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Tehuacan Valley (Mexico)


Definition: The Tehuacan Valley in the state of Puebla, Mexico, was the focus of a large-scale survey led by American archaeologist R.S. MacNeish during the 1960s. MacNeish and his team were looking for the Late Archaic origins of maize, and his large, multi-discipline project identified nearly 500 cave and open air sites, and produced over 100,000 plant remains, as well as other artifacts.

The Tehuacan survey (and specifically Coxcatlan Cave) came under fire recently, but the best thing to come out of that debate is a clear, updated delineation of the cave deposits by Kent Flannery and Richard MacNeish.


Flannery, Kent V. and Richard S. MacNeish 1997 In defense of the Tehuacan project. Current Anthropology 38(4):660-672.

Fritz, Gayle J. 1994 Are the first American farmers getting younger? Current Anthropology 35(1):305-309.

Long, Austin and Gayle J. Fritz 2001 Validity of AMS dates on maize from the Tehuacan Valley: A comment on MacNeish and Eubanks. Latin American Antiquity 12(1):87-90.

MacNeish, Richard S. and Mary W. Eubanks 2000 Comparative analysis of the Rio Balsas and Tehuacan models for the origin of maize. Latin American Antiquity 11(1):3-20.

Smith, Bruce D. 2005 Reassessing Coxcatlan Cave and the early history of domesticated plants in Mesoamerica. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 102(27):9438-9445.

This glossary entry is part of the Dictionary of Archaeology.

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