La Emerenciana


La Emerenciana is an Early Formative Period Valdivia site with occupations dating between 4350 cal BP to 3400 cal BP. The site includes early earthen mound architecture with artificial terraces, and upright tightly flexed burials. Ceramics include examples of the earliest stirrup-spout and single spout bottles in the Andes. Excavations by John Staller recovered maize phytoliths as well as other plant micro-remains. Maize rondel phytoliths were found in dental calculus from two of four female adult burials (one was decapitated) and rondel phytoliths were also identified in carbon residues on three of seven sherd samples from Stratum 5/Floor 2, dating from 4100 to 3600 cal BP. (Staller 1994, 2010; Staller and Thompson 2002; Tykot and Staller 2002). Stable carbon isotope analysis of the Valdivia burials from La Emereciana indicate that C4 plants like maize played a minor role in the ancient diet. Ceramic diagnostics imply that primary form of consumption was as maize beer or chicha, an interpretation consistent with the paleodietary results (Tykot and Staller 2002).

ID Other ID Type Subtype Uncal BP (years) ± 1 σ (years) Median cal BP (years) Lower cal BP (years) Upper cal BP (years) δ13C Contaminated?
SMU-2563 MicroSample phytolith 3775 165 4086 4529 3634 No
Beta-125107 MicroSample phytolith 3860 50 4198 4409 3999 No

Attached Files

Fig. 1. La Emerenciana is located in the salt flats on a fossil beach ridge, one of three identified in regional survey. Two earthen mounds were identified, and excavations were confined to the NW earthen platform mound. This image shows Trenches A-D and Cuts 1-6 dug to sterile levels, and units covered in shell were dug to the surface of floor 2 the primary occupation. All features associated with the earthen mound were either funerary or ritual offerings, sometimes in sealed clay-lined pits. Locations of various features in which maize phytoliths were recovered from carbon residues on pottery and in dental calculus are provided in Staller and Thompson (2002:Figure 7). (Facing NW). [photo and caption courtesy of John Staller ©2011]
Fig. 2. La Emerenciana showing Profile A in cross section immediately after exposing the sediments. Artificial terrace features were initially identified in Trench B (foreground) and verified in excavated Profile A. Earthen mounds with artificial terraces characterize early pottery sites in the adjacent highlands of southern Ecuador and northernmost Peru (Facing SE). [photo and caption courtesy of John Staller © 2011]
Fig. 3. Diagnostic Valdivia ceramics from La Emerenciana based upon reconstructions of materials from excavations and regional survey. Stirrup and single spout bottles from this pottery complex represent the earliest identified thus far in the Andes. a.) utilitarian wares and cooking vessels that functioned for either serving or processing food and drink. b.) Finely-crafted ritual pottery include composite forms, that is vessels made up of component parts made separately and joined by coils. Most earlier Validiva ceramics were coiled. Such changes in ceramic technology are characteristic of early pottery in highland Ecuador and Peru and the earliest pottery assemblages along coastal Peru. Technological changes involved in manufacturing pedestal bowls, stirrup and single spout bottles, directly translates to the later metallurgical arts in the Andes. [drawing and caption courtesy of John Staller © 2011]

References Cited

Staller, John E.
    1994    Late Valdivia Occupation in El Oro Province Ecuador: Excavations at the Early Formative Period (3500-1500 B.C.) Site of La Emerenciana. Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas. University Microfilms, Ann Arbor.

Staller, John E.
    2010    Maize Cobs and Cultures: History of Zea mays L. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.

Staller, J. E. and R. G. Thompson
    2002    A Multidisciplinary Approach to Understanding the Initial Introduction of Maize into Coastal Ecuador. Journal of Archaeological Science 29(1):33-50.

Tykot, Robert H. and John E. Staller
    2002    The Importance of Early Maize Agriculture in Coastal Ecuador: New Data from La Emerenciana. Current Anthropology 43(4):666-677.