What is the age of the oldest Bat Cave maize?

I am prompted to write this note because maize evolutionists continue to use 3000 B.C. as the date of introduction of maize to Bat Cave in southwest New Mexico. H. W. Dick (1965, Bat Cave, Santa Fe) reports much maize from six artificial 1-foot levels at various places in the midden, uncovered during three seasons of excavation (1947, 1948, 1950). Whole and broken cobs reported from the lowest level, VI, number 25, and 68 came from level V (Mangelsdorf and Smith, 1949, Leafl., Bot. Mus., Harvard U., 13:213; Mangelsdorf, Dick and Camara-Hernandez, 1967, loc. cit., 22:1). The earliest reasonably acceptable date for material found near the lowest maize is 912 B.C. ± 250 (Yarnell, 1976, in Cleland, Cultural Change and Continuity, P. 266), but this may not date the maize. There are several reasons for this uncertainty.

1) The radiocarbon dates are erratic. Material from level V produced three radiocarbon dates, 912 B.C. ± 250, 3049-5549 B.C. (a "poor counting run," Dick, 1965, p. 95), and 3655 B.C. ± 290. The last was charcoal "in association with the most primitive corn found in Bat Cave to date" (ibid., p. 19). However, Mangelsdorf et al. (1967) state that the 3655 B.C. date is probably not valid for dating the maize, for unexplained reasons. There are a number of possibilities--level V cut through several irregular sloping strata (Dick, 1965, fig. 16-19) and remained 48-60" below a level line at floor surface, no matter what depth or slope the deposit had; most of the dated material came from midden outside the shelter so when refuse was ejected from inside, older material could have mixed with younger cobs; and/or the wood burned by early occupiers of the cave could have been grown many centuries earlier. One must realize that Mangelsdorf and Smith label the bottom level "I" while the two later reports label it "VI"!

2) Although Mangelsdorf and Smith (1949) describe level VI maize, Mangelsdorf et al. (1967) do not discuss any maize from this level. One might assume this set has dubious association or statistical value.

3) The estimate of 2300 B.C. as the earliest possible starting date of maize at Bat Cave (ibid.) is based on morphological comparison of the early cobs (without presenting comparative data) to cobs from Puebla and Tamaulipas, Mexico, 2012 km and 1440 km away, too far for such comparisons. Moreover, they give the impression that the radiocarbon dates correspond to this estimate by reporting radiocarbon ages as "dates" in Table 1.

4) Antevs (fide Dick) estimated that the underlying buff sand might have been deposited through the 5000-2000 B.C. period.

5) Projectile points of the San Pedro Stage (at Bat Cave dating 900-100 B.C.) are distributed through levels I to V, like most (?) of the maize (all-of the maize discussed in 1967).

Because of messy associations, possible intrusions, and variable radiocarbon dates, the earliest Bat Cave maize cannot be reported as predating 662-1162 B.C.; maize there could prove to be much older or much younger. A sample from level III dates 666-1066 B.C.

Robert McK. Bird

Please Note: Notes submitted to the Maize Genetics Cooperation Newsletter may be cited only with consent of the authors.

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