Maygrass (Phalaris caroliniana): The Meaning of an Early Native North American Crop

Date and Time: 
Friday, 6 May, 2011 - 18:20 to 18:40
FRITZ, Gayle - Washington University in St. Louis

A recent overview of archaeological maygrass fostered a greater appreciation of its geographic range, longevity, and centrality as a component of indigenous eastern North Ameican agricultural systems. An unexpected consequence of the research—to be highlighted in this paper—is the observation that maygrass occurs repeatedly in contexts implicating its use as a symbolically-loaded food or drink. Furthermore, maygrass seems to have served as a marker of cultural identity, an essential food, for Cahokia-related Mississippians moving beyond the Central Mississippi River valley.