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date: 16 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article reviews archaeological evidence of the Archaic period (~7000–2000 bc ), which is traditionally viewed as a long transitional interval between a poorly defined the era of Paleo-Indian big-game hunting traditions and the rise and proliferation of agricultural villages. The absence of extinct Pleistocene animal remains and ceramics in archaeological sites of this age is the most salient defining characteristic of the interval, which is sometimes referred to as the preceramic. Two of Mesoamerica's key cultigens—maize and squash—were domesticated by Archaic-period hunter-gatherers. The use of cultigens is a defining characteristic of subsistence economies throughout the Archaic period. However, the character of Archaic period adaptations differs regionally with some broader-scale differences evident between the semiarid highlands and the seasonally dry tropical lowlands. The archaeological and paleoecological datasets suggestive of these differences are explored.

Keywords: Archaic period, hunter-gatherers, cultigens, subsistence economics

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