Abstract: Archaeological maize specimens from Andean sites of southern South America, dating from 400 to 1400 years before present, were tested for the presence of ancient DNA and three microsatellite loci were typed in the specimens that gave positive results. Genotypes were also obtained for 146 individuals corresponding to modern landraces currently cultivated in the same areas and for 21 plants from Argentinian lowland races. Sequence analysis of cloned ancient DNA products revealed a high incidence of substitutions appearing in only one clone, with transitions prevalent. In the archaeological specimens, there was no evidence of polymorphism at any one of the three microsatellite loci: each exhibited a single allelic variant, identical to the most frequent allele found in contemporary populations belonging to races Amarillo Chico, Amarillo Grande, Blanco and Altiplano. Affiliation between ancient specimens and a set of races from the Andean complex was further supported by assignment tests. The striking genetic uniformity displayed by the ancient specimens and their close relationship with the Andean complex suggest that the latter gene pool has predominated in the western regions of southern South America for at least the past 1400 years. The results support hypotheses suggesting that maize cultivation initially spread into South America via a highland route, rather than through the lowlands.