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Reconsidering Ancient Caloric Yields from Cultivated Agave in Southern Arizona

Jeff D. Leach
Journal of the Arizona-Nevada Academy of Science
Vol. 39, No. 1 (2007), pp. 18-21
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27641756
Page Count: 4
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Reconsidering Ancient Caloric Yields from Cultivated Agave in Southern Arizona
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Abstract

Archaeological research in the northern Tucson Basin over the last two decades has confirmed that species of the genus "Agave" were cultivated in extensive agricultural fields marked by the presence of rock piles, terraces, and check dams. Researchers estimate that ∼10,000 agaves were harvested annually from a standing population of >100,000 cultivated plants in the larger fields, potentially providing the annual caloric requirements for as many as 155 persons. However, the annual caloric return from harvested agave has been overestimated by ∼55% when you consider that inulintype fructans are the major storage carbohydrate in agave. As a nondigestible carbohydrate, inulin and its subgroup oligofructose are not absorbed in the small intestine, but are fermented in the large bowel and thus have a lower net energy value than traditional carbohydrates such as starch.

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