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Early Agriculture in the Americas

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Anthropology 2100
Peter Timmins

Jan, 07, 2013 Early Agriculture in the Americas Agriculture in the New World: -New World domesticates include maize, beans, squash, chilli peppers, , sunflower, marsh elder, goosefoot, tobacco, peanuts, cotton, quinoa, gourds, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, llama, alpaca, guinea pig (South America), turkeys (Mesoamerica), and the domestic dog -Centres of domestication were Mesoamerica, the central Andes, and the tropical South America/Central America including Panama, Columbia, Ecuador, and Peru which had domesticated squash by 10,000 -8,000 ya Guila Naquitz: -Oaxaca valley has a stratified rockshelter and Kent Flannery discovered domesticated gourds (squash) C-14 dated to 10,000-8,300 ya and 2-rowed maize dated to 6250 ya which are part of the Cucurbita family (squashes & bottle gourds) which were the first to be domesticated in the Americas -These were likely domesticated unintentionally through “seedbed selection” where smaller seed sprouts are thinned out leading to artificial selection of more productive plants The Domestication of Maize: -It is the wild ancestor of maize was teosinte and botanist John Doebly identified a mutation of a gene that causes the accumulation of protein in the lower branches leading to a maize-like plant and teosinte seed spikes shatter, spreading seeds naturally whereas maize cobs do not shatter Tehuacan Valley: -Dry caves investigated by Scotty MacNeish show a 12,000 year occupation and stable isotope analysis shows that plant foods became important early and increased through time and the diet was 90% plant food by 6500 ya -There are preserved corn cobs from Coxcatlan, Purron and San Marcos caves show evolution of maize and it is dated to ca. 5500 ya at Tehuacan The “Three Sisters”: -Maize, squash and beans are called the “three sisters” and they are complementary because a diet based solely on maize is deficient in the amino acids lysine and tryptophan but these can be supplied by beans and squash and consuming all 3 provides a rounded diet -Maize depletes the soil of nitrogen but beans return nitrogen to the soil The Andean Region: -Quechua (2300-3500 m asl) and maize grows well Suni (3500-4000 m asl) -Have quinoa, potatoes and oca Puna (4000-4800 m asl) and high grassy plateaus provided important domesticates like llama, alpaca, guinea pig, potato, and quinoa The Highlands: -The Panaulauca Cave NW of Lima has quinoa (5700-4500 ya), camelids (llama and alpaca) which saw an increase after 7000 ya (many young animals indicates use of corrals to manage domestic
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