The Archaeology and Agronomy of Ancient Maize (Zea mays L.)
By Karen R. Adams
Karen Adams, a paleobotanist, notes that although farmers in the prehispanic American Southwest grew maize, beans, squashes, gourds, and cotton, maize appears to have been the most important of these Mesoamerican crops. Despite the prominent role of maize in ancient subsistence regimes, information is sparse concerning the growth requirements and environmental tolerances of indigenous maize landraces. The distribution of ancient maize suggests that maize is remarkably adaptable to different locales and their varied environments of altitude, heat, and moisture. In Chapter 1, Adams outlines what is known about the maize plant and then proceeds to a discussion of what we do not know. It is clear that moisture amounts and timing, along with a minimum number of frost-free days and adequate amounts of accumulating heat, act independently and in tandem to determine maize grain yield. Successfully tackling what we still don’t know about maize calls for systematic agronomic experiments.