Resetting Archaeological Interpretations of Precontact Indigenous Agriculture: Maize Isotopic Evidence from Three Ancestral Mohawk Iroquoian Villages
|Title||Resetting Archaeological Interpretations of Precontact Indigenous Agriculture: Maize Isotopic Evidence from Three Ancestral Mohawk Iroquoian Villages|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2023|
|Authors||Hart, JP, Winchell-Sweeney, S|
Archaeologists working in eastern North America typically refer to precontact and early postcontact Native American maize-based agriculture as shifting or swidden. Based on a comparison with European agriculture, it is generally posited that the lack of plows, draft animals, and animal manure fertilization resulted in the rapid depletion of soil nitrogen. This required Indigenous farmers to move their fields frequently. In Northern Iroquoia, depletion of soil fertility is frequently cited as one reason why villages were moved to new locations every 20 to 40 years. Recent analysis of δ15N ratios of maize macrobotanical remains from Northern Iroquoia, however, suggests that Iroquoian farmers were able to maintain soil nitrogen in their maize fields. An expanded analysis of maize kernel δ15N ratios from three ancestral Mohawk villages indicates that farmers from those villages maintained soil nitrogen throughout the occupational spans of their villages. It further suggests that precontact Iroquoian agronomy was consistent with contemporary conservation agriculture practices.