Date of Award


Document Type



In 1524 the town of Leon Viejo was founded by Hernandez de Cordova on the Northwestern shore of Lake Managua in Nicaragua. Eighty-six years later it was abandoned, as earthquakes and volcanic activity made the site undesirable. At the present time, Leon Viejo represents the only Pacific coast Spanish occupied sixteenth century colonial townsite for which archaeological data is available. In this thesis I present a historically informed analysis of archaeological materials recovered from eight separate structures located towards the center of this site.

Utilizing The Annales Historical Approach, World Systems Theory, community and household level analysis, I weave together global, local and individual perspectives in order to come to a multidimensional understanding of the lives of the Spanish living in Leon Viejo. What my analysis reveals is that in comparison to the residents of other archaeologically known 16th century towns, Leon Viejo's residents were extremely limited in their ability to obtain Old World tradition material culture. Archaeological evidence indicates that this limitation may have resulted in a creolization of the aesthetics of the Spaniards living in Leon Viejo. When the archaeological data is viewed in the context of the historical data, it appears that this limitation may have also resulted in the alienation of at least some of Leon Viejo's Spanish residents from their sense of Spanish norms and values. In all, this study suggests that there may have been a great deal more variability in the experience of the Spanish in the New World that has been indicated by the published literature.