Among Mesoamericanists, the agricultural basis of the ancient Maya civilization of the Yucatan Peninsula has been an important topic of research—and controversy. Interest in the agricultural system of the Maya greatly increased as new discoveries showed that the lowland Maya were not limited to slash-and-burn technology, as had been previously believed, but used a variety of more sophisticated agricultural techniques and practices, including terracing, raised fields, and, perhaps, irrigation. Because of the nature of the data and because this form of agricultural technology had been key to explanations of state formation elsewhere in Mesoamerica, raised-field agriculture became a particular focus of investigation.
Pulltrouser Swamp conclusively demonstrates the existence of hydraulic, raised-field agriculture in the Maya lowlands between 150 B.C. and A.D. 850. It presents the findings of the University of Oklahoma's Pulltrouser SwampProject, an NSF-supported interdisciplinary study that combined the talents of archaeologists, anthropologists, geographers, paleobotanists, biologists, and zoologists to investigate the remains of the Maya agricultural system in the swampy region of northern Belize.
By examining soils, fossil pollen and other plant remains, gastropods, relic settlements, ceramics, lithics, and other important evidence, the Pulltrouser Swamp team has clearly demonstrated that the features under investigation are relics of Maya-made raised and channelized fields and associated canals. Other data suggest the nature of the swamps in which the fields were constructed, the tools used for construction and cultivation, the possible crops cultivated, and at least one type of settlement near the fields, with its chronology. This verification of raised fields provides dramatic evidence of a large and probably organized workforce engaged in sophisticated and complex agricultural technology. As record of this evidence, Pulltrouser Swamp is a work of seminal importance for all students and scholars of New World prehistory.
B. L. Turner II is Regents Professor, School of Sustainability, College of Global Futures at Arizona State University.
Peter D. Harrison (1937–2013) was a research associate at the Middle American Research Institute, Tulane University.
Preface by B. L. Turner II
1. Wetlands and the Maya: An Overview of the Problem and the Pulltrouser Swamp Project (B. L. Turner II and Peter D. Harrison)
2. The Physical Setting: Northern Belize and Pulltrouser Swamp (William C. Johnson)
3. Vegetation Associations at Pulltrouser Swamp (Janice P. Darch)
4. The Excavations of Raised and Channelized Fields at Pulltrouser Swamp (B. L. Turner II)
5. The Soils of Pulltrouser Swamp: Classification and Characteristics (Janice P. Darch)
with Further Comments on Soils and Raised Fields by (William C. Johnson)
6. Macrofloral Remains of the Pulltrouser Area: Settlements and Fields (Charles H. Miksicek)
7. Analysis of Pollen from the Fields at Pulltrouser Swamp (Frederick M. Wiseman)
8. Mollusca: A Contrast in Species Diversity from Aquatic and Terrestrial Habitats (Alan P. Covich)
9. The Pulltrouser Settlement Survey and Mapping of Kokeal (Peter D. Harrison)
10. The Excavations at Southern Kokeal (Nancy Ettlinger)
11. The Ceramics of the Pulltrouser Area: Settlements and Fields (Robert E. Fry)
12. The Lithic Artifacts of the Pulltrouser Area: Settlements and Fields (Harry J. Shafer)
13. Pulltrouser Swamp and Maya Raised Fields: A Summation (B. L. Turner II and Peter D. Harrison)
Stay connected for our latest books and special offers.
We live in an information-rich world. As a publisher of international scope, the University of Texas Press serves the University of Texas at Austin community, the people of Texas, and knowledge seekers around the globe by identifying the most valuable and relevant information and publishing it in books, journals, and digital media that educate students; advance scholarship in the humanities and social sciences; and deepen humanity’s understanding of history, current events, contemporary culture, and the natural environment.