With the development of direct detection radiocarbon dating, which uses an accelerator as part of a highly selective mass spectrometer, it is now possible to determine the age of milligram samples of organic materials1-5. One application of accelerator dating is in evaluating scanty, sometimes controversial evidence for early horticulture throughout the world. We have now used the technique to date small samples of carbonized, cultivated plant remains from archaeological sites in Illinois. The results, reported here, establish (1) that squash was introduced by 7,000 yr ago, 2,500 yr before eastern North American records previously reported; (2) that horticulture involving indigenous plants had begun by 4,000 BP in eastern North America with domestication of Iva annua, a small-seeded annual; (3) that anomalous discoveries of Archaic period maize represent contaminants; and (4) that introduction of maize by initial Middle Woodland times (∼2,000 BP) is questionable.
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