Paul Patton, assistant professor of anthropology and food studies. Photo credit: Natalie Mueller.
Ever wonder what prehistoric people who lived in southeastern Ohio ate? Assume it was just corn or squash? Think again.
Paul Patton, assistant professor of anthropology and food studies, and his team of students conduct archeological digs in Appalachian Ohio and collect fragments of prehistoric crops grown thousands of years ago. Many might assume that these plant remains are just weeds, but they have much more meaning. These fragments tell the story of agriculture in the region that predates maize or corn by thousands of years.
Patton believes that understanding these ancient food systems, including how prehistoric populations cultivated and subsisted on these crops, could help solve some of the food insecurity issues we face in southeastern Ohio. Many of these ancient crops evolved to adapt to our region, and reintroducing these plants could allow more sustainable and productive agricultural practices.
Patton will discuss the legacy of these plants and their potential as food crops at his Science Café, “Harvest the Past, Feed the Future,” at 5 p.m. on Wed., Oct. 18, in Baker Center Front Room.
“We have to rethink the natural world as we know it. People have lived here for 15,000 years. What we consider natural is actually the result of human and plant interactions dating back to long before Europeans arrived in the New World,” Patton said.
Unfortunately, most ancient crops have reverted back to their wild forms and were largely lost to history until archaeobotanists, like Patton, began sifting through the archaeological record.
Attend Patton’s Café to learn more about the ancient food systems of southeastern Ohio and consider how understanding what our ancestors grew may help to mitigate food insecurity in our region today.
Science Cafés are part of Ohio University’s Café Series, Wednesdays at the Baker Center Front Room. The series provides a venue for students to informally share their interests during a conversational exchange with faculty presenters, staff and the Athens community. Free coffee is offered to the first 50 attendees, and participants who ask questions can win a free t-shirt.
The series is supported by the Ohio University Research Division and Sigma Xi.
Learn more! Watch the 1-minute Café Series video: