Human Ecology

, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 355–359 | Cite as

Calendars and Ecosystem Management: Some Observations

  • F. Merlin FrancoEmail author

Indigenous cultures evolve in relation to available natural resources that can be managed to provide livelihoods, both in temporal and spatial scales, leading to the development of anthropogenic biomes (Ellis 2011; Ellis and Ramankutty 2008; Xu et al.2009). While the role of culture in traditional ecosystem management is much studied, researchers generally pay less attention to community calendars that facilitate ecosystem management. In this brief literature review, I argue that indigenous calendrical systems are powerful instruments that direct individual as well as collective actions.

The transition from nomadic hunter-gatherer to settled agriculture involved extensive manipulation of the ecosystem, predicated on the ability to predict seasons and climatic events (Flannery 1968). In an indigenous landscape, land use resulting in the formation of anthropogenic biomes is a temporal and spatial process that can be expressed and, in part, managed through fine-tuned calendrical systems....


Collective Action Ecosystem Management Traditional Ecological Knowledge Lunar Calendar Intermediary Determinant 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I thank the two anonymous reviewers for their critical comments on the manuscript and Ms. Rohini Ramakrishnan for her proof reading. I also thank Dr. Aaron Goh and the administrative staff at CSRI, Curtin University for all the help received. This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.


