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Archaeologists Discover 1,000 Year-Old Corn In Mitchell

Archeologists have found seeds at the Prehistoric Indian Village dating  back more than a millennium. The site is open so people can watch the work in Mitchell.

Archeologists say the seeds shed light on what agriculture looked like 1000 years ago on the Dakota Plains. Alan Outram is head of archeology at the University of Exeter. He is part of the group digging at the site in Mitchell.

“What we’re getting here is a snapshot of these plants which have become such a staple today. This whole region in South Dakota its economy is based upon maize, and of course Mitchell here is famous for its corn palace, and maize agriculture is a big story around here. But this is the origin of that in the northern plains,” says Outram.

Outram says people don’t think of the way corn has evolved over centuries.

“These crops we found don’t look, the ones that we found, don’t look like modern ones. There is clear development that has occurred over a thousand years since these first crops. One of the most obvious and striking difference is that the while the corn kernels look very recognizable, like today’s kernels, their attached to much much smaller cobs,” says Outram.  

The corn is just one piece found at the Prehistoric Indian Village. Outram says scientists have found more material in the last few days than they have in years. He says that includes kernels, corn cobs and other plants including sunflower seeds and beans.