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Scientific, Botanical, and Biological Research on Maize

  • John E. StallerEmail author
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Abstract

This chapter takes an historical approach to maize research. It is focused on early studies in the archaeological and biological sciences: How did these studies indirectly influence the current debates? How were these debates directly influenced by earlier research on plant domestication in the Old World? How are the methodological approaches taken by the New World archaeologists, specialized in domestication and early agriculture, different from those taken by such specialists in the Old World? How do these differences affect the history of research on the origins and spread of maize? Recent groundbreaking results from maize geneticists have indicated that earlier archaeological interpretations of plant domestication and the economic significance of maize need to be reconsidered, yet earlier research and interpretations continue to strongly influence the current research. The term domestication has come to be used in the archaeological and biological literature as referring to a symbiotic relationship among human populations, the local ecology, a mutualism or coevolution that is not necessarily dependent on human involvement, particularly with reference to resource management. In this volume, domestication is defined as the genetic change brought about in a biotic population as a result of interactions with humans, and leads to a dependence relationship (Benz and Staller 2006, p. 665). These definitions on the process of domestication are more in line with those generally published in the biological sciences. Prior to the recent developments in direct dating and molecular biology, archaeologists and historians perceived agricultural practices surrounding primary economic cultigens in terms of a culture history. There appears to have been a general consensus with regard to the economic importance of food plants such as maize in the ancient past, in part because maize was seen as analogous to wheat and barley in the Old World.

Keywords

Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Wild Grass Maize Landrace Modern Maize Domesticate Maize 
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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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyThe Field MuseumChicagoUSA

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