In Search of Corn

My name is Dr. Elizabeth Moore and I am the Curator of Archaeology at the Virginia Museum of Natural History. Virginia has been seeing some unseasonably high temperatures so fieldwork is not a viable option these days for many of my volunteers. The 2012 Day of Archaeology saw a high of 104 degrees F. It’s a good day to be in the lab.

Partially complete Native American vessel that contained mixed botanicals.

Today I am examining an assemblage that recently came into the museum from an interesting site in southwest Virginia. The site had a very light scatter of recent materials on the surface and a single buried Native American ceramic vessel. Carbon residue dates the vessel to ca. A.D.1,200. Inside the vessel was an assortment of botanical materials including wild bean, wild grape, wild blueberry, and corn. Corn in Virginia first dates to ca. A.D.1,100 so the corn in this vessel is fairly early for this part of the world. I have been sorting through the bagged flotation samples to see if there is enough corn to get a direct date using AMS on the corn itself. So far the only fragments I have seen are very small but there are still a couple of bags to go so maybe we’ll get lucky.

Flotation samples

Some of the flotation samples I am searching for corn remains.


Some of the small seeds in this assemblage include grape and blueberry.