Rainfed Farming and Settlement Aggregation: Reflections from Chihuahua, Mexico
By Robert J. Hard, William L. Merrill, A. C. MacWilliams, John R. Roney, Jacob C. Freeman, and Karen R. Adams
Robert Hard, an archaeologist, is joined by ethnologist William Merrill, archaeologists Art MacWilliams, John Roney, and Jacob Freeman, and paleobotanist Karen Adams. In Chapter 8, they investigate the apparent lack of aggregated settlements in a large swath of territory during the Ceramic period in central and southern Chihuahua, Mexico. The widespread use of ranchería settlement strategies in this territory is a poorly understood paradox, because the territory is situated between two areas with highly aggregated populations, the Casas Grandes region to the north and the Guadiana Chalchihuites region to the south. Their chapter proposes that precipitation regimes in central and southern Chihuahua allow for successful rain-fed farming, making available many potential farming locations. The ranchería settlement pattern continued into the historic period, and written records reflect dispersed but high population levels. There are two key exceptions to the ranchería pattern in the region: Medio period (A.D. 1200–1450) aggregated pueblos in the northern portion of the study area, and hilltop aggregated settlements in the south (A.D. 500–900). Pursuing a better understanding of these two exceptions would advance research into the relationships between agriculture and aggregation and the lack thereof.