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Reevaluating What We Know About the Histories of Maize in Northeastern North America: A Review of Current Evidence

TitleReevaluating What We Know About the Histories of Maize in Northeastern North America: A Review of Current Evidence
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsHart, JP, Lovis, WA
JournalJournal of Archaeological Research
Volume21
Pagination175-216
KeywordsAgricultural evolution, Domesticated landscapes, paleoethnobotany, Shifting-balance theory, Zea mays ssp. mays
Abstract

The adoption of maize in northeastern North America is often seen as a catalyst for the development of settled village life. In this review we develop a theoretical framework centered on shifting-balance theory (SBT) and domesticated landscapes through which to understand the context for the adoption of maize agriculture in the Northeast. We review micro- and macrobotanical evidence and stable carbon isotope data from various sources to reevaluate maize histories and adoption trajectories. These data are coupled with contributions of subregionally significant predecessor plants, such as those constituting the Eastern Agricultural Complex, and wild rice. We find no evidence for rapid transitions to settled village life as a result of maize adoption. Maize was grown for centuries before settled village agricultural systems evolved. It was grown for a sufficiently long time that the potential for local selection leading to Northern Flint is a viable working hypothesis. We call for a refocusing of research questions and a systematic application of contemporary techniques as a means by which to strengthen future inferences based on comparative information sets.

URLhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10814-012-9062-9
DOI10.1007/s10814-012-9062-9