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From Birdseed to Superfood: Chenopodium Cultivation and Management across the Globe

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC (2017)

Seeds of the genus Chenopodium are often ubiquitous and abundant in archaeological sites across the globe, yet our understanding of their role in human societies varies from region to region. Cultivation of chenopods has long been recognized in the Andes and Mexico, yet their diversity and unique histories of domestication are still being investigated. Through years of morphological and genetic work, researchers have demonstrated that the Native Americans of Eastern North America independently domesticated their own chenopod species. Building on these advancements, researchers working across Eurasia and in other regions of the Americas are re-assessing the status of the chenopods found in their sites. This session will highlight recent discoveries of both cultivated and intensively managed chenopod populations, shedding new light on a genus whose important role in human history has long been overlooked.


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Documents

  • Archaeobotanical Chenopodium Seeds from across Central Asia (2017)
    Citation DOCUMENT Natalia Ryabogina. Robert Spengler.

    Plants in the Chenopodium genus have attracted human interest around the globe for millennia; they have been used for grain and vegetable food as well as being a key forage plant for herd animals. Historically, several wild species have been economically significant across Eurasia, notably in Central Asia, and the genus has been domesticated in various parts of the world, including East Asia. Wild Chenopodium seeds are the dominant category of archaeobotanical remains found in the vast majority...

  • Chenopod data in two countries of South America: Advances in knowledge about the use of Chenopodium in Argentina and Chile from Early Holocene (9000-11000 BP) to Historical Times (250 BP). (2017)
    Citation DOCUMENT María Laura López. María Teresa Planella.

    Argentina and Chile are the most austral American countries where Chenopodium species are recovered in several archaeological contexts. In both countries from the north to central and south, various issues are addressed from these findings such as hunter-gatherers subsistence strategies and chenopod grain morphological changes. Multi-proxy methods are used based on pollen, macro and micro botanical remains analyses, and isotopic data. However scarce botanical evidence has carried an uneven depth...

  • Domesticated Huauhtzontli (Chenopodium berlandieri Moq. ssp nuttalliae [Safford] Wilson & Heiser) in prehispanic and modern México (2017)
    Citation DOCUMENT Emily McClung De Tapia.

    Huauhtzontli, a cultivated chenopod widely distributed in the central highlands of Mexico, is generally believed to have been domesticated in prehispanic times. However, neither the timing nor the area of domestication have been clearly established. Morphometric analyses of modern fruits of the central Mexican subspecies of Chenopodium berlandieri and revision of archaeological specimens recovered from various excavations in the region suggest that domesticated fruits were not predominant,...

  • From Quelites to Crop Indices: Thinking Through Maya Chenopods (2017)
    Citation DOCUMENT Jon Hageman. David Goldstein.

    While chenopod cultivation has been documented extensively in North and South America, evidence for similar practices in the Maya area is lacking. Macrobotanical evidence of Chenopodium recovered from pre-Hispanic Maya archaeological sites is limited to a few seeds. In contrast, the palynological record minimally suggests widespread tolerance across the entirety of the Maya area, if not intensive management or in some contexts even cultivation of Cheno-am genera. It is likely that chenopods...

  • From Quelites to Crop Indices: Thinking Through Maya Chenopods (2017)
    Citation DOCUMENT David Goldstein. Jon Hageman.

    While chenopod cultivation has been documented extensively in North and South America, evidence for similar practices in the Maya area is lacking. Macrobotanical evidence of Chenopodium recovered from pre-Hispanic Maya archaeological sites is limited to a few seeds. In contrast, the palynological record suggests widespread tolerance across the entirety of the Maya area, if not intensive management or even cultivation of Cheno-am genera in some contexts. It is likely that chenopods are an...

  • Harvesting, Management, and Possible Cultivation of Chenopods (Chenopodium spp.) in the North American Southwest (2017)
    Citation DOCUMENT Gayle J. Fritz. Karen R. Adams.

    Chenopodium seeds are ubiquitous in archaeobotanical samples from sites across the U.S. Southwest, commonly interpreted as representing the harvest of wild populations or weedy plants that were encouraged to grow in garden plots and agricultural fields. Up to 75% of projects from various SW U.S. regions contained Chenopodium, and/or Amaranthus, and/or Cheno-am seeds. Archaeobotanists differ in how they recognize and report these seeds. At least 22 wild species of Chenopodium are native to one or...

  • Intensive Use of Wild Chenopodium by Central California Hunter Gatherers (2017)
    Citation DOCUMENT Eric Wohlgemuth. Maria C. Bruno.

    Three decades of California paleoethnobotany have shown that Chenopodium is the most common small seed found in central California archaeological sites. Chenopodium is concentrated in sedentary residential communities in lowland areas, where historical population densities rivaled or exceeded those found elsewhere in the world. The most intensive use known for Chenopodium is from wetland areas of the Sacramento and Santa Clara valleys. Despite thousands of years as the pre-eminent small-seeded...

  • The use of Chenopodium plants in China (2017)
    Citation DOCUMENT Xinyi Liu. Zhijun Zhao.

    This article reviews the use of Chenopodium plants in Chinese archaeobotanical record. We will draw attention to two regions particularly, Northeast and Southwest China. We will consider the use of Chenopodium food in the context of origins of agriculture in China.

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America