Archive for August, 2011



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Topic: Sunflowers


It’s Official! Team Confirms Sunflower Domesticated in US, Not Mexico.

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Topic: Cooking dates to almost 2 million years ago

This chimp and other non-human primates spend nearly half their time eating, but new research demonstrates that the cooking skills of Homo erectus allowed the lineage to save time and extract more nutrients, paving the way for bigger brains.

Nearly 2 million years ago, it seems the original naked chef was cooking up a storm. Homo erectus, the extinct hominid that’s a mere branch or so away from humans on the family tree, was the first to master cooking, new evidence suggests. This seminal event had huge implications for hominid evolution, giving the ancestors of modern humans time and energy for activities such as running, thinking deep thoughts and inventing things like the wheel and beer-can chicken.

“In the big picture, eating cooked food has huge ramifications,” says Harvard’s Chris Organ, a coauthor of the new study. Cooking and other food-processing techniques aren’t just time-savers; they provide a bigger nutritional punch than a raw diet. The new work is further evidence that cooking literally provided food for thought, making it easier for the body to extract calories from the diet that could then be used to grow a nice, big brain.

Humans are the only animals who cook, and compared to our living primate relatives we spend very little time gathering and eating food. We also have smaller jaws and teeth.

Homo erectus also had small teeth relative to others in the human lineage, and the going idea was that hominids must have figured out how to soften up their food by the time that H. erectus evolved. But behavioral traits such as the ability to whip up a puree or barbecue ribs don’t fossilize, so a real rigorous test of the H. erectus-as-chef hypothesis was lacking.

Organ and his colleagues, including Harvard’s Richard Wrangham, an early champion of the cooking hypothesis, decided to quantify the time one would expect humans to spend eating by looking at body size and feeding time in our living primate relatives. After building a family tree of primates, the researchers found that people spend a tenth as much time eating relative to their body size compared with their evolutionary cousins — a mere 4.7 percent of daily activity rather than the expected 48 percent if humans fed like other primates.

Then the team looked at tooth size within the genus Homo. From H. erectus on down to H. sapiens, teeth are much smaller than would be predicted based on what is seen in other primates, the team reports online the week of August 22 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Tooth size becomes dramatically smaller than what we would expect,” says paleoanthropologist David Strait of the University at Albany in New York, who was not involved with the work. “This is really compelling indirect evidence the human lineage became adapted to and dependent on cooking their food by the time Homo erectus evolved.”

Note: If you have not read it yet you might be interested in the book, Catching Fire-How Cooking Made Us Human, by Richard Wrangham mentioned in the above article. 

Original article:


By Rachel Ehrenberg

Web edition : Monday, August 22nd, 2011

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Topic More on Beer

Orange-colored galls, such as these pictured in 2010, from the beech tree forests of Patagonia have been found to harbor the yeast that makes lager beer possible. Five hundred years ago, in the age of sail and when the trans-Atlantic trade was just beginning, the yeast somehow made its way from Patagonia to the caves and monastery cellars of Bavaria where the first lager beers were fermented.

If you like lager beer, you have Christopher Columbus to thank for it. The
long-standing mystery of where the yeast that makes cold-temperature lager beer
fermentation possible has been solved, in the beech forests of Patagonia
in Argentina.

Humans have been making beer for a very long time. The first actual
evidence we have is barley beer 6,000 years ago in Sumeria, which was probably
somewhat like a thin, fermented, drinkable gruel. In Europe, the same yeast
types used to make bread and wine were used to make ale-type beers,
a process that was well-established by the Middle Ages.

But in the 15th century, something remarkable happened in Bavaria. Beers stored in the cold, dank caves and cellars there,
often by monks, began to ferment. A new type of slow-growing, cold-tolerant
yeast had found its way into the area, making bottom-fermenting beer type
possible for the first time.

Lager has since become so widespread that it is now the most popular
technique for producing alcoholic beverages, with over $250 billion in global
sales in 2008.

The yeast that made all this possible was called Saccharomyces pastorianus, which was a fusion of a
well-known ale-yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae and some other, unknown,
cold-tolerant yeast.

However much scientists searched, they couldn’t find the other half of the
yeast fusion in the wild. They looked at the more than 1,000 yeast species known
and found no match. It didn’t appear to exist in anywhere in Europe.

