Modern and prehispanic agriculture in the Sierra Mixteca, Oaxaca, Mexico

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The dynamics of prehispanic and modern highland agricultural production in the state of Oaxaca are not well understood. While studies examining the development of agricultural systems and technologies have been conducted in south-central Mexico in the past, they have tended to focus on valley areas which were once the centres of relatively large prehispanic populations surrounded by agricultural resources of some quality. This dissertation focuses upon agriculture and agricultural resource use in a high altitude, marginal zone of the Mixteca Alta, Oaxaca. The study area is located between 350-400 km south of Mexico City in an area long referred to simply as Los Penoles. The Pefioles region forms a boundary zone between the Mixtec culture to the north and west and the Zapotecs of the Valley of Oaxaca to the east. Archaeological survey of the area has revealed a long history of occupation in the region and of contact with neighbours on all sides. The evidence also points toward the development of a local polity in the Formative period (ea. 300 B.C. - A.O. 300) which by the middle of the Postclassic period (ea. A.O. 1200) was comparable in size to petty kingdoms which had evolved in the Valley of Oaxaca. This being the case, how did the Pefioles population support themselves in such a marginal environment and what was the nature or the contact with other cultural groups? This dissertation examines the distribution and exploitation of agricultural resources in the Pefioles study Area (PSA) over the past 3,000 years. It is shown how the utilization of these resources, coupled with other adaptive economic strategies, increases overall local production rates in the region today. This information is then used to examine the frequency and distribution of archaeological sites throughout the study area as they relate to settlement patterns and agricultural production through time. Finally, it is demonstrated that basic subsistence maintenance in the region has probably always been heavily dependent upon the exportation of highland forest products and emigration.
Bibliography: p. 282-294.
Garvin, R. D. (1994). Modern and prehispanic agriculture in the Sierra Mixteca, Oaxaca, Mexico (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from doi:10.11575/PRISM/11829