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Chapter 8

Chapter 8

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Michael Chazan

Chapter 8 Mounds and Maize 81 Plant Domestication in MesoamericaTeosintewild grass found in the highlands of Mexico is the wild ancestor of maizemaize seeds are larger than teosinte seeds grow in more rows as well Research on the origins of agriculture in Mesoamerica focused on excavations of the dry caves in the highlands of Mexico plant remains well preserved thereshows plants maize beans etc were domesticated in Mexico by groups of mobile huntergatherers Excavations at the highland caves of the Tehuacan Valley and at the site of Guila Naquitz in the Oaxaca Valley have produced the earliest evidence of domesticated plants in the Americas AMS radiocarbon datingaccelerator mass spectrometry makes it possible to date very small samples including plant remains more info on page 256squash identified as the earliest plant to be domesticated in Mexico domestication of squash was a prolonged process that began 10000 years ago with selection for larger seedsOldest directly dated maize also found at Guila Naquitz has a tough rachis and thus is clearly domesticatedfrom the Tehuacan Valley maize found there dates to 5500 years ago and illustrates a gradual increase through time in the size of the cobs and the number of kernels Oldest direct date of a domesticated bean from Mexico is approx 2500 years ago for a single bean from Coxcatlan Cave in the Tehuacan Valley 82 Maize Agriculture in the American SouthwestDomesticated maize grown in highlands by 6250 years agospread to northern Mexico and southwestern US during Southwestern Late Archaic Period ca 3400 years agoCerro Juanaquenaearly agricultural site in northern Mexico with extensive evidence of terracing and other stone built features much energy put into these features maize kernels AMS dated to 3070 years ago arrowheads found belong to Late Archaic so consistent dateswild seeds found as well as faunal remains rabbit deer antelope no evidence of fishinggrinding grains very important to themNortheast from that people living in the Jornada Mogollon region didnt really engage in agriculture until 1000 AD a gap of 2000 years over a distance less than 100 kmexplained by the optimal foraging theorybased on the assumption that the choices people make reflect rational selfinterest to maximize efficiency in collecting and processing resourceswould take too much energy to domesticate maize and grow it in Jornada Milagro sitean early agricultural village located outside Tucson Arizona people there lived in pit houses and stored maize in bellshaped pitshad domesticated maize there along with wild plantssite was dated at 2950 years agoMaize agriculture spread to higher altitudes of the Mogollan Highlands and the Colorado Plateau roughly the same time as the occupation of Milagro and Cerro Juanaquenaadoption of agriculture didnt result in development of villages but use of caves intensifiedLots of organic remains found at White Dog Cave in Arizonaorganic artifacts include a net made of fine fiber string over 200 metres long and 1 metre wide and many decorated baskets
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