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Exploring Warfare and Slave Capturing on Period Ⅵ in Lower Central America

Eugenia Ibarra, University of Costa Rica, Summer Fellow 2009/10

I explored aspects of warfare and the taking of prisoners in lower Central America during Period Ⅵ through the analysis of ethnohistorical and archaeological results found in bibliographical materials held at Dumbarton Oaks. I focused on the meaning of warfare, prisoner capture, and the processes that led to a differentiation between a prisoner and a slave. I also considered the role human teeth displayed in warfare and slavery contexts as well as other body parts like heads, scalps, fingernails, and hands. Animal teeth collars are also mentioned in association with prestige and hunting practices. A regional perspective, in the long durée, on the movements and rythms of the Spanish conquest with its different timings and impacts on the different societies included, provided a processual perspective on warfare. The reconstruction of the historical context of chiefdoms at the end of the fifteenth century and during the sixteenth century made it necessary to account for the continuing impact of the migration of the Mesoamerican groups after 800 AD on the area at that time. Warfare in lower Central America is contrasted to that of South America and parts of the Antilles. The conclusions of this project must be considered in order to understand the sociopolitical structures, their dynamics, and an approach to an Amerindian way of perceiving war in lower Central America. I also mention the mosquito Indians of Caribbean Honduras and Nicaragua's exchange of captives for goods in the eighteenth century.

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