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Ancient sunflower fuels debate about agriculture in the Americas
Date:4/28/2008

by the first millennium B.C., that it was well known to the Aztecs, and that it is still in use by traditional Mesoamerican cultures today. (People of the Americas made huge contributions to todays society in terms of agriculture, including the development of a number of valuable crops such as corn, peppers, beans, cotton, squash, chocolate, tomatoes and avocadoes, as well as sunflower.)

But it is unknown if the Mexican domestication and North American domestication are related. So is it coincidence" Did one cause the other" Or did they both happen because of some other common outside factor"

Whatever conclusions we draw, the evidence clearly shows that sunflower as a Mexican crop goes back far into antiquity, says Lentz.

In addition to the biogeographic study of sunflower, the researchers conducted archaeological, linguistic, ethnographic and ethnohistorical research, collecting data from many fields of study.

Archaeological evidence of sunflower in Mexico has been rare, probably for a number of reasons. First, the way it was used may not have been conducive to deposition in archaeological sites. Second, climatic conditions, especially in the Neotropics, have bad properties of preservation for plant parts so most things just rot away. Finally, archaeological research strategies in many areas of Mesoamerica focus more on monumental architecture and less on agricultural developments. That is, you are unlikely to find something if you are not looking for it.

Nevertheless, sunflower achenes (this is what most of us call the seed, but it is actually the fruit of the sunflower, containing the seed) were found in Mexico in situations where the preservation was especially good. Cueva del Gallo was a dry cave and the sunflower achenes there were in pristine condition. San Andrs was a waterlogged site and the sunflower remains from that site were also well preserved. Using accelerator mass spectrometry, the su
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Contact: Wendy Hart Beckman
wendy.beckman@uc.edu
513-556-1826
University of Cincinnati
Source:Eurekalert  

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