Art & Art History ETDs

Publication Date



In this study of Pre-Columbian sculptures from Panama and Costa Rica, style and iconography were investigated with the purposes of determining relationships among the different archaeological regions of this area of Lower Central America, establishing geographic and time distributions of traits, and creating a relative chronology for both style and motif. Over 1400 volcanic stone sculptures were organized into the two primary categories of Ceremonial Objects and Figural Images. These were further divided on the basis of formal similarities.. The major emphasis of this study has been an analysis and seriation of effigy grinding stones and standing human images. Two major analytical methodologies were employed in the seriation. The first involved a visual analysis and grouping based primarily on formal qualities or visible traits. Over 60 traits were identified for each category. The second method of analysis was the coding of each sculpture for the presence or absence of these traits. Various combinations of these traits were then submitted to Guttman Scale Analysis with the aid of an IBM computer. The results of the Guttman analysis confirm that the groupings of sculptures developed by visual analysis is accurate. They also confirm that there is a developmental sequence from one group to another. Archaeological evidence suggests that the developmental sequence for both the effigy grinding stones and the standing human figures is from naturalistic to stylized, from crude carvings of varied imagery and size to technically advanced sculptures of more uniform size and motif. These sculptural groups also argue for the existence of a single archaeological zone in the Atlantic Watershed/Central Highlands Region of Costa Rica which reached its greatest productive level during the late Stone Cist Period. The appearance of similar sculptures in other archaeological regions suggests relationships among these various areas of both Costa Rica and Panama. It appears evident that concepts, if not actual objects, moved in both directions influencing the sculptural output between AD 700 and 1500.

Project Sponsors

Samuel Kress Foundation



Document Type


Degree Name

Art History

Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Department of Art and Art History

First Committee Member (Chair)

Flora S. Clancy

Second Committee Member

Mary Grizzard

Third Committee Member

Jeremy A. Sabloff

Fourth Committee Member

Mary Elizabeth Smith