Scientists discover ancient popcorn in Peru, possibly 6,700 years old

It’s been known for some time that some people have been eating popcorn for a long time–about 5,000 years ago, to be exact–but it turns out the ancient popcorn-eating goes back quite a bit further than originally thought.

A team of scientists from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and Washington’s Natural History Museum have uncovered evidence that people in what is now Peru have been eating popcorn and other corn-based foods 6,700 years ago, if not longer.

An assortment of ancient fossilized corncobs, husks, tassels and stalks were discovered by the teams in Paredones and Huaca Prieta, in Peru’s northern region. Additionally, the team found corn microfossils with starch grains, suggesting that not only did the ancient residents snack on popcorn, but they may have used corn for flour as well.

“Corn was first domesticated in Mexico nearly 9,000 years ago from a wild grass called teosinte,” said Dolores Piperno, co-author of the paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Our results show that only a few thousand years later corn arrived in South America where its evolution into different varieties that are now common in the Andean region began. This evidence further indicates that in many areas corn arrived before pots did and that early experimentation with corn as a food was not dependent on the presence of pottery.”

via Physorg