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milpa


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[Ge]

South American term (literally meaning ‘cornfields’) for slash and burn agriculture. Trees are cut down in December, brush and scrub being continually cleared in ensuing months, and the dried vegetation is burnt the following April. This process leaves behind a layer of nutrient‐rich ash and charcoal on the ground surface. Using a digging stick to make holes, seeds of maize, beans, squash or peppers are planted in the ash. If the rains come on time in May the seeds will be well watered and produce a good crop. Fertility depends on the quality and thickness of the ash layer. Few milpa plots allow more than two years' cultivation, often with up to twenty years left fallow in between for trees to regenerate and provide the fuel to supply the next layer of ash.

Subjects: Archaeology.


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