Economic Botany

, Volume 53, Issue 3, pp 261–272 | Cite as

Phaseolus (Fabaceae) in Archaeology: AMS

  • Lawrence Kaplan
  • Thomas F. Lynch


Beans of several species were domesticated in tropical America thousands of years ago, to be combined with maize and other crops in highly successful New World agricultural systems. Radiocarbon dates on charcoal associated with Phaseolus in archaeological sites, in Mexico and Peru indicated the presence of domesticated beans as early as 10 000 years ago. However, direct dates on the beans and pods themselves by accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) do not provide evidence for the cultivation in Mexico of common beans, P. vulgaris, and teparies, P. acutifolius, before about 2500 B.P. in the Tehuacán Valley, and of common beans about 1300 years ago in Tamaulipas and 2100 years ago in the Valley of Oaxaca. AMS dates support the presence in the Peruvian Andes of domesticated common beans by about 4400 B.P. and lima beans by about 3500 B. P. and lima beans by about 5600 B.P. in the coastal valleys of Peru. The late appearance of common and lima beans in the Central Highlands of Mesoamerica supports the importance of missing evidence that may be obtained from prehistoric agricultural sites in western Mexico and in Central America which are located within the range of the wild populations of these species. Additionally, biochemical studies of subsamples of the dated specimens should be carried out in order to extend the molecular evidence for the independent domestication of North and South American common beans.

Key Words

Bean Phaseolus radiocarbon dates AMS pre-Columbian agriculture paleoethnobotany 

Phaseolus en la Arqueologia: Nuevas Fechas Radiocarbonicas (AMS) y lo que Significan Para la Agricultura Precolombiana


Hace miles de anos atrds, varias especies de frijoles se domesticaron en el trópico americano. Se combinaron con el maíz y otras plantas en un sistema de agricultura muy exitoso y particular al Nuevo Mundo. Las fechas radiocarbónicas, extraídos de muestras de carbín de madera, asociado con Phaseolus en locales arqueológicos en México y el Perú, señalaron el cultivo de frijoles domesticados hace 10 000 años. Sin embargo, mediciones directas tomadas en los frijoles y vainas, usando el acelerador atómico (AMS), no dan evidencia del cultivo del fríjol común (P. vulgaris) y teparies (P. acutifolius) en México antes de 2500 años a.p. en el Valle de Tehuacán, y del fríjol común antes de alrededor de 1300 años a.p. en Tamaulipas y antes de 2100 años a.p. en el Valle de Oaxaca. Otras mediciones directas (tomadas con el AMS) apoyan la presencia de los frijoles domesticados en los Andes de Perú alrededor de 4400 a.p. en la sierra del Perú, y las habas de lima cerca de 3500 a.p., y las habas de lima alrededor de 5600 b.p. en los valles costales del Perú. La llegada tardia del frijol común y habas de lima en la Sierra Central de Mesoamérica apoya la importancia de cualquier evidencia que se pudiera obtener de locales agricultural s prehistóricos en la parte oeste de México y en América Central, los quales estan localizados dentro de la distribución de las poblaciones genéticas silvestres de estas especies. En adición, estudios bioquimicos de muestras subsidiarias de los espécimenes fechados se deberia hacer para extender la evidencia molecular para la domesticación independiente de estas cultivos en America del Norte o del Sur.


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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden Press 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lawrence Kaplan
    • 1
  • Thomas F. Lynch
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of MassachusettsBostonUSA
  2. 2.Brazos Valley Museum of Natural HistoryBryanUSA

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