A group of researchers from various American universities have found evidence about the first uses of corn as the main source of food among Mesoamerican societies, according to an investigation published this Wednesday in Science Advances.
The group of scientists analyzed archaeological evidence found in ancient human settlements in Central America to determine how people adapted over time to new and changing environments, and how those changes led them to move from hunter-gatherer to farmer societies.
After analyzing 52 bone samples excavated from stone shelters located in the mountains of the Bladen Nature Reserve (Belize), the researchers were able to find direct isotopic dietary evidence of the use of corn as a basic grain in the Mesoamerican diet.
The skeletons analyzed, which provide evidence for a period spanning the last 10,000 years, indicate that maize was not an essential part of the diet of the individuals who inhabited the region more than 6,700 years ago.
However, this grain acquired greater nutritional importance after being domesticated, so in the samples dated between the years 4700 and 4000 BC, corn represented approximately 30% of the total diet.
Likewise, the isotopic evidence indicates that as of the year 4000 BC, this grain represented just over 70% of the diet of the early inhabitants of Mesoamerica.
"We know that people have been experimenting with the wild ancestor of maize, teosinte, and the first early maize for thousands of years, but it does not appear to have been a staple grain until approximately 4,000 years BC."noted Keith Prufer, a professor at the University of New Mexico and co-author of the publication.