Comparing Maize Paleoproduction Models with Experimental Data

R. Kyle Bocinsky, Mark D. Varien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


In agrarian societies, such as the ancestral Pueblo of the Four Corners region of the US Southwest (c. AD 600-1300), the resilience of crops in the face of climate challenges was of paramount concern. Consequently, students of these societies have invested much effort in modeling the response of traditional crops to ancient weather patterns. Less effort has been made to evaluate the quality of those reconstructions with experimental studies. Here, we report on results from the Pueblo Farming Project (PFP), a long-term collaboration between the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center and the Hopi tribe. From 2009 through 2015, PFP researchers and members of the Hopi tribe planted four experimental gardens of Hopi maize (Zea mays) on Crow Canyon's campus in southwestern Colorado using traditional methods. PFP researchers recorded growth progress over the growing season, harvested the corn, measured characteristics of the resulting crop, and derived yield estimates. We present the results of the garden experiments and we compare experimental yields with computational estimates of potential maize yield developed by the Village Ecodynamics Project (VEP). We find that Hopi maize flourishes in this part of the Hopi ancestral land and that PFP experimental yields are highly correlated with VEP yield estimates. We suggest that these PFP data may be used to refine existing maize paleoproductivity estimates, and we propose future directions for farming experiments in the Four Corners.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)282-307
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Ethnobiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 1 2017


  • Ancestral Pueblo
  • Hopi
  • crop modeling
  • experimental farming
  • maize agriculture


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