Skip to comments.Papua New Guineans Among World's First Farmers
Posted on 06/20/2003 8:09:05 AM PDT by blam
Papua New Guineans among world's first farmers
Friday, 20 June 2003
Papua New Guinea's highlands are one of the places where farming first began (Pic: ANU)
Papua New Guinea's highlands was one of the cradles of farming, where some of the world's staple food plants were first domesticated, researchers have confirmed.
The region now joins five others as a core area in which the agricultural revolution - the world's most dominant landuse - had its origins, report a team led by archaeologist Dr Tim Denham of Adelaide's Flinders University in today's issue of the journal Science.
"Until recently, the evidence for independent development of agriculture in New Guinea was equivocal," said Dr Katharina Neumann of the Institute for Pre- and Protohistory at Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, in an accompanying commentary.
"From a 'Neolithic backwater', New Guinea has turned into one of the few pristine centres of early plant domestication. There is increasing evidence that two of the world¹s most valuable crops, sugar cane and banana, originated there," she said.
The report reveals that people living at the Kuk site, in the Wahgi valley of the Papua New Guinea highlands, were practising agriculture by at least 7,000 years ago - about the same time as indigenous peoples in the Middle East were cultivating wheat and Central Americans were farming corn.
Earlier research - based on sediments and pollen data - had suggested that deforestation and erosion rates increased in the highlands from at least 7,000 years ago, consistent with human landuse impacts. But New Guinea had been generally considered a passive secondary centre, where "agricultural development was derived from or triggered by the arrival of domesticates from Southeast Asia," the authors said.
But archaeological remains found at the site have now identified six phases of wetland use: the first three of which predate the arrival of South East Asian influence on the island around 3,500 years ago.
The oldest were pits, stakeholes, postholes and runnels restricted to elevated levees and "consistent with planting, digging and tethering of plants and localised drainage in a cultivated plot", which date back about 10,000 years. The scientists caution that further research is needed to confirm whether these remains are the result of agricultural practices.
However, the remains of circular mounds used to better aerate soil - for growing bananas in the second phase, between 6,500 and 7,000 years ago - were much more definite evidence of prehistoric cultivation, the authors write. The third phase - a sequence of ditch networks, or drainage channels - is also clearly associated with cultivation.
The researchers found tiny plant remains that helped them to reconstruct former environmental conditions and identify the plant species present. As well as wood and seeds, they recovered pollen and phytoliths (or plant crystals) from sediments, and starch grains from stone tools found at the site.
Apart from large numbers of banana phytoliths, they also found taro starch grains. "This species does not grow naturally in the New Guinean highlands, and must have been brought there from the lowlands," Neumann said.
The other five regions now confirmed as core areas for plant domestication are: the Near East, China, Mesoamerica, South America and the eastern United States. Scientists remain uncertain whether African plant domestication occurred independently or was triggered by the arrival of crops from the Near East.
"The authors do not solve the question of how significant agriculture was compared to hunting and foraging, but they illustrate impressively how humans have adapted to a specific environment over the past 10,000 years," Neumann said.
"Only a few regions were geographically suited to become the homelands of full agricultural systems. New Guinea seems to have been one of them," she concluded.
You've been around quite a bit.
|GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother & Ernest_at_the_Beach|
Fifteen thousand years ago there was a belt comfortable climatic area suitable for humans encircling the globe on either side of the equator. That would include the Amazon River basin including the Caribbean area, central and south Mexico, most of Africa, the Middle East, India south of the Himalyas, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Guinea, and much of Australia.
It would be arrogant to think that agriculture did not occur in those areas. Most of the domesticated plants that occurr in the equatorial areas of the world cannot be grown in northern or southern latitudes, so farmers would have been unlikey to migrate unless forced to do so by a catastrohpe, such as rapidly rising sea levels.
Must have been Democrats. Why else move to a whole 'nother latitude instead of just to higher ground?
Humans would have thrived in those areas during the Ice Age.
The cradle of human civilization may well have been the prehistoric lowlands of the Southeast Asian peninsula, rather than the Middle East. Since those lowlands sank beneath the seas thousands of years ago (actually drowned by rising sea levels), humanity has remained unaware of their possible significance up through the early 21st century.
Unaware except, that is, for a so-called myth perpetuated by a respected Greek philosopher named Plato, before 347 BC. Plato spoke of an advanced civilization named Atlantis, which sank below the seas perhaps around 9,000 BC. It may well be he wasnt so far off after all.
The Asian legend of Mu is very similar to the western tales of Atlantis, involving a great landmass that sunk beneath the seas long ago.
Sundaland (the lowlands of the greater Southeast Asian Peninsula) is the current name applied to the largest single section of Asian real estate submerged by rising sea levels after the last Ice Age.
When the Ice Age ended, the eventual rise in sea level between 15,000 years ago to 7,500 years ago was about 300 feet and even higher in some areas, up to 400 feet.
The North American ice sheet collapsed at one point, possibly due to a bolide strike in the area of present day great lake Michigan around 13,000 years ago. (There is also an impact crater on the the bottom of great lake Ontario, though I don’t know the age). The amount of fresh water that flooded out of Hudson’s Bay was enormous.
“From every existing river and stream, frigid freshwater flooded into the Atlantic, Pacific, and Artic Oceans. The sudden pulse of melted ice caused sea levels to rise many feet within a few weeks...Relentlessly, day by day, thousands then millions of square miles of once verdant grasslands and forests slipped beneath the rising ocean waves...” This is an excerpt from p.144-145, The Cycle of Cosmic Catastrophes, by Richard Firestone, Allen West, and Simon Warwick-Smith (2006).
Well, it was a nice story anyway...
Thanks, blam; I couldn’t remember the name ‘Sundaland’ and didn’t add it, though I know it is very important.
The book I mention in post #10, immediately following yours, posits an astronomical event as the cause for extinctions and flooding during and following the Ice Age.
A supernova occurred about 41,000 years ago just 200 light years from Earth. It appears to have had an affect on our planet and this book examines much of the scientific evidence of the supernova, and the scientific data and later eyewitness accounts by Native American tribes to the follow-on events centuries after the supernova.
The arguments pro and con for such an event are ongoing.
The same thing happened during the last century over the Missoula Floods “controversy”. J.Harlen Bretz published his first papers on the possible origins of the scablands of eastern Washington State in 1925, and it wasn’t until the 1970s, when Bretz was in his 90s, that the fact of a catastrophic flood had occurred when the prehistoric Lake Missoula (created by ice melt) flooded after an arm of the Cordelarian Ice sheet damming the lake broke loose, was finally accepted by mainstream geology. The book to read on this is Cataclysms on the Columbia, by John Eliot Allen and Marjorie Burns (1986; Timber Press).
Coral links ice to ancient ‘mega flood’
“Coral off Tahiti has linked the collapse of massive ice sheets 14,600 years ago to a dramatic and rapid rise in global sea-levels of around 14 metres.”
“Previous research could not accurately date the sea-level rise but now an Aix-Marseille University-led team, including Oxford University scientists Alex Thomas and Gideon Henderson, has confirmed that the event occurred 14,650-14,310 years ago at the same time as a period of rapid climate change known as the Bølling warming.”
Thanks. I have this excellent book.
This may have caused the 'silt layer' (from rapid ocean water rising) that the Soviet engineers found when they were building the Aswan High Dam in Egypt.
The Nile Valley must have looked like the Grand Canyon during the Ice Age.