Leon Viejo – 2017

© Eveha International

The excavation campaigns
(by years)


Dr. Rigoberto Navarro-Genie (Éveha Nicaragua)
Dr. Sébastien Perrot-Minnot (Éveha International)

How Eveha Participates

Fouilles archéologiques
Étude du mobilier

The archaeological project « Leon Viejo through Time and Space » was created in 2017 to better define the spatial and chrono-cultural characteristics of this important site of Nicaragua.

During the first intervention, surveys were carried out to enlight the cultural stratigraphy of the site and to confirm the existence of a pre-Hispanic occupation. The field work was completed in June-July 2017 by Lydie Clerc (archaeologist and geomorphologist for Éveha), Roberto Sirias (Nicaraguan archaeologist), Jeus Gonzalez (student in archaeology at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua, UNAN-Managua) and four workers. This research was supported by the Archaeological Directorate of the Nicaraguan Cultural Institute (INC), the Nicaraguan Institute of Territorial Studies (INETER) and the Global Volcanism Program of the Smithsonian Institution (USA).


Campaign, preliminary results and prospects


The surveys were positioned so as to avoid the colonial buildings as much as possible. Survey A was thus opened in the south-west of the Plaza Mayor (Main Square) and Survey B about 40 metres west of Gonzalo Cano’s House (a Spanish merchant).


The surveys covered an area of 2×2 m, one side facing north. They were digged following the stratigraphy. In both surveys, an additional micro-survey (60×60 cm) was made in the north-west corner to confirm the absence of constructions hidden underneath and to help reading the whole stratigraphy. In Survey A, excavations went down to 2.23 m deep and 3.43 m in the micro-survey. In Survey B, the area was digged down to 2.5 m and 3.20 m in the micro-survey. The latter was then extended (1×1 m in the northwest corner, and then in the northern half of the latter) to pursue the exavation to a depth of 3.35 m.


Globally, the surveys show a rather obvious stratigraphy, logically marked by volcanism. In available and credible litterature, eruptions of the Momotombo volcano are mentionned for the years 1605-06, 1578, 1524, around 1100-800 BC and 2550 BC. Only the most recent one could be clearly identified in the stratigraphy. In addition to humus, 24 stratigraphic units were recorded in Survey A, and 12 in Survey B.


Survey A revealed two series of colonial grounds, sometimes very altered and residual, belonging to the Plaza Mayor and a road or public place bordering it to the south. The upper levels were paved, while others had traces of plaster. The discovered artefacts were few in number but quite varied, with ceramic, porcelain and metal objects (including a coin), tile, and fragments of flint.


A colonial dump was found in Survey B. It contained abundant tile and brick fragments as well as ceramic, porcelain, metal and stone remains. In the 3 stratigraphic units below, the European artefacts were mixed with a large amount of quality material of Amerindian tradition. It included stone, ceramic and shell artefacts such as a beautifully worked obsidian arrowhead, obsidian blades and nucleus, ornamental elements and decorated ceramics of various types (thus objects of prestige). The deepest of these 3 stratigraphic units could correspond to the Contact period between the Amerindians and the Spanish (1520s). Finally, more than 3 m deep and under layers of volcanic material that might have been left by the eruption of Momotombo in 1524, a clay-silt layer was found. The latter delivered four shards of ceramic, which prove, for the first time, the existence of a pre-Hispanic occupation in Leon Viejo.


The surveys were recorded with a total station and a GPS by topographs from Procad. Following the fieldwork, the collected artefacts were cleaned, photographed, drawn, inventoried and analysed in Managua. Unfortunately, no coal could be collected in the pre-Hispanic level of Survey B for carbon dating. A sample of sediment should however be sent to a specialized laboratory for a paleo-environmental study. All the sediment samples from the other anthropized levels of both surveys will be retained in the event of future analyses.


This survey operation, which has already been the subject of preliminary reports, will result in a final report to be submitted to the Nicaraguan Cultural Institute (INC). The results will also be published in scientific articles and communications, as well as public interventions and popularizing works. The next operation considered within the “Leon Viejo through Time and Space” project could be the creation of a 3D model of the archaeological site. This model would both enable very precise, georeferenced and interactive representations of the site and improve the recording of future archaeological operations.