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Tue Feb 26, 2013, 03:59 AM

Maize was key in early Andean civilisation, study shows

25 February 2013 Last updated at 22:57 ET
Maize was key in early Andean civilisation, study shows
By Mark Kinver
Environment reporter, BBC News

New evidence strengthens the argument that maize played an important role in ancient Peruvian civilisation 5,000 years ago, a study has said.

Samples taken from pollen records, stone tool residues and fossilised faeces suggest the food crop was actively grown, processed and eaten.

The authors say it adds more weight to the argument that Andean society was agricultural, not maritime-based.

"If you look at the origins of civilisations around the world - from Egypt to China and India - they are all based on agriculture," explained co-author Jonathan Haas from The Field Museum, Chicago.

However, he told BBC News that an idea emerged that Andean early civilisation was different, and evolved from exploiting marine resources.


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Reply Maize was key in early Andean civilisation, study shows (Original post)
Judi Lynn Feb 2013 OP
Judi Lynn Feb 2013 #1

Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Tue Feb 26, 2013, 11:13 AM

1. Study finds maize in diets of people in coastal Peru dates to 5,000 years ago

Study finds maize in diets of people in coastal Peru dates to 5,000 years ago
February 26, 2013

For decades, archaeologists have struggled with understanding the emergence of a distinct South American civilization during the Late Archaic period (3000-1800 B.C.) in Peru.

One of the persistent questions has been the role of agriculture and particularly corn (maize) in the evolution of complex, centralized societies. Up until now, the prevailing theory was that marine resources, not agriculture and corn, provided the economic engine behind the development of civilization in the Andean region of Peru.

Now, breakthrough research led by Field Museum curator Dr. Jonathan Haas is providing new resolution to the issue by looking at microscopic evidence found in soil, on stone tools, and in coprolites from ancient sites and dated with over 200 Carbon-14 dates.

After years of study, Haas and his colleagues have concluded that during the Late Archaic, maize (Zea mays, or corn) was indeed a primary component in the diet of people living in the Norte Chico region of Peru, an area of remarkable cultural florescence in 3rd millennium B.C. Their research is the subject of a paper that appears in the online Early Edition issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) the week of February 25, 2013..

“This new body of evidence demonstrates quite clearly that the very earliest emergence of civilization in South America was indeed based on agriculture as in the other great civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, and China,” said Haas.


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