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First Direct AMS Dates on Early Maize From Tehuacan, Mexico

Austin Long, B. F. Benz, D. J. Donahue, A J T. Jull, L. J. Toolin

Abstract


The Tehuacan region in Central Mexico is thought to be the locale of origin of Zea mays, or maize, a cultivated plant pivotal in the development of agriculture in the Americas (MacNeish, 1981, 1985). The age of the earliest maize, and its rate of dispersal are thus important components of cultural development in the New World. We have secured permission from the Federal Government of Mexico to date critical specimens from Tehuacan, which represent what are probably some of the earliest known stages of maize evolution. Twelve Zea mays samples have been dated, six from Cueva San Marcos and six from Cueva Coxcatlan. These were selected as having the best stratigraphic control and correlation with previously dated charcoal samples, and to represent the most ancient maize. Corn from Cueva San Marcos is oldest: four of the six specimens from this cave were within statistics of 4700 BP (uncalibrated). The oldest known domesticated corn is thus no older than 3600 cal BC (dendro-calibrated in calendric
years).

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