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News: DID A COMET CAUSE A FIRESTORM THAT DEVESTATED NORTH AMERICA 12,900 YEARS AGO?
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M A I Z E - ZEA MAYS

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Author Topic: M A I Z E - ZEA MAYS  (Read 1073 times)
Bianca
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« on: November 07, 2008, 09:48:51 am »









The domestication of maize is of particular interest to researchers archaeologists, geneticists, ethnobotanists, geographers, etc. The process is thought by some to have started 7,500 to 12,000 years ago (corrected for solar variations). Recent genetic evidence suggests that maize domestication occurred 9,000 years ago in central Mexico, perhaps in the highlands between Oaxaca and Jalisco.

The crop wild relative teosinte most similar to modern maize grows in the area of the Balsas River.

Archaeological remains of early maize ears, found at Guila Naquitz Cave in the Oaxaca Valley, date back roughly 6,250 years (corrected; 3450 BCE, uncorrected); the oldest ears from caves near Tehuacan, Puebla, date ca. 2750 BCE. Little change occurred in ear form until ca. 1100 BCE when great changes appeared in ears from Mexican caves: maize diversity rapidly increased and archaeological teosinte was first deposited.

Perhaps as early as 1500 BCE, maize began to spread widely and rapidly. As it was introduced to new cultures, new uses were developed and new varieties selected to better serve in those preparations. Maize was the staple food, or a major staple, of most the pre-Columbian North American, Mesoamerican, South American, and Caribbean cultures.

The Mesoamerican civilization was strengthened upon the field crop of maize; through harvesting it, its religious and spiritual importance and how it impacted their diet. Maize formed the Mesoamerican peoples identity. During the 1st millennium CE (AD), maize cultivation spread from Mexico into the U.S. Southwest and a millennium later into U.S. Northeast and southeastern Canada, transforming the landscape as Native Americans cleared large forest and grassland areas for the new crop.

 
It is unknown what precipitated its domestication, because the edible portion of the wild variety is too small and hard to obtain to be eaten directly, as each kernel is enclosed in a very hard bi-valve shell. However, George Beadle demonstrated that the kernels of teosinte are readily "popped" for human consumption, like modern popcorn. Some have argued that it would have taken too many generations
of selective breeding in order to produce large compressed ears for efficient cultivation. However, studies of the hybrids readily made by intercrossing teosinte and modern maize suggest that this objection is not well-founded.

 
In 2005, research by the USDA Forest Service indicated that the rise in maize cultivation 500 to 1,000 years ago in what is now the southeastern United States contributed to the decline of freshwater mussels, which are very sensitive to environmental changes.
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