Ancient Popcorn?

At first blush, I thought Wow! when I read the following, but immediately after my common sense got the better of me.

History of popcorn, see the “prehistory” section. It says that 5,600 year-old popcorn was retrieved from a dig and actually popped.

From my understanding, the reason popcorn pops is because when the kernel is heated, moisture inside the kernel builds up into steam, eventually bursting the shell and turning the kernel inside-out.

How the heck are those kernels still going to have that much moisture after 5,600 years at the bottom of an ancient trash heap?

Googling turns up the standard urban legend results of the “fun fact” being repeated on various pages without attribution. Interestingly, wikipedia mentions the old popcorn, but doesn’t say it popped.

What say you, dopers?

It’s actually very hard for anything to dry out completely; I find it surprising (although not completely implausible) that corn of that age could be in good enough condition to be popped, but that it still contains moisture is exactly what I would expect.

Popcorn is pretty rugged. As long as the pericarp (hull) remains intact, it should retain the moisture. While I’m sure you could pop popcorn that old if you found it, I’m equally sure you’d get a lot of dud kernels where the pericarp had cracked. I’m also pretty sure the stuff you did pop wouldn’t be very good.

If you have ever had popcorn in a movie theater, you would not be surprised by that claim. :wink:

I’m WAGging here, but I am pretty sure that corn wasn’t in the form that we know it today. I’m pretty sure it was somewhere between Teosinte and modern Zea Maize 5600 years ago. Of course, I suppose that it could still be popped…

Major hijack, but what makes the more expensive popcorn taste better than the cheepie brands?

I can’t believe I am the first to mention this. You can soak old popcorn kernels in water overnight to rejuvinate them.