But now an international team of researchers have discovered the home ground
of this magical yeast that has made so many sporting events so much more

It comes from the beech forests of Patagonia, the alpine region at the tip of
South America, they report in this week’s edition of the Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences
. The yeast lives in galls
that infect the trees there and is a 99.5% match for the ‘missing link’ half of
the lager yeast.

They named the newfound yeast Saccharomyces eubayanus.

“Beech galls are very rich in simple sugars. It’s a sugar rich habitat that
yeast seem to love,” Chris Todd Hittinger, a University of Wisconsin-Madison genetics
professor and a co-author of the study, said in a release.

In fact, the yeast is so active in the galls that they spontaneously ferment.
“When over mature, they fall all together to the (forest) floor where they often
form a thick carpet that has an intense ethanol odor, most probably due to the
hard work of our new Saccharomyces eubayanus,” Diego Libkind of the Institute for Biodiversity
and Environment Research in Bariloche, Argentina, said.

Somehow, and no one knows exactly how, this New World yeast got to Europe
just as the Columbian exchange between Europe and the Americas was
beginning. Perhaps beech wood from Argentina was used to make something that
ended up in a monastery. However it happened, it made its way to where beer was
brewed. And the rest, beer lovers have cause to be grateful for, was

Or as the researchers put it rather more dryly:

The facile recovery of this species from Patagonia suggests that S.
may have been absent in Europe until it was imported from
overseas after the advent of trans-Atlantic trade.

Original article:

By Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY



This illustration depicts the journey of lager yeast from Patagonia at the southern tip of South America to Europe 500 years ago.

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Topic:  Trapped in Amber

fossilized insect remains preserved in amber for over 23 million years,

Researchers in Peru said Tuesday they have discovered the remains of ancient insects and sunflower seeds trapped inside amber dating from the Miocene epoch, some 23 million years ago.

The rare find was made in the remote mountainous jungle region near Peru’s northern border with Ecuador, paleontologist Klaus Honninger told AFP.

“These new discoveries are very important, because the insects and sunflower seeds confirm the type of climate that existed during the Miocene period,” Honninger said in a telephone interview from the northern city of Chiclayo.

The paleontologists discovered “hundreds of pieces of amber up to 12 centimeters (five inches) large containing several types of insects,” Honninger said.

The insects trapped in the amber — fossilized tree resin — are extremely well preserved and include ancient beetles, barklice, flies and spiders.

Honninger, director of the Chiclayo-based Meyer-Honninger Paleontology Museum, said that the experts discovered “an unknown species of arachnid” with a head like a dog and legs four times longer than the body.

The discovery was made in April in the Santiago River area of northern Peru.

Extreme climate change from the Miocene epoch (23 to five million years ago) was likely the reason the insects became extinct, Honninger said.

The same team of researchers announced in January it had discovered a fossilized squid from the Cretaceous era (145 to 65 million years ago) some 3,700 meters (12,100 feet) above sea level in the Maranon River Valley, also in far northern Peru.

Original Article:


August 2011

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Date Palm

Topic:  The Date Palm part 2

The Ancient explanations of Tawrah (The Law ) were believed that the fermented juice (Le Skiar) which not permitted to Jewish monks was made of date palm honey ‘Dabas’. Jewish children were offering this drink to the ever persistent God from the earliest production of date trees. Date palm tree was depicted among the Hebrew’s drawings (Qudama,1985). Jews were given the name ‘Tamara’ (the word derived from the word Tamr); to their girls. They dreamed that their girls became smart, tall, pretty and fertile like date palm tree (Qudama,1985).


1. RELIGION: Date palm was known in Coptic Egypt as ‘Bnne’. Christians of Jerusalem were carried fronds of date palm as they went out to meet their Prophet when he had announced “On the next day people that were come to the feast when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem took branches of palm trees and went forth to meet him…” Gospel of St. John. “….A great multitude which no one could number of all nations and kindred’s and people and tongues stood before the throne and before the lamb, clothed with white robes and palms in their hands, and cried with a loud voice:” Salvation to our God who sitteth on the throne, and unto the lamb.” Revelation of St. John.

2. TRADITIONS: Christians have never ceased to adorn their churches with palm leaves for the celebration of the last Sunday before Easter. Beneath the domes of Ancient Coptic churches or the double towers of more recent ones, palm Sunday still commemorated with rituals dating back to the first centuries of Christian faith. Palm fronds are everywhere: In the sanctuary above the screen separating the officiating priest from the faithful as well as in the hands of the worshippers. Palm leaves were also carried by every attendant of the solemn morning procession, along with fragments of fronds the leaflets of which had be painted into various decorative shapes (Bircher,1990). Palm groves surround the fortress-like desert monasteries; some of them were the sites of the very first convents ever built and where the embittered monks had faced constant danger of pillage, depredation and death. Dates were mentioned sparsely as Coptic remedies, once in a poultice with other ingredients for stomach ache (Darby, et al 1977).

