Scientists at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington have discovered that maize, or corn, was being grown and eaten by the inhabitants of the Peruvian Andes some 1,000 years earlier than previously thought. The results of their research are published in the journal Nature.
It was known that the crop had migrated down to South America from Mexico, where it was first cultivated about 10,000 years ago, but when it was first domesticated has never been properly understood.
The American scientists used plant remains to establish the diet of the ancient inhabitants of the Andes and, in the Waynuna settlement, also found microscopic grains of maize, potato and arrowroot on the floor of a circular stone house and grinding tools dating back 3,600-4,000 years.
The results of the research push back the record of maize by a least a millennium in the southern Andes and show on-site processing of maize into flour.