Landscapes of Production: Recent Research on the Archaeology of Field and Irrigation Systems

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

Archaeologists examine agricultural landscapes to address a range of questions on ancient ecologies and economies. At the same time, understanding the creation, management, expansion, intensification, and abandonment of field and irrigation systems can be hampered by problems of visibility, preservation, and chronology. This session highlights recent research in the archaeology of agricultural landscapes from areas around the world, and includes novel theoretical and methodological approaches as well as syntheses of long-term, interdisciplinary projects. The session brings together researchers with different study areas, training, and perspectives to share ideas and information and inspire new directions in research.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-12 of 12)

  • Documents (12)

  • Agricultural Landscapes in Northern Argentina (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only María Albeck.

    Quebrada de Humahuaca is an important gorge in northwest Argentina, which lies between the altiplano-like puna to the west and the forested lowlands to the east. It has a long and interesting agricultural history spanning nearly three millennia from the settlement of the first farmers to the present. The prehispanic archaeological landscapes are best preserved in the northern part of Quebrada de Humahuaca, due to the strong erosional processes that cut deep into geological sediments. On the...

  • Agriculture and Empire in the High-Altitude Atacama Desert (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Frances Hayashida. Andrés Troncoso. Diego Salazar. César Parcero-Oubiña. Pastor Fábrega-Álvarez.

    How did prehispanic farmers make a living in the hyperarid, high-altitude Atacama Desert, and how did their lives and landscapes change under different political regimes? In this paper, we discuss our ongoing project on irrigated landscapes in the interfluvial region between the Upper Loa and Salado rivers in northern Chile. Research has focused on two sites (Paniri and Topaín) with remarkably well preserved spring-fed canal and terrace systems and a residential and administrative center...

  • Agriculture Roles in Landscapes and Taskcapes: An Interdisciplinary Approach from Northwestern Argentina (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Maria Alejandra Korstanje. Marcos Quesada. Mariana Maloberti.

    Traditionally, the Agriculture of the Formative Period (1000 BC-100 AD), was conceived as technologically simple and spatially reduced. However, this simplicity is reconsidered when we take into account that these technologies made possible the practice of agriculture in desert environments with eroded and underdeveloped soils, during millennia. Our research in El Bolsón valley, which is a high basin in western Catamarca, allowed us to know in detail some peasant practice as the irrigation...

  • Approaches to assessing anthropogenic soil-landscape change in ancient agricultural systems (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jonathan Sandor. Jeffrey Homburg.

    Farming alters and can wholly transform landscapes and soil properties, through both deliberate management and unintentional trajectories. The archaeological record of agriculture holds important long-term evidence about land management and change relevant to archaeology and current agriculture. Quantitative assessments of soil change in ancient fields are relatively few because of methodological challenges, soil’s dynamic nature, and post-agricultural imprints of environmental change and land...

  • A Better Understanding of Ancient Farming through Hydrology (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Maryann Wasiolek.

    Physical evidence that ancient people manipulated their environment in order to better manage water resources for the purpose of facilitating agriculture has long been recognized. Remnants of canal systems indicate diversion of the flow of streams and springs and the direct application of surface water to irrigated fields. Terraces and check dams provide evidence of the diversion of overland runoff, while mulched fields, pumice patches, and dune fields imply that early farmers sited fields so as...

  • Innovations under limitations: A landscape approach to agricultural practices and water management in a frontier zone of medieval South India. (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kanika Kalra.

    Agricultural intensification and water management are widely studied in the context of changing political complexity. My research, centered on semi-arid southern India, addresses this theme through a survey of three areas that exemplify the diversity of archaeological sites and trajectories of change in the Raichur region. Irrigation played a significant role in the expansion and intensification of agriculture in this region, achieved through the construction of reservoirs that conserved surface...

  • The Landscape of Agricultural Engineering in Windward Kohala, Hawaii Island (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Michael Graves. Joseph Birkmann.

    The Hawaiian Islands are known for extensive irrigation complexes that covered coastal areas of large valleys and were recognized for their high productivity. Hawaii Island, however, had limited areas devoted to irrigated cultivation. In the study area of windward Kohala with its narrow valleys and moderately sloping ridges, the landscape for irrigated farming presented challenges that our work explores. Between AD 1300 and 1850 dispersed fields were established as much as 5-10 km inland within...

  • Post-AD 1600 Origins of the Ifugao Rice Terraces: Highland Responses to Spanish Colonial Aims in the Philippines (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Stephen Acabado. Marlon Martin.

    Local wisdom and nationalist sentiments would have us uphold the long-held belief in the age of the Ifugao Rice Terraces, pegged at ca. 2,000 years old. Recent findings by the Ifugao Archaeological Project (IAP), however, indicate that landscape modification (terraced wet-rice cultivation) intensified between c. AD 1600 and AD 1800, suggesting increased demand for food, which could indicate population growth, a period that coincided with the arrival and subsequent occupation of the Spanish of...

  • Producers on the Lake: Late Aztec Lakebed Chinampa Communities of Lake Xochimilco (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Gregory Luna Golya.

    Recent historic imagery analysis combined with 1960-70s archaeological surface survey data in a geographic information system (GIS) has generated a detailed spatial model of chinampa beds, canals, and settlement mounds for a 1,010 hectare area of Lake Xochimilco distinct from remnant Xochimilco chinampas that persisted into historic and modern times. The delineated agricultural waterscape was characterized by an approximately 1:1 land to water ratio with narrow raised agricultural beds (3.75 x...

  • Socio-Spatial Isomorphism and Ancient Farming Systems: Nominal versus Practical Tenure in the Basin of Mexico (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Christopher Morehart.

    The recognition that similarities exist between the form of agricultural systems and the form of society is a fundamental archaeological contribution to the social sciences. This view of socio-spatial isomorphism is especially notable in research on irrigation. The spatial and temporal properties of water require particular forms of cooperation. Organizational configurations are contingent upon scale, integration, and number of users. In the Basin of Mexico during the Postclassic period, the...

  • Strengthening the State: Intensification and Mixed Agricultural Strategies in Late Postclassic Puebla-Tlaxcala (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Aurelio Lopez Corral.

    The development of agricultural technologies is a key element in theory concerning the growth of Mesoamerican state societies. Cultivation of species under improved environmental conditions suggests intensification oriented strategies for the finance of political institutions, and to attend auto-consumption needs of households at the subsistence level. During the Late Postclassic, the Puebla-Tlaxcala region witnessed the rise and consolidation of various rival state-level polities known locally...

  • What’s that mound? Answers from interdisciplinary approach (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Stéphen Rostain.

    Modern archaeology must diversify its scientific approaches. First, it is essential to get various viewpoints and different scales to understand better the artifact. Moreover, the interdisciplinary methodology improves considerably the interpretation. The Amazonian raised fields study is a good example of such multiple scientific approaches. While raised field agriculture is no longer widely practiced today, it was quite widespread in the past. These structures are frequently found on the coast...