Skip to comments.Mummy's Amazing American Maize
Posted on 02/14/2007 8:49:13 AM PST by blam
Mummys amazing American maize
The far-reaching influence of Spanish and Portuguese colonisers appears not to have extended to South American agriculture, scientists studying Andean mummies up to 1,400 years old have found.
The University of Manchester researchers working with colleagues in Buenos Aires compared the DNA of ancient maize found in the funerary offerings of the mummy and at other sites in northwest Argentina with that grown in the same region today.
Surprisingly, they found both ancient and modern samples of the crop were genetically almost identical indicating that modern European influence has not been as great as previously thought.
The entire culture of South America changed when the Europeans arrived in the 15th century everything from the language to the whole way of life, explained Professor Terry Brown, who headed the research in the Faculty of Life Sciences.
Maize is the staple food crop of the region but prior to colonisation it also had a ritual significance the indigenous people were amazed by maize and even worshipped it.
Given the immense changes that took place in South America following the arrival of the Europeans it is surprising that this crop has remained unaltered for hundreds of years.
Professor Browns research partner, Dr Veronica Lia from the Universidad de Buenos Aires, said: "This is the first time that archaeological remains from Argentina have been used in ancient DNA studies.
Retrieving DNA from archaeological specimens can be a disappointing task, since only a reduced proportion of few remains are sufficiently well-preserved for DNA to be recovered. Fortunately, we were able to overcome this obstacle and to perform genetic analyses with both cobs and kernels.
As the southernmost extreme of the spread of maize cultivation before the Europeans arrived, this region of the Andes offers very exciting possibilities in terms of the genetic diversity it may harbour.
Our findings reflect the perpetuation, generation after generation, of the traditions of the native the farmers that inhabit this area.
Using the new facilities in the Manchester Interdisciplinary Biocentre a cross-faculty institute at the University Professor Brown is now examining the DNA of ancient Peruvian maize up to 6,000 years old to determine if these much older specimens are also similar to modern crops.
During 1400 years the corn didn't evolve!?!
but, but this can't be!
Some plant species were already genetically selected for high yield by farmers and maxed out thousands of years ago. I can think of a few crops that haven't improved in yield for a looooong time. However, wheat has become so dis-similar from its pre-agricultural form that the older version of wheat is sold as "spelt," supposedly a low-protein ancient version that is easier to digest.
Farmers use evolution all the time. If you're gonna breed cattle, do you want the thin sickly ones to be parents? Probably not, if you plan to stay in business.
"Farmers use evolution all the time."
Genetic selection (for desireable traits) is used in agriculture.
The gene pool stays the same, just certain traits are selected for and expressed.
Corn was a staple crop in the Andes? Were there potatoes in Mexico, then?
evolution natural selection all the time."
If it isn't too much of an imposition, what is a cacique? The Spanish dictionary doesn't have it.
Actually when farmers do it, it's called artificial selection. I know if you want to get technical, natural & artificial selection are't proven to create new species (since the process would take a lot longer than human science has existed) but the example of the difference between the wheat of today and spelt still stands. The gene pool DOES change, you simply can't get spelt to produce wheat in a single generation when it took 10,000 years of intentional selection to make it happen.
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Absent the mill, the stuff might as well be cardboard if used for sustenance.
You could type that farmers use designed selection......just an idea.
Are you sure that spelt has less protein than modern wheat. I had the impression it was as good or higher. I know that short grained rice has a higher protein comtent than long grain rice.
A cacique is a native chief. I have used on line dictionaries to try to translate Spanish language newspaper articles. I find they only define about 1/2 the words I am looking for. May Spanish is already reasonably good, so these are the less common words. There is a dictionary by Cuyas that is like the Webster for Spanish.
Appreciate the definition of cacique.
(Thanks for including me on the ping.)
Maize? "Maize"??? What the heck is Maize?
I think they must mean "choclo."