Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

Paisajes agrícolas de Mesoamérica de la Era de Contacto o "cómo mentir con mapas"

Thomas M. Whitmore


Humanly-modified landscapes are not conserved equally through time nor are they equally “visible” even if they are detectable. This is especially true for landscapes modified for cultivation. Differing types of agricultural modifications also leave more or less apparent signatures. This has led to a highly variable record of different types of agricultural landscapes. This paper examines the record of cultivated landscapes in Mesoamerica present in early colonial accounts, relic landscapes, and archaeological excavations. Using maps created from these records delimiting the spatial extent and location of documented cultivated landscapes, this paper explores the variable confidence that can be made in te assignment of locations and extent according to cultivation type. The paper argues that less “obvious” modifications such as manipulations of “natural” forest, types of agroforestry such as orchards, swidden and temporal agriculture, and some types of more intensive agricultural modifications present the lowest confidence with respect to location and extent. This deficit may have led scholars to a systematic undervaluing of the importance of these agricultural systems in the lives of pre-Columbian and contact-era Amerindians.

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