Early plant domestication in Mesoamerica happened over a period of more than 5,000 years. In the first stages of this process, foraging communities incorporated domesticates into a diet dominated by wild resources. By the final stages, some communities had developed full-fledged agricultural economies. Museum curator Kent Flannery revolutionized our understanding of this process with his excavations at the cave site of Guila Naquitz in the highlands of Oaxaca, Mexico. Deposits at Guila Naquitz span from c. 10,700 years ago to 500 years ago. Early levels of the site have yielded evidence for the earliest New World domesticate—squash (Cucurbita pepo)—dating to c. 9,900 years ago. Shown here are the well-preserved samples of another New World domesticate, chile peppers (Capsicum sp.), which come from the uppermost level at the site and date between AD 620 and 740.
In honor of the University of Michigan’s 2017 bicentennial, we are celebrating the remarkable archaeological and ethnographic collections and rich legacy of research and teaching at the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology by posting one entry a day for 200 days. The entries will highlight objects from the collections, museum personalities, and UMMAA expeditions. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology is also posting each day for 200 days on Twitter and Facebook (follow along at #KMA200). After the last post, an exhibition on two centuries of archaeology at U-M opens at the Kelsey. Visit the exhibit—a joint project of the UMMAA and the Kelsey—from October 18, 2017 to May 27, 2018.