Everyday Use of Plants in Prehispanic Costa Rica

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Student Research Reports, Summer 2018

Collection of soil samples from the compacted volcanic ash floor of the pre-hispanic household. (Photo by Venicia Slotten.)
Collection of soil samples from the compacted volcanic ash floor of the pre-hispanic household. (Photo by Venicia Slotten.)

Everyday Use of Plants in Prehispanic Costa Rica
By Venecia Slotten

This summer I traveled to Costa Rica to participate in archaeological excavations of possibly the oldest known house structure in Central America. I have worked as a paleoethnobotanist previously in El Salvador and Belize, so I was excited to bring my expertise to an area nearby that has yet to fully embrace macrobotanical analysis of plant remains.  While in Costa Rica, I collected over 400 soil samples designated for a variety of botanical analyses including macroremains, pollen, and phytoliths. I learned that macroremain recovery can actually be quite productive in this region, despite its lack of application by archaeologists here thus far. My results will reveal much needed details about what people were eating in the past in an area that experienced remarkable societal longevity despite frequent climatic events such as volcanic eruptions and tropical storms.

Mapping of the surrounding environment using a quadcopter drone and the expertise of Andres Mejia. (Photo by Venicia Slotten.)
Mapping of the surrounding environment using a quadcopter drone and the expertise of Andres Mejia. (Photo by Venicia Slotten.)

Processing paleoethnobotanical soil samples using a flotation tank. (Photo by Venicia Slotten.)
Processing paleoethnobotanical soil samples using a flotation tank. (Photo by Venicia Slotten.)

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