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Soils, Climate and Society

Soils, Climate and Society: Archaeological Investigations in Ancient America

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Soils, Climate and Society
    Book Description:

    Much recent archaeological research focuses on social forces as the impetus for cultural change. Soils, Climate and Society, however, focuses on the complex relationship between human populations and the physical environment, particularly the land--the foundation of agricultural production and, by extension, of agricultural peoples. The volume traces the origins of agriculture, the transition to agrarian societies, the sociocultural implications of agriculture, agriculture's effects on population, and the theory of carrying capacity, considering the relation of agriculture to the profound social changes that it wrought in the New World. Soil science plays a significant, though varied, role in each case study, and is the common component of each analysis. Soil chemistry is also of particular importance to several of the studies, as it determines the amount of food that can be produced in a particular soil and the effects of occupation or cultivation on that soil, thus having consequences for future cultivators. Soils, Climate and Society demonstrates that renewed investigation of agricultural production and demography can answer questions about the past, as well as stimulate further research. It will be of interest to scholars of archaeology, historical ecology and geography, and agricultural history.

    eISBN: 978-1-60732-213-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Sue Eileen Hayes and John D. Wingard
  6. Introduction: A User’s Guide to Soils, Climate, and Society
    (pp. xiii-xx)
    Sue Eileen Hayes and John D. Wingard

    From their emergence between 3,000 and 8,000 years ago until the Industrial Revolution, agricultural societies were the most culturally complex and advanced societies in the world. Despite the rise of industrial sectors in many countries, agriculture continues to be the primary livelihood for the majority of the global population. Agricultural societies have persisted for nearly a dozen millennia, eventually occupying virtually every tropical and temperate zone in the world. Much remains to be learned about agricultural societies, both past and present, in their seemingly limitless diversity. The chapters in this volume contribute to our understanding of ancient agricultural societies in...

  7. 1 Population Estimates for Anthropogenically Enriched Soils (Amazonian Dark Earths)
    (pp. 1-20)
    William I. Woods, William M. Denevan and Lilian Rebellato

    Until fairly recently, there were two opposing models of the density, size, shape, and duration of Amazonian pre-Columbian settlements. One group of scientists believed environmental conditions in the Amazonian region inhibited the social and cultural development of its populations and posited soil exhaustion and low available protein as principal limiting factors (Gross 1975; Meggers 1954, 1971, 1991, 1995; Steward 1949a). Betty J. Meggers interpreted the archaeological data as indicative of cultural conservatism, with the present situation among native peoples serving as a model for the past (small villages, little societal complexity, subsistence patterns based on shifting cultivation and residence, and...

  8. 2 Soilscape Legacies: Historical and Emerging Consequences of Socioecological Interactions in Honduras
    (pp. 21-60)
    E. Christian Wells, Karla L. Davis-Salazar and David D. Kuehn

    Charles Kellogg was probably not thinking about archaeology more than seventy years ago when he wrote his groundbreaking popular book about soils and our interactions with them. prior to the 1950s, US archaeology was largely a discipline that emphasized historical description as context for anthropologists’ ethnographic study of human behavior. only recently have history and process merged in archaeological method and theory, allowing us to consider how human interactions with the biophysical environment transform inherited social and ecological conditions to create long-lasting legacies for future generations (e.g., Kohler and van der Leeuw 2007; redman et al. 2004). Contemporary archaeology, when...

  9. 3 Drought, Subsistence Stress, and Population Dynamics: Assessing Mississippian Abandonment of the Vacant Quarter
    (pp. 61-84)
    Scott C. Meeks and David G. Anderson

    The idea that prehistoric agriculturally based chiefdoms underwent periods of emergence, expansion, collapse, and reemergence has received much attention in the archaeological literature of eastern North America (e.g., Anderson 1994, 1996; Blitz 1999; Cobb and King 2005; Hally 1993, 1996; Pauketat 2007; Steponaitis 1978; Williams and Shapiro 1996). In some instances, prehistoric Mississippian and subsequent early historic period chiefdoms in the southeastern and lower midwestern United States—dating from ca. AD 1000 to sustained European contact in the early seventeenth century—are known to have collapsed with no subsequent, or at least no fairly rapid, replacement or reemergence, as indicated...

