Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Sociology, Social Work, and Anthropology

Committee Chair(s)

Steven R. Simms


Steven R. Simms


Judson B. Finley


David A. Byers


This thesis compares hypotheses about Fremont agricultural investment to evaluate the relationship between dry or rainfall farming and irrigation farming. Recent identification of a Fremont irrigation feature at Pleasant Creek provides an opportunity to study farming commitment through labor investment. A comparison of relative efficiencies of irrigated and dry-farmed maize using experimental digging exercises and cross-cultural comparisons generate data about the range of investment, carrying capacity, and the contexts of selection operating under circumstances like those at Pleasant Creek.

The analysis shows that irrigated maize efficiency remains equivalent to or lower than dry-farmed maize. Irrigation labor costs influence maize return rates more with fewer years of canal operation and suggest that technological investment in irrigation at the project site would be “worth it” only with anticipated long-term commitment. For instance, labor costs of irrigation amortized over time show that initial construction costs no longer affect energetic return rates of maize after four to six years of canal use. Beyond this span of time, field labor and processing time condition overall return rates more than distinctive labor costs of irrigation.

The application of carrying capacity scenarios indicates the canal likely supported between 30 and 100 individuals. Analysis of infrastructural complexity and labor group size suggests that Pleasant Creek was home to a group operating within complexity beyond egalitarian forager organization. The level of investment and productivity suggests a community, likely bound by kinship ties with a corporate management style, engaged in subsistence-level agriculture that served to expand the farmable area and reduce the risk of food shortage in an agriculturally marginal area.



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