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Garden Agriculture

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This paper seeks to review the article Native American 'garden agriculture’ in southeastern North America by  Margaret, C. Scarry and John F. Scarry. The review focuses on the region, cultural groups and time period discussed, the anthropological problems addressed, data presentation and analysis.

Part 1

The article focuses on the Native Americans of Southeastern North America. In particular, focus is on the Lower Southeast-northern Florida, Albana, Georgia and Mississippi during the late precontact and historic periods. This was approximately during the eleventh to the eighteenth centuries AD. The Southeast prehistoric societies are grouped by archeologists under 'Mississippian. Though, these societies were different in terms of complexity, ethnicity and culture, they can be exemplified as chiefdoms whose maize cultivation was the basis of the economy.

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In order to achieve its objective, the article has addressed a number of issues. It has centered on the inquisitive implications of the reality that the Euro-American males who lived during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and who scrutinized Native American farming considerably  underestimated women’s labor, rather than the role of women as such. According to Perdue Theda, a historian, the invisibility of labor offered by women resulted to portrayals of Native Americans as principally hunting individuals and thus, did not own land.

For a long time, archeologists and enthohistorians have been conscious of realism that the Southeast Native Americans depended greatly on maize as well as other crops. Nevertheless, the archeological literature indicates that the employment of the notions horticulture, swidden and garden involve shifting plots and mixed cropping, as well as production in small scale. A lot of archaeobotanists who work in the Southeast North America try to argue against the implication of modest production. They do this through the employment of the aspects agriculture, farming and fields, in so doing, putting emphasis on the scale of production as opposed to husbandry activities. For Southeastern insiders, the outcome is a continuing and to some extent controversial argument, whilst outsiders are bewildered regarding the nature and scale of cropping activities among the Native Americans.

The article seeks to address the concerns over scale of production and practice. This has been achieved by initially offering  an extensive picture of husbandry practices amongst the  southeastern Native Americans. Other problems that have been addressed relate to scale of production, social units of production, distribution and control of foodstuffs, as well as concerns relating to terminology. As put forth in the article, part of the issue in this case relates to the fact that the practices used by native southeastern linked to modest-scale production. This was aimed for unreserved large-scale agriculture.

In the Southeastern North America, the nature of food production activities among the native Americans is misapprehended. The early European authors link this misapprehension to cultural and gender bias after illustrating the fields and farming activities of the natives. The misunderstanding is also linked to the impact of anthropological models with reference to food production, which make a distinction between large scale farming (mono-crop), and small scale farming (mixed-crop). The Southeast natives made use of food production systems that fail to fit an uncomplicated dycotomy of agriculture versus gardening. Shifting system and mixed cropping were used in the Southeast for food production even though these systems were different from the ones used in the tropics in the swidden gardens. Food production in the region encompassed the use of extensive and large fields, as well as large-scale production.

Part 2/strong>

Data Presentation

The type of data being presented here is quantitative. Quantitative data is a term used to refer to information that is either expressed numerically or counted. The data are obtained through experiments, and statistically analyzed. It is then represented in table, graphs, histograms and charts. In this case, the data collected is from the southeastern North America on Native American garden agriculture. The data has been numerically analyzed and presented in graphs making it quantitative.

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From 1539 to a number of years later, Hernando de Soto alongside his crew explored Southeast Native American storehouses. They reported that the area had extensive farm lands and adequate grains, pumpkins and dried plums in the storehouses. Biedma, a member of the crew reported that they encountered flour from toasted maize and 50 fanegas of maize. Afanega of maize is around 45 kilos. Rodrigo reports the same realization. These accounts verify the land under agriculture and the surplus kilograms of grains held by the storehouses in the communities. Additionally, it points out that the maize was dried and could be used. The Apalachee leaders in 1685 delivered food for a figure of 600.  Similarly, the chief of Cupaica gave 150 arrobas of maize as a loan to save the community storehouses. This is a clear indication that the leaders had surplus maize. Soto chronicles described the granaries of Apalachee as big enough to hold a number of stores. The garitas size ranges from 7 to 14 sq meters.

