Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sunflowers in Mexico as Early as 2600 BC

Researchers have determined that ancient Mexicans were cultivating sunflowers at least a thousand years earlier than had been believed. The discovery sheds new light on early Mesoamerica as well as that area’s potential connections with Native Americans to the north.

“For a long time, we thought the sunflower was domesticated only in eastern North America, in the middle Mississippi Valley – Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Illinois,” said Prof. David Lentz of the University of Cincinnati, one of the researchers involved in the project. “Now it appears the sunflower was domesticated independently in Mexico.”

“The Mexican sunflower discovery suggests that there may have been some cultural exchange between eastern North America and Mesoamerica at a very early time,” he said. 

The party of researchers from the U.S. and Mexico determined that sunflowers were being raised in Mexico by 2600 B.C., cultivation was widespread, and the plant was well known to the Aztecs. Researchers used accelerator mass spectrometry to analyze sunflower seeds found at a site called San Andres, among other locations.

For complete text of the article in Science Daily, click here.

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