Harvesting, Management, and Possible Cultivation of Chenopods (Chenopodium spp.) in the North American Southwest

Author(s): Gayle J. Fritz; Karen R. Adams

Year: 2017


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 more of the 4-Corners States, and a detailed study of their seed traits would solidly ground any prehispanic domestication claim. We examine ethnographic and archaeological evidence for chenopod use by native Southwestern farmers that may—or may not—indicate their incorporation into active food production systems. We propose criteria of domestication such as: (1) morphological indicators (seed coat thinning, etc.); (2) archaeological evidence of increasing reliance on Chenopodium seeds over time, and/or their association with food storage loci of other known crops; and (3) plausibility arguments including apparent economic importance, the cultivation of similar species elsewhere, and ethnohistoric evidence of cultivation. Our discussion is framed by scenarios of early agricultural developments across the Desert Borderlands.

Cite this Record

Harvesting, Management, and Possible Cultivation of Chenopods (Chenopodium spp.) in the North American Southwest. Gayle J. Fritz, Karen R. Adams. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429818)

Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14514