The Four Valleys Archive is structured using an archaeological system for tracking horizontal and vertical proveniences in the field. Ultimately, we derived and modified this recording method from the one used by projects operating in Mesoamerica and led by archaeologists from the University of Pennsylvania. It is composed of the following elements:
You can search for all data associated with any of those elements. Below are descriptions of each element, and instructions and examples of how to search for them.
To begin, click “Advanced Search” in the right navigation panel. Choose “All Fields” from the list provided.
Region: Region refers to the valley in which the research was carried out: PVN for the Naco valley; CSB for central Santa Barbara (the middle Ulua drainage); LCV for the lower Cacaulapa valley; EPV for the El Paraíso valley. We partitioned the middle Chamelecon valley during our investigations into two segments. Sites in the eastern two-thirds, including the large center of Las Canoas (PVN202), are included in the Naco valley (PVN) sequence, while those in the western third are folded into the lower Cacaulapa valley (PVC) sequence.
How to Search: Enter the abbreviation for the region you want to see in the All Fields search box.
Example: “PVN” will bring up all the records associated with the Naco Valley.
Operation: Operation refers to a specific area within that region. Generally, each site has a distinct Operation number. Large centers are subdivided into multiple operations to facilitate control over the location of materials within their extensive limits.
How to Search: Enter the region and the number of the operation you want to search into the All Fields field.
Example: “PVN 410” will bring up all the records associated with Operation 410 in the Naco Valley. Please leave a space between the Region and Operation number.
Suboperation: Suboperation references a specific excavation conducted within an Operation. Suboperations are designated using letters in the Naco, Cacaulapa, and middle Ulua valleys and by numbers in the El Paraíso valley.
How to Search: Enter the region, operation number, and Suboperation letter/number in the All Fields field. Again, please leave a space, this time between the Operation and Suboperation designations.
Example: “PVN 410 B” will bring up all the records associated with Suboperation B of Operation 410 in the Naco Valley.
Lot: Lot specifies a particular collection unit, usually measuring 1m2 and of varying depth, defined horizontally and vertically (the latter with reference to a Suboperation-specific datum or absolute elevation) within a Suboperation. Like Operations, Lots are designated in a continuous sequence of numbers. In the case of Lots, that sequence is unique to particular Suboperations.
How to Search: Enter the Region, Operation, Suboperation, and Lot number in the All Fields field. Please leave a space between the Suboperation and Lot designations.
Example: “PVN 410 B 001” will bring up all the records associated with Lot 1 of Suboperation 410B.
You can also search the archive by looking within the different segments of which it is composed. For example, the partition labeled “Lot Cards” contains the lot cards generated in the course of investigations conducted in all the valleys save the middle Ulua; these can be found under the heading “Ulua Lot Cards.”
An Example of Searching the Archive
There are more focused ways to explore the archive, however. How you combine the different elements that constitute the collection depends on your goals.
For example, you might start your study with an interest in a specific site, say PVN 410. In that case, you could begin by reviewing the excavation report provided for that settlement. These summaries describe the construction units, strata, and features (defined below) revealed by the excavations conducted at particular locales along with our understanding of how these elements were related to each other and how those relations changed over time. The periods of occupation recognized for a specific building or other locus are divided into time spans. Each time span consists of the activities, such as the deposition of a particular soil level, digging a storage pit, or raising a platform, that we infer occurred within that interval. A summary of the events, and their outcomes, that pertain to a particular time span is provided within the penultimate or final paragraph in a time span’s description.
Excavations that were described by the investigators in their PhD, MA, or Honors theses are not replicated under “Excavation Reports” but appear in those more formal documents. Honors theses are found in the partition with said heading whereas PhD and MA theses are referenced in a document within that segment of the archive.
