ARCH 1870 Environmental Archaeology, Fall 2015 Tuesday and Thursday 1:00-2:20 pm, Location: Rhode Island Hall 108 Instructor: Brett Kaufman [email protected] ARCH 1870 Environmental Archaeology Brett Kaufman Office Hours: Tuesday, 2:30-4:30 pm Rhode Island Hall 007 This presentation and the images within are for educational purposes only, and are not to be distributed. Paleoenvironment and the Rise and Fall of Complex Society in Mesoamerica Cultural Background and Review of Adams 2000 Origins of Agriculture in Mesoamerica Paleoenvironmental Data Maya Collapse and Review of Dunning, Beach, and Luzzadder-Beach 2012 Postclassic Political Restructuring Cultural Background and Review of Adams 2000 Adams summarizes archaeology by saying that “most human behavior is patterned and that the patterns are culturally determined…any given culture is made up of such patterned behavior, functionally integrated, and driven by a core of beliefs about the nature of the universe and humanity’s place in it.” What he means by “patterned behavior” here is cultural history, or the specific behaviors associated with specific cultures. When discussing the use of ethnographic documents that communicate behaviors of living communities which are then used to reconstruct ancient behaviors, Adams relays that there is a dispute between which data to use – Maya texts that may be biased? other ethnographic cultures that have nothing to do with Mesoamerica? early Spanish colonial accounts, and perhaps even these colonial accounts reflect a period of societal restructuring and are therefore inadequate? Spanish traveler/clergy/soldier accounts and codices written by both pre-Columbian and colonial populations are the main sources of historical data. Food planting depicted in the Maya Dresden Codex http://learningobjects.wesleyan.edu/palenque/rituals/intro03.php Adams says that cultural institutions exist within ecological and biological (natural world) and cultural contexts, together comprising the field of cultural ecology. The major “natural” categories being: Climate and climatic cycles Human demography Health and disease parameters Topographic and ecological characteristics Major landscape modification Plant and animal inventories (availability) He goes on to state that most New World archaeologists reject postprocessualism, which is rather an overstatement, but certainly environmentally driven cultural change is a widespread theme. Mesoamerica is considered a “culture area” because during various chronological stages of prehistory and history, there were commonalities throughout the entire region in terms of economy and cultural institutions. Mesoamerica is comprised of around two-thirds of present-day Mexico, all of Guatemala and Belize, a segment of western Honduras, and around four-fifths of El Salvador. Diamond 2011 Map of Mesoamerica (Adams 2000) Paleoindian, 10,000-7000 BC The earliest humans in Mesoamerica, undertaking big game hunting with evidence coming from small campsites. The Iztapan mammoth killed in the Basin of Mexico is a prime example of the hunting subsistence mode, but by around 9000 BC 32 genera of animals went extinct from the region. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valley_of_Mexico#/media/File:Basin_of_Mexico_1519_map-en.svg Archaic, 8000 or 7000-1500 BC Drastic loss of animal populations concomitant with transition to agriculture. Village settlement began around 5000 BC with mixed agriculture and huntinggathering. Maize cultivation seems to have begun 2500-1400 BC as recorded through pollen analysis. By 1500 BC agricultural villages were prevalent all over the region with evidence for deforestation practices. Paleoindian and Archaic periods have the least amount of recovered data compared to other Mesoamerican periods. http://www.cepf.net/SiteCollectionImages/506x180/506x180_Meso_rainforest.jpg Preclassic (Formative), 1500 BC-150 AD This period witnessed the beginning of complex society, with the Olmec culture emerging around 1350 BC. In the Maya lowlands, a sudden shift from mixed forest species to grasses in 1200 BC is evidence of extensive slashing and burning to create agricultural zones. By 600 BC several polities built up large regional centers. Olmec head http://www.thephylaxis.org/williams/olmecs.php After 600 BC, writing, art, conquest monuments, and monumental architecture began to become more common. Huge temples were built at Rio Azul and Calakmul around 500 BC, and fortifications at Tikal and other sites. In Belize, intensive wetland agriculture also dates to the Late Preclassic. The eruption of the Ilopango volcano in around 150 BC drove local populations into the Guatemalan highlands (acute environmental response versus protracted environmental responses). Olmec maize gods with projecting corn cobs (Taube 1996) Classic, 150/300-650/900 AD Widespread population growth accompanied social and ideological developments leading to a fluorescence in urban culture. Maya cities had up to 60,000 to 80,000 inhabitants based on population estimates from Guatemala. Hieroglyphic and phonetic writing was performed by Maya scribes, with the texts usually recounting history, myth, or propaganda. The polity of Teotihuacan expanded to engage in mining and trade ventures that extended as far as the American Southwest. These latter populations traded turquoise for Mesoamerican cacao to make caffeinated drinks (Washburn et