A new study finds that ancient Peruvians may have indulged in the consumption of popcorn.
A new study finds that people living along the coast of northern Peru were eating popcorn 1,000 years earlier than previously thought. Researchers say corn husks discovered in Peru suggests that the ancient ancestors of Peruvians were partaking in the corn-based delight.

Scientists working in conjunction with Washington’s Natural History Museum say the oldest corncobs they found dated from 4,700 BC.

“Corn was first domestica­ted in Mex­i­co nearly 9,000 years ago from a wild grass called teosin­te,” though this plant looks very dif­fer­ent from corn, said Do­lo­res Piperno, a co-author of the study. “Our results show that only a few thousand years later corn arrived in South America where its evolution into different varieties that are now common in the Andean region began.”

Scientists say characteristics of the an­cient cob­s — the ear­li­est ev­er found in South Amer­i­ca — indicate that the lo­cal inhabitants consumed corn sev­eral ways, in­clud­ing pop­corn and flour corn. However, corn was not a yet major component of the diet, as it would be la­ter when it be­came a key fixture of the Peruvian diet. The team of scientists said the discovery shows that corn may have quickly entered the Peruvian diet, where is quickly became ubiquitous.

“These new and unique races of corn may have developed quickly in South America, where there was no chance that they would continue to be pollinated by wild teosinte,” said Piperno. “Because there is so little data available from other places for this time period, the wealth of morphological information about the cobs and other corn remains at this early date is very important for understanding how corn became the crop we know today.”

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