UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Winds of change : temporal farming in west central Chihuahua, Mexico Ricketts, Darlene Margaret


The archaeological record indicates that there are differences in Viejo period (A.D. 700 or 900-1200/1250) and Medio period (A.D. 1200/1250-1400s) agricultural strategies and settlement distribution between the Casas Grandes River basin in northern Chihuahua and the Babícora Basin and upper Santa María River basin area in west central Chihuahua. During the Viejo period in the Casas Grandes region temporal, rainfed, agriculture is proposed and only a few settlements are associated with this system. In the Medio period irrigation and trincheras (stone terraces) were implemented increasing the land’s ability to support large populations and numerous settlements were aggregated around fields associated with these methods. For the latter two regions temporal agriculture is posited for both the Viejo and Medio periods. While populations thrived, the numerous settlements in each area are not aggregated but rather are dispersed across the landscape and on various topographic features. The objectives of this thesis were to investigate environmental and cultural influences as explanatory factors for the regional differences. Current environmental data indicate that the combinations of annual precipitation, soil types, and hydrology determine whether temporal or irrigation agriculture is possible. Temporal agriculture is not a viable option for the Casas Grandes region but irrigation is. The conditions in the Babícora Basin and the upper Santa María River basin are conducive to temporal farming while water for irrigation is not easily attainable. In that paleoenvironmental data demonstrate the antiquity of current environments then the agricultural options would have been similar in the past. Together, the archaeological and ethnographic data demonstrate the longevity of temporal agriculture in these areas. How temporal agriculture can be achieved and sustained is demonstrated in the tradition-based practices of modern farmers. The agency of modern farmers can be used as an analogy for agency in the past. When tested against the archaeological record the postulated temporal system and associated settlement patterns are indicative of a domesticated landscape structured for planting flexibility.

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