Do Cucurbita pepo Gourds Float Fish Nets?

TitleDo Cucurbita pepo Gourds Float Fish Nets?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsHart, JP, Daniels, RA, Sheviak, CJ
JournalAmerican Antiquity
Keywordscrop dispersals, Cucurbita pepo, fishnet floats, gourds

Among the various pre-maize indigenous crops of eastern North America, Cucurbita pepo gourd is the most enigmatic. C. pepo gourd remains have been found on mid-Holocene (8000-4000 B.P.) archaeological sites as far north and east as Maine. Their presumably extremely bitter flesh would have made the fruits inedible. Two not mutually exclusive hypotheses for use of the fruit are currently being debated: (1) the nutritious seeds were processed to remove bitterness and consumed and (2) dried fruits were used as fishnet floats and/or containers for general use. We report on a series of experiments that demonstrate the gourds function extremely well as fishnet floats. These results lend support to the second hypothesis, but do not conclusively prove they were used for this purpose.