[Marxism] a genetic history of maize

Charles Brown cbrown at michiganlegal.org
Thu Aug 11 12:27:02 MDT 2005

 Les Schaffer 
an interesting article appeared last week on the domestification of 
maize from the wild Mexican grass teosinte. i've included, below, 
sections for marxmailers interested in evolution, plant domestification, 
and GM issues.

CB: According to MesoAmerican archaologist Kent Flannery, et al. , ancient
"Mexican" farmers, "ethnobotanists", may have _invented_  maize out of
teosintle, i.e. they were very sophisticated breeders.


The domestication of maize in Tehuacan, Mexico was a gradual process.
Archaeologists still do not fully known why this process began.
Domestication can be highly productive but also very unstable because of its
low species diversity and it's high level of human attention. Yet, it
yielded one of the most important food sources in the world today: maize.

It wasn't very long ago that early Mesoamerican agriculture existed only in
theory. Many archaeologists and botanists have offered theories and ideas on
the subject. The one I am using in this paper is the widely accepted theory
of Kent Flannery, Richard MacNeish and George Beadle. 

During the early 1960's, Richard MacNeish found evidence of early maize
domestication in a cave in Tehuacan. In level XIII of Coxcatlan Cave, 18
cobs of a type of plant that appeared to be a form of maize were found.
These cobs seemed to indicate the early stages of the transformation from
teosinte, a native grass, to maize. There were 74 more cobs found in
subsequent levels, ranging in age from 5000 to 3000 BC. Teosinte is an
edible native grass that can either be popped as our popcorn is today, or
ground and baked into coarse unleavened cakes when worked on a hot, flat,
rock. Teosinte can easily be mutated into maize with 2 mutations; selection
of a non-shattering rachis and selection of a soft fruitcase. Current
studies at the University of Minnesota in gene mutations of teosinte have
produced seeds from which maize can be harvested. The teosinte is treated
with increasing concentrations of sulfate cupric in the moment of


Doebley, John: The Evolution of Maize: From QTLS to Genes

Flannery, Kent: Anthropological Archeology in the Americas

Beadle, George: The Mystery of Maize

Flannery, Kent: A Productivity Study of Teosinte



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