. It is one of the least reactive chemical elements and is solid under standard conditions. Gold often occurs in free elemental (native) form, as nuggets or grains, in rocks, in veins, and in alluvial deposits. It occurs in a solid solution series with the native element silver and also naturally alloyed with copper and palladium. Less commonly, it occurs in minerals as gold compounds, often with tellurium.
A ceramic is a solid material comprising an inorganic compound of metal, non-metal or metalloid atoms primarily held in ionic and covalent bonds. Common examples are earthenware, porcelain, and brick.
The Isthmo-Colombian Area was home to a wide variety of indigenous peoples. A large number of them were speakers of Chibchan languages. These include (but are not limited to) the Pech, the Rama, the Maleku, the Bribri, the Cabécar, the Guaymí, the Naso, the Kuna, the Kogi, the Motilon, the U'wa, and the Muisca.
The Pech are an indigenous people in northeastern Honduras, previously known as the Paya. As of early 2005 their population had been reduced to 3,800. The Pech language is a member of the Chibchan family of languages, and, although it is still spoken by older people, it is in danger of extinction in the relatively near future.
The Rama are an indigenous people living on the eastern coast of Nicaragua. Since the start of European colonization, the Rama population has declined as a result of disease, conflict, and loss of territory. In recent years, however, the Rama population has increased to around 2,000 individuals. A majority of the population lives on the island of Rama Cay, which is located in the Bluefields Lagoon. Additional small Rama communities are dispersed on the mainland from Bluefields to Greytown. The Rama are one of three main indigenous groups on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast.
The Maleku are an indigenous people of Costa Rica located in the Guatuso Indigenous Reserve near the town of Guatuso. They are also known as the Guatuso, the name used by Spanish colonizers. Around 600 aboriginal people live on the reserve, making this the smallest tribe in Costa Rica, but outsiders have come into the community as well. Before the Spanish colonization, their territory extended as far west as Rincon de la Vieja, and included the volcano Arenal to the south and Rio Celeste as sacred sites. Today their reserve is concentrated south of San Rafael de Guatuso, an hour north of La Fortuna.
Central America, including Mexico is located on the southern tip of North America, or is sometimes defined as a subcontinent of the Americas, bordered by Mexico to the north, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south. Central America consists of seven countries: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. The combined population of Central America has been estimated to be 41,739,000 and 42,688,190.
The history of Central America is the study of the region known as Central America.
Coclé is a province of central Panama on the nation's southern coast. The sub-capital is the city of Penonomé. This province was created by the Act of September 12, 1855 with the title of Department of Coclé during the presidency of Dr. Justo de Arosemena. It became a province, Decretory Number 190, on October 20, 1985. Coclé is primarily an agricultural area, with sugar and tomatoes as major crops. The province has a number of well-known beaches, such as Santa Clara, Farallon and Rio Hato, and tourist activity has increased in recent years. It has a population of 233,708 (2010).
Tairona was a Pre-Columbian culture of Colombia, which consisted in a group of chiefdoms in the region of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in present-day Cesar, Magdalena and La Guajira Departments of Colombia, South America, which goes back at least to the 1st century CE and had significant demographic growth around the 11th century.
The stone spheresof Costa Rica are an assortment of over three hundred petrospheres in Costa Rica, located on the Diquís Delta and on Isla del Caño. Locally, they are known as Las Bolas. The spheres are commonly attributed to the extinct Diquis culture and are sometimes referred to as the Diquís Spheres. They are the best-known stone sculptures of the Isthmo-Colombian area. They are thought to have been placed in lines along the approach to the houses of chiefs, but their exact significance remains uncertain.
A metate or metlatl is a type or variety of quern, a ground stone tool used for processing grain and seeds. In traditional Mesoamerican culture, metates were typically used by women who would grind lime-treated maize and other organic materials during food preparation. Similar artifacts are found all over the world, including China.
The Maléku Jaíka language, also called Guatuso, Watuso-Wétar, and Guetar, is an indigenous language of north central Costa Rica. It is a Chibchan language and Votic language spoken by around 300 to 750 indigenous Maléku people. This language is considered to be endangered according to The Endangered Languages Project. Corobicí is possibly a dialect.
Territorial disputes of Nicaragua include the territorial dispute with Colombia over the Archipelago de San Andres y Providencia and Quita Sueno Bank. Nicaragua also has a maritime boundary dispute with Honduras in the Caribbean Sea and a boundary dispute over the Rio San Juan with Costa Rica.
Spanish conquest of the Chibchan Nations refers to the conquest by the Spanish monarchy of the Chibcha language-speaking nations, mainly the Muisca and Tairona that inhabited present-day Colombia, beginning the Spanish colonization of the Americas.
This is an Index of Central America-related articles. This index defines Central America as the seven nations of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama.
