The spread of agriculture across sub-Saharan Africa has long been attributed to the large-scale migration of Bantu-speaking groups out of their west Central African homeland from about 4000 years ago. These groups are seen as having expanded rapidly across the sub-continent, carrying an ‘Iron Age’ package of farming, metal-working, and pottery, and largely replacing pre-existing hunter-gatherers along the way. While elements of the ‘traditional’ Bantu model have been deconstructed in recent years, one of the main constraints on developing a more nuanced understanding of the local processes involved in the spread of farming has been the lack of detailed archaeobotanical and zooarchaeological sequences, particularly from key regions such as eastern Africa. Situated at a crossroads between continental Africa and the Indian Ocean, eastern Africa was not only a major corridor on one of the proposed Bantu routes to southern Africa, but also the recipient of several migrations of pastoral groups from the north. In addition, eastern Africa saw the introduction of a range of domesticates from India, Southeast Asia, and other areas of the Indian Ocean sphere through long-distance maritime connections. The possibility that some Asian crops, such as the vegecultural ‘tropical trio’ (banana, taro, and yam), arrived before the Bantu expansion has in particular raised many questions about the role of eastern Africa's nonagricultural communities in the adoption and subsequent diffusion of crops across the continent. Drawing on new botanical and faunal evidence from recent excavations at a range of hunter-gatherer and early farming sites on eastern Africa's coast and offshore islands, and with comparison to inland sites, this paper will examine the timing and tempo of the agricultural transition, the nature of forager-farmerpastoralist interactions, and the varying roles that elements of the ‘Bantu package’, pastoralism, and nonAfrican domesticates played in local economies. This paper highlights the complex pathways and transitions that unfolded, as well as how eastern Africa links into a broader global picture of heterogeneous, dynamic, and extended transformations from forager to farmer that challenge our fundamental understanding of pre-modern Holocene societies
The exhibition of increasingly intensive and complex niche construction behaviors through time is a key feature of human evolution, culminating in the advanced capacity for ecosystem engineering exhibited by Homo sapiens. A crucial outcome of such behaviors has been the dramatic reshaping of the global biosphere, a transformation whose early origins are increasingly apparent from cumulative archaeological and paleoecological datasets. Such data suggest that, by the Late Pleistocene, humans had begun to engage in activities that have led to alterations in the distributions of a vast array of species across most, if not all, taxonomic groups. Changes to biodiversity have included extinctions, extirpations, and shifts in species composition, diversity, and community structure. We outline key examples of these changes, highlighting findings from the study of new datasets, like ancient DNA (aDNA), stable isotopes, and microfossils, as well as the application of new statistical and computational methods to datasets that have accumulated significantly in recent decades. We focus on four major phases that witnessed broad anthropogenic alterations to biodiversity—the Late Pleistocene global human expansion, the Neolithic spread of agriculture, the era of island colonization, and the emergence of early urbanized societies and commercial networks. Archaeological evidence documents millennia of anthropogenic transformations that have created novel ecosystems around the world. This record has implications for ecological and evolutionary research, conservation strategies, and the maintenance of ecosystem services, pointing to a significant need for broader cross-disciplinary engagement between archaeology and the biological and environmental sciences.TA
Dorian Q Fuller's insight:
A synthesis on the role of archaeology in documenting how long-term niche construction by human societies has shaped our world since the Pleistocene, and continues to do so. An anthropocene era did simply start with the invention of the steam engine.
The banana (Musa) is one of the world’s most important crops and the most valuable fruit in the global market. In the search for varieties that are more pest- and disease-resistant plant breeders are increasingly looking to the wild progenitors,—as understanding its evolution is key to genetic improvement. The banana was also an important economic crop in prehistory although it is difficult to track its history of domestication and evolution due to preservation issues, the lack of reliable species identification criteria and limited archaeological evidence. Just two archaeobotanical studies of macro-remains and phytoliths, in New Guinea and Cameroon, have provided reliable identifications and interpretations to help our understanding of the origins and evolution of the banana. But to track the spread and growing importance of this plant in the diet, across the tropics and through time, we need to combine information drawn from botany, genetics, linguistics and archaeology.
