The Origins of Food Production in Mesoamerica

Dolores R. Piperno and Bruce D. Smith

in The Oxford Handbook of Mesoamerican Archaeology

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780195390933
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 The Origins of Food Production in Mesoamerica

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  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology by Region
  • Prehistoric Archaeology


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Mexico, along with the remainder of Mesoamerica in smaller part, formed one of the world's great centers for the independent development of agriculture. Dozens of crop plants were brought under cultivation and domesticated there in the prehistoric era. They include the most famous crop of the Americas, maize ( Zea mays ); two species of squash ( Cucurbita pepo and C. argyrosperma ); the common bean and small-seeded (sieva) lima bean ( Phaseolus vulgaris and P. lunatus [sieva type]); the pseudocereals Amaranthus and Chenopodium ; avocados ( Persea Americana ); at least one species of chile pepper ( Capsicum annuum ); and a number of important tree crops, including Leucaena spp. (the guajes ) and Spondias purpurea (the hog plum). Plant cultivation and domestication in both the highlands and tropical lowlands emerged during the early Holocene period. This article discusses the available information in more detail.

Keywords: agricultural development; crop plants; plant cultivation; plant domestication; early Holocene

Article.  5584 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; Archaeology by Region ; Prehistoric Archaeology

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