Starch Fossils and the Domestication and Dispersal of Chili Peppers (Capsicum spp. L.) in the Americas

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Abstract

Chili peppers (Capsicum spp.) are widely cultivated food plants that arose in the Americas and are now incorporated into cuisines worldwide. Here, we report a genus-specific starch morphotype that provides a means to identify chili peppers from archaeological contexts and trace both their domestication and dispersal. These starch microfossils have been found at seven sites dating from 6000 years before present to European contact and ranging from the Bahamas to southern Peru. The starch grain assemblages demonstrate that maize and chilies occurred together as an ancient and widespread Neotropical plant food complex that predates pottery in some regions.

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