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Intensive Wetland Agriculture in Mesoamerica: Space, Time, and Form

Andrew Sluyter
Annals of the Association of American Geographers
Vol. 84, No. 4 (Dec., 1994), pp. 557-584
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2564144
Page Count: 28
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Intensive Wetland Agriculture in Mesoamerica: Space, Time, and Form
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Abstract

Geographers have led the effort to better understand Prehispanic, intensive wetland agriculture ("raised fields") in Mesoamerica. An overview of that literature provides the database for a subsequent spatial-temporal analysis and a resource for primary research. The analysis employs maps to identify changing relationships among distribution, hectareage, and morphometry in order to address wetland agriculture's role in the emergence of sedentism, urbanism, statism, and corollary environmental change; its interrelationships with other agroecosystems and ecological parameters; and its productivity and sustainability. The result is a modest benchmark in the research process which identifies significant variables, putative patterns, and several testable hypotheses, namely 1) that wherever social processes elicited dense population nucleations and hydrology was appropriate, farmers built wetland fields; 2) that the emergence of intensive wetland agriculture was ecologically interrelated with terracing, canal irrigation, and extensive agroecosystems; 3) that morphometric variation among wetland fields reflected contextual variables of hydrology, population density, taxation, and centralization of decision making; and 4) that intensive wetland agriculture in Mesoamerica was a productive and sustainable agroecosystem.

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