Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 113–139 | Cite as

The possible influence of post-harvest objectives on Cucurbita maxima subspecies maxima and subspecies andreana evolution under cultivation at the Argentinean Northwest: an archaeological example

  • Verónica S. Lema
Original Paper


This paper investigates the possible links between postharvest activities and methods of plant husbandry or management of Cucurbita maxima ssp. maxima and C. maxima ssp. andreana in the prehispanic Argentinean Northwest area. Microscopic methods were used to assess the micromorphological characteristics of modern specimens of South American Cucurbita and Lagenaria species to obtain diagnostic anatomical traits. These traits were then used as criteria for identifying archaeological Cucurbitaceae rind remains from domestic to funerary contexts of the Pampa Grande archaeological site (1720 ± 50 bp, cal. 259–433 ad). Following the taxonomic identification of the archaeological plant remains, they were futher assessed for signs of human selection or possible cultivation, including: rind thickness, qualitative characters (lobbing, wartiness and colour) and postharvest traits (artificial shape, charring, staining and decoration of sherds). The results indicate the presence of Lagenaria siceraria together with spontaneous, intermediate and domestic C. maxima morphotypes. Different subspecies maxima morphtypes were recognized: those intended as food, having thin pericarps to facilitate consumption and those intended also as food, but as containers too, as in Lagenaria, in which the rinds are thickened and lignified. The latter morphotype may possibly represent a strategy of postharvest intensification, but not through new processing techniques, but through the development of landraces with a longer fruit shelf life, resulting from changing husbandry criteria to selective pressures over cultivated stands.


Postharvest Husbandry Cucurbita Landrace 



Michèle Wollstonecroft, Dorian Fuller and anonymous reviewers are gratefully acknowledged for their valuable suggestions and advice to improve the final version of the manuscript. Graciela Suarez is also acknowledged for her assistance in dettermining the techniques related to strings employed in the decoration of Pampa Grande Cucurbitaceae fruits. The author is indebted to the Comisión Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET) which has provided institucional and financial support for this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento Científico de Arqueología-Laboratorio de Etnobotánica y Botánica Aplicada (FCNYM-UNLP), CONICETMuseo de Ciencias Naturales de La PlataBuenos AiresArgentina

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