Landscapes of cultivation in Mesoamerica on the eve of the conquest

T. M. Whitmore, Billie Turner

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

80 Scopus citations


Pre-Columbian Amerindian agriculturalists developed technologies and management practices with which to crop a wide range of ecological conditions, giving rise to a multiplicity of cultivated landscapes. This variety was particularly evident in Mesoamerica. Here we explore these indigenous cultivated landscapes as they existed about the time of the Columbian Encounter. We illustrate them through the examination of three transects approximating the course of the initial Spanish entradas through this diverse region: the first extends from the Gulf coast to central Mexico; the second transverses the Yucatan peninsula from north to south; and the third climbs into highland Guatemala from the Pacific coastal plain. Second, we broadly sketch the major changes that took place in these landscapes during the first phase of Spanish domination and some of the forces that shaped these changes. Last, we argue that the scale of environmental transformation of Amerindian agriculture has not always been fully appreciated, the scale of environmental degradation associated with Spanish introductions has been overstated at times, and the contrasting ideologies of nature between the two cultures has been oversimplified. -from Authors

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAnnals - Association of American Geographers
Number of pages24
StatePublished - 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences
  • General Environmental Science


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