The Ocampo Caves of Tamaulipas, Mexico are well-known for archaeological evidence of early domesticated plants and the development of prehistoric food production. Richard S. MacNeish's 1953–1954 investigations in Romero's, Valenzuela's, and Ojo de Agua Caves yielded important insights into local prehistoric societies, the adoption of domesticated plants, and the use of caves as temporary campsites. Our research approaches the broader context of landuse by the occasional occupants of the caves through a geospatial analysis of the agricultural potential of the surrounding landscape. A recent archaeological survey revealed additional cave sites, as well as open-air settlements in the vicinity of the Ocampo Caves. The distribution of open settlements with architecture in a wide range of topographic settings raises the question of how this very rugged landscape might have been cultivated on a sufficient scale to support village populations. To address this issue, we developed a suitability raster using a geographic information system (GIS) weighted overlay analysis isolating areas suitable for farming surrounding the caves. The results of this analysis are briefly compared to tentative site distributions based on previous fieldwork. This agricultural suitability model can be used to generate hypotheses addressing cost-tradeoff decisions influencing prehistoric settlement patterns. From a field-methodological standpoint, the model also has potential as a predictive tool for the detection of early agricultural sites in Ocampo by concentrating future fieldwork efforts on high probability settings.
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Vol. 37 • No. 2