Rice (Oryza sativa) is regarded as the only grass that was selected for cultivation and eventual domestication in the Yangtze basin of China. Although both macro-fossils and micro-fossils of rice have been recovered from the Early Neolithic site of Shangshan, dating to more than 10,000 years before present (BP), we report evidence of phytolith and starch microfossils taken from stone tools, both for grinding and cutting, and cultural layers, that indicating barnyard grass (Echinochloa spp.) was
Maybe the time has come to restart some archaeological palynology! We cal separate the pollen of Triticum urartu from Triticum monococcum, which means pollen may be a way forward to determine the identity of archaeological 2-grained einkorn, an important lost crop of the Early Near East and Neolithic Europe. Given that crop-processing disperses cereal pollen locally (see
Dogs were the first domesticated species, but the precise timing and location of domestication are hotly debated. Using genomic data from 5,392 dogs, including a global set of 549 village dogs, we find strong evidence that dogs were domesticated in Central Asia, perhaps near present-day Nepal and Mongolia. Dogs in nearby regions (e.g., East Asia, India, and Southwest Asia) contain high levels of genetic diversity due to their proximity to Central Asia and large population sizes. Indigenous dog populations in the Neotropics and South Pacific have been largely replaced by European dogs, whereas those in Africa show varying degrees of European vs. indigenous African ancestry.
An ancient Siberian wolf yields a first draft genome sequence of a Pleistocene carnivore
•The 35,000-year-old wolf genome allowed recalibration of the lupine mutation rate
•Dog ancestors diverged from modern wolf ancestors at least 27,000 years ago
•Ancient Siberian wolves contributed to the ancestry of high-latitude dog breeds
Dorian Q Fuller's insight:
ancient DNA from a Siberian wolf supported a divergence of domesticated dog at least 27,000 years, which in turn fits with 30,000 year archaeological dogs with ancient DNA published in recent years. Or to quote Larson and Fuller (2014) "
Dogs were first, and though significant questions remain about exactly where, when, and how many times they were domesticated, they were widely established across Eurasia before the end of the Pleistocene, well before cultivation or the domestication of other animals".see also: doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057754
Cultivation ad 23000? The evidence is certainly suggestive. But an example of dead-end as there is certainly no evidence that selection for domestication traits continued, or that cultivation spread and agirculture developed. A provocative and important study to think about.... deserved a full treatment is due course
Agricultural practices such as breeding resistant varieties and pesticide use can cause rapid evolution of pest species, but it remains unknown how plant domestication itself impacts pest contemporary evolution. Using experimental evolution on a comparative phylogenetic scale, we compared the evolutionary dynamics of a globally important economic pest – the green peach aphid (Myzus persicae) – growing on 34 plant taxa, represented by 17 crop species and their wild relatives. Domestication slowed aphid evolution by 13.5%, maintained 10.4% greater aphid genotypic diversity and 5.6% higher genotypic richness. The direction of evolution (i.e. which genotypes increased in frequency) differed among independent domestication events but was correlated with specific plant traits. Individual-based simulation models suggested that domestication affects aphid evolution directly by reducing the strength of selection and indirectly by increasing aphid density and thus weakening genetic drift. Our results suggest that phenotypic changes during domestication can alter pest evolutionary dynamics.
Dorian Q Fuller's insight:
This study compared genetic diversity and indications for selection among aphids on crops and on wild plants and concludes that aphids followed multiple domestication pathways as pests, but that in association with domesticated plants aphids evolved more slowly, both by selection and drift, but instead maintained higher aphid genetic diversity.
The cultivation of rice has had a major impact on both societies and their environments in Asia, and in China in particular. Phytolith assemblages from three Neolithic sites in the Lower Yangtze valley reveal that in early rice fields the emphasis was on drainage to limit the amount of water and force the rice to produce seed. It was only in the later third millennium BC that the strategy changed and irrigated paddies came into use. The results demonstrate that plant remains, including weed assemblages, can reveal wetter or drier growing conditions, showing changes in rice cultivation from flooded and drained fields to large, intensively irrigated paddies.
