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Early Agriculture in the Maya Lowlands

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Mary D. Pohl
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306
Kevin O. Pope
Affiliation:
Geo Eco Arc Research, 2222 Foothill Boulevard, Suite E-272, La Canada, CA 91011
John G. Jones
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843
John S. Jacob
Affiliation:
Fugro International, P.O. Box 740010, Houston, TX 77274
Dolores R. Piperno
Affiliation:
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, APO 34002-0948
Susan D. deFrance
Affiliation:
Corpus Christi Museum, 1900 North Chaparral, Corpus Christi, TX 78401
David L. Lentz
Affiliation:
New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY 10454
John A. Gifford
Affiliation:
Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, Miami, FL 33149
Marie E. Danforth
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS 39406
J. Kathryn Josserand
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306

Abstract

Wetland research in northern Belize provides the earliest evidence for development of agriculture in the Maya Lowlands. Pollen data confirm the introduction of maize and manioc before 3000 B.C. Dramatic deforestation, beginning ca. 2500 B.C. and intensifying in wetland environments ca. 1500-1300 B.C., marks an expansion of agriculture, which occurred in the context of a mixed foraging economy. By 1000 B.C. a rise in groundwater levels led farmers to construct drainage ditches coeval with the emergence of Maya complex society ca. 1000-400 B.C. Field manipulations often involved minor modifications of natural hummocks. Canal systems are not as extensive in northern Belize as previously reported, nor is there evidence of artificially raised planting platforms. By the Classic period, wetland fields were flooded and mostly abandoned.

Las investigaciones sobre las regiones de suelos húmedos o pantanosos del norte de Belice ofrecen las primeras evidencias del desarrollo de la agricultura maya. La información paleoecológica que se encontró en los pantanos de Belice confirma el uso de manioca y maíz antes del año 3000 a.C., mientras que el periodo alrededor de los años 2500-1300 a.C. se distingue por una gran expansión agrícola que ha quedado marcada por un episodio de dramática deforestación que incluyó el cultivo de pantanos. Estos cambios ecológicos tuvieron lugar en el contexto de una economía de forrajeo. Aproximadamente en el año 1000 a.C. el nivel freático subió creando la necesidad de la construcción de canales de drenaje, contemporánea con la emergencia de la compleja infraestructura en la socieded maya en los años 1000-400 a.C. Este desarrollo incluye pequeñas modificaciones en la topografía. Nuestra investigación encontró que el sistema de canales no es tan extenso en el norte de Belice como previamente se reportó, e incluso no se encontraron evidencias de plataformas agrícolas artificiales. Durante el horizonte Clásico los campos de suelos húmedos fueron inundados y en su mayoría abandonados.

Type
Reports
Copyright
Copyright © Society for American Archaeology 1996

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