In prehistoric times many diverse crops were cultivated and domesticated by indigenous peoples all over the world. Some of these ancient crops are still cultivated today, but many are not. The reasons some domesticated cultivars survived to present day while others went extinct is often a mystery.
At least five species were domesticated in prehistoric eastern North America: sunflowers, squash, goosefoot, erect knotweed, and marshelder. The domesticated forms of goosefoot, erect knotweed, and marshelder have been extinct for hundreds of years. These lost domesticated crops can tell us much about the lifeways of prehistoric peoples. As we learn more about these lost crops, we learn how to build increasingly resilient and sustainable food systems for people today.