The excavation reports are formalized, and legible, versions of what we called in the field “Final Notes.” Final notes were, as the name implies, written by an excavator at the end of digging, and just prior to backfilling, the Suboperations that were devoted to exposing a building or some other area. These notes pulled together the researcher’s observations about what their work had revealed concerning the nature of the structure that they and the Hondurans with whom they worked had cleared, specifying that building’s connections to the surrounding soil levels, and reviewing changes in those architectural forms and soil deposits over time. Final notes, and the formal excavation reports based on them, deal primarily with the configurations of ancient buildings, omitting considerations of the artifacts associated with those constructions. Inferences concerning the behaviors that transpired in and around these edifices as well as their dates of use, were deferred until analyses of the relevant artifacts were completed (see the discussion of lot cards and analysis sheets that follows). Much of that work still remains to be done.
Exploring, say, Site PVN 410 in greater depth, you could review the field drawings in the archive that relate to that site along with the notes written, and photographs taken by, the excavators working in that Operation. The drawings in this instance are accessed by searching for PVN-DRW-410. To access the field notes you need to consult the PVN Finding Aid (defined below) where you will find the Project Number of the person who directed the excavations. Knowing that number is crucial to locating the field notes they wrote pertaining to their Site PVN 410 research—all field notes are keyed to the investigator’s excavator number. In this case, the finding aid indicates that Site PVN 410 was dug under the direction of Matthew Turek and Robert Johnson (PVN Project Numbers 56 and 59, respectively). If you were especially interested in the work conducted on Structure PVN 410 Structure 1, you would want to look at Turek’s notes, which you could find by searching under PVN-056-Turek-Field Notes. You would also want to pull up the drawings from Suboperations 410 B and 410 D, the two trenches that were dug to clear Structure 1. To do so, you would type into the All Fields field PVN-DRW-410-B and PVN-DRW-410-D.
The excavation reports, drawings, and field notes largely describe the physical forms of investigated buildings along with the modifications made to these structures in the course of their occupations. If you want to infer what activities were pursued in and around a building or area during a particular time span, and the dates for those events, then you will need to review the relevant lots and analysis sheets.
The finding aids will direct you to the Suboperation(s) in which the excavations devoted to revealing a building were conducted. You can then search for the lot cards that describe the horizontal and vertical proveniences of the collection units that constitute the relevant Suboperation(s). The backs of these cards contain information on the kinds, and numbers, of artifacts recovered in the course of excavating the different lots. This information results from what we call “processing” a lot; i.e., sorting and counting artifacts by such broad categories as incense burners, pottery sherds, and obsidian. In the case of PVN 410 Structure 1, you would learn from the PVN finding aid that the lots you want to study were dug within Suboperations 410 B and 410 D. Those from Suboperation 410 B, for example, can be located by searching for PVN-Lot-410-B. Comparing the lot descriptions with the drawings will (hopefully) allow you to determine the proveniences of the artifacts listed on the backs of the lot cards.
More detailed information on the artifacts recovered from specific lots is provided in the Catalog and Analysis sheets. Not all lots were processed, though we did strive to sort and count the artifacts retrieved from as many of these collection units as possible. Even fewer lots were analyzed in detail. In addition, while we did try to catalog as many non-pottery artifacts as we could, we never provided detailed descriptions of all of them. What the archive contains, therefore, is a partial list, provided at varying levels of detail, of the array of artifacts recovered during our investigations of specific buildings and other areas. Working within those constraints, the ceramic analysis sheets that record our studies of the pottery sherds recovered in specific lots are grouped together by the Operation to which they pertain. These sheets contain information on the types (defined by paste, surface treatment, and decoration) and forms of the ceramic vessels identified within particular lots. Additional data on the uses to which these containers were put are also provided on the analysis sheets. Thus, the relevant ceramic analysis sheets from Site PVN 410 can be found by searching PVN- OP-410-Ceramic Analysis.
The raw data generated by the study of lithic artifacts can also be found under Artifact Analysis. Consequently, the sheets providing information on the stone tools and debris recovered from specific lots that were defined for Site PVN 410 can be called up by searching for PVN-Lithic Analysis and then going through those sheets to find entries that pertain to lots from Site PVN 410. Any burials recovered within an Operation can be found by typing in “Osteological Analyses” and then looking for the Operation number of interest. Formal burials were not recovered from every Operation. To find burials recovered from the Naco valley, you would type in PVN-Osteological Analyses.
