Navigation Links
UC research examines ancient Puebloans and the myth of maize
Date:4/2/2013

Research from the University of Cincinnati shows that perhaps the ancient Puebloans weren't as into the maize craze as once thought.

Nikki Berkebile, a graduate student in anthropology in UC's McMicken College of Arts & Sciences, has been studying the subsistence habits of Puebloans, or Anasazi, who lived on the southern rim of the Grand Canyon in the late 11th century. Traditional ethnographic literature indicates these ancient American Indians were heavily dependent on maize as a food source, but Berkebile isn't so sure about that.

"I'm trying to assess sustainable subsistence strategies within the time period of the site," Berkebile says. "I'm not trying to bash anyone who says maize is not on the table, because I have maize in my samples. I'm just saying maize is not as important as once thought."

Berkebile will present her research, "Investigating Subsistence Diversity in the Upper Basin: New Archaeobotanical Analysis at MU 125," at the 78th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA), held April 3-7 in Honolulu. More than 3,000 scientists from around the world attend the event to learn about research covering a broad range of topics and time periods.

The MU 125 archaeological site in northern Arizona features a multi-room masonry structure occupied by the ancient Puebloans from 1070-1090. Berkebile looks for ancient plant remains inside soil samples excavated from the site. She uses a "flotation" technique to reveal the secrets hidden within the ancient earth. By dropping the soil into water-filled buckets and swirling them just right, the lightweight bits of plants will rise to the water's surface, allowing them to be skimmed off. Berkebile analyzes and catalogs those often tiny plant fragments with help from a small team of fellow graduate and undergraduate students.

What she's found so far suggests the Puebloans of MU 125 dined on much more than just maize. Berkebile has uncovered many examples of other plant life the Puebloans might have used as a food source such as purslane, pinyon nut, juniper berries, globemallow and even cactus. The diverse amount of wild resources combined with the area's scarcity of water and seasonal climate prone to periods of drought and frost makes Berkebile think the Puebloans had to rely on more than maize to survive.

"If you think about the climate of the Upper Basin, there's only 145 frost-free days in which you could grow maize," Berkebile says. "What are you going to do for those months when you don't have anything?"

Berkebile thinks it's likely the Puebloans lived at the MU 125 site year-round and to do so they would have needed to develop sustainable agricultural methods that complemented their maize crops. She uses the plant samples she's found at the site to assess the Puebloans' agricultural strategy. Her research splits the strategy into three categories:

  • Cultivated wild resources: These are hardy and easy-to-cultivate plants that existed in the Southwest a thousand years before maize. Examples at MU 125 include purslane, globemallow and chenopodium.

  • Gathered wild resources: These are also Southwestern plants that predated maize, but they weren't necessarily actively cultivated. Puebloans would gather what they needed from these plants and bring them home to process. Examples at MU 125 include pinyon nut, juniper berries and cactus.

  • Domesticated resources: These are plants brought to the Southwest by humans and made to adapt to the environment. Examples at MU 125 include maize and possibly a type of bean.

Berkebile hopes her research can be a game-changer in how archaeologists perceive ancient cultures' reliance on maize, and also a mind-changer in the way modern society views its environmental resources. She thinks there are aspects of the Puebloans' intercropping strategies and implementation of wild resources that could be adapted to a modern context. More importantly, she thinks how Puebloans thought about food is an important lesson for today.

"We think that we can just go to the grocery store any time and get whatever we want," Berkebile says. "To the ancient Puebloans, it was all about seasonal availability. And if we have a mind-set that we can have certain foods when they are in season, the process becomes a lot more sustainable."


'/>"/>

Contact: Tom Robinette
tom.robinette@uc.edu
513-556-1825
University of Cincinnati
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Study by UC Santa Barbara researchers suggests that bacteria communicate by touch
2. Research reveals first evidence of hunting by prehistoric Ohioans
3. Diabetes Research Institute develops oxygen-generating biomaterial
4. APS issues new policy requiring identification of sex or gender in reporting scientific research
5. UC Santa Barbara researchers discover genetic link between visual pathways of hydras and humans
6. Study jointly led by UCSB researcher supports theory of extraterrestrial impact
7. U of Alberta researcher steps closer to understand autoimmune diseases
8. Research on flavanols and procyanidins provides new insights into how these phytonutrients may positively impact human health
9. A project to research biological and chemical aspects of microalgae to fuel approach
10. Scripps Research discoveries lead to newly approved drug for infant respiratory distress syndrome
11. Researchers attempt to solve problems of antibiotic resistance and bee deaths in one
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:2/3/2016)... --> --> ... Fingerprint Identification System Market by Component (Hardware and Software), ... Finance, Government, Healthcare, and Transportation) and Geography - Global ... expected to be worth USD 8.49 Billion by 2020 ... 2020. The transformation and technology evolution from the manual ...
(Date:2/2/2016)... , Feb. 2, 2016 This ... the bioinformatic market by reviewing the recent advances ... tools that drive the field forward. Includes forecast ... Identify the challenges and opportunities that exist ... and software solution developers, as well as IT ...
(Date:2/2/2016)... 2, 2016  Based on its recent analysis ... recognizes US-based Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems (IRIS) with ... for New Product Innovation. IRIS, a prominent cloud-based ... America , is poised to set the ... retinopathy market. The IRIS technology presents superior price-performance ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/11/2016)... Non-profit Consortium Aims to Generate Genomic Information for ... Discovery --> --> The ... sequence 100,000 individuals. It is intended to initially include populations ... North and East Asian countries. --> ... focus on creating phased reference genomes for all major Asian ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... ATLANTA , Feb. 11, 2016  Spectra BioPharma ... Organization (CSO) that provides biopharma companies the experience, ... implement and deploy outsourced sales teams. Created in ... team addresses both the strategic and tactical needs ... innovative sales solutions through both personal and non-personal ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... 11, 2016   BioInformant announces the February ... Research Products, Opportunities, Tools, and Technologies – Market Size, ... The first and ... cell industry, BioInformant has more than a decade of ... market, by stem cell type. This powerful 175 page ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... 2016 Early-career researchers from ... , Uganda and Yemen ... and nutrition   Indonesia , Nepal ... and Yemen are being honored for their accomplishments ... also celebrated for mentoring young women scientists who are pursuing careers in ...
Breaking Biology Technology: