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A-Maize-ing: Phytolith evidence for an early introduction of maize in the Upper Great Lakes diet

Author(s): Rebecca Albert ; Caitlin Clark ; Susan Kooiman ; William Lovis

Year: 2017

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There is no recorded maize (Zea mays ssp. mays) at Laurel or North Bay Initial/Middle Woodland sites in the northern Lake Michigan-Huron or Superior basins of the western Great Lakes, despite the presence of maize microbotanicals in Michigan, New York, and Quebec as early as 400 BC. To evaluate the potential for an early maize presence in this region, samples of carbonized food residues adhering to sixteen ceramic vessels from the Laurel/North Bay Winter site (20DE17) were processed and analyzed. Low incidences of maize starches and phytoliths were present in multiple samples, three of which were dated to as early as the second century BC, 800 years before regional macrobotanical evidence. Compression damage to some starches as well as fine grit present in several samples support the proposition that the initial dispersal of maize in the region may have been through transmission of meal or flour, which was then incorporated into existing cooked dishes by local populations. The lack of maize macrobotanicals for centuries thereafter suggests that maize did not immediately become a significant component of regional cuisine until long after its initial introduction to the Upper Great Lakes.

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A-Maize-ing: Phytolith evidence for an early introduction of maize in the Upper Great Lakes diet. Rebecca Albert, Caitlin Clark, Susan Kooiman, William Lovis. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429546)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -104.634; min lat: 36.739 ; max long: -80.64; max lat: 49.153 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 17097

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