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Origins of Agriculture

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Author Topic: Origins of Agriculture  (Read 154 times)
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« on: February 21, 2007, 08:25:15 pm »

Grains and Barley

Today barley are grown over most the world. In the Middle East it does even grow as a wild grass, which is the reason it is believed to be the first cereal crop by the ancient religions of Asia minor. For the ancient Greeks, it was the cereal gift of the goddess Ceres. Among the ancient Egyptians, barley was grown in mud from the Nile River and held in pottery trays shaped in the form of the god Isis; the germinating grain symbolized his return to life.

In the period 10,000 to 8,000 B.C., semi-nomadic hunters gathered wild cereals like barley and wheat. Eventually, the cultivation of barley spread to China, Japan and Northern Europe. English and Spanish settlers introduced barley to North and South America.

Today, because of its ability to adapt to adverse climates, barley is grown over much of the world. It is one of the most productive of the cool-season cereal grains in moisture-short or dryland areas. Total world production has been about 165 million metric tons in recent years. The world's leading producers of barley are the Commonwealth of Independent States, the European Community (particularly Germany, France, Britain, Spain and Denmark), Eastern Europe (especially Czechoslovakia, Poland and Romania) and Canada.

The United States is a relatively minor producer of barley compared to other nations, growing only about 6 percent of the world crop. Barley production is centered in the Northern and Pacific Northwest states, as well as California.

The Many Varieties of Barley

Barley is one of the four major feed grains grown in the United States. It is a hearty plant, able to withstand many different growing conditions. However, barley is least tolerant of hot, humid conditions, which makes it unsuitable for the subtropical regions of the Southeastern United States.

There are many different varieties of barley grown in the United States. But there are two basic types, which are classified based on the number of rows of grain seen when the heads of the stalks are viewed from above. The two types are:

Two-row barley, named because there are two rows of barley kernels on the head of the stalk. Each stalk produces between 15 and 30 kernels.

Six-row barley, named because the head of the stalk contains six rows of barley kernels. Each stalk produces between 25 and 60 kernels.

The varieties may be either malting or non-malting.

The Barley Plant > Stages of Life

Barley is planted either as a winter or summer crop.

Planting: In the northern states, where winters are severe, barley is planted in April or May as a summer crop. In the warmer regions, barley is planted between mid-September and November.

Dormancy: Fall-planted barley lies dormant during the winter months.

Harvesting: Spring-planted barley is harvested in the fall. Fall-planted barley is harvested in June. A combine is used to harvest the crop.

The progenitors of domesticated wheat and other founder crops are today growing wild in the Fertile Crescent, while wild barley is found in the western and eastern regions. As a result, archaeologists haven't been sure whether the cultivated barley in the east came from the Fertile Crescent or was domesticated directly from local wild plants in the east or west...

Double Cropping the Earliest Agriculture?

By Michael Balter
ScienceNOW Daily News
13 February 2007

A new study suggests that barley may have undergone domestication twice, a finding with important implications for understanding the spread of farming.

Archaeologists have long debated whether the so-called founder crops of the agricultural revolution--including wheat and barley--were domesticated once or multiple times. The record is ambiguous. Over the past decades, they have unearthed the earliest remains of domesticated barley at sites in the Fertile Crescent that date back 10,500 years. But there is also evidence for barley cultivation about 9000 years ago at sites further east in Central Asia. Today, the wild progenitors of domesticated wheat and other founder crops grow only in the Fertile Crescent, but wild barley is found in the western and eastern regions. As a result, archaeologists haven't been sure whether the cultivated barley in the east came from the Fertile Crescent or was domesticated directly from local wild plants.

To find out, evolutionary biologists Peter Morrell and Michael Clegg of the University of California, Irvine, sequenced genes of wild and domesticated barley from the two regions. They focused on seven genes that differ slightly according to the plants' geographic origins. The genetic variations in the eastern domesticated samples much more closely resembled those in the wild plants from the east than those in wild plants from the Fertile Crescent, they report online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Morrell and Clegg conclude that barley was domesticated at least twice, first in the Fertile Crescent and then between 1500 to 3000 kilometers further east in Central Asia.

Archaeobotanist George Willcox of the National Center for Scientific Research in Lyons, France, says that the paper demonstrates that the origins of agriculture "are far more complex than the simplistic view of a single event." Willcox adds that there might have been more than two domestications of barley and other crops, but that the evidence for them has been lost: "Archaeology tells us that sites were abandoned, cultures came to a dead end, and with them their crops."

