New Perspectives on Agricultural Origins

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

The niche constructing activities of humans are revealed quintessentially in agricultural origins, in which numerous species of plants and animals evolved into a domesticated category while human societies and demographics adapted to these new domesticatory relationships. The expansion of archaeological evidence, from many more regions of the world and through improved methodologies of archaeobotanical and faunal investigation, now offer an enriched basis for comparing and contrasting the pathways towards domestication and the transition to agricultural economies. The diversity of regional datasets raises new questions of 'how' and 'why' agriculture emerged in certain places at certain times, as well as providing a basis for the interrogation of different explanatory frameworks proposed to address these questions. The present session brings together studies from across the globe drawing on new data, new approaches to analysis and new explanatory frameworks to assess how far we have come in understanding agricultural origins and the priorities for further research.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-14 of 14)

  • Documents (14)

  • Agriculture is a state of mind- the Andean potato’s unending domestication (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Christine Hastorf.

    Most scholars agree that territoriality and commitment to a landscape participated in the domestication syndrome and agriculture. The geophyte Solanum, the potato, is a particularly engaging crop to study domestication origins, being a stem tuber, with wild species growing throughout the Andes of South America, it is only with recent genetic research that we know its likely location of domestication. Wild potatoes continue to be found in potato fields today, aiding the diverse varieties still...

  • Climate instability and the origin of farming in Southwest Asia (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Eleni Asouti.

    Prevailing theories concerning the role of climate change in the transition from foraging to farming in SW Asia view socioeconomic change as a response to climate deterioration (push theories) or improvement (pull theories) which caused resource depression or abundance respectively. With this paper I propose that periods of socioeconomic and cultural innovation correlate with periods of climatic instability, which occurred at the timescales of direct human experience of the landscape (i.e., at...

  • De-centering the Fertile Crescent: Multiple Pathways to Food Production (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Leilani Lucas. Dorian Fuller.

    Southwest Asia is one of the earliest and most documented centres of agricultural origins. With the expansion of archaeobotanical and zooarchaeological datasets within this region it is now more possible to unravel the evidence on a broader regional scale revealing a more complex picture with multiple centers and pathways of plant and animal domestication. Through a comparison of recent evidence this paper examines the multiple pathways towards domestication and the transition to agricultural...

  • Early cultivation practices and plant domestication in New Guinea and Island Southeast Asia (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Tim Denham.

    Early cultivation practices and plant domestication in the New Guinea and Island Southeast Asian regions were largely based on the vegetative propagation of a range of plant types – including root crops, shrubs, grasses and herbs – as well as the transplantation of palms, pandans and trees. The character of early agricultural practices within these regions, as well as in tropical rainforest environments elsewhere, requires different conceptual and methodological approaches than have been adopted...

  • Exploring the multiple pathways towards agriculture within China, the case for rice and millets. (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Chris Stevens.

    Studies of evolutionary change within selected traits for rice indicate a period of interaction from the cultivation of morphologically wild plants (Oryza rufipogon) to the eventual farming of domesticated rice (Oryza sativa ssp. japonica) that lasted around 3000 years. The shift from the collecting of wild foods to dependence on cultivation was equally protracted. While rice was likely taken into cultivation in a number of areas across China it is only in the Lower Yangtze between 6000 to 3000...

  • Fallow Management and the Origins of Swidden Agriculture in the Tropics (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Huw Barton.

    This paper considers the idea that the origin of swidden agriculture in the tropics arose from long-term practices of fallow management. In various forms, these ideas have been expressed before (particularly in South America), though swidden systems are normally thought of as being introduced into mainland and island Southeast Asia along with rice and taro ‘agriculture’ from southern China. This paper suggests instead that certain ‘domesticates’ may have been integrated into a pre-existing...

  • Feast or Famine: The Broad Spectrum Revolution Revisited (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Melinda Zeder.

    Widely accepted models for the diversification of subsistence economies that preceded the domestication of plants and animals in the Near East frame this key transition in the context of demographically induced resource pressure following a diet breadth model of forager decision making. Many of the supporting arguments for this scenario are open to an alternative view that casts these developments within the context of resource abundance and enhanced predictability. Contrasting explanatory...

  • From wild rice harvesting to domestic rice agriculture in South Asia. (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Eleanor Kingwell-Banham.

    It is still unclear if India saw an independent domestication of rice, and so the origins of Oryza sativa indica, as distinct from the Chinese rice O. s. japonica, are shrouded in mystery. However, there is very early evidence dating to c.9000 BP of wild rice exploitation, and perhaps of crop management, from Northern India. Once rice becomes widely reported within the archaeobotanic record, there is long term evidence for low impact agrarian practices across the subcontinent, including shifting...

  • Niche Construction and Early Agriculture in Northeastern North America (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Gary Crawford.

    Agriculture in the Northeast is a secondary development with research focusing on migration as a result of population growth in agricultural centers and the introduction of maize, bean, squash , sunflower and tobacco and the subsequent consequences of their introduction. Unlike pristine/primary origins whose explanations are couched in complex ecological considerations, be they interactive (ecological engineering, niche construction) or based in HBE (human behavioral ecology), ecological...

  • Niche construction of agricultural communities in the Yiluo and Guanzhong regions of northern China in the Mid-Holocene (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Gyoung-Ah Lee.

    Through a lens of niche construction perspective, this paper examines evolving enterprise of plant managements in different ecological and cultural contexts in Mid-Holocene China. Along a stretch of the Yellow River, bulging communities, facing different challenges of changing climates and ecological constraints, constructed agricultural and socially intertwined niches. Multiple Yangshao communities in the Yiluo valley and those in Guanzhong Plain are such examples. Drastically different from...

  • The Nile vs. the Rift: Exploring contrasts in the spread of food production in Africa ~4200 bp (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Elisabeth Hildebrand. Anneke Janzen.

    Characterizing the patterns and processes of early food production across Africa is difficult because the continent’s large landmass, diverse physiography, and regionally specific environments and crops hinder generalization. Due to these challenges, accounts of early food production in Africa tend to be narrative syntheses: they either present a detailed sequence of developments in one specific region, or ‘follow’ the spread of food production from the earliest herding in the eastern Sahara...

  • Pastoral pathways to plant domestication: current evidence for African pearl millet and sorghum in comparative perspective (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Dorian Fuller.

    Recent archaeobotanical evidence has provided important, although limited evidence, for the steps on the domestication trajectory for Pearl Millet in western Africa (Mali, Mauretania) and Sorghum in eastern Africa (Sudan), during the middle Holocene (3000-1000 BC). Both were exploited by and domesticated by societies that in the Sahelian and northern Savannas, and practiced mobile herding alongside hunting and low-level cultivation, but full-scale agricultural dependence may not have emerged...

  • Transport animals and distinctive pathways to domestication (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Fiona Marshall. Jose Capriles.

    Animal behavior, diverse strategies of human management and environmental selection all contribute to domestication processes. Recent research suggests human control of breeding may have been less important than assumed and that breeding of captive animals with wild relatives significantly influenced domestication processes. Less social transport animals from extreme environments experience high levels of environmental selection and are especially likely to encounter wild relatives. Slow growth...

  • Un-entangling Pulse Domestication in South Asia (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Charlene Murphy.

    India possesses a unique Neolithic transition to sedentism and agriculture which has shaped the cultural and ecological trajectory of the subcontinent. In the early Holocene South Asia was a subcontinent of hunter-gatherers. By 2000 years ago it was mostly inhabited by farmers, supporting densely populated river valleys, coastal plains, urban populations, states and empires. South Asia appears to have been host to a mosaic of processes, including local domestication of plants and animals, the...