  10. 4 Mimbres Mogollon Farming: Estimating Prehistoric Agricultural Production during the Classic Mimbres Period
    (pp. 85-108)
    Michael D. Pool

    From AD 950/1000 to AD 1130/1150, southwestern new Mexico experienced a remarkable efflorescence of cultural development along the Mimbres River, marked by the development of masonry pueblo architecture and one of the most distinctive and aesthetic traditions of pottery in prehistoric North America. Although it was certainly not a singular event in the prehistory of the American Southwest, the collapse and disappearance of the classic Mimbres culture has puzzled archaeologists for more than a hundred years.

    The beginning of the classic Mimbres period (AD 950/1000) is marked by the replacement of pithouse architecture with cobble masonry surface pueblos and the...

  11. 5 So Who’s Counting? Modeling Pre-Columbian Agricultural Potential in the Maya World
    (pp. 109-130)
    Sue Eileen Hayes

    Many people elsewhere in the social sciences believe economists have always been quantitatively oriented, constructing and using complex analytical and predictive models. While the present generation of economists is broadly engaged in this type of activity, this is a relatively recent phenomenon. Academic economists first moved beyond graph-based analysis after World War II. The movement to quantitative methods was rapid, but it did not necessarily improve the quality of the analyses. Wassily Leontief, the Nobel Prize–winning creator of input-output economic modeling, warned in “Theoretical Assumptions and Non-Observed Facts,” his 1970 presidential address to the American Economic Association, “Uncritical enthusiasm...

  12. 6 Tilling the Fields and Building the Temples: Assessing the Relationship among Land, Labor, and Classic Maya Elite Power in the Copán Valley, Honduras
    (pp. 131-156)
    John D. Wingard

    Archaeologists take different approaches to understanding the past. These approaches vary from those that rely heavily on data bound by the laws of physics, chemistry, and biology to those that rely much more heavily on the interpretive and inferential powers of the researcher. Archaeologists most closely associated with processualist approaches favor etic explanations of human behavior. They rely most heavily on empirical data collected using scientific methods. Over-reliance on only the highly scientific, however, can leave us with shallow, narrow, relatively uninformative images that tell us much about the “what” and “where” but often little about the “why.”

    Postprocessual archaeologists,...

  13. 7 An EPIC Challenge: Estimating Site Population in South Coastal Peru
    (pp. 157-174)
    Sue Eileen Hayes

    The Environmental Policy Integrated Climate (EPIC) agricultural simulation program was extensively discussed in chapter 5, which described testing its use in population estimation at Baking Pot, Belize. Wingard’s very different application of EPIC to study potential population arcs at Copán, Honduras (this volume), and its supplemental use to estimate maize production at Cerén, El Salvador (Dixon, this volume), demonstrate some of its other uses in archaeology. At all three of these sites, local data are reasonably available, and results are supported by additional information from mapping and excavation.

    This is not the case in south coastal Peru, where historical information...

  14. 8 Feeding the Masses: New Perspectives on Maya Agriculture from Cerén, El Salvador
    (pp. 175-204)
    Christine C. Dixon

    The Classic period (CA. AD 250–950) Maya site of Cerén, located in El Salvador, is well-known in archaeological literature for its rapid burial in volcanic ash and its subsequent exceptional preservation of a moment 1,400 years ago (ca. AD 600) (Sheets 2002). Historically, research on the Classic period Maya has emphasized exotic royal artifacts, the uppermost echelons of ancient Maya society, and the political interactions of competing polities (Sharer 2006; Willey et al. 1965). Excavations of the Cerén site have greatly contributed to larger scholarship investigating daily life at the household and village levels, which has served to correct...

  15. 9 How Can We Know? The Epistemological Foundation of Ecological Modeling in Archaeology
    (pp. 205-224)
    Sissel Schroeder

    Economic-demographic explanations for the origins of inequality and the transition to agriculture have a deep history in anthropological literature (Berreman 1981; Boserup 1965; McCorriston and Hole 1991; Morgan 1877; Rindos 1984; Tylor 1871). Since the mid-1970s they have been joined by agency-and practice-based explanations (Bender 1978 sensu Bourdieu 1977; Giddens 1979, 1984) that focus on the actions or practices of individuals, as well as on social relationships, ritual, factionalism, and historical contingency (Yoffee 1993). Especially in the context of the significant growth in archaeological data over the past several decades, such shifting paradigms create the opportunity to reorient our comparative...

  16. List of Contributors
    (pp. 225-226)
  17. Index
    (pp. 227-233)