Terrace Agriculture in the Mixteca Alta Region, Oaxaca, Mexico: Ethnographic and Archeological Insights on Terrace Construction and Labor Organization

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This article presents ethnographic information on terrace farming that was collected to ground archeological interpretations of cross-channel terraces known as lama-bordos in the Mixteca Alta region of southern Mexico. Ethnographic interviews asked about labor organization and the labor requirements of terrace construction, and also documented agroecological knowledge associated with terrace farming. The integration of ethnographic and archeological data indicate that lama-bordo terracing started 3,400 years ago and today lama-bordos continue to be built, maintained, and farmed at the household level, in ways that correspond with the recorded stratigraphies of Prehispanic lama-bordo terraces. Even in contemporary contexts of government agricultural programs and global markets, farmers continue to grow food and build their lives around lama-bordos using a complex body of knowledge about the weather, plants, soils, and the behavior of pests. The continuation of this land-use and food-producing strategy for over three millennia attests to the longevity, effectiveness, and resilience of this ancestral practice that has been a cornerstone for Mixtec society and survival.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-27
Number of pages10
JournalCulture, Agriculture, Food and Environment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016
Externally publishedYes



  • Agricultural resilience
  • Agriculture
  • Mexico
  • Mixtec
  • Terracing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Anthropology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Food Science

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