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Where Did Maize Come From?

Updated on March 24, 2016
This is from the Temple of the Foliated Cross
This is from the Temple of the Foliated Cross

Mayan Myths

The Popol Vuh are ancient texts and myths about creation and Mayan Culture. It describes attempts made by the Mayan Gods at creation. The first few attempts apparently didn't go well, but in the Third Book of The Popol Vuh they decided to make human beings from corn.
Corn was a a major food for the Mayan and very popular in their culture for ceremonies and symbolism. They seemed to strongly identify with maize.

But where did corn come from?

There seems to be many theories but no single answer. Was it domesticated? Were the best specimens selected over and over until we have corn? Was it hybridized by humans, by combining different varieties? Or possibly even accidentally hybridized?

The "accidental hybridization" theory suggests that volcanoes provided "certain metals" that got into the water whereby the hybridization of varieties of plants essentially produced corn. Interestingly enough there is a corresponding myth of The Maize God Hun Hunahpu who was killed but reborn from the Earth as maize.

In Aztec culture and myths, maize is usually identified as feminine. But also has counterparts of male. Centeotl, the male Aztec God of Maize and Chicomecoatl the female, Aztec God of Maize. There was much ceremony and festivals surrounding the planting season of maize. The ancient cultures in Mexico, Central America, South America and even Native American Indians seem to be intensely immersed in not only the cultivation of corn but also as a deep belief or origins of their own being.

In the above artifact of possibly a transition of power from King to Son, the central figure looks what could be a World Tree that looks like it could be corn stalks or leaves. I believe the "ears of the corn " in this artifact are the heads of a reborn Maize God. To me this is so interesting in how closely these people are to the Earth, their beginnings and their beliefs.

Was corn an accident ? It definitely was manipulated, as a plant, by these ancient cultures as well. Was it a gift from a Creator to a people? The reverence is undeniable.


Nixtamalization is a process conceived by the Mayan and Aztec civilizations. They used ash, lime and citrus to create a solution that they soaked corn in. This process increases the ability to absorb the nutrients in maize for the human body. It also makes it easier to grind and the flavor is boosted. Hominy is produced this way.

These ancient cultures not only may have domesticated maize into existence, as the corn we know today but also scientifically enhanced it as well.
With today's technology and techniques we can make corn with larger kernels or crops that yield more but think how difficult it would be if no such plant existed to be improved upon. For me, the history of maize is deeper and more mysterious than I could have ever thought.


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