Researchers at the University of Toronto discovered a large quantity of quinoa seeds grown in North America in the year 900 BC. J.-C, shedding new light on the trade maintained at the time. The 140,000 seeds were found by archaeologists in 2010 as they assessed a new subdivision in Brantford, Ontario. They found the pile of burnt seeds in a pit near the site.
This type of quinoa had never been found before in the province. Its presence, 3000 years ago, is also centuries ahead of the earliest evidence of a crop in Ontario – a corn crop which existed 500 years A.C., notes Gary Crawford, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto.
The study, published in the American Antiquity magazine, suggests, however, that quinoa would not have been grown in the province. “All previous research on this species of quinoa, which is now extinct, took place in the center of the United States,” confirms the anthropologist.
Quinoa, now considered a superfood, was an important part of the diet of the people of Kentucky, Illinois and Arkansas. Its nutritional value was probably similar to that of modern quinoa, which comes from South America.
This fortuitous discovery takes a significant historical turn, suggesting that the trading system between the Native American peoples may be more developed than previously imagined. “This shows us that sometimes what appears to be a relatively insignificant site may contain something incredibly important,” says Gary Crawford, University of Toronto.
To date, all evidence has indicated that Aboriginal people traded only stones and other minerals over long distances. The discovery of quinoa seeds seems to prove the opposite, according to Gary Crawford.
We do not really understand how aboriginal people traded at that time. But it is understood that they had an “extensive commercial network,” in turn suggests the director of the Woodland Cultural Center’s museum in Brantford, Paula Whitlow.
The authors of the study also hypothesized that the seeds had been burned by mistake, possibly in an overzealous attempt to dry them slightly for storage.