TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Ancient farmers were growing sunflowers in Mexico more than 4,000 years before the Spaniards arrived, according to a team of researchers that includes Florida State University anthropologist Mary D. Pohl.
In an article published in the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), Pohl and lead author David Lentz of the University of Cincinnati said their evidence confirms that farmers began growing sunflowers in Mexico by 2600 B.C. The paper is in response to scientists who still believe that sunflowers were first domesticated as an agricultural crop in eastern North America and that the Spaniards introduced the sunflower to Mexico from further north.
The evidence shows that sunflower was actually domesticated twice -- in Mexico and then again hundreds of miles away in the Middle Mississippi Valley, Pohl said.
In fact, the researchers argue that after the Spanish Conquest, the Spaniards tried to suppress cultivation of the sunflower because of its association with solar religion and warfare.
Jos Luis Alvarado from Mexicos Institute of Anthropology and History, Robert Bye from the Independent National University of Mexico, and UC graduate student Somayeh Tarighatis also are co-authors of the PNAS study. The research was funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society.
Pohl and Kevin Pope of Geo Eco Arc Research discovered the early domesticated remains of sunflower a decade ago during an excavation of the San Andrs site in the modern-day Gulf Coast state of Tabasco. Alvarado found more evidence for domesticated sunflower in a dry cave deposit at Cueva del Gallo in the west Mexican state of Morelos in the form of three large achenes, or shells.
The Cueva del Gallo shells are in excellent condition and have unmistakable sunflower traits, removing all doubt about the pre-Columbian presence of domesticated sunflower in Mexico, Po
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