Saturday, 19 March 2011

Myths and Misconceptions

Because Barriles has received relatively little archaeological attention compared to flashier sites in Mesoamerica or Peru, it has become the subject of considerable rumor and speculation.

One of the more popular rumors is that Barriles was settled by two populations, one of African descent and another of Asian descent (not completely unlike modern Panama). Proponents of this theory point to the supposed ethnic characteristics they claim to see on the Barriles statues. There are three reasons to doubt this possibility. The first is the ceramic styles and patterns of domestic organization studied at Barriles have identifiable and direct antecedents in the previous Concepción Phase, rather than representing an intrusive complex of artifacts introduced from elsewhere. The second reason to doubt this theory is that the statues themselves appear quite stylized, suggesting that certain physical features (like perfectly squared shoulders) may have been part of the ancient artistic canon of the sculptors, rather than an accurate copy of actual physical characteristics. The final reason is that some of the statues' faces have been interpreted as reflecting possibly mutilated individuals[23]

Pointing to poorly demonstrated trans-oceanic contacts is an example of a hyper-diffusionist theory. Such theories often do not give proper credit to descendant indigenous groups for their ancient cultural achievements, a practice which may be interpreted as implicitly racist and colonial.

Another common myth is that the Barriles population was conquered by Mayan groups from Mesoamerica (Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, parts of Honduras and El Salvador). Part of this theory is based on the presence of painted, polychrome ceramics from the end of the sequence. These exact ceramics are commonly associated with the later Chiriquí (or Boruca) Period and have been extensively described by neighboring Costa Rican archaeologists. There is no evidence for Maya contact or occupation that has been accepted by professional archaeologists.

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