a1 Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado, 233 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309
Ancient Costa Ricans in the Arenal area exhibited extraordinary persistence in landscape use and social memory, in spite of repeated catastrophes caused by explosive volcanic eruptions. The Cañales village on the south shore of Lake Arenal was struck by two large explosive eruptions during the Arenal phase (500 b.c.–a.d. 600). Following ecological recovery, the village was reoccupied after each of these eruptions. I argue that the people who reoccupied the village were direct descendants of pre-disaster villagers due to the fact that they reinstated use of the same path to the village cemetery. While previous interpretations emphasized ecological reasons for village reoccupation, I suggest that a dominating reason for reoccupation was to re-establish contact with the spirits of deceased ancestors in the cemetery. The living and the spirits of the deceased constituted the functioning community. The refugees re-established processional access to their cemetery as soon as possible, perhaps even before the village was reoccupied. Archaeologists rarely discover evidence of ancient pilgrimages. However, the combination of remote sensing and detailed stratigraphic analyses allow them to be detected in the Arenal area. Villagers created and perpetuated social memory by regular linear ritual processions along precisely the same path, in spite of challenging topography and occasional regional disasters obscuring the path. This recognition has implications for the arguments of sedentism versus residential mobility during the Arenal phase.