Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Sociology and Anthropology

Department name when degree awarded

Sociology, Social Work, and Anthropology

Committee Chair(s)

Steven R. Simms


Steven R. Simms


Judson B. Finley


David A. Byers


Recent identification of a Fremont irrigation feature in southern Utah provides an example from which to study costs and benefits of intensive agricultural investment by the Fremont. Studying irrigation investment informs our understanding of cultural process behind subsistence decisions, as well as of cultural complexity among the temporally and geographically diverse Fremont farmers.

Fieldwork, funded in part by Undergraduate Research and Creative Opportunities (URCO) Grants, included experimental canal digging with wooden stick tools and excavation of a subsurface canal feature. This study uses prehistoric canal dimensions and labor rate data to compare relative efficiencies of irrigated and dry-farmed maize. Analysis shows that irrigated maize efficiency remains equivalent to or lower than dry-farmed maize with a 20 to 50 percent increase in labor investment. An irrigation strategy at the project area likely represented a marginally more costly endeavor resulting in greater productivity that reduced the risk of crop failure in an arid region. Carrying capacity estimates for this system indicate irrigation could have supported a community interacting on a level of social complexity beyond that of egalitarian forager-farmers. Overall, this research contributes to growing literature on Fremont cultural complexity and how the dynamic Fremont fit in with neighboring farmers and foragers.



Included in

Anthropology Commons