Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Maize was passed from group to group of Southwestern hunter-gatherers, study suggests

Date:
December 8, 2009
Source:
Washington University in St. Louis
Summary:
An international group of anthropologists offers a new theory about the diffusion of maize to the Southwestern United States and the impact it had. The study suggests that maize was passed from group to group of Southwestern hunter-gatherers.

New research suggests that maize was passed from group to group of Southwestern hunter-gatherers.
Credit: iStockphoto

An international group of anthropologists offers a new theory about the diffusion of maize to the Southwestern United States and the impact it had.

Published the week of Dec. 7 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study, co-authored by Gayle Fritz, Ph.D., professor of anthropology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, and colleagues, suggests that maize was passed from group to group of Southwestern hunter-gatherers.

These people took advantage of improved moisture conditions by integrating a storable and potentially high-yielding crop into their broad-spectrum subsistence strategy.

"For decades, there have been two competing scenarios for the spread of maize and other crops into what is now the U.S. Southwest," Fritz said.

According to the first, groups of farmers migrated northward from central Mexico into northwest Mexico and from there into the Southwest, bringing their crops and associated lifeways with them.

In the second scenario, maize moved northward from central Mexico to be Southwest by being passed from one hunter-gatherer band to the next, who incorporated the crop into their subsistence economies and eventually became farmers themselves.

"The case for long-distance northward migration of Mexican farming societies received a boost about 12 years ago when British archaeologist Peter Bellwood, joined a few years later by geographer Jared Diamond and linguist Jane Hill, included the Southwest in a grand global model in which long-distance migration of agriculturalists explains the spread of many of the world's major language families," Fritz said. "In the Southwest case, Uto-Aztecan-speaking peoples, ancestors of people who speak modern languages, like Comanche and Hopi, would have been responsible for the diffusion."

In this paper, the researchers summarize the most recent archaeological evidence, and integrate what is currently known about early maize in the Southwest with genetic, paleoecological, and historical linguistic studies.

Corn from five sites in Arizona and New Mexico now predates 2,000 B.C., which makes it too early to be explained by diffusion of settled Mexican villagers, said Fritz.

"No artifacts or features of any type point to in-migrating Mesoamerican farmers; in fact, continuity of local traditions is manifested, with independent invention of low-fired ceramics and with the construction of irrigation features in the Tucson Basin dating earlier than any known south of the border," she said. "We interpret the linguistic evidence as favoring a very early (beginning shortly after 7,000 B.C.), north-to-south movement of Proto-Uto-Aztecan hunter-gatherers and subsequent division into northern and southern Uto-Aztecan-speaking groups. "

These two groups do not share words and meanings for maize because, according to the researchers' scenario, farming post-dates their separation.

"We think the Southwest stands as a region in which indigenous foragers adopted crops and made the transition to agriculture locally rather than having been joined or displaced by in-migrating farming societies," Fritz said. "Peter Bellwood may well be correct that long-distance movements account for some examples of the expansion of languages and farming technologies, but cases like that of the Southwest are very important in demonstrating that this pattern did not apply universally."

Lead authors of this study are William L. Merrill of the National Museum of Natural History and Robert J. Hard of University of Texas at San Antonio. Co-authors are Fritz, Karen R. Adams of Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, John R. Roney of Colinas Cultural Resource Consulting and A.C. MacWilliams of University of Calgary.

Full text of the study is available at http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/12/03/0906075106


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Washington University in St. Louis. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. William L. Merrill, Robert J. Hard, Jonathan B. Mabry, Gayle J. Fritz, Karen R. Adams, John R. Roney, and A. C. MacWilliams. The diffusion of maize to the southwestern United States and its impact. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2009; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0906075106

Cite This Page:

Washington University in St. Louis. "Maize was passed from group to group of Southwestern hunter-gatherers, study suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 December 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091208162656.htm>.
Washington University in St. Louis. (2009, December 8). Maize was passed from group to group of Southwestern hunter-gatherers, study suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091208162656.htm
Washington University in St. Louis. "Maize was passed from group to group of Southwestern hunter-gatherers, study suggests." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091208162656.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

AP (July 31, 2014) — Seacrest Wolf Preserve on the northern Florida panhandle allows more than 10,000 visitors each year to get up close and personal with Arctic and British Columbian Wolves. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers

Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers

AP (July 31, 2014) — With Florida's panther population rebounding, some ranchers complain the protected predators are once again killing their calves. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

AP (July 31, 2014) — Sarasota County, Florida health officials have issued a warning against eating raw oysters and exposing open wounds to coastal and inland waters after a dangerous bacteria killed one person and made another sick. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) — Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:  

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile iPhone Android Web
    Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins