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Experimental Maize Farming in Range Creek Canyon, Utah

Author(s): Shannon Boomgarden

Year: 2016

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Summary

This paper examines the economic trade-offs between dry farming maize vs. maize farming using simple surface irrigation for Fremont farmers occupying Range Creek Canyon, Utah, from AD 900 to 1200. A maize farming experiment was conducted focusing on changes in edible grain yield as irrigation water was varied between farm plots. The benefits of irrigation were clear; higher yields. Experiments designed to construct irrigation ditches and dams, using only technology available to the Fremont, showed unexpectedly low costs. The results of farming under modern environmental constraints were then compared to the Fremont occupation using a tree-ring sequence to reconstruct water availability in the past. The reconstruction showed that dry farming would have been extremely difficult. Archaeological evidence indicates that the Fremont were farming during this period, suggesting irrigation was used to supplement precipitation shortfalls. Large amounts of contiguous arable land, highly suitable for irrigation farming, were identified along the valley bottom. The distribution of residential surface rock alignment features were analyzed to determine whether the Fremont located themselves in close proximity to those areas identified as highly suitable for irrigation farming based on environmental and social constraints.


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Experimental Maize Farming in Range Creek Canyon, Utah. Shannon Boomgarden. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403447)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: -122.168; min lat: 42.131 ; max long: -113.028; max lat: 49.383 ;

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America