Maize Cobs and Cultures: History of Zea mays L. / Edition 1

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Our perceptions and conceptions regarding the roles and importance of maize to ancient economies is largely a product of scientific research on the plant itself, developed for the most part out of botanical research, and its recent role as one of the most important economic staples in the world. Anthropological research in the early part of the last century based largely upon the historical particularistic approach of the Boasian tradition provided the first evidence that challenged the assumptions about the economic importance of maize to sociocultural developments for scholars of prehistory. Subsequent ethnobotanic and archaeological studies showed that the role of maize among Native American cultures was much more complex than just as a food staple.

In Maize Cobs and Cultures, John Staller provides a survey of the ethnohistory and the scientific, botanical and biological research of maize, complemented by reviews on the ethnobotanic, interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary methodologies.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

From the reviews:

“This volume is a digest and a progression from papers in the massive 48-author volume … . The author’s works are covered comprehensively. … Accordingly, the writer, while presenting his own synthesis and a composite view, provides a service to the research-user. … one has deep curiosity about maize and cultures (that is, cultures of indigenous peoples and of scientists who study maize history); if one is prepared to expand study by referring to sources … this volume is a thorough access point.” (Edward Coe, Plant Science Bulletin, Vol. 56 (3), 2010)

“Staller (anthropology, The Field Museum) has written a book that covers the history of what has arguably become the world’s most important agricultural crop—Zea mays L. … The volume includes a dizzying array of references from a wide swath of research literature both current and historical, including many diagrams and photographs … . Summing Up: Highly recommended. Anthropology and botany collections serving upper-division undergraduates through researchers/faculty.” (J. Cummings, Choice, Vol. 47 (11), July, 2010)

“It provides a thorough description of more than a century of concerted efforts by researchers in multiple disciplines to uncover the origins of domesticated maize and to determine its place in the development of agriculture and in the emergence of complex societies throughout the Americas. … Staller’s book provides some explanation for our persistent intellectual focus on this globally important plant.” (Jane Mt. Pleasant, Annals of Botany, Vol. 111 (2), February, 2013)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9783642045059
  • Publisher: Springer Berlin Heidelberg
  • Publication date: 12/10/2009
  • Edition description: 2010
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 262
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Table of Contents

1 An Introduction to Maize Cobs and Cultures 1

2 Ethnohistory: Impressions and Perceptions of Maize 7

2.1 Ethnohistoric and Ethnographic Perceptions of Maize 7

2.1.1 Consequences of Conquest and Empire 9

2.1.2 Western Perceptions of New World Cultures 12

2.2 Using Sixteenth Century Accounts 14

2.2.1 Early Pre-Linnaean Botanicals 18

2.2.2 Earliest Sixteenth Century Accounts 20

2.3 Central America and Mexico 32

2.3.1 Sixteenth Century Agriculture and Plant Cultivation in Mesoamerica 36

2.3.2 Maize and the Chontal Maya 41

2.3.3 Storage and Redistribution: Mesoamerican Accounts 43

2.4 First Impressions of Andean Civilization 45

2.4.1 Storage, Tribute, and Redistribution in the Andes 51

2.4.2 Maize and Andean Political Economy 55

2.5 Maize and Ancient Religion 58

2.5.1 Maize and Religious Uses and Rites 62

2.5.2 Maize: Religious Significance to Mesoamerican Civilization 66

2.5.3 Early Accounts on Maize Alcohol Consumption 70

2.5.4 Maize Beer and Pulque in Mesoamerica 71

2.5.5 Maize Beer in Ritual and Religion in the Andes 74

2.6 Maize Ethnohistory: Summary and Conclusions 80

3 Scientific, Botanical, and Biological Research on Maize 85

3.1 Introduction on a History of Science on Maize 85

3.1.1 Comparing and Contrasting Old and New World Approaches 86

3.1.2 Research on the Rise of Early Agriculture 90

3.2 Archaeological, Botanical, and Biological Research on Maize Origins 93

3.2.1 Early Botanical and Biological Research on the Origins of Maize 94

3.2.2 Historical Interface of Biological and Archaeological Maize Research 100

3.2.3 Teosinte and the Search for the Origin of Maize 105

3.2.4 Approaches to Finding Wild Maize 113

3.2.5 Pod Corn as Wild Maize 114

3.2.6 Teosinte as a Progenitor of Maize 117

3.3 Maize: Morphological, Biological, Genetic, and Taxonomic Approaches 119

3.3.1 Perennial Teosinte and a Reconsideration of the Tripartite Hypothesis 122

3.3.2 Maize Antiquity and l4C and AMS Chronologies 123

3.3.3 Phylogenetic Considerations 128

3.3.4 Early Research on Maize Landraces and their Classification 131

3.3.5 Maize Landraces in the Americas 134

3.3.6 Maize Landraces and Colonial Bioprospecting 137

3.3.7 Morphological versus Genetic Maize Landraces 140

3.3.8 Genetic Research and Paradigm Shifts 143

4 Ethnobotanic, Interdisciplinary, and Multidisciplinary Methodologies 149

4.1 Methodological and Technological Breakthroughs 149

4.1.1 Comparing Research on Old and New World Ancient Economies 149

4.1.2 Paleoethnobotany: Methodological Approaches to Domestication 155

4.2 Interdisciplinary Approaches to Domestication, Agriculture, and Adaptation 159

4.2.1 Plant Domestication and Cultivation 167

4.2.2 Approaches to Domestication and Cultivation in the Tehuacán Valley 173

4.2.3 Approaches to Domestication and Cultivation in Oaxaca 179

4.3 Ethnobotanical Approaches to Early Agriculture and Biogeography 184

4.3.1 Classes of Ethnobotanical Evidence 187

4.3.2 Pollen Analysis and the Spread of Early Cultigens 188

4.3.3 Phytolith Analysis and Maize Biogeography 192

4.3.4 Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Analysis of Phytolith Assemblages 197

4.3.5 Ethnobotanic Approaches to the Origins of Maize: Central Balsas 198

4.3.6 Isotope Analysis, Paleodiet, and Geochemical Approaches 202

4.4 Multidisciplinary Approaches to Maize Biogeography 205

4.4.1 Ethnobotanic and Isotopic Research at La Emerenciana 211

4.4.2 Advantages to Multidisciplinary Approaches 219

References 225

Index 257

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