Maize (Zea mays L.) was the staple domestic food crop for Ancestral Pueblo people throughout the northern American Southwest. It is thought to have been the basic food of the inhabitants of Chaco Canyon. New Mexico, a location that was a major centre of Ancestral Pueblo building and population during the 11th and early 12th centuries AD. Modern heirloom varieties of Native American corn have been difficult to grow in experimental fields in Chaco Canyon. Given an abundance of apparent storage structures in Chacoan buildings, it is possible that some corn recovered from archaeological contexts, was imported from surrounding areas. The ultimate goal of this research is to determine whether the corn in Chaco Canyon was grown locally or imported. This paper establishes the feasibility of a method to accomplish this goal. This study reports the results of using inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometric (ICP-MS) instrumentation to determine chemical constituents of experimental fields and modern heirloom varieties of Native American corn. Analysis of 19 elements is adequate to differentiate soil and corn from three field areas. These results are promising: however, a number of problems, including post-depositional alterations in maize, remain to be solved. ?? 2001 Academic Press.
Additional publication details
Toward linking maize chemistry to archaeological agricultural sites in the North American Southwest