PerspectiveAnthropology

Did maize dispersal precede domestication?

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Science  14 Dec 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6420, pp. 1246-1247
DOI: 10.1126/science.aav7358

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Summary

The domestication of plants and animals and their dispersal across the globe triggered a millennia-long process by which human activity has become the dominant influence on climate and the environment (1). Domestication was a watershed development that ushered in the Anthropocene (2). How, when, where, and why humans embarked on this path is central to understanding how we might chart our way in an uncertain future. On page 1309 of this issue, Kistler et al. (3) report on the dispersal of maize into and across northern South America. The study contributes to the growing appreciation of domestication as a complex, coevolutionary journey taken by humans and receptive plant and animal species over hundreds, if not thousands, of years. The study also joins others in showing how human populations incorporated dispersing domesticates into indigenous systems of exploitation and manipulation of local resources. More broadly, this research speaks to the promise of domestication research in assessing fundamental questions about evolution and the interface of natural and cultural systems that shape it.