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« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2007, 08:29:44 pm »

Spread of barley in the US
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« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2007, 09:07:32 pm »

The Mesolithic (ca. 10,000-5500 B.C.E).

Evidence indicates that the Middle East in general was one of the earliest areas in the Old World to experience what the Australian archaeologist V. Gordon Childe called the Neolithic revolution. That revolution witnessed the development of settled village agricultural life based firmly on the domestication of plants and animals. Iran has yielded much evidence on the history of these important developments. In the early Mesolithic, evidence of significant shifts in tool manufacture, settlement patterns, and subsistence methods, including the fumbling beginnings of domestication of both plants and animals, comes from such important western Iranian sites as Asiab, Guran, Ganj-e Dareh, and Ali Kosh. Similar developments in the Zagros, on the Iraqi side of the modern border, are also traceable at sites such as Karim Shahir and Zawi Chemi-Shanidar. This phase of early experimentation with sedentary life and domestication was soon followed by a period of fully developed village farming as defined at important Zagros sites such as Jarmo, Sarab, upper Ali Kosh, and upper Guran. All of these sites date wholly or in part to the 8th and 7th millennia.

By approximately 6,000 BC these patterns of village farming were widely spread over much of the Iranian Plateau and in lowland Khuzestan. Tepe Sabz in Khuzestan, Hajji Firuz in Azerbaijan, Godin Tepe VII in northeastern Luristan, Tepe Sialk I on the rim of the central salt desert, and Tepe Yahya VI C-E in the southeast have all yielded evidence of fairly sophisticated patterns of agricultural life (Roman numerals identify the level of excavation). Though distinctly different, all show general cultural connections with the beginnings of settled village life in neighbouring areas such as Afghanistan, Baluchistan, Soviet Central Asia, and Mesopotamia.
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« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2007, 09:50:32 pm »

Welcome back to the forum, Boreas.  Some new information was just released on this today (see the topic I created on Noah's Ark here). I think you'll find it useful, though a bit nonspecific. 
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« Reply #4 on: November 27, 2007, 12:16:13 am »

Scientific Evidence for Pre-Columbian Transoceanic Voyages to and from the Americas

John L. Sorenson and Carl L. Johannessen


Examination of an extensive literature has revealed conclusive evidence that nearly one hundred species of plants, a majority of them cultivars, were present in both the Eastern and Western Hemispheres prior to Columbus' first voyage to the Americas. The evidence comes from archaeology, historical and linguistic sources, ancient art, and conventional botanical studies. Additionally, 21 species of micro-predators and six other species of fauna were shared by the Old and New Worlds. The evidence further suggests the desirability of additional study of up to 70 other organisms as probably or possibly bi-hemispheric in pre-Columbian times. This distribution could not have been due merely to natural transfer mechanisms, nor can it be explained by early human migrations to the New World via the Bering Strait route. Well over half the plant transfers consisted of flora of American origin that spread to Eurasia or Oceania, some at surprisingly early dates.

The only plausible explanation for these findings is that a considerable number of transoceanic voyages in both directions across both major oceans were completed between the 7th millennium BC and the European age of discovery. Our growing knowledge of early maritime technology and its accomplishments gives us confidence that vessels and nautical skills capable of these long-distance travels were developed by the times indicated. These voyages put a new complexion on the extensive Old World/New World cultural parallels that have long been controversial.

The Problem

In general, scholars concerned with the ancient culture history of the Americas believe that there were no significant connections by voyaging between the Old World and the New World before 1492. To the contrary, our data from an extensive literature that hitherto has been inadequately searched demonstrate that fauna and flora were extensively shared between the Old and New Worlds before Columbus' discovery of the Americas. The only plausible explanation for this bi-hemispheric distribution is that those shared organisms moved across the oceans via intentional voyages that took place during the eight millennia or more immediately preceding Columbus' discoveries. This book presents and documents the evidence for our position. We believe students of the human past are obliged to adopt a new paradigm for the role of long-distance sea communication in history and culture.



Cultural Freight

It is obvious that cultural (as well as human genetic) features had to have been transported with the flora and fauna on transoceanic voyages. A full discussion of the significance of the biological facts must take account of concomitant cultural sharing.

Domesticated plants and animals are almost never successfully transplanted by human agency to a strange area without appropriate care being given to the specimens being moved. Cultural norms for the preservation and exploitation of new organisms must be transmitted along with the crop plants if they are to survive and flourish in their new setting. That essential knowledge comprises botanical data, agricultural practices, culinary technology, and other measures needed to ensure that the transported plants are correctly cultivated and usefully employed on the new scene.

