Title

THE AGRICULTURAL ECONOMICS OF FREMONT IRRIGATION: A CASE STUDY FROM SOUTH-CENTRAL UTAH

Document Type

Presentation

Publication Date

4-10-2014

Faculty Mentor

Steven Simms

Abstract

The Fremont of the Great Basin and Colorado Plateau represent a diverse group of foragers and farmers distinguished by common material remains and variability in the degree of investment in domesticated crops and farming technology. Recent identification of a Fremont irrigation feature along Pleasant Creek, in southern Utah, provides an opportunity to study farming commitment through labor investment. This research compares hypotheses about Fremont agricultural investment to evaluate the economic relationship between dry or rainfall farming and irrigation farming. 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 the project area. The analysis shows that irrigated maize efficiency remains equivalent to or lower than dry farmed maize and that field labor and processing time condition overall return rates more than distinctive labor costs of irrigation. Irrigation represents a form of intensive agriculture often associated with dependence on food production, population growth, sedentism, and growing social complexity. Additional analysis of infrastructural complexity, group size, and Fremont settlement patterns suggest that Pleasant Creek was home to a group exhibiting complexity beyond egalitarian forager organization.

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