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An Introduction to Maize Cobs and Cultures

  • John E. StallerEmail author
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Abstract

The importance of maize (Zea mays L.) has long been critical to our understanding of the development of pre-Hispanic cultures in the New World. Our perceptions and conceptions regarding its roles and importance to ancient economies are largely the product of scientific research on the plant itself, this developed, for the most part, out of botanical research and scholarship in plant biology and its recent role as one of the most important economic staples in the world. The mutability of the plant and its ability to adapt and reproduce in a wide variety of environmental circumstances led to the previously untested assumption that its central economic role to sociocultural development was at the very basis of its transformation from its wild progenitor Zea mays ssp. parviglumis to domesticated corn (Matsuoka et al. 2002). The morphological and botanical research surrounding maize has also had a profound influence upon archaeological interpretation, since those biological data set the limits of what was possible regarding the origins of maize and provided a basis for understanding its biogeography in different regions of the Americas. Anthropological research in the early part of the last century based largely on the historical particularistic approach of the Boasian tradition provided the first evidence that challenged the assumptions about the economic importance of maize to sociocultural developments for scholars of prehistory. These and subsequent ethnographic studies showed that the role of maize among Native American cultures was much more complex than just as a food staple.

Keywords

Archaeological Record Botanical Research Domestication Event Early Maize Maize Agriculture 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyThe Field MuseumChicagoUSA

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