chapter  Chapter Twenty-Seven
18 Pages

Ancient Maya agriculture

WithNicholas Dunning, Timothy Beach, Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach

Ancient Maya agriculture varied across time and space from long-fallow swidden to highly intensive forms of cultivation. Over time, Maya people devised agricultural systems that were highly adapted to environmental settings ranging from steeply sloping land to both perennially and seasonally inundated terrain. While it is clear that the Mesoamerican triad of maize, beans, and squash played a central role in ancient agricultural practices, the Maya also relied on an abundance of other seed, root, and tree crops. While the introduction of airborne lidar has allowed for mapping of large areas, often revealing landesque capital associated with ancient agriculture, interpretation of ancient agricultural landscapes must still be based on the temporal and functional perspectives provided by excavation. Interpretations of past land use must also include the tremendous wood needs of ancient Maya peoples.