The Paleobiolinguistics of Domesticated Squash (Cucurbita spp.)

Date and Time: 
Friday, 13 April 2012 - 5:00pm to 5:20pm
Author(s): 
Brown, Cecil H. (Northern Illinois University and University of West Florida)
Eike Luedeling (International Center for Research in Agroforestry)
Søren Wichmann (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology)
Patience Epps (University of Texas at Austin)

Paleobiolinguistics uses the comparative method of historical linguistics to reconstruct the biodiversity known to human groups of the remote, unrecorded past. Comparison of words for biological species from modern genetically related languages facilitates reconstruction of biological vocabularies of ancient proto-languages. Terms reconstructed for domesticated squash (Cucurbita spp.) for all major New World ancestral languages, such as Proto-Siouan, Proto-Otomanguean, and Proto-Maipuran, are compiled. This information is compared chronologically and geographically with crop-origin findings from archaeology and botany. The earliest paleobiolinguistic dates for domesticated squash tend to be significantly younger than dates found for macro- and micro-fossil remains. Paleobiolinguistics indicates that domesticated squash acquired substantial salience and broad distribution in Mesoamerica much earlier than elsewhere in the New World.