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Scientists search for lost seeds of crops domesticated by Indigenous Americans

Scientists search for lost seeds of crops domesticated by Indigenous Americans


This is a very interesting article.   European colonial officials erased the knowledge that Native Americans also began the process of domesticating indigenous crops many thousands of years ago.   For two centuries North America’s indigenous peoples were painted in text books as primitive hunter-gatherers, who were incapable of understanding the many facts of civilization, such as agriculture.  Therefore, the Congress of the United States and the Parliament of Canada adopted policies, which treated indigenous peoples as barriers in the way of progress and helpless children, who couldn’t survive in a modern world without being wards of the state.

It turns out that many of the plants that American gardeners consider to be nuisance species are actually feral domesticated plants that are dependent on mankind for clearing the land and turning up the soil, so they will thrive.  These plants have high nutritional value and are much more resistant to insects and droughts than most laboratory grown seeds. 

A team of scientists is scouring remote locations of North America to find these seeds.  Surprisingly, archaeologists on their team have actually found caches of seeds many centuries old, which are capable of sprouting.  Whether or not they are still viable, they still have intact DNA, which can be extracted, analyzed and inserted into contemporary feral strains of their species.

To read this article, go to:   Seed Hunters

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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.



    Where does Russell Cave in northern Alabama fit into the scheme of things? The seeds found there have long been considered to be an indication of ancient agriculture.


    Mr.Richard, I found Ms. Mueller’s paper very enlightening. This is even more proof that even the earliest inhabitants of the southern U.S. did large scale agricultural practices and also there were widely spread trade connections all over the New World. I have come across wild salvia plants that were blooming in mid November last year close to the Watauga River near Sycamore Shoals here in east TN. I will certainly be on the lookout for all the others now. Thanks always for my feeding my hunger for the truths that are out. Sincerely, Lou

    • Are they the type of salvia that have edible seeds? AKA Chia?


        I am pretty sure they were chia from researching after we got home from our trip to Sycamore Shoals.I am a plant person and found these off the beaten path and they struck me as being odd becaus they were blooming at that time of year(mid Nov.) I knew in had to be a type of salvia by the leaves. I did not get back over there to check on the seed pods as I had planned to after finding the plants and them speaking to me. I had gone to the park as an assignment for a college history class project. We had to pick a historical site, take a family member or friend to visit it,take pix, and do a report. Several things spoke to me while my adult children and I wandered all over the fort and park. There were some of the extremely large trees that called out to me, a certain area looking out across the Watauga river to the island, and most of all the saliva plants. They called to me to find them and query about them. Just something I can not explain that plants talk to me. Even as a child and all my life. I was a floral designer for 30+years and have worked in a large greenhouse for 15 years now. I do intend to go back and search again and be in the lookout for other plants as well. If I find out for certain on something I will let you know.


        Salvia Hispanics variety not the other more desert one that is grown for the seeds as well, is what I believe it is.


    Another important aspect of the sophistication of the Native Americans agriculture was the terraces and canal system they built. You have already pointed out many of these in the southeast. One of these canal systems was actually called the Great Water Highway, a complicated system of waterways located in Louisiana. I read about it in Du Pratz’s “History of Louisiana” published in 1763. He described miles and miles of canals that were created to direct water around land masses for cultivation and transportation. They used the rising tides to irrigate the land but were also were able to plan against seasonal flooding to protect the crops. The author was amazed at the level of engineering and organization that went into these community projects. These were definitely not simple hunter gatherers that undertook construction of this magnitude.


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