Rach Nui is a late Neolithic settlement of hunter-gatherers in southern Vietnam. However, the site also has a series of mortared floors corresponding to a sedentary lifestyle, where the inhabitants continued to live in the same area and repaired or replaced their floors over a period of 150 years. The inhabitants relied on a mixed economy that included domesticated and gathered plants, as well as hunted and managed animals. Although, there is evidence for the consumption of domesticated rice and foxtail millet, the inhabitants were mainly hunter-gatherers who relied on their surrounding mangrove and swamp forest habitats for most of their food requirements. From the archaeobotanical work done, it appears that the domesticated cereals, rice and foxtail millet, found at the site were imported. On the other hand, sedge nutlets and parenchyma were identified in high frequencies and were probably locally sourced, suggesting that foraging and/or vegeculture played a major role in the economy of Rach Nui
The prehistoric settlement of Madagascar by people from distant Southeast Asia has long captured both scholarly and public imagination, but on the ground evidence for this colonization has eluded archaeologists for decades. Our study provides the first, to our knowledge, archaeological evidence for an early Southeast Asian presence in Madagascar and reveals that this settlement extended to the Comoros. Our findings point to a complex Malagasy settlement history and open new research avenues for linguists, geneticists, and archaeologists to further study the timing and process of this population movement. They also provide insight into early processes of Indian Ocean biological exchange and in particular, Madagascar’s floral introductions, which account for one-tenth of its current vascular plant species diversity.
a World Service discussion on the creation of landscapes, or how nature and culture work together-- for artists, gardeners, and over the long-term for past societies. This very much relates to seeing the origins and development of agriculture as part of a long-term anthropocene process.
Rice (Oryza) is one of the world’s most important and productive staple foods, with highly diverse uses and varieties. We use archaeobotany, culture, history, and ethnobotany to trace the history of the development of sticky (or glutinous) forms. True sticky rice is the result of a genetic mutation that causes a loss of amylose starch but higher amylopectin content. These mutations are unknown in wild populations but have become important amongst cultivars in East and Southeast Asia (unlike other regions). In the same region, other cereals have also evolved parallel mutations that confer stickiness when cooked. This points to a strong role for cultural history and food preparation traditions in the genetic selection and breeding of Asian cereal varieties. The importance of sticky rice in ritual foods and alcoholic beverages in East and Southeast Asia also suggests the entanglement of crop varieties and culturally inherited food traditions and ritual symbolism.
Contamination with exogenous DNA is a constant hazard to ancient DNA studies, since their validity greatly depend on the ancient origin of the retrieved sequences. Since contamination occurs sporadically, it is fundamental to show positive evidence for ...
Our suggestion that agriculture was temporarily abandoned for several centuries throughout much of mainland Britain after 3600 BC has provoked criticism, notably the claim by Bishop (2015) that we have missed continuity in Scotland. We demonstrate that firm evidence for widespread agriculture within the later Neolithic is still unproven. We trace the disappearance of cereals and the associated population collapse to a probable climatic shift that impacted the abundance of rainfall and lowered temperatures, thus affecting the reliability of cereals. Divergent strategies and patterns are identified on the Scottish Islands versus the mainland, which has more in common with England, Wales and Ireland. We argue that climate shocks disrupt existing subsistence patterns, to which varied responses are represented by divergent island and mainland patterns, both in the Late Neolithic and during the Early and Middle Bronze Age. Favourable climates encouraged population growth and subsistence innovation, such as at the start of the Neolithic and in the Beaker period.
Dorian Q Fuller's insight:
An updated consideration of direct dates on British cereals, in reponse to debate offered by R. Bishop. When broken down by region the evidence is even more compelling that climatic changes impacted the persistence of cereal cultivation, but these impacts and subsistence strategies difference by region, with the Scottish islands notably distinct.
The Seed Sample database has 48,000 records accounted for 60% of all seed samples in herbarium, including about 1777 genus, 11149 species and 20,000 photos. Seeds collected from China, also came from all over the world by exchange.
Dorian Q Fuller's insight:
The seed collection of the Natinal Herbariu in Beijing is now ~60% digitized, with nice photos. A very useful resource. About 10 years ago I used the collection to learn some Chinese taxa. It is by no means comprehensive for Chinese flora but it is a good start.
Agricultural origins and dispersals are subjects of fundamental importance to archaeology as well as many other scholarly disciplines. These investigations are world-wide in scope and require significant amounts of paleobotanical data attesting to the exploitation of wild progenitors of crop plants and subsequent domestication and spread. Accordingly, for the past few decades the development of methods for identifying the remains of wild and domesticated plant species has been a focus of paleo-ethnobotany. Phytolith analysis has increasingly taken its place as an important independent contributor of data in all areas of the globe, and the volume of literature on the subject is now both very substantial and disseminated in a range of international journals. In this paper, experts who have carried out the hands-on work review the utility and importance of phytolith analysis in documenting the domestication and dispersals of crop plants around the world. It will serve as an important resource both to paleo-ethnobotanists and other scholars interested in the development and spread of agriculture.
