August 27th: Agriculture and Power in Ancient Mesoamerica

Oleh: hoganq97
August 26, 2018

Quinn Hogan (346)

David A. Freidel explains the relationship between farmers in Mesoamerica, and the lands which they held. The biggest point he is trying to thrust at the audience of this article, is how and why farmers in Mesoamerican civilizations allowed rulers to lay claim to the control of their agricultural yields. Freidel goes on to tell us about the different crops these farmers grew, and how different cultures, environments and geographical conditions determined this.

The first big concept within this article to understand is that Mesoamerican farmers relinquished control of their farms, but not the labor on them, to the higher power in the civilization. This means although they were planting and harvesting, the crop yield and what would happen to it, was owned by the king or queen.

But why would the farmers give up this land so easily? A few reasons. One is a combination of two things. The first is that rulers claimed they had a divine right to rule their people, meaning they were chosen by God to rule over and lead the people of their religious civilization. Second, rulers were given consent by the people┬áto lead their civilization. Freidel explains this as an “investment.” People invest in the ruler, and if the ruler does well, they do too, and so their investment pays off, so they continue to invest. So, the combination of religious authority and the investment of the people allowed rulers to hold power in the agriculture.

Agriculture could also be linked to cultural aspects as well. Much of the Mayan belief system was rooted in agriculture. Mayan mythology even outlines a God who sacrificed his own life, then was reincarnated into maize. Furthermore, the practices of harvesting, planting and maintaining field were considered sacrificial and religious within themselves. These practices were considered a huge form of religious and political power. Not only did they represent religious power in practice, but much of agriculture is rooted in the building of great symbolic structure. Mayan pyramids were built based on the God named “One Maize” and his story.

 

Image result for mayan pyramids

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6 Comments

  • Emily Stewart

    Quinn,

    Great job with providing the overall arguments of the article. You explained the reasons for farmers giving up their land very well! Are there any other examples of agriculture practices being linked to cultural aspects than Mayan mythology?
    Here is a link describing some of the current ways the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is trying to preserve the “culture’ aspect of agriculture.
    http://www.fao.org/in-action/accenting-the-culture-in-agriculture/en/

    Emily

  • blogrh

    Quinn,

    Great job with providing the overall arguments of the article. You explained the reasons for farmers giving up their land very well! Are there any other examples of agriculture practices being linked to cultural aspects than Mayan mythology?
    Here is a link describing some of the current ways the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is trying to preserve the “culture’ aspect of agriculture.
    http://www.fao.org/in-action/accenting-the-culture-in-agriculture/en/

    Emily

  • Nicholas Burnette

    I think you hit on some very strong points when discussing how the agriculture links to society. Many other societies based their entire belief systems around this one sole basis. Food is literally the life force of the being and whomsoever controls the food controls the people. This is kind of like how a dog domesticates to a human because they are a sustainable source of food. The basic human need has and will be manipulated by superiors to maintain control throughout history. See this link for another example of this practice in history https://www.ancient.eu/article/113/food–agriculture-in-ancient-greece/

  • blogrh

    I think you hit on some very strong points when discussing how the agriculture links to society. Many other societies based their entire belief systems around this one sole basis. Food is literally the life force of the being and whomsoever controls the food controls the people. This is kind of like how a dog domesticates to a human because they are a sustainable source of food. The basic human need has and will be manipulated by superiors to maintain control throughout history. See this link for another example of this practice in history https://www.ancient.eu/article/113/food– Nick Burnette

  • Aaron George

    Quinn, I liked how you summed up Freidel’s talking points about Mesoamerican agriculture, especially his point about rulers being an investment by the people. The people fund their rulers through taxes and labor and in return receive public benefits such as irrigation systems, roads, and military protection. I found that this surprisingly resembles the ideas of Enlightenment-era thinkers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau with his social contract theory. I also liked how you pointed out the religious aspect of Freidel’s argument. Especially in Mesoamerica, gods were often tied to agriculture and the success or failure of crops, which the people relied on for survival.

  • Quinn, you summarized Freidel’s points very well. I found it interesting how politics played so much into agriculture in Mesoamerica. I wonder why maize was the crop of choice in Mayan culture. Here is a link about maize in Mesoamerica: http://nativeamericannetroots.net/diary/2113

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