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4 Corn from Three North Carolina Sites, 31Gs55, 56, and 30 Leonard W. Blake Washington University (Written in 1987) Leonard Blake’s Comments, 1999 The three North Carolina sites in this report were excavated under the direction of Dr. Janet Levy of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Dr. Alan May of the Shiele Museum of Natural History in Gastonia, North Carolina. Estimates of dates and determination of cultures are those of the excavators. Samplesofcarbonizedcorncobsandcobfragmentswerereceivedfromthree sites in Gaston County, North Carolina, from Dr. Janet Levy of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. In this report corn cob samples from each site are considered separately, compared with the others, and compared with corn from an early historic site in Virginia and from a later Spanish Mission off the coast of Georgia. Samples were received from three different locations at 31Gs55, which is described as a multicomponent site with occupations ranging from Middle Archaic into Late Prehistoric, which is probably “South Appalachian Mississippian .” There is a carbon 14 date of a.d. 1600 ± 50 on wood from Feature 40 and another from a different part of the site of a.d. 1350 ± 70 (Letter from Dr. Janet Levy, Jan. 12, 1987). Although mean row numbers vary between the rather small samples from Trench D and from Feature 39, when combined they average the same as corn fromFeature40withameanrownumberof8.9.Whenrownumbersandcupule widths of the individual specimens measured are placed on a coordinate graph, they cover the same area, with only a few exceptions (Figure 4.1). I consider them to be very similar examples of the race of corn that was called Northern Flint by Brown and Anderson (1947) but, more recently, Eastern Eight Row by Cutler and Blake (1976). The later name seems preferable to me because the race is predominantly eight-rowed and the kernels may be flint, flour, or sweet. Although it was dominant prehistorically in the northern United States, Figure 4.1. Corn from 31Gs55, North Carolina. it was also present by a.d. 1000 in the southeastern states, where average row numbers are often slightly higher than in the Northeast (Blake 1986:3). Because the samples from 31Gs55 appear to be comparable, the a.d. 1600 ± 50 date of Feature 40 does not appear to be out of line for all three samples. A sample of corn cobs was received from only one location at 31Gs56, that is, from Test Pit 2, Feature 1, described as a large burned area of corn and wood. I was able to obtain measurements on sixteen cobs (Figure 4.2). The distribution of row numbers is not the same as that of the combined locations of 31Gs55, but the mean row numbers are identical. While the median size of the cob cupules from 31Gs56 is 8.1 millimeters, somewhat less than the 8.6 millimeters of 31Gs55, the cobs are similar and are considered to be of the same race. Samples were received from two locations at 31Gs30, which is described as representing a Late Prehistoric or, possibly, Historic occupation of about a.d. 1500–1600 (Levy, letter, Jan. 12, 1987). Each measurable sample is small, consisting of ten cobs from Trench B and nine from Trench F, Feature 24 (Figure 4.3). The combined mean row number on the total of nineteen cobs of 8.8 nearly equals the 8.9 of the other sites. The cobs are very much smaller, however, median cupule width being only 5.5 millimeters, 64 percent of the 8.6 millimeters of 31Gs55 and 68 percent of the 8.1 millimeters of 31Gs56. The kernels are also thinner, the median being only 2.9 millimeters as against 3.4 millimeters for the corn from the other two sites (see Definition of Terms Used, below, for measurement of kernel thickness on corn cobs). If the smaller size was the result of a bad crop year, or neglect, a decline in the mean row number might be expected, for under adverse growing conditions the row number of corn ears tends to decline (Emerson and Smith 1950:7). Because the mean row number is nearly equal to that of the larger cobs from the other sites, the small size does not appear to be the result of stress. John Banister, writing in April 1679 in Virginia, said: “The Indians have two Sorts more of Rath-ripe Corn [that is, early corn], the ears of ye lesser Sort are no bigger than ye haft of a...


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