al. 2014). Maya and Aztec glyphs (Taube 1996) Early Postclassic, 650/900-1250 AD Collapse of the Classic periods was in part accelerated by climate change, with warfare being a hallmark of the period. Late Postclassic, 1250-1519 AD This can be seen generally as a rebound or reformation stage, which is wellinformed from historical and narrative colonial accounts. New centers of power began to form to fill the power vacuum left by the Maya such as the Aztecs. Origins of Agriculture in Mesoamerica Between the end of the Pleistocene and the 5th millennium BC, people in the semi-arid basins of Mexico, Puebla, Oaxaca, Morelos, Guerrero, and Hidalgo pioneered the food processing of available edible resources. They roasted Agave to make it edible, used wooden tongs to pick cactus fruit, extracted syrup from mesquite pods, leached tannic acid from acorns, gathered wild bean and onion, and learned about the seasonality of harvesting (Flannery 1973). Mesquite pods https://www.google.com/search?q=mesquite&espv=2&biw=1366&bih=623&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0CAYQ_AUoAWoVChMI8MT99fj 3yAIViMo-Ch3BUAy4#tbm=isch&q=mesquite+pod&imgrc=eeIWSK-jwX0AdM%3A By around 5000 BC, selective cultivation and planting marked the transition in subsistence from hunting-gathering to agriculture: beans, squashes, pumpkins, amaranths, chiles, tomatoes, avocadoes (maybe prickly pear, maguey, and other fruits), and the most important to be domesticated by Mesoamerican populations – corn (maize). Maize (Zea mays)was so heavily genetically engineered that determining its wild progenitor (maybe teosinte, its nearest genetic relative) is one of the most mysterious and hotly contested issues in the field of archaeology. https://www.google.com/search?q=teosinte&espv=2&biw=1366&bih=623&site=webhp&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&sqi=2&ved=0CAYQ_AUoAWoV ChMIy-G1tfn3yAIVhFQ-Ch0_FghL#tbm=isch&tbs=rimg%3ACfkoegRisRkPIjinavO-hXKJ2ONSgBgI4UUcYJuKYBVnsqTcCWTpqjn3sjc7WG01we4MvSfh1lKXxy99gjKM6aXSyoSCadq8776FconEX-gyjTTbOnLKhIJY41KAGAjhRQRDmFp2yXXMG4qEglxgm4pgFWeyhHFT10SFOXa6yoSCZNwJZOmqOfeEUS-GuDamP3_1KhIJyNztYbTXB7gRiPGL0SzssosqEgky9JHWUpfHBHI0HDkph3_1qCoSCb32CMozppdLEVlNfrGe6wAx&q=teosinte&imgrc=jW0Q0GY5Vles0M%3A Why was maize cultivated? The recorded population densities are low prior to 5000 BC in Mesoamerica, so it does not seem that it was to feed a burgeoning populace. Still, there are great contrasts in precipitation patterns across highland Mesoamerica, meaning that cultivation may have been an attempt to increase the prevalence of weedy Zea as an emergency ration. The low yield and high labor requirements of teosinte may have prompted people to let it grown in the highlands where it was home, and keep growing mesquite in the valleys. https://tamubugworld.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/corn_and_teosinte.jpg Gradual genetic change led to larger cob sizes and the minimum yield crossed a threshold which made it worthwhile to clear away other crops like mesquite and focus on maize. This occurred sometime between 3000-1500 BC, and by 1300 BC permanent villages sprang up on the main river floodplains from Puebla near Mexico City to Guatemala. Maize has continued to be the major crop throughout much of the Americas. Early pollen grains of A) Small Zea (4200 BC) B) Maize (1500 BC), and C) Manioc (4600 BC) (Pope et al. 2001) Paleoenvironmental Data The collapse of the Classic Maya is taken to be one of the major examples of environmental impact on a group. Drought during the Late and Terminal Classic in the Maya regions was characterized by fluctuations between moist and drought conditions that exceeded the resilience of the ecological system, as opposed to one protracted drought episode. Gypsum accretions are measured by density and are a proxy for drought episodes, in this case in the northern Lowlands. Four sediment cores from Lake Chichancanab showing black layers of organic-rich strata representing moister periods and white layers of gypsum associated with drier periods. Arrow shows gypsum from 780-1100 CE (Hodell, Brenner, Curtis 2005) The so-called Terminal Classic Drought saw drought conditions from around 770-870 CE, a return to moister conditions 870-920 CE, and a final drought from 920-1100 CE (Hodell, Brenner, Curtis 2005). Other research in laminated marine sediments and isotopic analysis have shown similar trends. droughts Until recently evidence for severe drought in the Maya heartland of the Petén in Guatemala are to date more equivocal. An article came out this year that showed that the southern Lowlands Maya heartland actually had somewhat more severe drought than the northern Lowlands, which is further consistent with the other paleoenvironmental data as well as archaeological evidence for violence and collapse. Hydrogen and carbon isotopes were recorded in plant wax lipids from lake core settlements to measure precipitation and vegetation respectively (Douglas et al. 2015). synchronizing drought episodes with archaeological features. Balkanization of polities and warfare following peak humidity during Classic Maya before severe drought (Kennett et al. 2012) Review of Dunning, Beach, and Luzzadder-Beach 2012 Two episodes of societal collapse, one in the Terminal Preclassic immediately preceding the Maya, and the other the collapse of the Maya (Terminal Classic), are examined in light of the paleoenvironment in the Yucatán Peninsula, specifically drought. In light of the general absence of abrupt abandonment, but rather evidence for more gradual decline, the authors define collapse as “a fundamental and pronounced decline in sociopolitical complexity taking place within two or three generations.