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

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