Dorian Q Fuller's insight:
an updated review of phytolith approaches to tracing early crops, crop varieties and domestications.
Baligang is a Neolithic site on a northern tributary of the middle Yangtze and provides a long archaeobotanical sequence from the Seventh Millennium BC upto the First Millennium BC. It provides evidence for developments in rice and millet agriculture influenced by shifting cultural affiliation with the north (Yangshao and Longshan) and south (Qujialing and Shijiahe) between 4300 and 1800 BC. This paper reports on plant macro-remains (seeds), from systematic flotation of 123 samples (1700 litres), producing more than 10,000 identifiable remains. The earliest Pre-Yangshao occupation of the sites provide evidence for cultivation of rice ( Oryza sativa ) between 6300–6700 BC. This rice appears already domesticated in on the basis of a dominance of non-shattering spikelet bases. However, in terms of grain size changes has not yet finished, as grains are still thinner than more recent domesaticated rice and are closer in grain shape to wild rices. This early rice was cultivated alongside collection of wild staple foods, especially acorns ( Quercus/Lithicarpus sensu lato). In later periods the sites has evidence for mixed farming of both rice and millets ( Setaria italica and Panicum miliaceum ). Soybean appears on the site in the Shijiahe period (ca.2500 BC) and wheat ( Triticum cf. aestivum ) in the Late Longshan levels (2200–1800 BC). Weed flora suggests an intensification of rice agriculture over time with increasing evidence of wetland weeds. We interpret these data as indicating early opportunistic cultivation of alluvial floodplains and some rainfed rice, developing into more systematic and probably irrigated cultivation starting in the Yangshao period, which intensified in the Qujialing and Shijiahe period, before a shift back to an emphasis on millets with the Late Longshan cultural influence from the north.
Dorian Q Fuller's insight:
Important evidence for early domestication rice, which is highly non-shattering but still small-grained. This suggests these two trait may be evolving differentially in this region in contrast to the Lower Yangtze, but unfortunately we have no immediately earlier or later assemblages from the region to compare it with, so the extent to which this is a "dead end" or how it fits into a domestication trajectory remains to be determined.
The discovery of Neolithic houses at Durrington Walls that are contemporary with the main construction phase of Stonehenge raised questions as to their interrelationship. Was Durrington Walls the residence of the builders of Stonehenge? Were the activities there more significant than simply domestic subsistence? Using lipid residue analysis, this paper identifies the preferential use of certain pottery types for the preparation of particular food groups and differential consumption of dairy and meat products between monumental and domestic areas of the site. Supported by the analysis of faunal remains, the results suggest seasonal feasting and perhaps organised culinary unification of a diverse community.
Dorian Q Fuller's insight:
A major study of lipids form cooking pots: Evidence for feasting of pigs, cattle and milk products. Plants food have a notable absence of cereals, but only wild foods like hazelnut, sloe, onion couch grass and crabapple. So "were the builders of without cereals" (to quote Stevens & Fuller 2012)? Appears so.
According to Takayasu, the earliest traces of cannabis in Japan are seeds and woven fibers discovered in the west of the country dating back to the Jomon Period (10,000 BC – 300 BC). Archaeologists suggest that cannabis fibers were used for clothes – as well as for bow strings and fishing lines. These plants were likely cannabis sativa – prized for its strong fibers – a thesis supported by a Japanese prehistoric cave painting which appears to show a tall spindly plant with cannabis’s tell-tale leaves.
“Cannabis was the most important substance for prehistoric people in Japan. But today many Japanese people have a very negative image of the plant,” says Takayasu
Dorian Q Fuller's insight:
Indeed, currently the earliest archaeobotanical evidence for Cannabis comes from Early Jomon Japan, at sites such as Torihama (ca. 5000 BC) and Okinoshima (ca. 8000 BC).
Sharing your scoops to your social media accounts is a must to distribute your curated content. Not only will it drive traffic and leads through your content, but it will help show your expertise with your followers.
How to integrate my topics' content to my website?
Integrating your curated content to your website or blog will allow you to increase your website visitors’ engagement, boost SEO and acquire new visitors. By redirecting your social media traffic to your website, Scoop.it will also help you generate more qualified traffic and leads from your curation work.
Distributing your curated content through a newsletter is a great way to nurture and engage your email subscribers will developing your traffic and visibility.
Creating engaging newsletters with your curated content is really easy.