Is it agriculture yet? Intensified maize-use at 1000cal BC in the Soconusco and Mesoamerica

Robert M. Rosenswig, Amber M. VanDerwarker, Brendan J. Culleton, Douglas J. Kennett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


The development of food production in Mesoamerica was a complex and protracted process. We argue that while maize had been cultivated for many millennia, this cereal grain assumed a markedly more important role in the political economy of the Soconusco (and elsewhere in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize) only after 1000. cal BC. Macrobotanical data from the long-occupied village of Cuauhtémoc document low-level maize production from 1900 to 1400. cal BC with a significant increase during the final centuries of the site's occupation after 1000. cal BC. Botanical evidence of increased maize consumption at this time occurred with evidence for changing groundstone use, intensified exploitation of dog and deer as well as iconography linking maize with rulership. This was also when monumental architecture was first built to mark a regional hierarchy of political centers. Changes evident in the Soconusco at 1000. cal BC parallel transformations in both highland and lowland regions of Mesoamerica when ceramic-using villagers expanded into new environments, farther away from the permanent water sources favored by Late Archaic and Early Formative peoples. We interpret the changes evident at 1000. cal BC in terms of both proximate historical factors as well as ultimate adaptive causes to produce a fuller understanding of changing Mesoamerican food production practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-108
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Anthropological Archaeology
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Archaeology
  • History
  • Archaeology


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