The ruins of the city of Casas Grandes are in Chihuahua State about 80 miles (130 kilometers) from the New Mexico border. The city, which numbered about 3,000 people at its peak in the 1300s, is also known as Paquimé. The Casas Grandes culture stretched across several river valleys in northern Mexico.
The town was probably a hub of culture and trade between central Mexico and the Southwestern United States.
Map showing the location of the Casas Grandes culture. (Beloit College map)The stuff trapped in the teeth as tartar, which fossilizes to become calculus, is probably from the last few weeks of their lives, says an article in Western Digs.
“The results of this study offer some of the first hard evidence for the production of corn beer, consumption of corn smut, and food processing methods,” lead researcher Daniel King, a graduate student in anthropology at Brigham Young University, told Western Digs. “It is a step forward in understanding Casas Grandes human-plant interactions, especially diet.”
- Mummy hair reveals ancient Peruvians enjoyed seafood and beer
- People in the Southwestern United States drank caffeinated drinks in 750 AD
- New Discovery Reveals Egyptians Brewed Beer 5,000 Years Ago in Israel
King and his team are doing the teeth analysis of 110 people buried in and around Casas Grandes between 700 and 1450 AD.
Part of the Paquimé (Casas Grandes) site, Mexico. (HJPD/CC BY SA 3.0)Of the samples, teeth from 63 bodies provided microscopic traces, the most common of which were starch granules, corn mostly. They also found tiny mineral fragments from squash and grasses.
About 10 percent of the bodies had corn smut traces. Corn smut is a nutritious fungus that grows on corn. Even today it is a delicacy called by its Aztec name huitlacoche.
Granules of corn found in the tooth calculus of people buried at Casas Grandes show signs of swelling and fragmentation that are typical of fermentation, researchers say. (King et al.)“Given the nature of calculus, any microremains recovered are going to be from the last days or weeks of the person’s life, maybe a month or two, but not longer,” King said. “So reconstructing diet, in the long term sense, doesn’t work with calculus. However, identifying specific foodstuffs — like corn beer, fish, chile, et cetera — is useful, as many of them can’t be seen in the results of other studies.”
- Orion Temple in Colorado - Part 1
- The little-known Pachacamac mummies of Peru
- Archaeological study explores drug-taking and altered states in prehistory
Chicha de jora. Huancayo, Perú. (Public Domain)But this may be the first evidence of corn beer that far north, King said. The corn fragments date to the period of 1200 to 1450. And the researchers don’t know when it may have been introduced from more southerly communities in Peru or Mesoamerica.
A Beloit College website says the Casas Grandes culture, which extends from Sonora to Chihuahua up into present-day New Mexico, was more closely related to Mesoamerican cultures to the south than to the Hohokam or Mogollon peoples to the north.
A Casas Grandes culture figurine. (Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts)Like people to the south, the Casas Grandes people had platform mounds and ball courts, apparently used in rituals. They lived along river drainages and had irrigation systems. Paquimé was a major center of trade, through which macaws, pottery, shells, and copper were shipped from Central America into Arizona and New Mexico.
The people had shallow pit houses arranged around a large community house. The homes were made of jacal, a wattle-and-daub type of construction. As time went on, a plaza design became more prevalent, and, Beloit College says that people probably lived in the houses with common ancestors. Later they developed poured adobe walls.
A partially reconstructed residential building in Paquimé, Chihuahua, Mexico. (HJPD/ CC BY 3.0)Featured Image: Examples of variegated maize ears (Sam Fentress/ CC BY SA 2.0) and a figurine from the Casas Grandes culture c. 1200 - 1450. (Public Domain)
By Mark Miller