Byline: Elinando B Cinco
RECENT discoveries of ancient and prehistoric advances in agriculture and architecture continue to baffle historians and modern science.
Prominent of these was the scientific disclosure that ancient Mexicans manipulated crops, particularly their maize, as early as 7000 B.C.
Thus, they were the first genetic engineers in the world!
How did this come about?
The natives, probably many of them Aztec Indians, developed the teosinte, a wild grass that bore kernels, mainly grown as animal feeds. The biggest kernels in a particular harvest were set aside for planting each spring season.
The ancient Mexicans did this process each time they harvested teosinte, stored the biggest kernels again for replanting until they got bigger and bigger each autumn harvest.
Over the years, the teosintes stalks and cobs gradually got bigger too an agriculture evolution that scientists today believed lasted over thousands of years fathering what is now the maize or corn.
Svante Paabo, a German geneticist, who studied maize samples from the Balsas River Valley in southern Mexico discovered that modern maize grew in the area as early as 7000 B.C. His findings suggest "that ancient humans were capable of causing rapid and decisive changes in the genetic makeup of staple crops."
Today the teosinte manipulated by humans evolved into yellow cobs that are now the Mexican maize. And little did we all know that the sweet corn we now enjoy on our dining table was genetically altered some 9,000 years ago!
Paabo and his team performed DNA analysis on 5,300-year-old cobs.
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