Anthropology, Department of


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Published in Nebraska Anthropologist Vol. 23 (2008). Copyright © Amanda J. Landon; published by The University of Nebraska-Lincoln AnthroGroup.


The origins of agriculture· in Mesoamerica have long interested archaeologists and antiquarians alike. The approaches used to understand the origins of the three sisters, maize, beans and squash, have changed over time as our understanding of the ecological context and ethnographic influences have changed. In this paper, I examine the history of the study of the origins of agriculture and assess the current evolutionary and ecological approaches to the topic. In Mesoamerica, the three sisters and humans shared a co evolutionary relationship in which humans invited the plants into the human niche and the plants thrived. Over time, the plants changed both genetically and morphologically, providing more of what humans selected for, while humans changed their behavior in order to care for the plants. Both humans and the three sisters now share a symbiotic relationship, where both the plants and the humans depend on one another.

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