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Chaco Canyon Indian Ruins

grinding stones

Grinding stones were used to grind maize, pinon nuts and other seeds. Pinon nuts come from the cones of several species of pine trees, in this case Pinus edulis, which is native to the western United States and Mexico. Stone grit from food prepared in this way was hard on the teeth, a fact confirmed by examination of skeletal remains from the period.

The main agricultural staples were corn, squash, and beans. Experiments have shown that farmers at Dolores may have produced 40 bushels of corn per acre, compared with “modern” dry farming that only yields 14 bushels per acre. One acre of corn was needed each year to feed one person, and storage was important.

Gardens attracted rabbits, birds, and mice, which were the main protein sources. They also gathered pinon nuts, yucca fruit, and berries. Large game was deer, elk, antelope, and bighorn sheep.

Food preparation was labor intensive: Corn was dried on the cob and was ground using manos, or pestles, and metates, the grinding stones shown above. There were three different grades of coarseness of the metates, beginning with the rough corn and finishing with the fine cornmeal.

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