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Anthropogenic Soil Erosion around Lake Patzcuaro, Michoacan, Mexico, during the Preclassic and Late Postclassic-Hispanic Periods

  • F. A. Street-Perrott (a1), R. A. Perrott (a1) and D. D. Harkness (a2)

Abstract

Lake Pátzcuaro (2,035 m asl), situated in the temperate highland-forest region of central Mexico, was the focus of Postclassic Tarascan civilization. Today, the lake is bordered by wide, swampy flats, which can be interpreted as low-angle fans of colluvial material derived from the deeply eroded, lower-valley side slopes. A gully near the northwest shore exposed two colluvial units: The lower one was dated at 2,300 years B.P. (350 B.C.) at the base of the exposure, while the upper one yielded three 14C ages ranging from 270 years B.P. (A.D. 1680) to "modern." Both units contained abundant charcoal. Pollen studies by Watts and Bradbury (1982) suggest that the first phase was initiated by the widespread introduction of maize cultivation around 1550 B.C. The second, more intense, phase of forest clearance, although it may have begun during the Late Postclassic period, probably culminated during the great expansion of colonial plough agriculture and livestock rearing in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Résumé

El Lago Pátzcuaro (2,035 metros sobre el nivel del mar), situado en la región forestal templada aha de México central, fue elfoco de la civilizatión poslclásica tarasca. Actualmente, el Lago está rodeado por planicies anchas y pantanosas que pueden ser interpretadas como abanicos poco inclinados de depositos coluviales, derivados de las fuertemente erosionadas faldas bajas del valle. Una barranca cerca de la costa noroeste reveló dos unidades coluviales: una bajafechado de 2300 l4C años a.P. (350 a. de J.C) en la base de la secctión, y una aha que arrojó tres fechas distintas, entre 270 años a.P. (1680 A.C) y "la epoca moderna." Ambas unidades contenían carbón vegetal en abundancia. Estudios de polen elaborados por Watts y Bradbury (1982) sugieren que la primera fase fue iniciada por el cultivo generalizado del maíz alrededor de 1550 a. de J.C. La segunda, intensificada, fase de deforestatión, aun cuando pudo haber comenzado en las postrimerías del período postclasico, probablemente cuminó con el expansivo uso del arado y la implantatión de actividades pecuarias de finales de los siglos decimosexto y decimoséptimo.

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References

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Anthropogenic Soil Erosion around Lake Patzcuaro, Michoacan, Mexico, during the Preclassic and Late Postclassic-Hispanic Periods

  • F. A. Street-Perrott (a1), R. A. Perrott (a1) and D. D. Harkness (a2)

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