Moreover, the skills essential for making ocean voyages generally involve navigational, astronomical, and calendrical lore—concepts that could well survive at the destination. We can be confident also that a substantial body of myth, beliefs, and ritual practices would have accompanied the voyagers. A new linguistic and artistic repertoire would also have been introduced by the newcomers.

Speculation that people arriving from abroad would automatically be killed or their cultural baggage rejected is not supported by historical cases. The notion that such would have been the fate of voyagers probably owes more to Victorian stereotypes about 'cannibals' eating Christian missionaries than to ethnographic reality. Curiosity is the response to new arrivals at least as often as hostility.

Thus, not only does our documentation of the transport of flora and fauna across the oceans open the door for further studies in biological science (for example, we have noted few of the possibly large number of weeds inadvertently transported by voyagers), it also demands reconsideration of cultural parallels that have heretofore been categorically thrown out of court by almost all scholars when treating the issue of Old World/New World contacts.

Let us examine a single geographically focused setting for inter-hemispheric contact in order to appreciate how biological facts might connect to cultural data. The data in this book show that as many as 50 species of plants definitely, or very possibly, were transferred between the American tropics and India, or vice versa, before Columbus' day. While we cannot tell how many voyages this long process involved, there must have been several score—or maybe several hundred—stretched over millennia. Given the apparent scale of biological contact, one would a priori expect substantial cultural interchange as well. For decades researchers have been spelling out data that they consider show a connection between ancient civilizations in India and Mesoamerica, although the nature, timing, and significance of the influences at play have remained vague. (We recognize that considerable cultural evidence that has been offered has been of poor quality and deserves to be ignored.)

As mentioned earlier, Tylor's 19th-century (1896) identification of striking parallels between the South Asian pachisi and the Mexican patolli board games has never had a satisfactory explanation in terms of parallel, independent invention. In the 1920s, G. Elliot Smith added more cultural parallels between the two areas (see especially his 1924 book that treated elephant symbolism; the Mexican and Buddhist 'purgatory' ordeal; the makara, or 'dragon;' and miniature ritual vehicles bearing sacred figures drawn by animals). A series of articles by Milewski (1959, 1960, 1961, 1966) pointed to many conceptual parallels between deity names in Sanskrit on the one hand, and Aztec (Náhuatl) and Zapotec names on the other. Giesing went on (1984) to compile 50 pages of names and epithets for the Hindu god, Siva/Shiva, with which names and titles for the Aztec god, Tezcatlipoca, prove to be congruent. The fire-god complexes of India (Agni) and of central Mexico (Xiuhtecuhtli) were meticulously compared by Cronk (1973), who found extensive and startlingly detailed parallels.

Kelley (1960; Moran and Kelley 1969) argued that much that was basic in Mesoamerican calendrics, cosmology, and mythology is traceable to India of the last centuries BC and to nowhere else as clearly. Durbin (1971) was sufficiently impressed with Kelley's proposals that he suggested a set of lexical links between Prakrit, Sanskrit-derived languages of India, and proto-Mayan in Central America. Mukerji (1936) claimed to demonstrate specific astronomical correlations between the Maya and Hindu calendars. Kirchoff (1964a, 1964b) laid out large blocks of material on conceptual and structural features of the calendars and mythology of Eastern and Southern Asia, also apparently in Mesoamerica. Barthel (1975a, 1975b, 1982, 1985) did a series of intricate studies of Mesoamerican codices and calendars which he believed confirm that a Hindu 'missionary' effort reached Mexico, only to be obscured by a later 're-barbarization' of the transplanted concepts. The sacred figures who hold ears of corn on temple sculptures in India do so with hands in symbolic positions, or mudra gestures, while Mesoamericanists have noted a repertoire of mudras shared by Indian and Mesoamerican art (Martí 1971; Medvedov 1982). And Compton (1997) has pointed out elaborate parallels between Aztec and Buddhist etiological myths involving the rabbit and the moon.

These studies, plus many more that could be cited, have typically been presented by diffusionists at a high level of abstraction, as though disembodied elements of 'Indian culture' or 'Mesoamerican civilization' were somehow wafted across the ocean where they lodged in the minds of the locals. Protagonists of diffusion have rarely proposed, let alone documented, plausible historical scenarios that would account for the parallels they propose. That is, they have not hypothesized actual voyages in which culturally knowledgeable persons with believable motives are supposed to have boarded specific kinds of vessels to travel along nautically feasible routes and then arrive at particular locations in the opposite hemisphere, where they significantly affected existing cultures. But the time is at hand when such plausible scenarios can be proposed.

