Pollen Analysis of Coprolite Samples from Chaco Canyon, New Mexico


Chaco Canyon is an important archaeological region for providing information about the ancestral Puebloan cultures.By analyzing 12 coprolites from Prehispanic sites within Chaco Canyon, we found large concentrations of Zea mays pollen grains. The differences in size-frequency of these creates the hypothesis that there were different species of Maize being consumed. The size distributions of the earliest Zea grain populations are not normal, suggesting the possibility that more than one variety of Maize is represented by the pollen. The occurrence of large numbers of maize pollen grains as well as pollen from weedy plants indicates the nearby presence of a cornfield, now buried in alluvial fill adjacent to the cliff. The implication is that more than one population of Zea pollen is represented, suggesting in turn that more than one variety of maize was being grown in the canyon.

It is noteworthy that some of the best preserved and abundant maize pollen comes from an Atlatl Cave coprolite. If this sample proves to be as old as the demonstrated age of the site, ca. 950 to 450 cal BC, then the maize pollen from this sample may represent a very early cultivation and use of maize in Chaco Canyon.

Cite this Record

Pollen Analysis of Coprolite Samples from Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. Isabel Teixeira Dos Santos, Carolyn Heitman, Karl Reinhard, Samantha Hayek. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 404732)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -115.532; min lat: 30.676 ; max long: -102.349; max lat: 42.033 ;