Washington (AP) -- It turns out the red hot chili peppers have been around for quite a while.
We don't mean the Grammy-winning rock group, we mean the peppers.
New fossil evidence shows that prehistoric people from southern Peru up to the Bahamas were cultivating varieties of the peppers, thousands of years before Columbus brought the spice to the world's cuisine.
Researchers say the earliest traces are from southwestern Ecuador, where families apparently fired up their meals with home-grown peppers about 6,100 years ago.
The discovery is reported in the journal Science. It indicates that early new world agriculture was more sophisticated than had been thought.
Copyright 2007 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.