The amount of food the stores can handle depends on the manner the grain was stored, the weight the floors can support, and the height of the walls. Soto and his soldiers performed an experiment to calculate the amount of maize that a garita could store. However, they could not deduce a conclusion as there were so many unknowns. It was however clear that,  a household store could hold several kilograms of grains. The archaeological traces for Southeastern North America were graphically presented. From the presentation, it was evident that, the large fields yielded a boom harvest in the Southeast. A family of about six members would cultivate a land of about 0.25ha on average or about 2ha when adult women were many in a household. The yields from the land depended on the maize variety or soil. On average, the yield over the lifespan of a field ranged between 500 to 1000 kilograms per hectare. This was adequate to offer 25% to 50% of the caloric needs of a family.

From the research, a number of points can be noted. To begin with, a 0.25ha land was enough to meet the needs of a household. However, people had to work harder to provide surpluses for the community, and this underpinned the political activities of the elites of Mississippi. Secondly, the 500 to 2000 kilograms of maize harvested in winter by people from Spain represented the harvest of 1-4 ha. Thirdly, the suggested decline of the fertility of the field for a number of generations would match the historical and archeological proof for occasional village relocations and the fields whereby fruits and useful plants were grown.

It is evident from the archeological data that, variations in scale production were also present in the European contract. The group used three polities in Mississippi to demonstrate the differences amid  the pre-contact crop systems in the area.  The farmsteads had been selected depending on the variety of artifact assemblages.  Data obtained from Moundville polity dated between 1050 to 1250 AD, that from Lubbub polity dated 1050-1250 AD while that from Old Hoover polity dated 1250 to 1500 AD. The data from the three polities were from refuse pits filled with fragments from domestic chores. The  ratios obtained here designate a crude measure of cultivated foods in comparison to plant foods.  It is clear that the ratios varied across the polities. This is a clear indication the production of maize in the polities was different and it influenced the economies differentlyy. The Old Hoover polity had the lowest production. This data was presented in a graph. From the graph, maize distribution in the polities is fascinating.

Conclusively, a number of interpretations relating to production, use and the production of the farm products in the Southeastern North America have been presented. From the presentation, it is apparent that different polities had different ratios in terms of production, and use of farm products. 

Part 3


The authors have presented the anthropological problem in an understanding fashion. To start with, they describe the Native Americans as agriculturalists and gardeners. The authors put forth that ethnohistorical descriptions offer an exciting indication of how the Southeast native societies produced and stored their cultivated foods. Scarry & Scarry also offers an overview of the dependence on agricultural products amongst the natives, as well as the sizes and distribution of the granaries. These factors wove together with an aim of investigating the cropping strategies including storage practices, scale of production, and variety of crops of the native societies in the Southeast. However, there has been a misinterpretation of the nature of food production activities in these societies. Writers have linked this misinterpretation to cultural and gender bias, and anthropological models of small scale and large scale farming. The anthropological problem of the nature and scale of production has therefore, been well presented.

The data presented has addressed the issue discussed in this article. The authors have first provided data on Ethnohistoric descriptions of native husbandry, data on Systems of production and storage, scale of production and variations. Although the data seem to be inadequate, the ones offered show proof of remarkable production in the Southeast.

Sufficient data has been provided that proofs the inconsistency in the organization, form and scale of production in the Southeast. For instance, in certain societies, production was controlled by local kin and household groups, whilst in others, it was significantly controlled by the political elite. It is also clear that,  in specific societies such as Moundville and Apalachee chiefdoms, local production was done in small gardens, whilst in others, individuals used large fields of land and produced maize among other foods in large scale. This shows evidence of the fact that these societies were able to produce surpluses that were used to safeguard against difficult times, in addition to supporting multifaceted political hierarchies. On the other hand, some polities did not depend fully on production of crops, thus were short of surpluses that could support both the elite hierarchies.

From the aforementioned, the Southeast Native Americans cannot be characterized as crop producing societies as a result of the variations evidenced from the data in terms crop production, the distribution systems and consumption patterns. These disparities mirror considerable variations amongst the native American societies. It is probably true to say that the anthropological issue of scale of production among the Southeast Native Americans lacks a precise conclusion. Some societies practiced large scale farming whilst other produced in small scale.

Overall, the article Native American 'garden agriculture’ in southeastern North America has provided sufficient data in order to address the issues put forward. The data have tried to address the issues of scale and the nature of practice among the Native Americans of southeastern North America. Problems of social units of production, distribution and control of foodstuffs have been addressed. As put forth in the article, part of the issue in this case relates to the fact that the practices used by native southeastern linked to modest-scale production and has also been addressed.

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