In the early s, Charles Heiser 32 hypothesized that sunflower was initially domesticated in the east-central United States, and subsequent archaeological research in eastern North America has provided considerable support for his early interpretation.
The earliest evidence for domesticated sunflower in the eastern woodlands of the United States consists of six complete carbonized seeds recovered from Level 14 of the Hayes site in Tennessee When established correction ratios were used to estimate uncarbonized achene length measurements from these carbonized seeds, three of the specimens, with length estimates of 7.
A recent study, however, questioned the accuracy and applicability of the correction ratios used for estimating precarbonization achene length values from carbonized sunflower seeds and argued that the Hayes-site sunflower specimens did not meet the threshold for domesticated status 9. This proposed reclassification of the Hayes-site sunflower specimens as wild rather than domesticated, however, was itself based on a misapplication of ceiling standards developed for individual seeds vs. When compared with the modern wild reference class sunflower samples used to establish the wild—domesticated boundary, the Hayes-site specimens are clearly larger than those collected from modern wild populations.
In the same study that incorrectly questioned the domesticated status of the Hayes-site sunflower specimens, two specimens of about the same age as the Hayes-site seeds, recovered from a site on the Gulf coast of Tabasco, in Mexico, are identified as representing domesticated sunflower. A partially carbonized achene measuring 8. Both specimens are larger than achenes produced by modern wild sunflowers and are presented as evidence for the earliest domesticated sunflower in the Americas.
Their taxonomic identification is based on expert authentication rather than on explicit recognition and documentation of any taxonomically diagnostic morphology. The shell or pericarp of a sunflower achene gains its mechanical structure, strength, and distinctive appearance from a sclerenchymatous endocarp, which underlies thin outer epidermis, hypodermis, and carbon layers. Rather than being continuous and uniform in structure, the endocarp layer of sunflower achenes is comprised of a large number of parallel isolated strands or bundles of sclerenchyma fibers arranged longitudinally through the pericarp and separated by parenchyma cells, forming long-axis ropelike ridges 34 , The endocarp ridges become even more distinct if overlying layers are absent Fig.
When sunflower achenes erode and fragment, they split longitudinally along the parenchyma cell boundaries between sclerenchyma bundles, and as a result this distinctive and diagnostic morphological marker of H.
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Domesticated sunflower may well be present in the archaeological record of Mexico, but as is the case for any discussion of early domesticates, supporting arguments should be based on description and documentation of diagnostic morphology Left Scanning electron micrograph of a sunflower achene from Cloudsplitter Rockshelter in eastern Kentucky, exhibiting distinctive parallel longitudinal strands or bundles of sclerenchyma fibers achene length, 9. At the same time that currently available archaeological evidence offers strong support for the initial domestication of sunflower in the eastern United States, recent comprehensive genetic studies of modern populations of wild and domesticated sunflower provides conclusive confirmation.
In a landmark genetic study of H. As a result, if domesticated sunflower is at some point documented in the archaeological record of Mexico, it will represent either the southward dispersal of domesticated sunflower from eastern North America or a second independent domestication of sunflower in Mexico. If sunflower was in fact domesticated a second time in Mexico, it left little trace in the archaeological or early historical record of Mexico, contributed nothing to the present-day domesticated sunflower genome, and was, at most, a short-lived, peripheral, now-extinct minor cultigen.
As briefly outlined above, all four of the seed plants proposed two decades ago as having been initially brought under domestication in eastern North America can be confidently confirmed as indigenous eastern domesticates, based on substantial archaeological evidence and recent genetic studies. Research of the past two decades has thus substantially strengthened the case for the eastern United States being an independent center of plant domestication.
Maize Zea mays , the earliest documented Mesoamerican domesticate to reach the East, does not arrive until ca. But the eastern woodlands of North America does represent, along with the Near East, the best-documented regional record of this major transition in human history Such well documented regional records of the timing, sequence, and spatial, temporal, cultural, and environmental contexts of initial domestication of different species are the key to gaining a better overall understanding of the transition from a hunting and gathering way of life to human reliance on food-production economies.
Over the next several decades, genetic and archaeological research on the domestication of plants and animals should substantially increase the number of comparably well documented primary centers of domestication. This improved and expanded set of regional-scale developmental sequences, in turn, will allow much more informed comparative analyses and better opportunities for the recognition of general shared patterns of developmental variation and commonality in the transition to agriculture, worldwide.
The snippet could not be located in the article text. This may be because the snippet appears in a figure legend, contains special characters or spans different sections of the article. Published online Aug 7. PMID: Bruce D. Received Jun This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract The status of eastern North America as an independent center of plant domestication has recently been called into question by a number of genetic and archaeological studies, which suggest that the region may not have witnessed the independent domestication of local crop plants, but rather may have been on the receiving end of domesticated crop plants introduced from Mexico.
Open in a separate window. Currently recognized independent centers of plant and animal domestication. Age, radiocarbon years B. Laboratory sample no.
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Squash Cucurbita pepo Of the five species of squash Cucurbita that were domesticated from different progenitor species of wild Cucurbita gourds throughout the Americas 12 , 20 , only C. Sunflower Helianthus annuus As is the case with Ch. Conclusions As briefly outlined above, all four of the seed plants proposed two decades ago as having been initially brought under domestication in eastern North America can be confidently confirmed as indigenous eastern domesticates, based on substantial archaeological evidence and recent genetic studies. Acknowledgments Marcia Bakry produced Figs.
Glossary Abbreviation: AMS accelerator mass spectrometry. Footnotes Conflict of interest statement: No conflicts declared. References 1. Vavilov N. The Origin and Geography of Cultivated Plants. Cambridge, U. Press; Smith B. The Emergence of Agriculture. New York: Freeman; Zeder M. Documenting Domestication. Berkeley: Univ. Piperno D. The Origins of Agriculture in the Lowland Neotropics.
New York: Academic; Denham T. Olsen K. Rivers of Change. Tuscaloosa: Univ. Lentz D. Pope K. Sanjur O. In: Biomolecular Archaeology. Reed D.
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