Grant TypePost PhD Research Grant
Institutional AffiliationU. Nacional Autonoma de Mexico
Grant numberGr. 9655
Approve DateApril 16, 2018
Project TitleSomerville, Dr. Andrew D., U. Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico - To aid research on 'Exploring the Origins of Mesoamerican Agriculture: Reconstructing Diet and Ecology in the Tehuacan Valley'
DR. ANDREW D. SOMERVILLE, Universidad Nacional Aut’noma de Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico, was awarded funding in April 2018 to aid research on ‘Exploring the Origins of Mesoamerican Agriculture: Reconstructing Diet and Ecology in the Tehuacan Valley.’ This project explored the origins of agriculture in Mesoamerica by studying the biological collections excavated from a series of dry cave and floodplain sites in the Tehuac’n Valley of Puebla, Mexico, one of the first centers of the world to adopt maize ( Zea mays ) farming. Stable isotope analysis of human and faunal bones was conducted to explore environmental changes in the valley through time and to determine when maize became the dominant dietary staple. AMS radiocarbon dating of human and faunal bones was conducted to anchor the chronology in time. Additionally, stable isotope analyses of modern plants were performed to assist with interpretations of the paleodiet and paleoenvironmental data. Preliminary results indicate that the most significant environmental changes occurred during the transition from the Terminal Pleistocene to the Early Holocene when the environment appears to have changed from a savannah grassland to a semi-arid matorral desert. Stable isotope data from human and dog ( Canis familiaris ) bones suggest that intensive maize agriculture began around 1500 BC and steadily increased through time. The outcomes of this project demonstrate the utility of analyzing archival collections and the results improve our ability to model and timing and causes for the development of agricultural lifestyles.