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Early formative subsistence and agriculture in southeastern Mesoamerica

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Title: Early formative subsistence and agriculture in southeastern Mesoamerica
Author: Feddema, Vicki L.
Degree Master of Arts - MA
Program Anthropology
Copyright Date: 1993
Abstract: This thesis addresses questions regarding the nature of subsistence strategies practiced by Early Formative inhabitants of the Mazatan area on the Pacific Coast of southeastern Mesoamerica. Previous archaeological research indicates that estuarine and riverine faunal resources provided the main basis for subsistence. Here, I propose that cultivation of indigenous food plants was also an important component in the subsistence system and was established prior to the introduction of non-local domesticated plants such as maize. The development of cultivation practices probably occurred as a gradual progression from casual to more deliberate cultivation of favored plant species. Incentives for such practices may have been related to nutrition, seasonal availability, efficiency and/or storability. Non-local domesticates may have been adopted into the existing cultivation regime for similar reasons, or for reasons related to ociopolitical complexity, which appears to have emerged around the same time. Research questions generated by this hypothesis are addressed through the analysis of carbonized plant remains that were recovered from 147 flotation samples collected from four archaeological sites in the study area. Of the seven botanical taxa that were identified, maize, beans and avocado are the most ubiquitous and indicate that the cultivation of domesticated plants was well underway by the beginning of the Early Formative period (about 3500 years ago). It is, however, difficult to assess the actual importance of these species in the subsistence economy. Because post-depositional processes and differential patterns of plant utilization and preservation influence the amount and type of plant material that will be preserved, archeobotanical remains provide, at best, an indirect reflection of plant resource utilization by ancient human populations. Statistical treatment of recovered data is therefore problematical, and inference based upon simple identification of species present in archaeological contexts is the approach used here to examine trends in taxon occurrence.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/2254
Series/Report no. UBC Retrospective Theses Digitization Project [http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/retro_theses/]

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