Feeds

Boffins dig up prehistoric popcorn in Peru

Bit soggy now: Man wolfed down treat 6,700 years ago

High performance access to file storage

Mankind was scoffing prehistoric popcorn 1,000 years earlier than previously thought, reckons a top archaeologist.

Before anyone along the arid north coast of Peru bothered crafting ceramic art or making cooking pots, let alone building cinemas and other attractions in which the crunchy snack is often wolfed down by modern Man, hungry folks were roasting corn for fun.

This is according to a new paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences* co-authored by Dolores Piperno, curator of New World archaeology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and emeritus staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

Some of the oldest known corncobs, husks, stalks and male flowers, dating from 6,700 to 3,000 years ago, were unearthed at Paredones and Huaca Prieta, two mound sites on Peru's coast.

The boffins, led by Tom Dillehay from Vanderbilt University and Duccio Bonavia from Peru’s Academia Nacional de la Historia, say the small fossils of corn — the earliest ever discovered in South America — prove that ancient man devoured corn in several ways, including popcorn and flour corn. However, the foodstuff was not an important part of their diet, which is the scientific way of saying it was a treat.

6,500-year-old cobs - tasty: A is Proto-Confite Morocho; B is Confite Chavinense maize; C is Proto-Alazan maize.

"Corn was first domesticated in Mexico nearly 9,000 years ago from a wild grass called teosinte," said Piperno.

"Our results show that only a few thousand years later corn arrived in South America where its evolution into different varieties that are now common in the Andean region began. This evidence further indicates that in many areas corn arrived before pots did and that early experimentation with corn as a food was not dependent on the presence of pottery."

"These new and unique races of corn may have developed quickly in South America, where there was no chance that they would continue to be pollinated by wild teosinte. Because there is so little data available from other places for this time period, the wealth of morphological information about the cobs and other corn remains at this early date is very important for understanding how corn became the crop we know today."

There was no word on whether or not the ancient civilisation preferred salted or sweet popcorn. ®

* Preceramic corn from Pardones and Huaca Prieta, Peru by A Grobman, D Bonavia, TD Dillehay, DR Piperno, J Iriarte, I Holst, 2012, can be found in PNAS.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Fancy joining Reg hack on quid-a-day challenge?
Recruiting now for charity starvation diet
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Opportunity selfie: Martian winds have given the spunky ol' rover a spring cleaning
Power levels up 70 per cent as the rover keeps on truckin'
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.