Farming the Great Sage Plain: Mesa Verde Loess, Soils, and Agriculture

Author(s): Cynthia Fadem

Year: 2015


The Pueblo Farming Project (PFP) seeks to preserve traditional farming knowledge and educate the public concerning traditional farming practices and the place of corn cultivation in Pueblo cultures. Soil profiles inside and adjacent to project gardens reveal the impact of farming on soils over relatively small temporal and spatial scales.

The Basketmaker Communities Project (BCP) focuses on better understanding the Basketmaker III Period, as well as the development of Early Pueblo communities. BCP geoarchaeological investigations at Basketmaker III (1250-1500 BP) sites focus on the soils’ development and tilth. Soil profiles on- and off-site demonstrate differences between farmed and un-farmed soils over larger temporal and spatial scales.

Examination of modern non-irrigation farming practices suggests intimate connections between fertility, soil identity, and management. Both PFP and BCP soils exhibit soil hardening and pan development to varying degrees. As pan accumulation limits productivity, its rate of formation is an important factor with implications for Ancient Puebloan site choice and residence time. Understanding the interplay of climate, cultural practice, and pedogenesis is, therefore key to deciphering this geocultural record.

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Cite this Record

Farming the Great Sage Plain: Mesa Verde Loess, Soils, and Agriculture. Cynthia Fadem. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 398240)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -115.532; min lat: 30.676 ; max long: -102.349; max lat: 42.033 ;