Social Change in Pre-Columbian San Ramon de Alajuela, Costa Rica, And Its Relation With Adjacent Regions

Mauricio Murillo Herrera

PhD Thesis 2009

Interregional relationships at close and long range have occupied more of archaeologists' attention in Central America than, for example, in Mesoamerica or the Andes. As a result we now have a considerable amount of detailed information demonstrating the existence of interregional contacts, both within the isthmus and with regions outside of it. The actual impact that interregional relationships had on the processes of social change in Central America, however, has remained an open question. While some argue strongly that these processes of social change were strongly affected by interregional relationships, others argue that the sociopolitical impact of these contacts was weak, and that much more local factors carried more weight in the processes of social change.

I grouped different models of social change into three families according to where the primary source of social change is located. The first family of models emphasizes the internal conditions within a local region as the major stimulus for cultural change. The second family of models emphasizes dynamic relationships between neighboring regions. The third family of models emphasizes interaction across macroregions. Thus, the research presented here aimed to help evaluate how important interregional relationships were in the dynamic of social change in Central America.

Archaeological work done in several regions in Costa Rica has provided us with basic information about their sociopolitical development. Regional settlement study in San Ramón de Alajuela documented another trajectory to add to the comparison. Taken together, the results show that while in some cases interregional relationships were related to sociopolitical events happening in the participating regions, in other cases this did not happen. While some interregional relationships were very specific in other cases they seem to have been more all-inclusive. While some regions were integrated in networks of interregional exchange, these transactions had little impact on sociopolitical events. Furthermore, all of the above also varied substantially through time. Thus, as is common in social sciences, the question of whether interregional relationships were important in pre-Columbian social change does not have a binary yes or no answer, but instead it depends on where and when you look.