  1. Adam, B., Geibler, K., Held, M., Kümmerer, K., and Schneider, M. (1997). Time for the Environment. The Tutzing Time Ecology Project. Time and Society 6(1): 73–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Armillas, P. (1971). Gardens on Swamps. Science 174: 653–661.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Australian Government. (2013). Indigenous Weather Knowledge. [Online] URL: (Accessed June 27, 2013)
  4. Aveni, A., and Hartung, H. (1986). Maya City Planning and the Calendar. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Series 76(7): 1–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Aveni, A., and Mizrachi, Y. (1998). The Geometry and Astronomy of Rujm el-Hiri, a Megalithic Site in the Southern Levant. Journal of Field Archaeology 25(4): 475–496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bolles, D. (1990). The Mayan Calendar, the Solar - Agricultural Year, and Correlation Questions. Mexicon 12: 85–89.Google Scholar
  7. Brumfiel, E. (2007). Solar Disks and Solar Cycles: Spindle Whorls and the Dawn of Solar art in Postclassic Mexico. Treballs d’Arqueologia 13: 91–113.Google Scholar
  8. Burrows, N. D., Burbidge, A. A., and Fuller, P. J. (2004). Integrating indigenous knowledge of wildland fire and western technology to conserve biodiversity in an Australian desert. Proceedings of Millennium Assessment, bridging scales and epistemologies conference. Millennium ecosystem assessment. [Online] URL: (Accessed June 28, 2013).
  9. Carrasco, D. (1981). City as Symbol in Aztec Thought: The Clues from the Codex Mendoza. History of Religions 20(3): 199–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ceci, L. (1978). Watchers of the Pleiades: Ethnoastronomy Among Native Cultivators in Northeastern North America. Ethnohistory 25(4): 301–317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chan, H. (2007). Survival in the Rainforest: Change and resilience among the Puman Vuhang of Eastern Sarawak, Malaysia. Research Series in Anthropology, University of Helsinki. [Online] URL: (Accessed June 28, 2013).
  12. Colding, J., and Folke, C. (2001). Social Taboos: “Invisible” Systems of Local Resource Management and Biological Conservation. Ecological Applications 11(2): 584–600.Google Scholar
  13. Conde, P. R. (1994). La Milpa y el Origen del Calendario Maya’, Gobierno del Estado de Yucatán, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán. Dirección General de Extensión, México.Google Scholar
  14. Diamond, J. (2005). Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. The Penguin Group, New York.Google Scholar
  15. Ellis, E. C. (2011). Anthropogenic Transformation of the Terrestrial Biosphere. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A369: 1010–1035.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ellis, E. C., and Ramankutty, N. (2008). Putting People in the Map: Anthropogenic Biomes of the World. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 6: 439–447.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Elson, C. M., and Smith, M. E. (2001). Archaeological Deposits from the Aztec New Fire Ceremony. Ancient Mesoamerica 12: 157–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Erickson, C. L. (2008). Amazonia: the historical ecology of a domesticated landscape. In Silverman, H., and William, I. (eds.), Handbook of South American Archaeology. Springer, New York, pp. 157–183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Flannery, K. (1968). Archaeological systems theory and early Mesoamerica. In Meggers, B. J. (ed.), Anthropological Archeology in the Americas. Anthropological Society of Washington, Washington, D.C. pp, pp. 67–87.Google Scholar
  20. Ford, A. (2011). What’s the big deal about the Maya Calendar and 2012? An Archaeological View on Maya 2012. Ecoview. [Online] URL: (Accessed February 28, 2012).
  21. Ford, A., and Nigh, R. (2009). Origins of the Maya Forest Garden: Maya Resource Management. Journal of Ethnobiology 29(2): 213–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Franco, F. M., and Narasimhan, D. (2012). Ethnobotany of the Kondh, Poraja, Gadaba and Bonda of the Koraput region of Odisha, India. D.K. Printworld, New Delhi.Google Scholar
  23. Franco, F. M., and Robin, D. T. R. (2011). Vaavubhali, a Traditional Festival for Remembering Ancestors. Ethnobotany Research and Applications 9: 115–128.Google Scholar
  24. Geoghegan, R. H. (1906). Some Notes on the Ideograms of the Chinese and The Central American Calendars. The Monist 16(4): 562–596.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Goodkind, D. (1996). Chinese Lunar Birth Timing in Singapore: New Concerns for Child Quality Amidst Multicultural Modernity. Journal of Marriage and Family 58(3): 784–795.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gupta, A. D. (2010). Rajbansi Festivals Decoding Indigenous Knowledge System. Antrocom Online Journal of Anthropology 6(2): 249–261.Google Scholar
  27. Hammond, N., and Miksicek, C. H. (1981). Ecology and Economy of a Formative Maya Site at Cuello, Belize. Journal of Field Archaeology 8(3): 259–269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hofmeister, S. (1997). Nature’s Temporalities: Consequences for Environmental Politics. Time & Society 6: 309–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kassam, K., Bulbulshoev, U., and Ruelle, M. (2011). Ecology of Time: Calendar of the Human Body in the Pamir Mountains. Journal of Persianate Studies 4: 146–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Klein, C. F. (1993). Teocuitlatl, “Divine excrement”: The Significance of “Holy shit” in Ancient Mexico. Art Journal 52(3): 20–27.Google Scholar
  31. Konakov, N. D., and Black, L. T. (1994). Calendar Symbolism of Uralic Peoples of the Pre-Christian Era. Arctic Anthropology 31(1): 47–61.Google Scholar
  32. Lara-Alecio, R., Irby, B. J., and Morales-Aldana, L. (1998). A Mathematics Lesson from the Mayan Civilization. Teaching Children Mathematics 5(3): 154.Google Scholar
  33. Leach, E. R. (1950). Primitive Calendars. Oceania 20(4): 245–262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Ley, W. (1963). Watcher of the Skies. Viking, New York.Google Scholar
  35. Lin, H. C., Xirasagar, S., and Tung, Y. C. (2006). Impact of a Cultural Belief About Ghost Month on Delivery Mode in Taiwan. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health 60(6): 522–526.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Milbrath, S. (1997). Decapitated Lunar Goddesses in Aztec Art, Myth and Ritual. Ancient Mesoamerica 8: 185–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Nyong, A., Adesina, F., and Elasha, B. O. (2007). The Value of Indigenous Knowledge in Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies in the African Sahel. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change 12: 787–797.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. O’Connor, M. H., and Prober, S. M. (2010). A calendar of Ngadju seasonal knowledge. A report to Ngadju Community and Working Group. CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Floreat, WA. [Online] URL: (Accessed February 20, 2012).
  39. Orlove, B., Roncoli, C., Kabugo, M., and Majugu, A. (2010). Indigenous Climate Knowledge in Southern Uganda: The Multiple Components of a Dynamic Regional System. Climatic Change 100: 243–265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Ortiz de Montellano, R. B. (1978). Aztec Cannibalism: An Ecological Necessity? Science 200(4342): 611–617.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pena, M. A. I. (2008). The Muisca Calendar: An Approximation to the Timekeeping System of the Ancient Native People of the Northeastern Andes of Colombia. M.Sc. Thesis, University of Montreal, Canada.Google Scholar
  42. Pohl, M. D. J. (2004). Nahua Drinking Bowl with an Image of Xochiquetzal. Record of the Art Museum, Princeton University 63: 40–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Prober, S. M., O’Connor, M. H., and Walsh, F. J. (2011). Australian Aboriginal Peoples’ Seasonal Knowledge: A Potential Basis for Shared Understanding in Environmental Management. Ecology and Society 16(2): 12.Google Scholar
  44. Rahmann, R. (1952). The Ritual Spring Hunt of Northeastern and Middle India. Anthropos 47(5/6): 871–890.Google Scholar
  45. Raj, R. (2006). Harmonizing traditional and scientific knowledge systems in rainfall prediction and utilization. In Reid, W. V., Berkes, F., Wilbanks, T., and Capistrano, D. (eds.), Bridging Scales and Knowledge Systems. Island Press, Washington DC, pp. 225–239.Google Scholar
  46. Rose, R. S. (2008). Aztec Deities. Ramblin/Rose publications, Mexico.Google Scholar
  47. Roys, L. (1933). The Maya correlation problem today. American Anthropologist 35(3): 403–417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Sinha, C., Sinha, V. D. S., Zinken, J., and Sampaio, W. (2011). When Time is Not Space: The Social and Linguistic Construction of Time Intervals and Temporal Event Relations in an Amazonian Culture. Language and Cognition 3(1): 137–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Smith, M. E. (2006). Aztec culture: An overview. [Online] URL: (Accessed March 03, 2012).
  50. Smith, M. E. (2008). Aztec City-State Capitals. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.Google Scholar
  51. Smith, M. E. (2011). Aztecs. In Insoll, T. (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Ritual and Religion. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 556–570.Google Scholar
  52. Smith, M. E., and Wharton, J. (2003). Aztec-Style Pitcher from a Later Post-Classic Burial Offering in Morelos. Mexicon XXV(1): 2–3.Google Scholar
  53. Spinden, H. J. (1920). Central American Calendars and the Gregorian day. Anthropology 6: 56–59.Google Scholar
  54. Thompson, J. E. S. (1974). Maya astronomy. In Hodson, F. R. (ed.), The Place of Astronomy in the Ancient World, vol. 276. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, London, pp. 83–98.Google Scholar
  55. Von Hagen, V. W. (1957). The Ancient Sun Kingdoms of the Americas. The World Publishing Company, Ohio.Google Scholar
  56. Weitlaner, I. (1936). A Chinatec Calendar. American Anthropologist 38: 197–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Xu, J., Lebel, L., and Sturgeon, J. (2009). Functional Links Between Biodiversity, Livelihoods, and Culture in a Hani Swidden Landscape in Southwest China. Ecology and Society 14(2): 20.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Curtin University Sarawak MalaysiaMiriMalaysia

Personalised recommendations