Maize agriculture may have fueled ancient Andean civilization

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Washington, July 9 (ANI): In a new study, a skeleton found at a roughly 1,000-year-old site in Peru's Andes mountains has yielded chemical evidence of substantial maize consumption, which suggests that the farming of the crop led to the rise of the ancient Andean civilization.

Prehistoric communities in one part of Peru's Andes Mountains may have gone from maize to amazingly complex.

Bioarchaeologist Brian Finucane's analyses of human skeletons excavated in this region indicate that people living there 2,800 years ago regularly ate maize.

"This is the earliest evidence for maize as a staple food in the rugged terrain of highland Peru," he said.

According to Finucane, maize agriculture stimulated ancient population growth in the Andes and allowed a complex society, the Wari, to develop.

Wari society included a central government and other elements of modern states. It lasted from around 1,300 to 950 years ago and predated other Andes civilizations, including the Inca.

Previous work has shown that prehistoric societies in the lowland areas of Central and North America depended on maize to grow large enough in numbers to develop state institutions, a pattern that Finucane sees paralleled in the Andes Mountains.

"These new findings indicate that intensive maize agriculture was the economic foundation for the development of the Wari state," said Finucane.ew evidence for maize as a dietary staple among prehistoric inhabitants of the Andes mountains included chemical data from several skeletons previously excavated from a set of tombs at the capital of the Wari state.

The new data convincingly demonstrate that highland residents relied on maize shortly before the rise of the Wari state, according to archaeologist Daniel Sandweiss of the University of Maine in Orono.

He suggested that a warmer, wetter climate during the Wari period and the spread of terraced cultivation areas might also have spurred maize farming.

"Chemical signatures of substantial maize consumption appeared in the bones of individuals from every Ayacucho site, including three from Formative period sites," Finucane said.

Only a relatively small part of the Andean valley contains soil suitable for maize cultivation.

Competition for cropland may account for evidence of considerable warfare during the Huarpa and Wari periods, speculated Finucane. (ANI)

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