restricted access 2. Cultivated Plants from Picuris
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2 Cultivated Plants from Picuris Hugh C. Cutler Missouri Botanical Garden and Washington University (This work was aided by National Science Foundation Grant G17593, 1966) Leonard Blake’s Comments, 1999 In the early 1960s, Dr. Herbert Dick was asked by the Picuris Indians living in the Pueblo of San Lorenzo in northern New Mexico, south of the better-known Pueblo of Taos, to aid them in getting a water line into the Pueblo. Dr. Dick laid out and excavated the line, and, in doing so, collected archaeological specimens, whichincludedpotteryandplantremains.Becausevariationsinthepotteryfrom archaeological sites in the southwestern United States are now so well known, it is commonly possible to use the kinds of pottery found to date other associated remains. This was the case at Picuris, so that Cutler was able to demonstrate the changes that had taken place in the kinds of corn grown in recent years, after the Pueblo revolt of the seventeenth century. Cutler also discusses changes in corn in the Southwest over earlier periods. A number of the comments made about “North American Indian Corn” (Chapter 1) also apply to this report. Cultivated plants may be considered as special kinds of artifacts. They are created, maintained, and transported by people. Most American Indians grow several different kinds of a plant. Within each kind there are many variants, the product of years of care by a family or similar group that grew its crops in separate fields and selected its own seed, and of environmental selection and chance hybridization. There is sufficient contact between the various Indian groups so that similar kinds of cultivated plants are grown over wide areas. Consistent differences in the crop plants usually can be related to the distance from Mexico, environmental and cultural complexity, and relations with neighboring people. The ideal way to study corn or any other plant from living Indians or from archaeological sites is to compare each major kind of corn with its counterpart fromothervillages,sites,andtimeperiods.Althoughthiscanbedonewithgood contemporarymaterial,ourpresenttechniquesandabilitiesveryseldomenable us to identify with certainty each kind or cultivar in the usual archaeological collections. In nearly all cases we must compare entire lots or attempt to distinguish natural groupings. In the diagrams (Figures 2.1–2.7) some of these natural groupings of related kinds can be seen as clusters of points. These groupings usually include several closely related kinds of corn selected on the basis of color or texture by the growers. By careful comparisons of cultivated plants from a site with those from other sites we may be able to trace the relationships of the plants and the people who grew them. The long occupation of Picuris and other Pueblos and the relationship of the Pueblo people to those who occupied older sites make it possible to follow changes in their cultivated plants and to demonstrate how changes in cultivated plants are linked to other steps in the evolution of a culture. The Corn Ear The corn ear follows the general pattern for fruiting parts of most grasses, but it has been so compressed and hardened that some training and practice is needed before one can effectively measure and describe the parts. Two of the most useful characters are relatively easy to see and record. The rows of grains can nearly always be counted. Even when the grains and the spikelets (the chaff of the cob) that bore the grains are missing, it is possible to count the cupules in which each pair of spikelets with its pair of grains was borne. Measurements of the gross diameter of cobs from archaeological sites usually are inaccurate because varying quantities of the spikelets are worn off. In addition, the number of rows of grains and the lengths of the spikelets affect the diameter. Nickerson (1953) discovered that the width of the cupule in which a pair of spikelets is borne is a reliable measure of the size of the central axis of the cob. Cupules from the tip or butt of an ear or from distorted or unusual rows should not be used, but even fragments including a single cupule often can be used. Width is measured across cupules from one margin to the other at right angles to the longitudinal axis of the ear. In general, there has been a reduction in the number of rows of grains in Southwestern corn during the past 2,000 years (Martin et al. 1952) and an increase in the size of the cob. The most important exceptions to this trend are found...