The ancient inhabitants of New Mexico's Chaco Canyon, the zenith of Pueblo culture in the Southwest a thousand years ago, likely had to import corn to feed the multitudes residing there, says a new University of Colorado Boulder study.
CU Boulder scientist Larry Benson said the new study shows that Chaco Canyon - believed by some archeologists to have been populated by several thousand people around A.D. 1100 and to have held political sway over an area twice the size of Ohio - had soils that were too salty for the effective growth of corn and beans.
"The important thing about this study is that it demonstrates you can't grow great quantities of corn in the Chaco valley floor," said Benson, an adjunct curator of anthropology at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History. "And you couldn't grow sufficient corn in the side canyon tributaries of Chaco that would have been necessary to feed several thousand people.
"Either there were very few people living in Chaco Canyon, or corn was imported there."