Phytolith Evidence for Early Holocene Cucurbita Domestication in Southwest Ecuador

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Science  14 Feb 2003:
Vol. 299, Issue 5609, pp. 1054-1057
DOI: 10.1126/science.1080365

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Cucurbita (squash and gourd) phytoliths recovered from two early Holocene archaeological sites in southwestern Ecuador and directly dated to 10,130 to 9320 carbon-14 years before the present (about 12,000 to 10,000 calendar years ago) are identified as derived from domesticated plants because they are considerably larger than those from modern wild taxa. The beginnings of plant husbandry appear to have been preceded by the exploitation of a wild species ofCucurbita during the terminal Pleistocene. These data provide evidence for an independent emergence of plant food production in lowland South America that was contemporaneous with or slightly before that in highland Mesoamerica.

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