It may be one of the greatest feats of genetic engineering in human history. The cultivation of corn marked a turning point in the development of agriculture and human society in the early Americas. Here was a crop that could now be stored and used during the lean winter months.
Pictured here is a vial containing a corncob that was found in a fire pit at Cahokia Mounds. The pit and its contents are about 800 years old. Note the size difference between the ancient specimen and the modern sweet corn purchased from a local grocer. While prehistoric people may not have understood the science of genetics, they were keen observers, selecting the plants that produced the largest ears and the most kernels to replant the following spring.