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Agriculture

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altAncient Maya agriculture can be divided into two types: extensive systems and intensive systems. 

Extensive systems are primarily represented by milpas.  This slash and burn method of farming required large tracts of available land because fields would require that they be fallowed every so many years.  Intensive forms of agriculture included kitchen gardens, terrace systems, raised fields, drainage canals, tree cropping, and alluvial valley systems.  Evidence for extensive hillside terracing has been discovered throughout the Vaca Plateau and Maya Mountains.  Raised fields and canals have been studied in northern Belize (i.e. Pulltrouser Swamp in Orange Walk) and in the Belize River Valley (near Baking Pot).  On their fields the Maya cultivated diverse crops including maize, beans, squash, amaranth, chili peppers, sweet potatoes, manioc, cotton, tobacco, and chaya.  Fruit trees were also plentiful and were represented by avocado, cacao, kinep (Waya), anona (custard apple), caimito (star apple), and craboo.

To supplement their diet the ancient Maya harvested shell fish from the rivers and sea and they caught both freshwater and marine fish.  They also hunted many of the small and large mammals inland.  Spanish records further report that they had domesticated turkeys, dogs, possibly deer and a stingless bee which provided honey for sweetening drinks (Cacao) and other foods.