The Origin Of Popcorn Goes Way Back Than You Might Expect

Popcorn is a popular snack among Americans, with about 14 billion quarts of popcorn being eaten annually (per The Popcorn Board). Interestingly, popcorn was very important to some ancient civilizations, such as Aztec Indians from the 16th century. They would use popped corn to craft necklaces for their gods' statues and make decorations and headdresses used for important ceremonies. Popcorn kernels were also discovered on the northern coast of Chile's deserts in some burial grounds, further revealing how important corn was. Around the late 19th century to the early 20th century, people actually enjoyed popcorn for breakfast, and it was eaten like cereal.

Around 9,000 years ago, corn itself was first cultivated in Mexico from teosinte, which is a wild type of grass, according to National Geographic. Eventually, corn made its way to South America after several thousand years, and farmers started cross-breeding different corn types to make more varieties. But the origin of popcorn goes back way further than anyone would expect.

Popped corn may have been enjoyed 6,700 years ago

Archeologists found ancient corn cobs, stalks, husks, and tassels on the northern coast of Peru at the Huaca Prieta and Paredones dig sites, according to National Geographic. Upon analyzing their discoveries, the archeologists found the corn cobs were from around 6,700 years ago. They found the ancient corn remains in 2012 though (per Mental Floss). The only evidence of ancient corn found before was from microfossils that were traced back to 5,000 years ago (via National Geographic). Experts used various testing methods, including radiocarbon dating, to find more information about the ancient corn cobs.

The archeologists were able to determine that the corn cobs were used to make popcorn by people who used to occupy the Huaca Prieta and Paredones areas. Research and evidence reveal that the people from that area didn't consume corn often, and the vegetable was presumably considered a delicacy. They may have cooked corn and made popcorn by using an earthen oven to cook the corn cob, placing the corn cob on hot coals after wrapping it in an unknown material, or using an open flame to roast the corn cob. So next time you grab some popcorn at the movies, you'll have a neat fact to share, and if you're enjoying a popcorn snack at home, here are some of the best things to add to your popcorn that aren't butter.