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Early Maize (Zea mays) in the North American Central Plains: The Microbotanical Evidence

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 April 2022

Mary J. Adair*
Affiliation:
Division of Archaeology, Biodiversity Institute, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, USA
Neil A. Duncan
Affiliation:
Paleoethnobotany and Environmental Archaeology Laboratory, Department of Anthropology, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL, USA (neil.duncan@ucf.edu)
Danielle N. Young
Affiliation:
Independent Researcher, USA (dnllyng@gmail.com)
Steven R. Bozarth
Affiliation:
Palynology and Phytolith Laboratory, Biodiversity Institute, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, USA (sbozarth@ku.edu)
Robert K. Lusteck
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, Minneapolis College, MN, USA (zeamays001@gmail.com)
*
(madair@ku.edu, corresponding author)

Abstract

Artifacts, including ceramics, ground stone, and soil samples, as well as dental calculus, recovered from sites in the eastern North American central Plains were submitted to multiple laboratories for analysis of microbotanical remains. Direct accelerator mass spectrometer (AMS) dates of 361–197 cal BC provide evidence for the earliest use of maize (Zea mays ssp. mays) in this region. Squash (Cucurbita sp.), wild rice (cf. Zizania spp.), and palm (Arecaceae sp.) microremains were also found. This research adds to the growing evidence of the importance of microbotanical analysis in documenting plant use and in the identification of early maize. The combined data on early maize from the eastern Plains adds to our understanding of the timing and dispersal of this crop out of the American Southwest. Alternative explanations for the adoption and early use of maize by eastern central Plains communities include its value as a secondary resource, as an addition to an existing farming strategy, or as a component of Middle Woodland rituals.

Artefactos, incluida la cerámica, la piedra de molino, la muestra de suelo, y el cálculo dental recuperados de sitios en el este de las llanuras centrales de América del Norte fueron enviados a varios laboratorios para análisis de los restos micro botánicos. La espectrometría de masas con acelerador indica fechas de 361 a 197 cal BC y proporciona evidencia para el uso más antiguo del maíz (Zea mays ssp. mays) en estaregión. La presencia de la calabaza (Cucurbita sp.), el arroz salvaje (Zizania spp.), y la palma (Arecaceae sp.) identifica la selección de otras plantas. Esta investigación añade a la evidencia creciente de la importancia del análisis micro botánico en la documentación del uso de plantas y la identificación del maíz antiguo. La información combinada sobre maíz antiguo de las llanuras orientales añade a nuestro conocimiento del tiempo y la dispersión de esta cosecha desde el suroeste americano. Explicaciones alternativas para la adopción y el uso antiguo de maíz por las comunidades en el este de las llanuras centrales incluyen su valor como recurso secundario, como adición a una estrategia agrícola existente, o como un componente en los rituales del periodo silvícola medio.

Type
Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Society for American Archaeology

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