The Honduras Ceramic Collection

By Karen Pereira


The Honduras Collection was donated to the Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH) in 1929 and 1930 by G.W. Van Hyning and the N. Geraci Fruit Company, a Banana Company operating in Honduras during the 1930s. Most of the specimens were collected by G.W. Van Hyning who was related to Thompson Van Hyning the first director of the FLMNH. The collection of sherds is relatively small (over 5,000 sherds) but covers a wide geographical area, making it a useful research collection.

Honduras marks the southern border line of Mesoamerica as originally defined by Paul Kirchoff in 1943. This makes Honduras an interesting place to study the cultural interaction between Mesoamerica and lower Central America, considered to be part of a larger zone called the Intermediate Area extending into South America (Lara Pinto 1996). Recent research indicates considerable cultural diversity in Honduras, including both Maya cultures such as those found around the area of Copan and Non-Maya cultures, and others that indicate a blend of both (Beaudry-Corbett and Henderson 1993; Drennan 1996).


The Honduras Collection contains specimens from fourteen archaeological sites:

No. Site Department of Honduras *Archaeological Region Reference
1 Balfate Colón Northeast Cuddy 2007
2 Bamboo Colón Northeast Cuddy 2007
3 Chamelecón Colón Lower Ulúa Yde 1938
4 Guasistagua Comayagua Southwest Yde 1938, Squier 1855:123, Squier 1858:133
        Squier 1870:76, Bancroft 1875:71
5 La Chorrera 1 Intibucá Southwest  
6 La Chorrera 2 Intibucá Southwest  
7 Las Palmas Intibucá Southwest  
8 Los Naranjos Santa Bárbara Lake Yojoa Stone 1934, Duncan et al 1938
9 Naranjo Chino Farm Cortés Lower Ulúa Duncan et al 1938
10 Omonita   Lower Ulúa  
11 Plowden Unknown Unknown  
12 Siguatepeque Comayagua Southwest Popenoe 1928, Yde 1938:25
13 Sula Cortés Lower Ulúa Morely 1917
14 Taulabé Comayagua Lake Yojoa Yde 1938:Fig.18, Squier 1860

* (after Beaudry-Corbett and Henderson 1993)

About half of the specimens from the Honduras Ceramic Collection come from the Northeastern Region of Honduras from the sites of Balfate and Bamboo. Both sites are part of the northeastern ceramic tradition which depicts several iconographic motifs related to the Manatee Tradition (Cuddy 2007). Balfate marks the western extreme of the northeast ceramic tradition in the Cocal period (AD 1000 - 1400), represented by a local variation of Manatee ceramics that also extended to the Honduras Islands, contemporary with Mesoamerican's Early and Late Postclassic periods (Cuddy 2007:70-3, 156). Bamboo, also known as 80 Acre Village or Stuart's Hill, is dated to the Transitional Selin phase during the Late-Terminal Classic period (Cuddy 2007:156).

The Balfate and Bamboo collection includes several lug fragments decorated with fine incisions. The main characteristic of such specimens is a hollow elongated prong with a narrow tip at the end of the lug. The collection also presents leg decorations of appliqué and/or finger pinched nodes which may represent either humanoid faces or animal faces.

Fragments similar to the ones in the FLMNH collection are catalogued as Dorina Incised at other sites in Northeastern Honduras (Healy 1993:209-10). Other related sherds are documented in the Anthropology Collection Database through the NMNH Smithsonian Catalogue Online and the Peabody Online Collection.

Dorina Abstract Incised is represented with an exterior decoration of lazy S or abstracted curvilinear scroll lines, usually incised and offset by punctuation or jab marks, smoothed and lightly spilled surface, shallow tripod bowls and plates and frying pan censers, composite silhouette vessels, elaborate hollow supports and lugs, often with incised decoration, solid grooved, and conical legs (Healy 1993:211-12)

Another small but significant component from Honduras at the FLMNH are the polychrome fragments from the Yojoa Region and Lower Ulúa Region, which include specimens from the sites of Los Naranjos, Talaube, Plowden, Sula, Naranjo Chino Farm, and Omonita. According to Viel (1977) the Ulua-Yojoa polychrome tradition is dated to the Late Classic period (AD 600 - AD 900).

