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The Earliest Archaeological Maize (Zea mays L.) from Highland Mexico: New Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Dates and Their Implications

D. R. Piperno and K. V. Flannery
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Vol. 98, No. 4 (Feb. 13, 2001), pp. 2101-2103
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3055007
Page Count: 3
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The Earliest Archaeological Maize (Zea mays L.) from Highland Mexico: New Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Dates and Their Implications
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Abstract

Accelerator mass spectrometry age determinations of maize cobs (Zea mays L.) from Guilá Naquitz Cave in Oaxaca, Mexico, produced dates of 5,400 carbon-14 years before the present (about 6,250 calendar years ago), making those cobs the oldest in the Americas. Macrofossils and phytoliths characteristic of wild and domesticated Zea fruits are absent from older strata from the site, although Zea pollen has previously been identified from those levels. These results, together with the modern geographical distribution of wild Zea mays, suggest that the cultural practices that led to Zea domestication probably occurred elsewhere in Mexico. Guilá Naquitz Cave has now yielded the earliest macrofossil evidence for the domestication of two major American crop plants, squash (Cucurbita pepo) and maize.

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