The Latest Research on the Earliest Farmers
Sarah A. Herr, Editor and Seminar Organizer
In the days leading up to the 2008 Pecos Conference, eight scholars and two discussants, Linda Cordell (School for Advanced Research) and Jim Enote (A:shiwi A:wan Museum), met at the Museum of Northern Arizona‘s Colton House for an Advanced Seminar. The group discussed North America’s first farmers, who lived in the Southwest United States and North Mexico between 2100 B.C. and A.D. 50. As participants John Roney and Robert Hard remark in their paper, it sometimes feels as if archaeologists know more about corn than they do about people: past work on this topic has focused on identifying the corridor by which domesticates arrived in the region from southern Mexico and the timing of its arrival. Our 2008 session aimed to change that.
Over the past 20 years, work in the southern Arizona floodplains, near the Four Corners, and near Zuni Pueblo has identified significant remains of early farming communities in a variety of environments. Furthermore, wide horizontal excavations have exposed the sequences of agricultural, residential, and storage constructions that comprise early settlements. Settlement location patterns, variability in site structure, and abundant artifacts provide information that helps researchers understand the economic, social, and ideological changes that accompanied this two-millennium-long transition from a hunting and foraging way of life to an increased reliance on domesticated crops. Each site provides new opportunities to study the ways that landscape affected human decision-making, as well as the ways that humans changed the landscape.
The papers in this online collection explore this time period at varying scales, from the individual, to the settlement, to the entire region.
John R. Roney and Robert J. Hard open the volume, sharing the—perhaps—unexpected history of domesticated crops in the Americas.
The paper by David A. Gregory, Fred L. Nials, and J. Brett Hill evaluates the potential and the limitations of land and water resources essential for the farmer.
Michael W. Diehl discusses how people in this period might have evaluated the risks and benefits of foraging and farming, and the way that botanical samples reflect their decisions.
James T. Watson looks at human remains from La Playa, Sonora, and from southern Arizona sites to understand the health of men and women, evaluating the effects of nutrition, as well as the evidence for violence.
Geib (forthcoming) describes evidence for local and regional continuity and discontinuities of occupation to evaluate whether the migration of individuals or the diffusion of agricultural technologies explain the introduction of farming to the Four Corners region.
Finally, Laurie D. Webster demonstrates how the study of the innate technological behaviors used to form basketry, sandals, and other perishable objects might help understand the larger social landscape and deep historical connections of early farmers.
The seminar participants also contributed to a 2009 issue of Archaeology Southwest Magazine.