Concrete data on biology has the potential to help relate cultural features to dates and locations. The degree of concreteness this would furnish to investigations of cultural parallels may allow researchers to formulate focused and convincing hypotheses about when, where, and how sharing took place. For example, the fact that important American crops were represented in Indian art, mentioned in texts, and found in excavations, might provide concrete chronological and material settings to relate to, say, Kelley's, Cronk's, and Barthel's hypotheses about Indian intellectual and religious influence on Mesoamerica in the late BC centuries. Yet India is only one area of influence to which the evidence points.

We emphasize that by momentarily focussing on the India/America interchange, we do not consider other origin/destination pairs non-credible. The evidence is strong for South America/Polynesia, Mesoamerica/Hawaii, several American scenes connected to Southeast (especially Indonesia) and East Asia, and Mediterranean/Mesoamerican links. But those are matters to be delineated elsewhere.

Summary Points

For now, the following summary points are apparent from our analysis of the biological data. Each bypasses old conceptions and opens up new avenues of inquiry.

    * 1. A wide variety of (mostly tropical) floral and faunal materials was carried across the oceans over a long period of time. The movements must have had significant ecological and economic impacts on the receiving areas in both hemispheres.

    * 2. A considerable number of voyages were required to accomplish these transfers. Views of nautical history quite surely must expand from what they have been.

    * 3. Travel took place across the oceans in both directions. A large number of American plants reached Asia, at least. That fact challenges not just previous interpretations of the American past, but also ideas about the history of various Old World areas.

    * 4. The evidence for transoceanic interchange of fauna and flora imply also human gene exchange and generally a more complex biological history of humankind than has been considered until now. The history of disease is a connected subject that calls for new lines of investigation in the light of our findings about the unexpected ancient distribution of microfauna.

    * 5. It has frequently been postulated—and more frequently assumed—that parallel cultural or social evolutionary processes moved societies independently in Eastern and Western Hemispheres toward the same basic form of 'civilization.' But since developments in both hemispheres must now be seen to have been significantly interconnected, theoreticians would be on weak ground to continue supposing that what transpired in the New World can serve as a separate control by which it is possible to identify general principles, or 'laws,' of evolutionary process. There have been many cultures and civilizations, but it is now apparent that there was to a considerable degree a single ecumene (Sorenson 1971) spread over much of the world in pre-Columbian times. Consequently, after five centuries of use, the expressions 'Old World' and 'New World' have outlived whatever usefulness they initially possessed, or at least their accuracy in cultural/historical discourse. We need to move on to clearer geographical, as well as cultural/historical, specification.

    * 6. The time-depth of many cultural developments is probably more remote than has been commonly thought. For example, the evidence presented above—of major plant and, by inference, also of cultural transfers between the Americas and Asia by the 3rd, or even the 4th, millennium BC—renders highly unlikely the prevailing view that civilization in Mesoamerica and the Andean zone began only in the late 2nd millennium BC. The challenge to archaeology is obvious.

    * 7. If there is to be further progress toward an honest history of humankind, greater curiosity needs to be manifested by investigators. Most of the evidence we have utilized has been around in the literature for years (illustrating A.N. Whitehead's dictum, "Everything of importance has been said before by somebody who did not discover it.") Why the importance of these data has not been grasped previously can be attributed largely to the constriction imposed on scientific and scholarly thought by dogmatic acceptance of a single paradigm for the history of human development. Scholars have seen a broadly evolutionary schema as representing the 'truth' instead of as merely a heuristic device.

    * 8. At the level of public awareness and education, the fact that we have established that ocean-spanning voyages were many and took place both early and late as well as from multiple origins to numerous destinations, casts a new light on the inherent capabilities of the world's varied peoples. The transoceanic movements that we have identified do not show 'superior' folks diffusing 'civilization' to benighted 'primitives.' Rather, we detect a poly-cultural tapestry, although still but dimly perceived. It was woven by people of courage and wit of many origins and colors. The tapestry's integration came from the fact that from time to time voyagers undertook history-changing communication with lands distant from their own.

But we do not intend that our findings spawn new dogma of any kind. Rather, we hope that intellectual curiosity and openness, disciplined by sound research and logic, will prevail among the next generation of investigators, so that they may go beyond, not only where the old paradigm of culture-history allowed, but also beyond the perspective we have reached.

See the entire report:
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