Key - CSU, Chico

5. West, R C. 1998. Mesoamerican Subsistence Techniques. Pp. 77-102 in Latin American
Geography: Historical-Geographical Essays, 1941-1998, Miles E. Richardson (editor).
Geoscience and Man, Baton Rouge.
1. Know the difference between tierra caliente and tierra templada. Tierra caliente is the name
for the regions of low elevation (0-3000 feet): “hot lands”. Tierra templada is the
name for the regions of high elevation (greater than 3000 feet): “cool lands”
P. 78-79 are missing. Don’t worry about them.
2. On what grounds was Mesoamerica designated a major center of "aboriginal plant
domestication"? A large number of plants (greater than 90) were domesticated before
the arrival of the Spaniards. These plants made highly productive systems of
agriculture possible.
3. What were the advantages of the Mesoamerican trilogy, maize, beans, squash? They
could be grown in tierra caliente and tierra templada. They could grow in the wet-dry
climate. They provided a relatively well-balanced diet.
4. What were the uses of agave? Food, fiber, alcohol.
5. List some of the plants regularly consumed in Mesoamerica that you consume as part of
your diet. Tomato, maiz, cacao, vanilla, beans, chiles
6. What animals did they domesticate? Turkey, stingless bees, hairless dog.
7. The Aztecs were omnivorous. Consider the foods that they consumed from the highland
lake environments. Fish, waterfowl, insects, crustaceans, salamanders, waterbug
8. What kind of game was available to the lowland Maya? Peccaries, deer, shell-fish, finfish
9. What is the relationship between agricultural intensity and food production and
population density? An increase in agricultural intensity increases food yield and
supports greater population density. The reverse occurs with a decrease in
agricultural intensity
10. Learn the details, similarities and differences of the two "general farming
systems". Consider which physical environments were favorable for each. For example,
what kind of farming system would you use on the steep slopes around Lake Atitlan? Atitlan
supported large high density populations in a cool tropical wet-dry climate.
Advanced farming would be my answer. My answer is also informed by my
observation of extensive terraced slopes around the lake.
11. What does West mean by "horticulture"? West uses the term horticulture to describe
a farming system in which multiple species of plants were grown in a field rather
than a single species which would be monoculture.
12. Learn the details of migratory slash and burn cultivation. Coamil and guamil are
synonyms. Why was the Yucatan a favored environment for this type of farming? Yucatan
soils are derived from limestone and are more fertile than many tropical soils. Also
much of Yucatan, especially in the south, had a tropical rainforest climate which
encouraged rapid regeneration of fallowed plots.
13. Why could slash and burn support only a low population density? Slash and burn, or
swidden, agriculture is productive in low population density areas because the
system depends on a significant fallow period during which forest regenerates and
land regains its fertility. In a high density area, fallowing periods would be reduced
because of the increased need for each farmer to have cleared land. So, was it intensive
or extensive farming? Slash and burn agriculture is extensive farming.
14. What are some other ways that advanced systems of tillage differed from slash and burn?
Advanced tillage systems were not migratory. They produced higher yields and
supported higher populations than slash and burn farming. They also required
higher labor inputs than slash and burn farming.
15. Were advanced systems of tillage used in the highlands or lowlands? Highlands Why?
The highlands did not have a tropical rainforest climate which was so favorable for
slash and burn agriculture. Also, the high relief environment of highlands provided
less arable land so people had to develop systems that were more productive. Also,
population growth might have forced farmers to increase their yields.
16. What was humedad farming? Farming practiced in areas that had available soil
moisture year-round and which could produce crops year-round. In which
environments was it practiced? Cenotes in the Yucatan or high water-table
areas. Almolonga, Guatemala is a good example of this.
17. In which environments was terracing used? Steep slopes of tierra templada near
large populations. What were the purposes of the terraces? Erosion control, water for
irrigation control.
18. What is a tablon? Irrigated terraced planting beds Where would you find it? Around
Lake Atitlan.
19. How did irrigation increase production? Production was possible during the dry
season. What was the water source? Natural springs.
20. What were chinampas? Where were they used? Why there? What were the main
advantages of chinampas?
Chinampas were soil platforms, similar to islands, which Mesoamericans constructed
in the lakes that were found in the found in the Valley of Mexico. These highly fertile
platforms were composed of lakes sediments and composted plant materials.
Because these agricultural platforms were surrounded by water, they didn’t
experience temperature extremes. They also could produce crops during the dry
21. Make sure that you understand every sentence in the conclusion.