Water Folk

Reconstructing an Ancient Aquatic Lifeway in Michoacán, Western Mexico

Eduardo Williams


This study of subsistence activities (fishing, hunting, gathering, and manufacture) in the Cuitzeo and Pátzcuaro lake basins (Michoacán, Western Mexico) underscores the value of ethnoarchaeology as a tool for reconstructing the ancient aquatic lifeway inthe territory of the Protohistoric Tarascan state (ca. AD 1450-1530), which flourished in an environment dominated by lakes, rivers, swamps and marshes. Mesoamerica was the only civilization in the ancient world that lacked major domesticated sources of animal protein; therefore, abundant wild aquatic species (fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects and plants, etc.) all played strategic roles in the diet and economy of most Mesoamerican cultures, including the Tarascans.