A sedimentary pollen sequence from the coastal plain of Veracruz, Mexico, demonstrates maize cultivation by 5,000 years ago, refining understanding of the geography of early maize cultivation. Methodological issues related to bioturbation involved in dating that record combine with its similarity to a pollen sequence from the coastal plain of Tabasco, Mexico, to suggest that the inception of maize cultivation in that record occurred as much as 1,000–2,000 years more recently than the previously accepted 7,000 years ago. Our analysis thereby has substantive, theoretical, and methodological implications for understanding the complex process of maize domestication. Substantively, it demonstrates that the earliest securely dated evidence of maize comes from macrofossils excavated near Oaxaca and Tehuaca´n, Mexico, and not from the coastal plain along the southern Gulf of Mexico. Theoretically, that evidence best supports the hypothesis that people in the Southern Highlands domesticated this important crop plant. Methodologically, sedimentary pollen and other microfossil sequences can make valuable contributions to reconstructing the geography of early maize cultivation, but we must acknowledge the limits to precision that bioturbation in coastal lagoons imposes on the dating of such records.
Sluyter, Andrew and Dominguez, Gabriela, "Early maize (Zea mays L.) cultivation in Mexico: Dating sedimentary pollen records and its implications" (2006). Faculty Publications. 33.
National Acad Sciences
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America