3. LEGENDS: There are some charming legends concerning the Divine Child and the date palm based on Bircher(1990): One of them is connected with the flight of the Holy Family to Egypt. They having left their country in great haste and utter anguish. Saint Joseph and the virgin Mary had taken no food with them on their way. As they entered the palm groves of Egypt. One of these fine date bearing trees gently bent its head towards them; inclining it so deeply that could feast on the delicious fruits while the cherubs who were seated on the fronds welcomed them by singing and wishing them peace.

Another legend is connected with Saint Christophorus, the patron-Saint of travelers and car-drivers: As the Holy Family was preparing to cross a river, a man called Christophorus took the infant Jesus on his board shoulders and carried him safely across the water. But the tiny child proved to be so heavy that he would have broken down under its weight… for with him he was carrying the burden of the entire world… had he not been able to lean on his staff which was made from the midrib of palm frond … As they reached the shore the Divine infant told Christophorus to thrust his staff into the soil. The man obeyed and the sticks sprouted into a wonderful date palm. From that time Christophorus become a convert and lived a saintly life ever after.


I. Date palm in Qora’n:

Palm tree was mentioned in Qora’n (the book of books) twenty times. On fifteen occasions it is mentioned among other plants in a God’s bounty towards the human race. Qora’n statements will mentioned according to Ali (1934) and verified with ( English copy by International group for computer systems,1995 ).

—-“It is He who sendeth down rain from the skiers: with it We produce vegetation of all kinds: from some We produce green (crops), out of which We produce grain, heaped up (at harvest); Out of the date palm and its sheaths (or spathes) (come) clusters of dates hanging low and near”. (An’ âm 99)

—“It is He who produceth gardens with trellises and without, and dates, and tilth with produce of all kinds and olives and pomegranates, similar (in kind) and different (in variety). ((An’âm 141)

—“Set forth to them the parable of two men: For one of them We provided two gardens of grape vines and surrounded them with date palms; in between the two We placed corn-fields.” (Kahf 32)

—(Pharaoh) said:”Believe ye in him before I give you permission ? Surely this must be your leader who has taught you magic ! be sure I will cut off your hands and feet on opposite sides, and I will have you crucified on trunks of palm trees: So shall ye know for certain, which of us can give the more severe and the more lasting punishment” (Tâ -Hâ 71)

—“And corn-fields and date palms with spathes near breaking (=with the weight of fruit ( Shu’arâa 148)

—“And tall (and stately) palm trees, with shoots of fruits stalks, piled one over another”. (Qâf 10 ) —“Plucking out men as if they were shoots of palm trees torn up (from the ground)”. (Qamar 20)

—“Therein is fruit and date palms, producing spathes (enclosing dates)”. (Rahmân 11)

—“In them will be fruits, and dates and pomegranates” (Rahmân 68)

—“So that thou couldst see the (whole) people lying prostrate in its (path): As if they had been roots of hollow palm trees tumbled down!” (Hâqqa 7) —“And produce therein corn And grape and nutritious plants And olives and dates” (Abasa 27-29)

—“And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm tree: She cried (in her anguich): Ah ! would that I had died before this ! would that I had been a thing forgotten and out of sight ! (Maryam 23)

—“And shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm tree it will let fall fresh ripe dates upon thee”. (Maryam 25)

—“Does any of you wish that he should have a garden with date palms and vines and streams flowing underneath, and all kinds of fruits”. (Baqara 266)

—“And the earth are tracts (Diverse though) neighboring and gardens of vines and fields sown with corn, and palm trees growing out of single roots or otherwise: Watered with the same water “. (Ra’d 4)

—“With it He produces for you corn, olives, date palm, grapes and every kind of fruit”. (Nahl 11)

—“And from the fruit of the date palm and the vine, ye get out whole some drink, and food: be hold in this also in a sign for those who are wise”. (Nahl 67)

—”Or (until) thou have a garden of date trees and vines, and cause rivers to gush forth in their midst carrying abundant water” (Bani-Isrâ’il 91)

—“With it We grow for you gardens of date palms and vines: In them have ye abundant fruits: And of them ye eat (and have enjoyment) (Mu-minun 19 )

—“And We produce therein orchards with date palms and vines and We cause springs to gush forth therein”. (Yâ-Sin 34)

—“A good word like a goodly tree, whose root is firmly fixed, and its branches (reach) to the heavens” (Ibrahim 24)

Annas said that the Prophet Mohammed said about this goodly tree that: This tree is the date palm tree (El Nadawi,1994).

