Aquatic Resources Used by the Gulf Coast Olmec: Carrying Capacity Analysis Based on Commercial Fishing Catch Data

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The Olmec have long been considered one of the first complex societies to develop in Mesoamerica. Scholars have traditionally believed that the Olmec relied on maize agriculture since their initial development during the Early Formative period. New research however, is providing information that is pointing to a subsistence strategy that was not dominated by maize agriculture but rather a mixed subsistence based mostly on aquatic resources. These emergent models for Early Formative Olmec subsistence have been developed primarily from the recovery of faunal remains, archaeobotanical analysis, settlement patterns, and the study of artifacts and tools. There is a need for a study to measure the availability of the local aquatic resources and the population they can support. This thesis presents a carrying capacity analysis of the fish and other aquatic resources present in the Olmec Heartland region, based on commercial fishing catch data. The end result of this study is an estimate of the population that can be supported with these resources, and a comparison of this number with population estimates for the Olmec during the Early Formative period. The result shows that aquatic resources in the region could have provided all or most of the caloric requirements of the Olmec population during their emergence in the Early Formative, and thus showing that maize agriculture does not necessarily have to be a prerequisite for complexity.

Mesoamerica, Gulf of Mexico, Veracruz, Mexico, Tabasco, Fishing, Population