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EARLIEST MICROBOTANICAL EVIDENCE FOR MAIZE IN THE NORTHERN LAKE MICHIGAN BASIN

  • Rebecca K. Albert (a1), Susan M. Kooiman (a2), Caitlin A. Clark (a3) and William A. Lovis (a4)
Abstract

There is no recorded maize (Zea mays spp. mays) from sites predating circa cal AD 800 in the northern Lake Michigan or Lake Superior basins of the western Great Lakes, despite the presence of maize microbotanicals including phytoliths and starches in Michigan, New York, and Quebec as early as 400 cal BC. To evaluate the potential for an earlier maize presence in the northern Lake Michigan basin, samples of carbonized food residues adhering to 16 ceramic vessels were obtained from the Winter site (20DE17) located on the Garden Peninsula in the northern Lake Michigan basin. Each sample was split and sent to two analysts. Both analysts identified low incidences of maize starch and phytoliths in multiple samples, with overlapping identifications on several. Three direct accelerator mass spectrometry dates on the carbonized residues reveal maize incorporated into the residues as early as the second century cal BC, 800 years before any regional macrobotanical evidence. Although the method of dispersal cannot be determined, these results support the proposition that initial northern dispersal of maize in the region may have been nearly 800 years earlier than macrobotanical evidence would suggest and is consistent with the timing of its introduction to the lower Great Lakes area.

No existen registros de la presencia de maíz (Zea mays spp. mays) antes de ca. 800 dC en sitios de la cuenca norte del Lago Michigan o la cuenca del Lago Superior de los Grandes Lagos occidentales, a pesar de la presencia de restos microbótanicos de maíz, incluyendo fitolitos y almidones, en Michigan, Nueva York y Quebec desde 400 cal aC. Para evaluar el potencial de una presencia temprana de maíz en la cuenca norte del Lago Michigan, se obtuvieron muestras de residuos de alimentos carbonizados adheridos a 16 vasijas cerámicas procedentes del sitio Winter (20DE17), localizado en la Península Garden en la cuenca norte del Lago Michigan. Cada muestra fue dividida y enviada a dos analistas. Ambos analistas identificaron una baja incidencia de fitolitos y almidón de maíz en múltiples muestras, con identificaciones superpuestas en varias. Tres fechas directas de AMS en los residuos carbonizados revelan que el maíz se incorporó a los residuos a comienzos del siglo segundo cal aC, 800 años antes de cualquier evidencia macrobotánica regional. Aunque no se puede determinar el método de dispersión, estos resultados apoyan la propuesta de que la dispersión inicial del maíz en el norte de la región pudo haber ocurrido casi 800 años antes de lo que la evidencia macrobotánica sugería, y es consistente con el fechamiento de su introducción en la parte sur de los Grandes Lagos.

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Corresponding author
(albertr1@msu.edu, corresponding author)
References
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