A Morphological Approach to Documenting the Domestication of Chenopodium in the Andes

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Book Chapter

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Documenting Domestication: New Genetic and Archaeological Paradigms


Chenopods were grown as domesticated crops in many regions of the Americas prior to European contact, and they are known to have been independently domesticated in the Andes of South America, in Mexico, and in the eastern United States. Today, however, while they remain an important component of the Andean diet, chenopods survive only as a minor crop in Mexico and are no longer commercially grown north of Mexico. Ironically, less is known about the domestication of the Andean chenopods, Chenopodium quinoa and Chenopodium pallidicaule, than about the domestication of their extinct eastern North American counterpart, C. berlandieri ssp. jonesianum. In the Andes, the genetic and archaeobotanical research necessary to identify wild progenitor populations and to document where and when initial chenopod domestication occurred is just beginning. Narrowing down the time and place of Andean Chenopodium domestication is not only essential to advancing our general knowledge of agricultural origins in South America, but also necessary for evaluating alternative developmental models regarding the transition from Archaic (ca. 8000–1500 BC) to Formative (1500 BC–AD 500) period socioeconomic systems in the south central Andean highlands.


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