The front matter provided under the Analysis Sheets heading describes the codes that are used in these studies, or indicates where they can be found in the archive. A summary of the Type-Variety-Mode system we used in classifying and recording ceramic sherds is also provided here along with information on where to find the full descriptions of the different ceramic taxa.
Cataloged items from lots defined within a particular Operation can be located by searching the Catalog Sheets partition in several ways. If you want all of the cataloged items from an Operation, say PVN 410, you can get the full list by typing PVN-CAT-410. If, however, you want to focus on a particular class of artifact, say scored censer lids (SCNL), then type PVN-CAT-410-SCNL. The front matter to the Catalog Sheets sections provides the codes used for the different classes of artifacts that we collectively used in our analyses.
If you are primarily interested in the range of variation within a particular artifact class across multiple Operations in a, or across multiple, Regions, you can use the key to types of artifacts that are recorded in the Catalog sheets here. Enter the abbreviation for the type of artifact in the Title field, say “BDS,” and this will bring up all the catalog sheets that describe beads.
All catalog sheets contain information on the lots in which the artifacts they describe were found.
In this way, you can collate information on the architecture, occupation phases, earth stratigraphy, artifacts, and dates for particular settlements and structures within them.
Abbreviations Used in the Archive
In addition to the formal structure described above, there are some abbreviations that you will come across while searching the collection. The key to those abbreviations is given below.
Structure (abbreviated ‘Str.’): A structure is a distinct collection of architectural features that together comprise a coherent building.
Sub-Structure: Sub-structures include buildings that came to light during excavations, but were not buried by later construction and were not recognized and numbered during the initial mapping of a site. Hence, Structure 48-Sub1 designates a construction found in the course of excavating Str. 48 but not recorded from remains found on modern ground surface. A sub-structure that was unrelated to a surface-visible building is given a number in a sequence that was specific to the Operation in which it was uncovered. Thus, Str. 123-Sub1 refers to such a building encountered within Operation 123.
Construction Phases: When multiple, sequential versions of a building were identified, and these versions cover their predecessors, they are given a sequence of numbers such that the earliest iteration of the structure has the highest number. Hence, Str. 48-1st is the final version of that edifice, preceded by, and burying, earlier Strs. 48-2nd, and 48-3rd.
Construction Unit (abbreviated ‘U.’): A specific element that is part of a structure (e.g., a wall foundation, floor, step). Construction units are numbered in a sequence specific to each structure.
Excavation Unit (abbreviated EU): A particular segment of a Suboperation. These usually measure 1m2, contain multiple lots, and are numbered in a sequence specific to the Suboperation in which they were dug.
Feature (abbreviated ‘F.’): Features are entities that seemingly resulted from human action but were not clearly parts of formal constructions. For example, debris fallen from architecture is designated as a feature. All features are numbered in a sequence specific to each structure.
Stratum (abbreviated ‘S.’): Stratum refers to a soil level that was naturally deposited and is distinguished by some combination of its texture, compaction, hue, and contents. All strata are numbered in a sequence particular to each structure.
Finding Aids: Finding aids are provided for the Naco, middle Chamelecon, lower Cacaulapa, and middle Ulua valleys. These consist of Excel tables that indicate who on the project directed the excavations of specific structures along with information on the Operation and Suboperation(s) that comprised these investigations. For example, the PVN finding aid indicates that Matthew Dall directed excavations within Suboperations 11A and 11C that resulted in clearing Structure 97 at the site of La Sierra in the Naco valley. Project Number: Each person who worked on the projects covered by the Four Valleys Archive was given a number in a sequence that is unique to the region (EPV, PSB, PVC, PVN) in which they studied. The notes, lot cards, drawings, and analyses that they prepared are keyed into their project numbers. In the case of Str. 97 noted above, the PVN finding aid indicates that Matthew Dall is Excavator Number 3. Learning more about his work on this building would involve calling up his notes under PVN-003-Dall-Field Notes.
Submissions from 2022
PSB Finding Aid Correlating Structures, Suboperations, and Excavators, Edward Mark Schortman
PVC Finding Aid Correlating Structures, Suboperations, and Excavators, Edward Mark Schortman
PVN Finding Aid Correlating Structures, Suboperations, and Excavators, Edward Mark Schortman