Navigation Links
Researchers find 6,000-year-old fossil evidence

Researchers, including a paleoethnobotanist at the University of Missouri-Columbia, recently found fossil evidence in seven archaeological sites ranging from the Bahamas to present-day Peru that showed people were eating domesticated chili peppers as long as 6,000 years ago. This makes chili peppers one of the oldest domesticated food sources in the Americas. The study will be published in the Feb. 15 edition of the journal Science.

"Before our research, there wasn't much archaeological evidence to show that prehistoric people in Central and South America were eating domesticated chili peppers," said Deborah Pearsall, professor of anthropology in MU's College of Arts and Science. "Chili peppers don't preserve well because when you cook with them, you eat most of them; you don't have husks or shells that are thrown away and preserved. That's why we used a technique that involved analyzing microscopic starch grains on cooking and grinding tools to find this new evidence."

Pearsall, who studied tools from sites in Ecuador and the Bahamas, teamed with a group of scientists doing research in various locations in Central and South America; the project was led by Linda Perry, a research associate at the Smithsonian National Museum of Nature History's Archaeobiology Program. Perry discovered an unknown microfossil starch grain while doing research in Venezuela, and when the other researchers compared notes, they realized that their work in the Bahamas, Panama, Ecuador and Peru also revealed the same unknown starch grain. After studying the starches of many domesticated and wild plants, Perry determined that the mystery starch was a chili pepper.

"We knew from historic and ethnographic records that people were eating domesticated chili peppers, but this archaeological evidence confirms those findings. It also shows us that chili peppers are one of the oldest domesticated food sources in the Americas and that people in distant areas all ate them. Th is suggests that these groups might have had some type of contact with each other," Pearsall said.

Loma Alta and Real Alto, the sites in southwestern Ecuador studied by Pearsall, turned up the oldest starch of domesticated chili peppers, at approximately 6,000 years old. Starch of the peppers in other sites ranged from approximately 5,600 years to 500 years old. Under a microscope, the starch grains appeared as large, flattened disks with shallow central depressions, different from the appearance of starch grains from other foods.

This discovery enables researchers to gain a better picture of ancient diets. By analyzing the grains on cooking tools, they were able to determine that people used the same grinding stones to grind corn, chili peppers and a root crop called manioc, and they probably combined these ingredients to make soups, stews and other dishes. Pearsall found evidence of this diet on grinding stones from four ancient households at Real Alto, leading her to conclude that these foods were eaten by everyone, not just the commoners or the elites.


Source:University of Missouri-Columbia

Related biology news :

1. Researchers discover way to make cells in the eye sensitive to light
2. Researchers find how protein allows insects to detect and respond to pheromones
3. Researchers Uncover Key Step In Manufacture of Memory Protein
4. Researchers reveal the infectious impact of salmon farms on wild salmon
5. Researchers identify target for cancer drugs
6. Researchers discover molecule that causes secondary stroke
7. Researchers find missing genes of ancient organism
8. Researchers trace evolution to relatively simple genetic changes
9. Researchers add new tool to tumor-treatment arsenal
10. UF Researchers Map Bacterial Proteins That Cause Tooth Loss
11. VCU Researchers Identify Networks Of Genes Responding To Alcohol In The Brain
Post Your Comments:

(Date:4/19/2017)... New York , April 19, 2017 ... competitive, as its vendor landscape is marked by the ... the market is however held by five major players ... Safran. Together these companies accounted for nearly 61% of ... of the leading companies in the global military biometrics ...
(Date:4/11/2017)... , April 11, 2017 Crossmatch®, ... secure authentication solutions, today announced that it has ... Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) to develop next-generation ... program. "Innovation has been a driving ... Thor program will allow us to innovate and ...
(Date:4/5/2017)... 2017  The Allen Institute for Cell Science today ... one-of-a-kind portal and dynamic digital window into the human ... first application of deep learning to create predictive models ... and a growing suite of powerful tools. The Allen ... future publicly available resources created and shared by the ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/10/2017)... firm Parks Associates announced today that Tom Kerber , ... Meeting , October 11 in Scottsdale, Arizona . Kerber ... smart safety and security products impact the competitive landscape. ... Parks Associates: Smart Home Devices: Main Purchase Driver ... "The residential security market has experienced continued growth, and the introduction ...
(Date:10/9/2017)... Oct. 9, 2017  BioTech Holdings announced today ... which its ProCell stem cell therapy prevents limb ... The Company, demonstrated that treatment with ProCell resulted ... saved as compared to standard bone marrow stem ... resulted in reduction of therapeutic effect.  ...
(Date:10/9/2017)... ... October 09, 2017 , ... ... 2017, in the medical journal, Epilepsia, Brain Sentinel’s SPEAC® System which uses ... EEG, in detecting generalized tonic-clonic seizures (GTCS) using surface electromyography (sEMG). The ...
(Date:10/6/2017)... ... October 06, 2017 , ... The HealthTech Venture Network (HTVN) ... their fourth annual Conference where founders, investors, innovative practitioners and collaborators are invited ... competition showcasing early stage digital health and med tech companies. , This day-long ...
Breaking Biology Technology: