According to Guns, Germs, and Steel, what were the major factors limiting crop domestication among Native Americans in the Eastern US?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The answer to this can be found towards the end of Chapter 8.  Basically, Diamond argues that the plant species native to Eastern North America were simply not very suitable for domestication.  They had advantages, but these advantages were outweighed by their disadvantages.

Diamond says that there were seven crops that could be domesticated in this area.  They were squash, sunflowers, sumpweed, goosefoot, knowtweed, maygrass, and little barley.  All of these were good plants in terms of nutritional value.  However, they all had major problems.  The last four all had seeds that were much smaller than crops like wheat or barley that existed in other areas of the world.  Sumpweed also makes people very allergic and can cause skin irritation.

So, the only grains that Native Americans in the East had were not very good for domestication.  There were no really good grains and so the only crops that were really valuable were sunflowers and squash, which are not enough to be the basis for an agricultural economy.  This was the major fact limiting crop domestication in this area.

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