Pre-Columbian History of Costa Rica - Ancient History - Neolithic Period

Neolithic Period

By 5000 BC it became common to farm tubers and corn, as well as cultivate fruit trees and palm trees. Agriculture emerged slowly, stemming from knowledge of the annual cycles of nature and the progressive domestication of familiar plants. This development occurred over thousands of years and coexisted with traditional hunting and gathering, but it afforded a certain amount of stability. To ensure subsistence of these groups there had to exist forms of collective work and property, as well as egalitarian relationships.

Between 2000 BC and 300 BC, some communities of early farmers became egalitarian societies. The development of agriculture prompted changes in the relationship between humans and nature, and allowed them to feed many more people. Furthermore, the ever-growing dependence on agriculture compelled human groups to establish permanent settlements around agricultural fields. This led to stable villages of huts that had to be erected in clear areas of the forest. The agricultural system most likely employed was slash-and-burn: The forest would be cut with stone axes and spades then burned to prepare it for planting crops. Agricultural practices included vegeculture, semiculture or a combination of both.

Vegeculture (cultivation of plants on stakes) came about by farming tubers (yucas, yams, sweet potatoes) and diverse palms and trees (avocados, nances), in combination with hunting and fishing. This activity was very stable, since it demanded few nutrients from the soil, rarely caused erosion and could be developed in hilly areas. By such means, societies based on vegeculture would change very slowly.

In contrast to vegeculture, semiculture (cultivation of plants from seeds) had a greated effect on the environment, because it required more nutrients from the soil and caused greater erosion. In return, this system had a big advantage: it make food easier to store so that it could be made available all year, not just around harvest time. This led to larger societies where functions would be diversified. The primary semicultural activity was the production of corn, as well as associated plants such as beans and ayotes (a type of gourd related to the pumpkin).

Throughout the 2nd millennium BC there existed in Costa Rica small, disperse villages, non-nomadic agricultural communities that used ceramic bowls and utensils, and tools made from wood, bone and stone for agricultural tasks and food preparation. The oldest of these agricultural village communities (2000–500 BC) has been found in the province of Guanacaste. More recent ones (1500–300 BC) have been discovered in the Turrialba Valley, the coastal region of Gandoca, the northern plains, Sarapiquí Basin, Barva, Herradura, the Térraba River Basin, the Coto Colorado River Basin and Isla del Caño.

Read more about this topic:  Pre-Columbian History Of Costa Rica, Ancient History

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