This lecture tracks a long history of the rise of corn in the development of the Americas. We discuss the genetic development of teosinte into corn and its impact in the architecture and culture of Mesoamerica and North America. We follow the repercussions of corn centrism in the rise of the Olmecs and their colonization of the marshes in San Lorenzo and La Venta. We then skip forward to 200 CE to see the fulfillment of this food’s promise in the architecture of the Mayan city-states, as well as their relationship to cenote water reservoirs and asteroid collisions. Two Mayan cities and their monuments, Tikal and Chichen Itza, illustrate the organization and layout of these peoples and their transformation of the land from marsh to fields for agricultural cropping. These peoples are instances of extreme ecological engineering: city-states surrounded by cornfields cultivated with intense labor, requiring a high level of civic organization and advanced knowledge of hydraulic engineering. This extreme transformation of the landscape is also visible in the buildings and monuments they built.
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