This ceramic tradition is composed of polychrome vessels with elaborate designs in red, orange, and black pigments. These designs tend to be abstract and include well known designs also found in the Maya ceramic tradition to the north, such as the mat motif, S-shapes, step frets, chevrons, and scales. Zoomorphic and anthropomorphic figures are depicted as the central components of several vessels. Lug handles with animal decorations are also part of this tradition (Henderson and Beaudry-Corbett 1993).

The remainder of the ceramic collection comes from the southwestern sites of Guasistagua, La Chorrera #1, La Chorrera #2, Siguatepeque, and Las Palmas. Unfortunately, most of these sherds are so eroded they cannot be dated to a specific time period or a ceramic style.


Further Reading

Bancroft, Hubert Howe
1875 History of Central America. The History Company, San Francisco.
Beaudry-Corbett, Marilyn and John S. Henderson
1993 Introduction. In Pottery of Prehistoric Honduras. Regional Classification and Analysis. Edited by John S. Henderson and Marilyn Beaudry'Corbett, pp.1–2. Los Angeles: Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Monograph 35.
Beaudry-Corbett, Marilyn, Pauline Caputi, John S. Henderson, Rosemary A. Joyce, Eugenia J. Robinson, and Anthony Wonderley
1993 Lower Ulúa Region. In Pottery of Prehistoric Honduras. Regional Classification and Analysis. Edited by John S. Henderson and Marilyn Beaudry'Corbett, pp.136-171. Los Angeles: Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Monograph 35.
Cuddy, Thomas W.
2007 Political Identity and Archaeology in Northeast Honduras. Boulder CO: University Press of Colorado.
Drennan, Robert D.
1996 Betwixt and Between in the Intermediate Area. Journal of Archaeological Research 4(2):95-132.
Duncan Strong, William, Alfred Kidder II, and A.J. Drexel Paul, Jr.
1938 Preliminary Report on the Smithsonian Institution-Harvard University Archaeological Expedition to Northwestern Honduras, 1936. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, Vol. 97, No.1. Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC.
Healy, Paul
1993 Northeastern Honduras. In Pottery of Prehistoric Honduras. Regional Classification and Analysis. Edited by John S. Henderson and Marilyn Beaudry'Corbett, pp.194-213. Los Angeles: Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Monograph 35.
Lara Pinto, Gloria
2006 La investigación arqueológica en Honduras: lecciones aprendidas para una futura proyección. Revistas Pueblos y Fronteras Digital 2:1-41.
Popenoe, Dorothy H.
1928 Las Ruinas de Tenampua. Tipografia Nacional, Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Squier, Ephraim George
1855 Notes on Central America, Particularly the States of Honduras and San Salvador: Their Geography, Topography, Climate, Population, Resources, Productions, etc., etc., and the Proposed Honduras Inter-Oceanic Railway. Harper & Brothers, New York.
1858 The States of Central America. Harper & Brothers, New York.
1860 Some Account of the Lake Yojoa or Taulebe, in Honduras, Central America. Journal of the Royal Geographic Society of London 30:58-63.
1870 Honduras: Descriptive, Historica,l and Statistical. Trubner & Co., London.
Stone, Doris Z.
1934 A New Southermost Maya City (Los Naranjos on Lake Yojoa, Honduras). Maya Research 1:125-128.
Viel, Rene
1977 Etude sur la ceramique Ulua-Yojoa plychrome (Nord-Ouest de Honduras): Essai d' analyse Stylistique du Babilonia, PhD. Dissertation, Universite Rene Descarte, Paris.
Yde, Jens
1938 An Archaeological Reconnaissance of Northwestern Honduras. A Report of the Work of the Tulane University-Danish Natinoal Museum Expedition to Central America 1935. Levin & Munksgaard, Copenhagen.