Rethinking Agriculture: Archaeological and Ethnoarchaeological Perspectives

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Although the need to study agriculture in different parts of the world on its “own terms” has long been recognized and re-affirmed, a tendency persists to evaluate agriculture across the globe using concepts, lines of evidence and methods derived from Eurasian research. However, researchers working in different regions are becoming increasingly aware of fundamental differences in the nature of, and methods employed to study, agriculture and plant exploitation practices in the past. Contributions to this volume rethink agriculture, whether in terms of existing regional chronologies, in terms of techniques employed, or in terms of the concepts that frame our interpretations. This volume highlights new archaeological and ethnoarchaeological research on early agriculture in understudied non-Eurasian regions, including Island Southeast Asia and the Pacific, the Americas and Africa, to present a more balanced view of the origins and development of agricultural practices around the globe.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
" excellent and timely compendium of current thinking and debate on the topic...There is much to be learned and thought about here. The editors and contributors should be congratulated for producing such a fine piece of work. The volume is sure to assume considerable prominence and have lasting significance in the intertwined realms of theory, concepts, data, and interpretation in agricultural origins."

—Dolores R. Piperno, Journal of Anthropological Research

"In a concise and ambitious opening chapter authors are challenged to critically evaluate concepts such as domestication, centres of origin and the farmer/gatherer dichotomy in defining agriculture as well as the scale of analysis suitable for the investigation of agricultural prehistories. The following papers provide a wealth of new information, at times overwhelming, of significance for both the narrative of ancient agriculture and methodology construction."

—Andrew Fairbairn, Archaeology in Oceania

"Most readers will find the contents fresh and, in places, challenging. This volume is a significant addition to the growing literature on alternative ideas about the development of agriculture in different parts of the world. This review cannot do justice to the 21 contributions by a wide range of authors."

—Tim Maggs, South African Archaeological Bulletin

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781598742619
  • Publisher: Left Coast Press
  • Publication date: 6/30/2009
  • Series: One World Archaeology Series, #51
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 476
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Timothy P. Denham is a Research Fellow in the School of Geography and Environmental Science at Monash University. His research builds upon the pioneering investigations of Jack Golson and colleagues and focuses upon early to mid-Holocene plant exploitation and early agriculture in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Since 2003, he has published extensively on this research, including articles in Science, Antiquity, Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society and World Archaeology, and he co-edited (with Chris Ballard) a volume of archaeology in Oceania entitled Perspectives on Prehistoric Agriculture in the New Guinea Highlands.José Iriarte is Lecturer in Archaeology at the Department of Archaeology, University of Exeter. He is a palaeo-ethnobotanist whose research interests focus on the origins and dispersal of agriculture, human-environment interactions, and the emergence of early Formative (Neolithic) cultures in lowland South America.Luc Vrydagh completed his Doctor in Sciences at the Ghent University (UG), having already completed a degree in Philosophy of Sciences and one in African Civilisation at the Free University of Brussels (ULB). His research is concerned with the phytolith analysis of archaeological deposits produced by agricultural practices in tropical, arid and temperate areas. Currently, he is a scientific collaborator with the Royal Museum for Central Africa and the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, and he is the founding president of ROOTS, a unit specialising in archaeological and palaeoenviromental sciences.h

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Table of Contents

Preface vii

1 Rethinking Agriculture: Introductory Thoughts Luc Vrydaghs Tim Denham 1

2 Agriculture, Cultivation and Domestication: Exploring the Conceptual Framework of Early Food Production David R Harris 16

3 Selection, Cultivation and Reproductive Isolation: A Reconsideration of the Morphological and Molecular Signals of Domestication Martin Jones Terry Brown 36

4 Subterranean Diets in the Tropical Rain Forests of Sarawak, Malaysia Huw Barton Victor Paz 50

5 Early to Mid-Holocene Plant Exploitation in New Guinea: Towards a Contingent Interpretation of Agriculture Tim Denham 78

6 Unravelling the Story of Early Plant Exploitation in Highland Papua New Guinea Jack Colson 109

7 The Meaning of Ditches: Interpreting the Archaeological Record from New Guinea Using Insights from Ethnography Tim Bayliss-Smith 126

8 Perspectives on Traditional Agriculture from Rapa Nui Geertrui Louwagie Roger Langohr 149

9 New Perspectives on Plant Domestication and the Development of Agriculture in the New World José Iriarte 167

10 Keepers of Louisiana's Levees: Early Mound Builders and Forest Managers Gayle J. Fritz 189

11 Modeling Prehistoric Agriculture through the Palaeoenvironmental Record: Theoretical and Methodological Issues Deborah M. Pearsall 210

12 Chronicling Indigenous Accounts of the 'Rise of Agriculture'in the Americas Matthew P. Sayre 231

13 Starch Remains, Preservation Biases and Plant Histories: An Example from Highland Peru Linda Perry 241

14 Emerging Food-Producing Systems in the La Plata Basin: The Los Ajos Site José Iriarte 256

15 A Tale of Two Tuber Crops: How Attributes of Enset and Yams may have ShapedPrehistoric Human-Plant Interactions in Southwest Ethiopia Elisabeth Anne Hildebrand 273

16 Multidisciplinary Evidence of Mixed Farming during the Early Iron Age in Rwanda and Burundi Marie-Claude Van Grunderbeek Emile Roche 299

17 The Development of Plant Cultivation in Semi-Arid West Africa Stefanie Kahlheber Katharina Neumann 320

18 Human Impact and Environmental Exploitation in Gabon during the Holocene Richard Oslisly Lee White 347

19 The Establishment of Traditional Plantain Cultivation in the African Rain Forest: A Working Hypothesis Edmond De Langhe 361

20 African Pastoral Perspectives on Domestication of the Donkey: A First Synthesis Fiona Marshall 371

21 Using Linguistics to Reconstruct African Subsistence Systems: Comparing Crop Names to Trees and Livestock Roger Blench 408

Subject Index 439

Botanical Index 457

About the Contributors 463

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