II. Date palm in the Prophet Mohammed’s speeches and life:

—Abd Alla Ebn Omar Said that “Prophet Mohammed said that: Among the trees there is one with non-fallen leaves, it’s similar to the muslim; think about it” .The Muslims said that:That is date palm tree.

—Salama Bent Kais said that “Prophet Mohammed said that: Feed women with Tamr after their delevary (on puperium stage); whose feeds on Tamr her child grow up most merciful; it was the food of virgin Mary in Juses birth. If the God knows other best one ‘He’ had to feed her on it”

—Soliman Ebn Amer El Dabbi said that “Prophet Mohammed said that:: If one eats one eats after fast, it is preferably to eat Tamr if not available, her drinks some water it is cleared and pure”.

—Annas said that ” Prophet Mohammed had eaten Rutab after fast and before his prayers, if no Rutab he eats Tamr if no Tamr, he drinks some water “.

—Eisha (Prophet Mohammed’s wife) said that: “A house free from Tamr their owner hungry”.

—Eisha said that ” Prophet Mohammed said that: Excellent Agua has a curative effect”.

—Eisha said that “Prophet Mohammed had named Tamr and Milk, the two best(best among all food)”.

—Emam Musleim was mentioned that:” Abd Alla Ebn Ghfar had seen the Prophet Mohammed eats cucumber with Rutab”.

—Ebn Ody said that: Ali was mentioned that:”Prophet Mohammed Said that: The best of your Tamr is ‘Berni’ it is curative”. Or Abi Hourira Said that ” Prophet Mohammed said that: ‘Berni’ is curative and free from infection”.

—Saad said that “Prophet Mohammed said that: Whose eat seven fresh Tamr fruits at breakfast, he gets over magic and poison on that day” .

III. Date palm and the Prophet Mohammed legends:

Based on Gaber Ebn Abd Alla who said that: “the Prophet Mohammed was standing next to a date palm trunk during his prayers. One day a woman offers a seat to the Prophet to sit on it; when Mohammed is sitting on this seat the date palm trunk was crying sadly for missing the Prophet’s support” (Sawan,1993). Another interesting legend was mentioned by Abn Abas who mentioned that “An Arabian man came to the Prophet Mohammed and said to him, ‘how can I know that you are the Prophet of God?’ Prophet Mohammed answered that: ‘I can call the date fruits from that tree to come down’, and so he did; after that he ordered the date fruits to return up again and be reconnected to the tree; the fruits did. Then the Arabian man believed that the Prophet Mohammed is the Prophet of God” (El-Nadawi,1994).

IV-Ancient Islamic traditions and habits:

1. A great multitude of Ansar (Madina inhabitants, who believed with Mohammed) were celebrating the Prophet Mohammed coming and met him in Madina border terraces with palm leaves; they cried with load voice ” A’la Akber” (Allahu Akbar).

2. Qura’n was written in Ancient times on palm leaf bases: After the death of Prophet Mohammed; Omar and Abu Baker (the Prophet friends and his followers) were ordered Zeid Ebn Thabet to collect Qura’n words: Zeid said that: I started to collect it from the date palm leaves and whose know it “.

3. Madina mosque: The Mosque in it the Prophet Mohammed was buried, it was the first Islamic Mosque built in Madina after Prophet Mohammed and his followers migrated to it. The earlier achitectures of this Mosque were made of mudbricks and palm fronds, the columns were made of palm trunks, the area in which Prophet Mohammed was buried is still surrounded with decorated palm sticks. The houses of Prophet Mohammed’s wives were made of palm leaves and palm trunks in addition to mudbricks (El-Nadawi, 1994).

Many authors were treated of the uses of date palm in folk medicine; some of these preparations were cited in old medicinal dictionaries, some others still handled in rural areas everywhere in Arab region. Among these authors were Qabani (1973); Darby, et al (1977); El Gameli (1983); Qudama (1985); Manniche(1989); Aref(1991); Famuyiwa, et al (1992); Abd El Hamed (1994) and Abd El Salam and Askar (1994). Based on these references some common folk preparations of dates are cited here.

