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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Vestiges of upland fields in Central Veracruz : a new perspective on its Precolumbian human ecology Sluyter, Andrew


Typically, Mesoamericanists do not credit that part of Veracruz State bounded by the Sierra de Chiconquiaco, the Cotaxtla River, and the lower slopes of the escarpment of the Sierra Madre Oriental with having played a key role in Precolumbian social history. The region's sub-humid climate and savanna vegetation would seem to have precluded intensive agriculture and dense population. However, evidence of intensive maize cultivation there by the Late Preclassic is now apparent in some 2,200 ha of wetlands. More central to this thesis, evidence of intensive agriculture throughout some 1,000 km2 of gently sloping piedmont west of the wetlands is also apparent. There, deeply incised streams separate upland areas. On the interfluvial surfaces, linear concentrations of stones closely follow slope contours and form contiguous networks of upland fields over hundreds of hectares. Analogues and the ecological context suggests a water and soil management technology. Direct evidence for cultivars and a chronology is still lacking, but ethnohistorical data and plant ecology suggest cotton, maize, agave, and a Precolumbian origin. Furthermore, archaeological and iconographic data suggest a relationship between these lowlands and the emergence of the highland centre of Teotihuacan, Mesoamerica's first metropolis. To elaborate this hypothetical connection, further work is necessary on the nature and timing of human ecological change in both Central Veracruz and the Valley of Mexico.

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