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Domestication of Plants. Group 5 Mary, Courtney, James, Jack and Jessica. New light on plant domestication and the origins of agriculture. Much of the current research on the domestication of plants has been published by botanists.

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Domestication of Plants

Group 5

Mary, Courtney, James, Jack and Jessica


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New light on plant domestication and the origins of agriculture

  • Much of the current research on the domestication of plants has been published by botanists.

  • The earliest and richest evidence of plant cultivation has been found in Southwest Asia.


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Example: Turkey agriculture

  • Haçilar and Çatal Hüyük have had substantial farming communities since 6000 to 7000 BC.

  • barley, wheat, peas, lentils and bitter vetch


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Nea Nikomedeia (on the Macedonian plane) agriculture

  • -earliest Neolithic site found in Europe

  • -it dates from ca. 6000 BC.

  • -wheat, barley, lentils


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Huang Ho basin in China agriculture

  • the only sites found in the east

  • Neolithic farming economies

  • rice, millet, kaoliang and soy beans.

  • Much less is known about the beginning of agriculture in Southeast Asia.

  • Today there are a number of tropical crops, especially roots and fruits, but we do not know how and when they were domesticated.

  • Reasons why:

  • higher rate of decomposition in the tropics

  • lack of archaeological fieldwork


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Africa agriculture

  • Paradox: Africa has the longest record of human occupation, but agriculture seems to have developed later (5000 BC).

  • lower Nile Valley

  • cereal cultivation (barley and emmer wheat)

  • Sahara

  • moister climate

  • evidence from plant remains, fossil soils and rock drawings


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Middle and South America agriculture

  • Mexico

  • caves have yielded remains of cultivated plants that date back to 7,000 BC

  • Tamaulipas (7000-5500 BC)

  • annual pepper, pumpkin, bottle gourd

  • By 1500 BC- maize, amaranth, sunflower, squash, common bean

  • evidence of southward diffusion of crops and cultivation techniques

  • Peruvian maize closely related to maize found earlier in Mexico by genetics


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Methods used to study early agriculture agriculture

  • Carbon 14, Pollen Analysis, Genetics

  • Artifacts such as hoes, grindstones, and bowls evidence of permanent dwellings.

  • Cultural Aspects:

  • When a society moves to agriculture territory expansion usually follows.

  • This can be seen: linguistically, culturally etc.


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Guns, Germs, and Steel agriculture

By Jared Diamond


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Chapter Four: Farmer Power agriculture

  • It was only within the last 11,000 years that some peoples turned to what is termed food production: That is, domesticating wild animals and plants and eating the resulting livestock and crops.

  • Different peoples acquired food production at different times in prehistory:

    • Aboriginal Australians, never acquired

    • Ancient Chinese acquired independently

    • Egyptians acquired from neighbors


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Ch.4 Continued agriculture

  • By selecting and growing those few species of plants and animals that we can eat so that they can constitute 90 percent rather than .1 percent of the biomass on an acre of land, we obtain far more edible calories per acre.


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Linearbandkeramik agriculture

  • The first prehistoric farmers in central Europe, the so called Linearbandkeramik culture that arose slightly before 5000 B.C., were initially confined to soils light enough to be tilled by means of hand held digging sticks.


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The Benefits of Domestication agriculture

  • Denser human population

  • Food Surplus

  • Cotton, linen (flax), and hemp makes clothing, blankets, nets, and rope

  • The bottle gourd, used as a container


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Chapter Five: History’s Haves and Have-Nots agricultureConflict over those with farmer power and those without it

  • Agriculture did not arise across the globe.

    • North America’s Artic opposed to Eurasia’s Artic (reindeer herding).

    • Deserts (too arid); central Australia; western United States;

  • Why did food production not appear in areas capable of supporting it?

    • Examples: California; Argentine Pampas; southern Australia; Cape of South Africa; 4,000 years ago United States, England, Much of France, Indonesia, all of subequatorial Africa.

  • Why did it develop in:

    • Iraq, Iran, Mexico, parts of the Andes, parts of China, and Africa’s Sahel zone?

  • Independent development v. Imported Ideas?

    • Why did people in suitable areas not develop crops nor herding on their own?

  • Why such varying dates of domestication?


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Chapter 5 cont. agriculture

  • Plant and animal remains at archaeological sites identify where and when crops/animals were first domesticated.

    • Domesticates are morphologically different than wild species (domestic cattle and sheep are larger, chicken and apples are smaller, seeds being smoother, etc.).

  • Thus able to determine where and when food production occurred.

  • How? Through Radiocarbon dating.

    • Yet, problems associated with this process. It once required too much carbon for small remains – had to use “associated” material like charcoal residue – too many variables for exact dating.

    • Today, accelerator mass spectometry is used. It can be used on small samples, also represents a direct dating method.

    • Big difference in the methods: Radiocarbon dating from the 1960s and ’70s - placed American food production as early as 7,000 BC. Recently, it has been put at no later than 3,500 BC


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Calibrated Dating agriculture

  • Jared Diamond uses Calibrated dates in Guns, Germs, and Steel.

  • Calibration is used to account for fluctuations in the atmospheric carbon ratio.

  • Therefore, the dates in his book/his presentation may differ from other texts


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How do you decide if the plant or animal was domesticated locally?

  • You can map the geographic distribution of the wild ancestors of the crops/animals.

  • Plot the dates of the domesticated form’s first appearance in each region – look for where it appeared first to determine initial domestication.

    • Example: Emmer wheat was cultivated in the Fertile Crescent circa 8,500 B.C. – it then moves Greece around 6,500 B.C. and then Germany around 5,000 B.C.

  • Doesn’t always work, as crops/animals can be domesticated independently at simultaneous times


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Where, when, and how did food production arise around the world?

  • Independent development – domestication of many native crops (and some animals) in: Near East/Fertile Crescent; China; Mesoamerica; Andes; Eastern South America

    • Africa’s Sahel zone; tropical west Africa; Ethiopia; and New Guinea may have been centers too, yet uncertainty exists

  • Refer to Figure 5.1 and Table 5.1 for further detail.


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Areas that domesticated some local plants/animals, yet relied largely on imported domesticates.

  • “Founder Crops” – allowed for sedentary lifestyle

  • Southwest Asia provided the “founder package” for western and central Europe between 6,000 B.C. and 3,500 B.C. (although the poppy seed, indigenous to the western coast of the Mediterranean, was domesticated locally).

  • Therefore, food production did not happen independently in western Europe.

  • Egypt, Ethiopia, and the Indus Valley also borrowed from Southwest Asia.


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Did local hunter-gatherers become farmers, or did invading farmers kill or overtake the local hunter gatherers?

  • Egypt, western Europe, the Cape of South Africa, and the American southwest represent areas where there is little evidence to support local domestication, yet neither does it suggest the replacement of populations.

  • Thus, hunter-gatherers became herder/farmers


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Food production arising due to the arrival of foreigners farmers kill or overtake the local hunter gatherers?

  • Occurred in modern times – largely by literate Europeans (provided written documents of what happened).

  • This happened in: California; the Pacific Northwest of North America; the Argentine Pampas; Australia; and Siberia.

    • These areas were still occupied by hunter-gatherers (Native Americans, Native Aborigines, and Native Siberians).

  • They were killed, diseased, or displaced by European farmers who brought their own crops/animals.

  • This also occurred in prehistoric times – Skeletal remains provide proof in the absence of written records.

  • Also, the farmers brought pottery.


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