Graduate Student Fellow
Emily Johnson is a Mesoamerican paleoethnobotanist pursuing her Ph.D. in Anthropology at UC Santa Barbara. She has conducted excavations and/or analyses of archaeological sites in Turkey, Guatemala, Mexico, and throughout the United States. Her current research is focused on investigating the timing, spread, and development of the nixtamalization process throughout ancient Mesoamerica. Nixtamalization involves soaking and cooking maize kernels in an alkaline solution made of slaked lime, a cooking method that makes niacin (vitamin B3) available to the body for absorption. This study will be the first to address gaps in knowledge regarding the evolution and spread of nixtamalization, a process that enhances the nutritional value of maize and is recognized by UNESCO as an intangible heritage of humanity. This research involves the integration of two of the Broom Center’s areas of research: Population Health and Environment and Immigration, Race, and Ethnicity.