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

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

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