Thursday, December 10, 2009

Maize Diffusion in US Southwest

The one aspect of scholarly speculation over technology transmission that I completely disagree with is the idea of migration used as the deus ex Machima to explain everything.  One has this image of a large tribe giving up their traditional lands and marching wherever to start over.  In practice, that is a rare event and usually ends up with absorption into a new community.

A more convincing scenario is the exchange of brides.  This was accomplished by either outright raiding or deal making.  Quite simply an experienced agriculturalist would find herself with a new extended family and rather quickly find a way to introduce new practices.

This is sufficient to transmit new methods inside a thousand years to the full extent of the continental land mass.  I remind the reader that the mixing of new world and old world methods took place in less than three centuries and is thoroughly complete in the modern world.  So for hunter gathers to do the same it appears that a thousand years is ample.

Maize made its way into the southwest at least four millennia ago.  This is important for another reason altogether.  Maize and its long shelf life is the enabling technology that permits the easy rise of larger antique civilizations.  This simply because it becomes possible for a house hold to pay taxes in other than labor and it becomes possible for the proto state to collect said taxes.

It still took time for this to emerge as maize culture promoted larger settled populations that became chiefdoms.  These then coalesced into extended organized societies over time.

Grains and Rice served the same purpose in the old world and maize and potatoes in South America.

Once maize was introduced, the inevitable derivative technologies arose including the proper organization of the community around the maize culture.  This also was readily transmitted on the adjacent communities.

The Impact Of The Diffusion Of Maize To The Southwestern United States

by Staff Writers

St. Louis MO (SPX) Dec 09, 2009

An international group of anthropologists offers a new theory about the diffusion of maize to the Southwestern United States and the impact it had.

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study, co-authored by Gayle Fritz, Ph.D., professor of anthropology in Arts and Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, and colleagues, suggests that maize was passed from group to group of Southwestern hunter-gatherers.

These people took advantage of improved moisture conditions by integrating a storable and potentially high-yielding crop into their broad-spectrum subsistence strategy.

"For decades, there have been two competing scenarios for the spread of maize and other crops into what is now the U.S. Southwest," Fritz said.
According to the first, groups of farmers migrated northward from central Mexico into northwest Mexico and from there into the Southwest, bringing their crops and associated lifeways with them.

In the second scenario, maize moved northward from central Mexico to be Southwest by being passed from one hunter-gatherer band to the next, who incorporated the crop into their subsistence economies and eventually became farmers themselves.

"The case for long-distance northward migration of Mexican farmingsocieties received a boost about 12 years ago when British archaeologist Peter Bellwood, joined a few years later by geographer Jared Diamond and linguist Jane Hill, included the Southwest in a grand global model in which long-distance migration of agriculturalists explains the spread of many of the world's major language families," Fritz said.

"In the Southwest case, Uto-Aztecan-speaking peoples, ancestors of people who speak modern languages, like Comanche and Hopi, would have been responsible for the diffusion."

In this paper, the researchers summarize the most recent archaeological evidence, and integrate what is currently known about early maize in the Southwest with genetic, paleoecological, and historical linguistic studies.

Corn from five sites in Arizona and New Mexico now predates 2,000 B.C., which makes it too early to be explained by diffusion of settled Mexican villagers, said Fritz.

"No artifacts or features of any type point to in-migrating Mesoamerican farmers; in fact, continuity of local traditions is manifested, with independent invention of low-fired ceramics and with the construction of irrigation features in the Tucson Basin dating earlier than any known south of the border," she said.

"We interpret the linguistic evidence as favoring a very early (beginning shortly after 7,000 B.C.), north-to-south movement of Proto-Uto-Aztecan hunter-gatherers and subsequent division into northern and southern Uto-Aztecan-speaking groups. "

These two groups do not share words and meanings for maize because, according to the researchers' scenario, farming post-dates their separation.

"We think the Southwest stands as a region in which indigenous foragers adopted crops and made the transition to agriculture locally rather than having been joined or displaced by in-migrating farming societies," Fritz said. "Peter Bellwood may well be correct that long-distance movements account for some examples of the expansion of languages and farming technologies, but cases like that of the Southwest are very important in demonstrating that this pattern did not apply universally."

1 comment:

LibertyTreeBud said...

How far back does one have to look at historical life before one can live freely among the 'gardens of this world' without paying tribute or taxes to some elite?
Since when are we all born to pay some man, taxes?
Were there ever 'the good ol' days?"