Letter

Nature 440, 76-79 (2 March 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature04294; Received 23 May 2005; Accepted 29 September 2005

Early maize agriculture and interzonal interaction in southern Peru

Linda Perry1, Daniel H. Sandweiss2,3, Dolores R. Piperno1,4, Kurt Rademaker3, Michael A. Malpass5, Adán Umire6 and Pablo de la Vera7

Over the past decade, increasing attention to the recovery and identification of plant microfossil remains from archaeological sites located in lowland South America has significantly increased knowledge of pre-Columbian plant domestication and crop plant dispersals in tropical forests and other regions1, 2, 3, 4. Along the Andean mountain chain, however, the chronology and trajectory of plant domestication are still poorly understood for both important indigenous staple crops such as the potato (Solanum sp.) and others exogenous to the region, for example, maize (Zea mays)5, 6. Here we report the analyses of plant microremains from a late preceramic house (3,431 plusminus 45 to 3,745 plusminus 65 14C bp or approx3,600 to 4,000 calibrated years bp) in the highland southern Peruvian site of Waynuna. Our results extend the record of maize by at least a millennium in the southern Andes, show on-site processing of maize into flour, provide direct evidence for the deliberate movement of plant foods by humans from the tropical forest to the highlands, and confirm the potential of plant microfossil analysis in understanding ancient plant use and migration in this region.

  1. Archaeobiology Program, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, PO Box 37012, MRC 112, Washington, DC 20013-7012, USA
  2. Department of Anthropology, S. Stevens Hall, University of Maine, Orono, Maine 04469-5773, USA
  3. Climate Change Institute, Bryand Global Sciences Center, University of Maine, Orono, Maine 04469, USA
  4. Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Apartado Postal 0843-03092, Balboa, Ancon, Republic of Panama
  5. Department of Anthropology, G121 Gannett Center, Ithaca College, 953 Danby Road, Ithaca, New York 14850, USA
  6. Museo Contisuyo, Jr. Tacna 294, Moquegua, Perú
  7. Instituto Nacional de Cultura, Alameda San Lázaro 120, Arequipa, Perú

Correspondence to: Linda Perry1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to L.P. (Email: perryli@si.edu).

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