Skip to main content
eScholarship
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Multiple lines of evidence for the origin of domesticated chili pepper, Capsicum annuum, in Mexico

  • Author(s): Kraft, KH
  • Brown, CH
  • Nabhan, GP
  • Luedeling, E
  • De Jesús Luna Ruiz, J
  • D'Eeckenbrugge, GC
  • Hijmans, RJ
  • Gepts, P
  • et al.
Abstract

The study of crop origins has traditionally involved identifying geographic areas of high morphological diversity, sampling populations of wild progenitor species, and the archaeological retrieval of macroremains. Recent investigations have added identification of plant microremains (phytoliths, pollen, and starch grains), biochemical and molecular genetic approaches, and dating through 14C accelerator mass spectrometry. We investigate the origin of domesticated chili pepper, Capsicum annuum, by combining two approaches, species distribution modeling and paleobiolinguistics, with microsatellite genetic data and archaeobotanical data. The combination of these four lines of evidence yields consensus models indicating that domestication of C. annuum could have occurred in one or both of two areas of Mexico: northeastern Mexico and central-east Mexico. Genetic evidence shows more support for the more northern location, but jointly all four lines of evidence support central-east Mexico, where preceramic macroremains of chili pepper have been recovered in the Valley of Tehuacán. Located just to the east of this valley is the center of phylogenetic diversity of Proto-Otomanguean, a language spoken in mid-Holocene times and the oldest protolanguage for which a word for chili pepper reconstructs based on historical linguistics. For many crops, especially those that do not have a strong archaeobotanical record or phylogeographic pattern, it is difficult to precisely identify the time and place of their origin. Our results for chili pepper show that expressing all data in similar distance terms allows for combining contrasting lines of evidence and locating the region(s) where cultivation and domestication of a crop began.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC Academic Senate's Open Access Policy. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
Current View