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Earth-Oven Plant Processing in Archaic Period Economies: An Example from a Semi-Arid Savannah in South-Central North America

  • Phil Dering (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

Models of Archaic period economy in the Lower Pecos River region of southwest Texas and Coahuila, Mexico, are based primarily on coprolite, faunal, and macroplant analysis of materials recovered from rockshelters. The models maintain that during the Middle Archaic period residential mobility is reduced and tethered to rockshelters in canyons near water, and diet dominated by the plant resources lechuguilla (Agave lechuguilla), sotol (Dasylirion texanum), and prickly pear (Opuntia spp.). I use archaeobotanical analysis and actualistic studies to determine the contents of earth-oven features, the number of plant food calories produced by ovens, and the quantity of refuse they generate. Considered within the framework of a diet-breadth model, the data demonstrate that return rates and caloric yields for lechuguilla and sotol processed in earth ovens are typical of a broad spectrum, low-return economy. Intensive use of these low-ranked resources indicates periods of subsistence stress beginning in the Early Archaic period and continuing through the Late Archaic. Use of low-ranked, high-cost resources in canyon zones indicates that food and fuel resources were quickly depleted forcing high residential mobility. Depletion of local resources, not the distribution of water sources governed residential mobility.

Résumé

Los modelos de la economía arcaica en la región baja del Río Pecos del sudoeste de Texas, E.E. U.U.,y Coahuila, México, están basados en análisis paleofecales, taunisticos, y botánicos recobrados en abrigos. Los modelos sugieren que durante el Acaico Medio la mobilidad residencial estaba reducida y ligada a abrigos en canoñes cerca de agua, y que la dieta era compuesta mayormente de lechuguilla (Agave lechuguilla), sotol (Dasylirion texanum), y nopal (Opuntia spp). Yo uso análisis arquebotánicos y estudios experimentales para determinar el contenido de los hornos de tierra, cuántas calorías vegetates que producen los hornos y la cantidad de desechos que se generaban. Considerados dentro del marco de la teoría deforraje, los datos demuestran que las proporciones calóricas obtenidas de la lechuguilla, y sotol procesados en hornos de tierra son típicos en una económia de baja productividady amplio espectro. Uso intensive de estos recursospoco importantes indica períodos deforzada subsistencia comenzando en el Arcaico Temprano y continuando a través del Arcaico Tardío. El uso de recursos de menor importancia y alto costo económico en zonas de cañones indica que la comida y los recursos combustibles fueron rapidamente agotados forzando una alta mobilidad residencial. El agotamiento de los recursos locales, y no la distribución de recursos de agua, gobernaron la mobilidad residencial.

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American Antiquity
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