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Phytoliths as indicators of prehistoric maize (Zea mays subsp.mays, Poaceae) cultivation

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Abstract

Maize (Zea mays L. subsp.mays) has been identified in archaeological contexts by a high proportion of large cross-shaped phytoliths. Given the numerous races of maize, this study was undertaken to determine if differences below the species level could be noted. It was also designed to see if phytoliths differed in various plant parts at various stages of growth. Several races were grown under experimental conditions. No significant differences were found. Furthermore, few phytoliths alleged to be diagnostic of maize were discovered. Systemic studies of maize and analyses of prehistoric cultivation by means of phytoliths seem not to be as promising as some researchers have argued.

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Doolittle, W.E., Frederick, C.D. Phytoliths as indicators of prehistoric maize (Zea mays subsp.mays, Poaceae) cultivation. Pl Syst Evol 177, 175–184 (1991). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00937955

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Key words

  • Angiosperms
  • Poaceae
  • Zea mays subsp.mays
  • Opal phytoliths
  • paleoenvironments
  • cultivation