The Maya forest

A domesticated landscape

Authored by: Anabel Ford

The Maya World

Print publication date:  June  2020
Online publication date:  June  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138492837
eBook ISBN: 9781351029582
Adobe ISBN:


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The domesticated landscape of the Maya forest was shaped by domestic needs. Rather than wild, the Maya co-created the landscape over generations, centuries, millennia of intention. After eight millennia of living in the tropical Lowlands and at least four millennia cultivating the Maya forest, the habitats of plants and animals reflect selection favoring utility for the myriad of uses serving human needs: food, fodder, medicine, construction, products, fumigants, gum, incense. The dominant plants of the Maya forest recorded by economic botanists are all useful. This landscape of utility comes from the knowledge, skill, and labor that resulted in the elaboration of the milpa forest garden cycle. Understanding the debate, appreciating the history, and understanding the dimensions of field and forest products across the landscape provides a basis for appreciating how the Maya cultivated the biological capital that is the Maya forest.

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