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Plant Material from a Cave on the Rio Zape, Durango, Mexico

Richard H. Brooks, Lawrence Kaplan, Hugh C. Cutler and Thomas W. Whitaker
American Antiquity
Vol. 27, No. 3 (Jan., 1962), pp. 356-369
DOI: 10.2307/277801
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/277801
Page Count: 14
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Plant Material from a Cave on the Rio Zape, Durango, Mexico
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Abstract

Plant remains from La Cueva de los Muertos Chiquitos consist mostly of cultivated plants, beans, corn, and cucurbits. The inhabitants also gathered acorns, pinon nuts, black walnuts, and opuntia fruits for food, and used yucca, agave, and possibly cotton for fibers. The beans are unusually abundant and diverse: three species and 12 types or varieties. A type of lima bean (Phaseolus lunatus) and two common beans (P. vulgaris), one of them similar to the cultivar Wells Red Kidney, are new to the Southwest and to northwestern Mexico. The lima bean is of interest because it belongs to the round-seeded Carib group with a center of diversification in the West Indies, whereas other lima beans from the prehistoric Southwest are mostly small-seeded and flat, probably derived from Central America. Five races of corn are represented: an ancient race called Chapalote; Cristalina de Chihuahua, the most numerous race in the collections; Onaveno, a race with medium-sized, hard-flint kernels; Pima-Papago, the common soft flour corn of the Arizona-Sonora border; and Toluca Pop, a central Mexican pyramidal, pointed popcorn. Cob fragments and grains show definite evidence of hybridization with Tripsacum or teosinte. Three species of cultivated Cucurbitaceae, a wild species of Cucurbita, and a species of Apodanthera were identified. Fragments of gourds, mostly Lagenaria siceraria, are relatively abundant. Seeds and peduncles of Cucurbita pepo occur in strata throughout the entire profile. Cucurbita mixta was found in the later strata, but remains of this species are meagre. Seeds of Apodanthera sp. may have been used for food. A single wood sample from near the base of the midden produced a radiocarbon date of A.D. 660 (1300 ± 100 B.P.).

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