Skip to comments.Ancient Corncobs Unlock Riddle
Posted on 10/14/2003 3:41:39 PM PDT by blam
Ancient corncobs unlock riddle
By MIKE TONER
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Prehistoric populations in the American Southwest transported corn over long distances -- and used networks of "farm to market" roads that enabled them to support large cities in areas that were unsuitable for agriculture.
New studies of ancient corncobs show that large urban complexes like Chaco Canyon that thrived a thousand years ago in New Mexico imported corn from fertile farmlands that were 50 miles or more from major population centers.
Archaeologists have long wondered how the sophisticated Chaco civilization, which built huge multistory dwellings in the high desert of north-central New Mexico, thrived in such an arid climate. The answer, in a word: imports.
Earlier research established that the Chaco people hauled by hand a quarter-million logs from the slopes of the Chuska Mountains, 50 miles to the west, to erect their "capital" city, a site now known as Pueblo Bonito. Until now, however, the question of how they fed themselves had remained a puzzle.
"This is the first time we have been able to document the importation of a food crop," said archaeologist Linda Cordell, director of the University of Colorado Museum. "It's clear that these people had a highly coordinated system for planting, harvesting, storing and distributing food. This society was infinitely more complex than anyone ever imagined."
At its height, Pueblo Bonito is thought to have supported between 6,000 and 12,000 people. Excavations of the largest building have found hundreds of rooms, turquoise ornaments, unusual cylindrical jars, finely crafted spear points and icons of tropical birds from Central America.
Beyond the central city, a network of roads led to outlying villages that were scattered across more than 23,000 square miles of the San Juan Basin.
In the past, archaeologists had assumed that a more equable climate between the 9th and 12th centuries enabled the people of Pueblo Bonito to grow their food nearby. Tree ring analysis, however, suggests the climate has changed little in the last thousand years.
The latest findings, reported Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that prehistoric Americans were as adept at importing their food from distant locations as later cultures.
Maize, the ancient forerunner of modern corn, was the dietary staple of the Chaco culture. Because the cobs found at Pueblo Bonito contain distinctive ratios of trace elements from the crop's water source, scientists have been able to trace them to two widely separated regions -- both 50 miles from the central city. In one crop growing region, along the floodplain of the San Juan River, there are hints that the ancient farmers may have built many miles of ditches for water diversion.
The latest discovery attests to the value of preserving archaeological resources, no matter how insignificant they may seem. Corncobs used for the latest analysis were excavated from Chaco Canyon in the late 1800s and preserved in a museum collection.
Archaeologists say trace element analysis of preserved plant materials elsewhere in the Americas -- from seeds of foodstuffs to the grass used for baskets -- may open a new window on prehistoric cultures that left no written records, enabling them to link ancient population centers with the resources they used.
Let me know if you wish to be added or removed from this ping list.
Spiritual guidance? (Give us corn and we won't eat you)
Exactly! Something very nasty was brewing down there and a lot of archaeologists seem to need to be dragged kicking and screaming to the obvious conclusion.
That's seems to be pretty much always the case. I suspect grant money has something to due with it.
It gets even stranger, Dr Nancy Yaw Davis makes a compelling case in her book The Zuni Enigma that the Japanese replaced the American Indians in that area.
The Zuni language and blood type is unlike all other American Indians. The Japanese were on a search for the center of the earth and decided that they had found it there.
"For many years, anthropologists have understood the Zuni in the American Southwest to occupy a special place in Native American culture and ethnography. Their language, religion, and blood type are startlingly different from all other tribes. Most puzzling, the Zuni appear to have much in common with the people of Japan. "
Lawrence Keeley tells a very interesting story in his book War Before Civilization (which I highly recommend) about getting a previously denied grant by changing the word "fortifications" (implying warfare) to "enclosures" (implying a peaceful purpose) in his grant request. The illustration he provides showing the distribution of arrow heads that he found around one of the "enclosures" shows just how rediculous the peaceful interpretation is.
See also the movie, Ravenous .
Likewise, it would be interesting to see if there was a DNA match between Aztecs and earlier inhabitants of the region (ie, pre-Anasazi). That would seem to help validate or help invalidate the MeCHA claim that the ancestral homeland of the Mexican people is in the southwestern U.S.
Just updating the GGG info, not sending a general distribution.
· Discover · Nat Geographic · Texas AM Anthro News · Yahoo Anthro & Archaeo · Google ·
· The Archaeology Channel · Excerpt, or Link only? · cgk's list of ping lists ·