Nicholas J. Saunders is a British academic archaeologist and anthropologist. He was educated at the universities of Sheffield, Cambridge, and Southampton. He has held teaching and research positions at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the University of the West Indies, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington D.C., and at University College London, where he was Reader in Material Culture, and undertook a major British Academy sponsored investigation into the material culture anthropology of the First World War (1998–2004). As of 2014 Saunders is Professor in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Bristol, where he is responsible for the MA programmes in historical archaeology and conflict archaeology. He is a prominent contributor to the nascent field of conflict archaeology, and has authored and edited numerous academic publications in the field. In addition to his research specialising in the anthropology of 20th-century conflicts and the archaeology of World War I theatres in Belgium, France and the Middle East, Saunders has also conducted extensive fieldwork and research in pre-Columbian and historical archaeology of the Americas. He has been involved with major museum exhibitions in London, Ypres (Belgium), Tübingen (Germany), and at the Centre Pompidou-Metz (France). Saunders has investigated and published on material cultures and landscapes of Mesoamerica, South America, and the Caribbean. His most recent research has been on the aesthetics of brilliance and colour in indigenous Amerindian symbolism, an extensive survey investigation of the Nazca Lines in Peru, and the anthropological archaeology of twentieth-century conflict and its legacies along the Soca (Isonzo) Front on the Slovenian-Italian border.
Gran Coclé is an archaeological culture area of the so-called Intermediate Area in pre-Columbian Central America. The area largely coincides with the modern-day Panamanian province of Coclé, and consisted of a number of identifiable native cultures. Archaeologists have loosely designated these cultures by pottery style. The poorly studied La Mula period ranged from 150 BC to AD 300. It was followed by the Tonosi period, from AD 300 to AD 550, and by the Cubita period, from AD 550 to AD 700. A unified Native American culture appears to have flourished in this area from approximately 1200 BC until the 16th century.
Barriles, is one of the most famous archaeological sites in Panama. It is located in the highlands of the Chiriquí Province of Western Panama at 1200 meters above sea level. It is several kilometers west of the modern town of Volcán. This places the site in the Gran Chiriquí culture area. The site was originally named for several small stone barrels found in the area, although these have also been found elsewhere in the Río Chiriquí Viejo valley and in Costa Rica. This area has a cool, spring-like climate with a pronounced rainy season between May and November, and a dry but windy season the rest of the year. The region lies on the western flanks of Volcán Barú, a dormant volcano and the highest mountain in Panama.
Sitio Sierra is an archaeological site located in the Herrera Province of Parita Bay in Panama. It lies in the south-central portion of the country, twelve kilometers from where the Santa Maria River meets the Pacific Ocean. Archaeologists have asserted that it was a nucleated agricultural village presumed to have thrived during the Late Occupation Sequence until the Spanish conquest. It was probably an egalitarian society along with other sites from the same region and time period. It contains domestic features including cemeteries, middens, and ancient houses. The area includes two main periods portrayed by more recent settlement areas that are stratified above an earlier cemetery. Systematic pedestrian surveys published in an article by Richard E. Cooke in 1979 hypothesize that the original ancient habitat might have covered at least 45 hectares.
Michael Jay Snarskis was an archeologist from the United States who founded the scientific study of archaeology in Costa Rica. At that time, almost all artifacts available to collectors were shorn of their provenance and historical significance by huaquero looters, whom Snarskis described as "the tomb-robbers ... who have [made] such studies more difficult."
The extensive trade networks of the Ancient Maya contributed largely to the success of their civilization spanning three millennia. The Maya royals control and wide distribution of foreign and domestic commodities for both population sustenance and social affluence are hallmarks of the Maya visible throughout much of the iconography found in the archaeological record. In particular, moderately long distance trade of foreign commodities from the Caribbean and Gulf Coasts provided the larger inland Maya cities with the resources they needed to sustain settled population levels in the several thousands. Though the ruling class essentially controlled the trade economy, a middle merchant class supervised import and export from cities and trade ports. Not much is known of the Maya merchant class; however, merchants of royal lineage are sometimes represented in the iconography. Notably, a canoe paddle often accompanies the royal merchant depictions, signifying their association with marine resources. Water lilies are also a recognizable feature of Maya iconography, appearing on ceramics and murals in landlocked cities like Palenque where the lilies cannot grow, further indicating the important political symbolism of water connections. The dugout style canoes of the Maya and other small watercraft are also represented in various codices, sometimes ferrying royal figures or deities. The rich tradition of maritime trade has continued into the modern era, exemplified by the resource exploitation of the coastal lagoons and cay locations along the Caribbean coast of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras.
The Cabécar are an indigenous group of the remote Talamanca region of eastern Costa Rica. They speak Cabécar, a language belonging to the Chibchan language family of the Isthmo-Colombian Area of lower Central America and northwestern Colombia. According to census data from the National Institute of Statistics and Census of Costa Rica, the Cabécar are the largest indigenous group in Costa Rica with a population of nearly 17,000.
Carlos Aguilar Piedra was a prominent Costa Rican archaeologist on the faculty of the University of Costa Rica. He is often referred to as "the grandfather of Costa Rican archaeology" for his significant work at Guayabo de Turrialba and other sites in the Central Highlands region of that country.