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Early Prehistoric Maize in Northern Highland Ecuador

  • J. Stephen Athens (a1), Jerome V. Ward (a2), Deborah M. Pearsall (a3), Karol Chandler-Ezell (a4), Dean W. Blinn (a5) and Alex E. Morrison (a6)...

Abstract

The discovery of the fully developed Formative sites of Cotocallao (ca. 3750-2350 cal. B.P.) in the Quito Basin and La Chimba (ca. 2650-1700 cal. B.P.) in the northern highlands of Ecuador has raised questions about their cultural antecedents, which have not been resolved despite decades of archaeological work in the region. Paleoenvironmental coring investigations were conducted at Lake San Pablo in northern highland Ecuador to determine the date for the onset of prehistoric maize farming in the temperate highland valleys of this region. The investigations included analysis of lake sediments for pollen, phytoliths, diatoms, and tephra. Maize pollen was identified as early as 4900 cal. B.P., while maize phytoliths dated even earlier, to 6200 or 6600 cal. B.P. These results demonstrate a long history of maize farming in valleys around Lake San Pablo, but in the context of a punctuated record of major and minor volcanic eruptions. It is concluded that early horticultural sites predating Cotocallao and La Chimba must exist, but to find such sites, archaeologists will have to locate and study deeply buried A-horizon soils.

Resumen

El descubrimiento en la sierra del Ecuador de sitios completamente desarrollados del periodo Formativo como Cotocollao (aproximadamente 3750 a 2350 cal. a.P.) y La Chimba (aproximadamente 2650 a 1700 cal. a.P.) en el valle de Quito y en la sierra norte, respectivamente, ha generado preguntas acerca de sus antecedentes culturales. Estas no han sido sin resueltas, aun con décadas de trabajos arqueolόgicos efectuados en la regiόn. Se realizaron,por lo tanto, investigaciones paleoambientales en el Lago San Pablo de la sierra norte del Ecuador, mediante la extracciόn de niicleos de sedimentos, para determinar en quefechas se inicio el cultivo prehistόrico del maiz en los templados valles de esta region. Las investigaciones de sedimentos incluyeron el análisis de polen, defitolitos, de diatomeas y de tefra. Se pudo identificar polen antiguo de maiz en contextos fechados en 4900 cal. a.P., mientras que los fitoUtos de la mismaplanta se ubican enfechas más antiguas cercanas al 6200 o 6600 cal. a.P. Estos resultados demuestran una larga historia del cultivo de maίz en los valles que rodean al Lago San Pablo, aunque en el contexto de un registro espordáico de erupciones volcánicas de mayor y menor escala. Se concluye que deben existir sitios hortίcolas que preceden a Cotocollao yaLa Chimba. Para hallar tales sitios, los arqueόlogos tendrán que buscar e investigar horizontes A profundamente enterrados.

Copyright

Corresponding author

Corresponding author: jsathens@iarii.org

References

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Early Prehistoric Maize in Northern Highland Ecuador

  • J. Stephen Athens (a1), Jerome V. Ward (a2), Deborah M. Pearsall (a3), Karol Chandler-Ezell (a4), Dean W. Blinn (a5) and Alex E. Morrison (a6)...

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