NEW DATES AND DATA ONEARLY AGRICULTURE: THELEGACY OF COMPLEXHUNTER-GATHERERS'Gayle J. Fritz2ABSTRACT The Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) method of radiocarbon dating has shortened the history of maizeagriculture by demonstrating that purported earliest cobs from Mexico, New Mexico, and eastern North America areyounger than, and intrusive into, earlier archaeological strata. Models of agricultural origins based on a 5000 B.C.or earlier date for cultigens must be discarded or validated by directly dated specimens. A more recent date (ca.3000-3500 B.C.) for maize domestication leads to a new focus on settled hunter-gatherers in resource-rich zones.Social complexity in nonagricultural societies elsewhere is becoming more generally appreciated. In the Lower MississippiValley, nonagricultural mound builders persisted until 1100 A.D., and in Florida, California, and the Pacific Northwest,stratified hunter-gatherers flourished until Europeans arrived. These examples of sustainable harvesting demonstratethe long-term viability of such systems. In much of the Western Hemisphere, we canno longer state that agriculture began as long agoas outlined in many currently used textbooks. Ex-amples include the sequence for maize domesti-cation in Mexico and the spread of maize to theGreater Southwest and the region that is now theeastern United States. The standard scenarios, eventhough they have been undermined by new datesand new data, have a strong hold on professionalsand informed members of the general public. May-be people think it will be only a few years untilnew discoveries are made that push back the chro-nology to its prior position if not farther. Maybewe cling to the old models out of respect for ourpioneering mentors. Whatever forces are operat-ing, it is time to go public with the new, youngerdates and to accept the damage to cherished sce-narios. I begin this paper by evaluating the impact ofthe Accelerator Mass Spectrometer (AMS) methodof radiocarbon dating on the study of agriculturalevolution in the New World. I then turn to evidencegenerated by another technological innovation-archaeological flotation-and summarize the un-expected results of archaeobotanical studies in theMidwestern United States and the Lower Missis-sippi Valley. Nonagricultural societies persisted lon-ger than previously believed in both Mexico andthe Lower Mississippi Valley. In Louisiana, densepopulations of sedentary and socially complexmound builders preceded the adoption of maize.This leads to a discussion of complex fisher-gath-erer-hunters in general, because groups in the Low-er Mississippi Valley seem similar in many ways toother sedentary, nonagricultural peoples, includingthe Natufians and Epipaleolithic villagers of theancient Near East, the Calusa of Florida, and nativeAmerican groups in California and the coastal Pa-cific Northwest. The western North Americangroups practiced what seems to qualify as sustain-able harvesting quite successfully for millennia,until the European incursion, supporting populationdensities exceeding those of ail farming societiesnorth of Mesoamerica. I believe we can apply this knowledge to dis-cussions of modern resource management and eco-logical imbalance, and I conclude this paper byemphasizing the viability of sustainable harvestingwhen it is put in long-term perspective.NEW DATES ON "EARLY" MAIZETHE AMS RADIOCARBON METHOD AND ITS IMPACT Radiocarbon dating has been an essential toolfor archaeologists since Willard Libby offered it toscientists in 1949 (Taylor, 1987). Many techno-' I arn grateful to Mick Richardson for inviting me to participate in this symposium and to Ksenija Borojevic,David Browman, Fiona Marshall, Patty Jo Watson, and Henry Wright for enlightening and encouraging me whileworking on these issues. I also thank Dean Martin Israel and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of WashingtonUniversity in St. Louis for granting release time from teaching, without which this research would have been impossible. 2 Department of Anthropology and Department of Biology, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri63130, U.S.A. ANN. MISSOURI BOT. GARD. 82: 3-15. 1995.