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Ancient Mexican Food

July 25, 2007

Mexican food may have changed surprisingly little over the last millennium.


Some really old spice. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

If you could travel back in time to the Mexico of a thousand years ago, the food would probably have a familiar kick to it. This according to archaeo-botanist Linda Perry of the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History. She and her colleagues discovered well-preserved scraps of domesticated chili peppers in an ancient Mexican shelter cave. The peppers date back five to fifteen hundred years. Perry was struck by the variety: ten different kinds of peppers in all, including seven in a single location.

LINDA PERRY (National Museum of Natural History):
Because you’re not going to be growing seven different kinds of peppers if you’re not making some really interesting food.

What’s more, she says the peppers appear to have been used in both fresh and dried forms – providing a broad spectrum of spices that could fuel dishes similar to today’s Mexican specialties. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.