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Castillo,_Chichen_Itza#/media/File:Chichen_Itza_3.jpg Yucatán Postclassic pyramid of Chichen Itza The study focused on the elevated interior region of the Yucatán Peninsula, which was the home to two of the most dramatic collapses in the Maya region: the Mirador Basin in the 2nd century CE (Late Preclassic) and the Puuc Hills in the 10th century CE (Terminal Classic). “Based on underlying ecosystems, adaptive cycles operate at multiple scales, including the scale of the individual community. In this conceptualization, each community passes through cycles consisting of four phases: exploitation, conservation, release, and reorganization.” Release is the collapse phase. “The degree to which the system experiences profound collapse or recovers and its rate of recovery depends in large part on three system properties: (i) the range of options available for change, (ii) the rigidity of the system (degree of interconnectedness), and (iii) the resilient capacity (vulnerability to unexpected perturbations).” Without perennial water supply, the elevated interior region (EIR) was more susceptible to disruption in their subsistence base than populations in the lowlands, and even many of these experienced collapse and abandonment. For this reason, the fact that environmental factors would have been more stressful for the elevated interior region populations, the authors contend that modeling human interaction with the environment there may show clear trends in the data. Maya lowlands (Dunning, Beach, Luzzadder-Beach 2012) Diverse ecological zones in the region created a differential access to water and other natural resources. The maize-based agriculture of the Maya was suited to the region, although population increase may have exceeded the carrying capacity for this subsistence type. Most of the available water would be drained internally, meaning water could only be accessed through a few above ground sources such as springs. This stands in contrast to the lower areas which had access to year-round springs and streams. Hypothetical cross-section from the Caribbean Sea to the EIR with associated natural hazards (Dunning, Beach, Lozzadder-Beach 2012) For the Maya, subjugating the forest realm and transforming them into agricultural fields was brining order to chaos (kol and kax). Although the ancient Maya practiced timber management by leaving stands in tact, and by leaving individual important trees in fields, this system was taxed by growing population demands. Deforestation to open up agricultural lands may have led to a decrease in precipitation and soil fertility, and an increase in erosion. Declining fertility and reduction in spacing between agricultural fields made maize more susceptible to disease (maize mosaic virus). http://community.fortunecity.ws/skyscraper/neil/243/mdmv2.jpg Corn afflicted by a type of maize mosaic virus The sociopolitical system also suffered from the environmental degradation, not only because productivity was low but because the Maya elites “thrived on growth and expansion that funneled wealth to a small ruling elite topped by hereditary divine kings. Notably, ‘divine kingship is a double-edged sword: it carries great privilege and unlimited power but also demands that a ruler deliver munificence to their people as would a god. A string of military defeats or seasonal drought can do much to damage the credibility of a divine ruler’” (MacAnany and Négron 2010). Furthermore, sparring princes and forced allegiances of commoners calcified the system which became too rigid to adapt to a severely changing environment. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_stelae#/media/File:Stele51CalakmulMuseum.JPG Maya King from Calakmul, 731 AD In the Terminal Preclassic, the 2nd century CE show a significant increase in drought, which along with deforestation and soil erosion caused the abandonment of the major site of El Mirador. In the Three Rivers region, two Maya cities just 8 km apart adopted different strategies to combat climate change. San Bartolo was abandoned around 150 CE and only reoccupied in 700 CE, but Xultun invested in a large-scale reservoir system and became a major Classic Maya center. New rulers in the Classic period built reservoirs and destroyed older buildings associated with apparently now-defunct dynasties. Water control came to be associated with dynastic kingship. http://thumbs.media.smithsonianmag.com//filer/El-Mirador-La-Danta-631.jpg__800x600_q85_crop.jpg El Mirador The Classic Maya polities were largely autonomous kingdoms and each one developed different strategies. Some areas fought erosion through terraced fields, whereas others did not. Beginning around 760 CE, the drought began to affect large areas, disrupting well-watered sites in the Maya Lowlands which may mean that polities depending on rain-fed agriculture became increasingly more susceptible. Violence between Maya states became endemic as competition for limited resources and labor intensified. In the elevated interior region, by 900 CE most of it was depopulated and the