Mummy's amazing American maize

Feb 14, 2007
Andean Mummy
The Andean mummy. Credit: Dr. Veronica Lia

The far-reaching influence of Spanish and Portuguese colonisers appears not to have extended to South American agriculture, scientists studying a 1,400-year-old Andean mummy have found.

The University of Manchester researchers compared the DNA of ancient maize found in the funerary offerings of the mummy and at other sites in northwest Argentina with that grown in the same region today.

Surprisingly, they found both ancient and modern samples of the crop were genetically almost identical indicating that modern European influence has not been as great as previously thought.

"The entire culture of South America changed when the Europeans arrived in the 15th century – everything from the language to the whole way of life," explained Professor Terry Brown, who headed the research in the Faculty of Life Sciences.

"Maize is the staple food crop of the region but prior to colonisation it also had a ritual significance – the indigenous people were amazed by maize and even worshipped it.

"Given the immense changes that took place in South America following the arrival of the Europeans it is surprising that this crop has remained unaltered for hundreds of years."

Using the new facilities in the Manchester Interdisciplinary Biocentre – a cross-faculty institute at the University – Professor Brown is now examining the DNA of ancient Peruvian maize up to 6,000 years old to determine if these much older specimens are also similar to modern crops.

Source: University of Manchester

Explore further: Excavation reveals ancient town and burial complex in Diros Bay, Greece

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Driverless shuttle will be on the move in UK

Feb 22, 2015

(Phys.org) —"Autonomous public transport" is on the minds of planners who envision self-driving vehicles that would cross over short distances, suited for airport transport, industrial sites, theme parks ...

Korean tech start-ups offer life beyond Samsung

Feb 23, 2015

As an engineering major at Seoul's Yonsei University, Yoon Ja-Young was perfectly poised to follow the secure, lucrative and socially prized career path long-favoured by South Korea's elite graduates.

Recommended for you

Fossil lower jaw sheds light on early Homo

10 hours ago

A fossil lower jaw found in the Ledi-Geraru research area, Afar Regional State, Ethiopia, pushes back evidence for the human genus—Homo—to 2.8 million years ago, according to a pair of reports publis ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.