Maya Subsistence

Maya Subsistence

Studies in Memory of Dennis E. Puleston

1st Edition - February 28, 1982

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  • Editor: Kent Flannery
  • eBook ISBN: 9781483299174

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Maya Subsistence: Studies in Memory of Dennis E. Puleston presents studies on the history and development of Maya subsistence in honor of Maya archaeologist Dennis E. Puleston (1940-1978). The discussions are organized around four themes: ecological models for early Maya adaptations; archaeological investigations of Pre-classic and classic Maya subsistence; contributions of geography and soil science to an understanding of ancient Maya subsistence; and Maya subsistence in the post-classic, colonial, and modern eras. Comprised of 15 chapters, this book begins with an analysis of Puleston's career and a review of the history of inquiry into Maya subsistence. Maya subsistence from the earliest Pre-classic period up to the present day is then examined, with emphasis on agriculture, hunting, wild plant collecting, animal husbandry, and trade. In particular, cultural development in the Valley of Guatemala from 1500 B.C. to the Spanish Conquest is discussed, along with the resources of the tropical lowlands and actual prehistoric cornfields miraculously preserved by volcanic ashfall in El Salvador. The book also presents evidence for Maya soil and water conservation over the entire area from Yucatan to Chiapas and central Guatemala, and looks at the traditional role of women and animals in lowland Maya economy. This monograph will be of interest to archaeologists and anthropologists.

Table of Contents

  • Contributors


    Dennis Edward Puleston (1940-1978): Maya Archaeologist

    I Ecological Models for Early Maya Adaptations

    1 Cultural Evolution and Ecological Succession in the Valley of Guatemala: 1500 B.C.-A.D. 1524



    The Test Squares

    Settlement and Population History of the Valley of Guatemala

    Agricultural History of the Valley of Guatemala


    2 An Ecological Model of the Early Maya of the Central Lowlands


    Pioneer Maya and the Tropical Forest Habitat

    Potential Exports of the Central Lowlands

    Organizational Characteristics of Tropical Forests and Their Procurement Systems

    Organizational Characteristics of the Maya Export System

    Evaluation of the Tropical Forest Export Model


    II Archaeological Investigations of Preclassic and Classic Maya Subsistence

    3 Prehistoric Agricultural Systems in El Salvador


    Cultural History and Agricultural Systems

    Summary and Conclusions

    4 Subsistence and Society in Eastern Yucatán


    Part 1

    Part 2


    5 Subsistence, Trade, and Development of the Coastal Maya


    Preclassic Canalization at Cerros, Northern Belize

    Spatial Disposition of Feature

    Excavation of Features




    6 Ancient Lowland and Highland Maya Water and Soil Conservation Strategies


    Lowland and Highland Watersheds

    Lowland Hydraulic Techniques

    The Maya Highlands


    III Contributions of Geography and Soil Science to an Understanding of Ancient Maya Subsistence

    7 Hydraulic Agriculture in the American Tropics: Forms, Measures, and Recent Research


    Forms of Hydraulic Agriculture and Minor Water-Management Techniques

    The Measurement of Raised Fields

    Recent Research on Precolumbian Raised-Field Agriculture in Latin America


    8 Prehispanic Agricultural Use of the Wetlands of Northern Belize


    Wetlands of Northern Belize

    Ground Verification of Wetland Patterning

    Related Field Investigations


    Problems in Assessing the Significance of Maya Raised Fields

    Summary and Conclusions


    9 The Origin of Raised Fields near San Antonio, Belize: An Alternative Hypothesis


    Physical Setting


    Examination of Strata from Test Pits


    Summary and Conclusions

    IV Maya Subsistence in the Postclassic, Colonial, and Modern Eras

    10 The Plant World of the Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Lowland Maya


    The Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Sources

    The Size of the Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Fields

    Maya Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Plant Categories

    Maya Classification of Soils and Environmental Features

    Continuity and Change: The Impact of Nahua and Arawak

    Summary and Conclusions

    11 Agriculture and Trade in the Colonial Period Southern Maya Lowlands


    The Southern Maya Lowlands in Colonial Times

    Patterns of Agricultural Production

    Implications of the Model

    12 The Traditional Role of Women and Animals in Lowland Maya Economy


    Ritual Feasts

    Trade and Tribute

    Dogs and Pigs

    The Economic Role of Maya Women


    13 The Contemporary Role of Women in Lowland Maya Livestock Production



    Traditional Methods of Animal Production

    Contemporary Festivals

    Personal Independence and Family Security

    Women as Entrepreneurs


    14 Experiences in Traditional Hydraulic Agriculture


    The Balancán-Tenosique Plan

    Experiment in El Espino, Tabasco

    The College of Tropical Agriculture

    The Cultural Institute of Nacajuca

    The Camellones Chontales

    The Lagoon of Tecocomulco

    Chinampas of Laguna de La Mancha


    V Overview

    15 Maya Subsistence: A Commentary

    Appendix 1 Dennis E. Puleston: A Tribute

    Appendix 2 The Role of Ramón in Maya Subsistence


    Slash-and-Burn Agriculture

    The Ramón Survey




    Settlement Patterns


Product details

  • No. of pages: 368
  • Language: English
  • Copyright: © Academic Press 1982
  • Published: February 28, 1982
  • Imprint: Academic Press
  • eBook ISBN: 9781483299174

About the Editor

Kent Flannery

Affiliations and Expertise

Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, U.S.A.

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