forest rapidly recovered its ground within a couple of centuries. This pattern largely repeated itself across Mesoamerica, but with varying degrees of similarity. Postclassic Political Restructuring We now move on to look at the post-collapse period of Mesoamerica which saw the restructuring of society and the eventual rise of the Aztec, from the perspective of a site of Xaltocan in the northern Basin of Mexico. During the Early Postclassic (900-1150 AD) Xaltocan was settled and was a small regional center with around 4,200 people. The site is an artificial island surrounded by brackish water (De Lucia and Morehart 2015). Map of Xaltocan in Basin of Mexico (De Lucia and Morehart 2015) During its development as an independent polity, Xaltocan’s residents built chinampas or a large system of elevated agricultural fields and canals. The canals brought fresh water into the brackish water from distant springs. Maize was the major staple grown, but beans, squash, amaranth, and chenopodium were also recovered from excavations in the chinampa system. The residents also participated in market exchange via canoe transport, selling goods obtained from lake resources such as fish, waterfowl, salt, insect larvae, and reed mats. Map of chinampas (De Lucia and Morehart 2015) The production of goods was not imposed on the people of Xaltocan by a political elite, but seems to have been a household based endeavor. Surplus goods were generated in order for the household to participate in market exchange. Excavations in households show craft differentiation, with one household making ceramics and bone tools, while another household made mats, tortillas, and plaster, and both processed fish, worked obsidian tools, and cultivated crops. These activities are reconstructed through a number of means: high densities of fish scales and high sodium soil content for fish production, and concentrations of calcium leftover from the calcium hydroxide known to soften corn kernels for making tortillas. Tortilla making from the Dresden Codex http://learningobjects.wesleyan.edu/palenque/rituals/intro03.php Agricultural activities were also carried out by households, showing that labor must have been scheduled so that both subsistence foods and crafts could be made by members of the households. By the Middle Postclassic (1150-1350 AD), Xaltocan was a political center that collected tribute from nearby villages and controlled trade in the northern Basin. Plant diversity in archaeological remains decreased, as maize cultivation intensified. This was either due to a growing population or the need to meet institutional demands from the elite, but in all cases there was an expansion of complex social organization and maize surplus. Increasing hierarchy is seen not just in the surplus production of maize, but in the consumption of luxury goods and architectural embellishments. Xaltocan households (De Lucia and Morehart 2015) In the 13th century AD, Xaltocan was embroiled in a lengthy war of around a century with several neighboring kingdoms. Feasting, display, militarism through iconography, and consumption of luxury goods indicates that commoners were becoming integrated into institutional hierarchies during Xaltocan’s lengthy war. It is unclear why it was a part of this war, but it did have to do with the broader conflict between the expansive states of Texcoco and Azcapoltzalco that eventually led to the formation of the Aztec empire. Under Aztec rule, Xaltocan paid tribute to Texcoco, Tenochtitlan, and Tlatelolco, but the chinampas system suffered and the potential for agricultural surplus Sacrifice and the creation of the calendar declined at least for several decades with the dismembered body of the Central during a brief abandonment. In 1521 was Mexican god Tezcatlipoca cast to the four burned by Cortés during the Spanish directions, Fejervary-Mayer Codex (Taube conquest. 2012) Discussion Questions Axel 1. We see in modern culture, this idea of New World natives being “one with nature”. Why do you think that this idea of environmental harmony came about with plenty of evidence showcasing that they were shapers of their environments? 2. In Dunning, they make the argument that it was a mix of both environmental change and political systems that led to the fall of the Maya. One point that they mentioned was the short lived fertility of the soil. Did fluctuations of environmental possibilism lead to the downfall of the Maya? Discussion Questions Sally 1.) The collapses of plains/lowlands communities like Chunchucmil and San Bartolo illustrates how favorable environmental conditions can sometimes lead to faster societal demise when there is perturbation; in the context of the Mesoamerican societal structure (governing and hereditary elite) what can this say about the active role cultural determinism might play in the collapse of societies during environmental change? Maybe draw on the case study you wrote about in your environmental report? 2.) Adams discusses the history of the independent research on various communities in Mesoamerica, and the methods they employed/introduced to the field of archaeology. Given the irreparability of excavated sites, and the constant growth in knowledge, should archaeologists be more careful about how they excavate important sites? How have things changed since the Kennewick man etc.?
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