Agricultural Strategies and Intensification: A Study of Risk Management in the Southern Maya Lowlands

Author(s): Scott Macrae

Year: 2018


The decisions and consequences behind the intensification of agricultural strategies among past societies has long been a topic of debate among archaeologists. These discussions are often dominated by factors of population dynamics and production capacity. This paper will explore the less discussed factor of risk management. Controlling the variation of production in regard to fluctuating natural and social pressures was critical to past agrarian societies and undoubtedly played a role in the development of their intensive agricultural strategies. This is addressed by examining the geo-intensive agricultural strategy of the ancient Maya located in the hilly region of the North Vaca Plateau, Belize. The GIS modeling of a combined assemblage of datasets that include archaeological fieldwork, remote sensing (LiDAR), pedological analysis, and climatic reconstructions reveals the functional qualities of the agricultural terracing that forms the basis of the production strategy in this region. Results present the properties of terracing in relation to hydrological flow and erosion as well as their ability to increase land suitability for production by decreasing variation in the face of climatic fluctuations. Identifying the functional qualities of this intensive agricultural strategy will demonstrate an intentional action to ameliorate the risks experienced in the North Vaca Plateau.

Cite this Record

Agricultural Strategies and Intensification: A Study of Risk Management in the Southern Maya Lowlands. Scott Macrae. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 443165)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -94.197; min lat: 16.004 ; max long: -86.682; max lat: 21.984 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 22765