The decoction of the fruit was used to treat bronchitis, cough and colitis as well as its uses as expectorant. In addition to its uses as an emollient, in gout and blood pressure cases.

1. Tamr is remedy for potassium deficiency diseases; Tamr is a general restorative if eaten as a daily food. Tamr treats the cardiac disorder especially after diarrhea and vomiting or after diuretic medications.

2. Tamr as lactagogue: Tamr containing Potassium; Glycine and Threonine; which activate the milk hormone (prolactin). Tamr acts as lactagogue if it is used in daily feeding of a woman in her lactation period.

3. Tamr as aphrodisiac:

i. Remedy of tamr mixed with milk and cinnamon is aphrodisiac and activates the formation of sexual desire.

ii. A breakfast meal composed of black bread and cooked yolk (seven eggs) with 100 gram Agua (or tamr ý) and 15 gram margarine is aphrodisiac food. This breakfast must followed with a cup of milk or carrot juice thus activates the sexual behavior.

4. Date and tumors: Feeding on tamr increase the body immunity and resistance to cancer diseases. Estron hormone is extracted from date kernels (seeds) and treated chemically to obtain ‘stradiol’ which can be used for cancer treatment.

5. Date and abscesses: A remedy of warm Agua paste (or tamr paste) and margarine is applied externally on the abscesses. The remedy is analgesic and a local antipyretic.

6. Date and skin allergy: Remedy of tamr paste in water is antihistaminic, the remedy is externally applied to the skin. Food containing tamr is sedative to allergy. Zinc is the active ingredient inducing allergic inhibition.

7. Date and poisonous bites: Prophet Mohammed said that: The direct external use of tamr past on the poisonous bites gets rid of its poisonous effect.

8. Date and muslim’s fasting: Muslims in the fasting month (Ramadan) start their meals with tamr soaked in water for a period ranging from 3-12 hours. Soaked tamr containing a soluble sugars which are absorbed in 5 minutes from the soft tissues of the digestive tract. Tamr sugars recompansate the loss in the level of blood sugar during the fasting period (Famuyiwa,et al .1992).

9. Date and delivery: The consumption of tamr as ingredient of the daily meals of a woman after and before her delivery is acting as tonic for uterine muscles. In addition to its help activating the delivery process as well as prevent the post delivery bleeding due to the presence of constricting substance in tamr; the quiet typical example for this case Virgin Mary delivery and her feeding on tamr.

10. Date and pediatric anxiety: A child consumes seven dates (tamr) daily; is a remedy for anxiety and nervous disorders.

11. Date and ascaris: Daily dosage of seven dates Agua before sleeping kills ascaris worms due to its dysentery effect.

12. Date stones and eyes: The burned date seeds (stones) were powdered and added to ‘kohl’ (50%/50%; wt/wt). The remedy improve the ophthalmia and activate the growth of eye lashes.

13. Date and chest infection: A remedy used for throat and chest infections is: 50 gram tamr, 50 gram fig, 50 gram hibiscus and 50 gram dried grapes ( fruits). The mixture boiled in one liter water. The remedy is one dosage three times daily; it is recommended as an expectorant.

14. Date and renal calculei:

i. A cup of hot tamr decoction (seven tamr) two times daily for a period of 15 days; the remedy is lithonotryptic and diuretic.

ii. A drink made from powdered date stones with dosage three times daily, is lithonotryptic for hepatic and renal calculei.

15. Date and dehydration: Tamr decoction free from fibrous material is added to some table salt to recompensate for water and mineral loss. This remedy used to treat the dehydration resulting after vomiting and diarrhoea.

16. Date and hemorrhoids: The continuous feeding on tamr relief the hemorrhoids pains and increase the body resistance to this disease. The calcium, phosphorus and iron of dates are active ingredients in treatment of hemorrhoids.

17. Date and obesity: A daily meal containing tamr and almond or peanuts activate the person obesity.

18. Date and dermatitis: A medicinal soap made of powdered date stones, fats, alkali and antimicrobial substance is used for treatment of skin allergy and acrodermatitis.

19. Date and gout: A researches on tamr stones (seeds) were carried out in Egyptian Institute of Medicinal researches. The researches revealed that a coffee made from powdered tamr stones drunk twice daily relieves the gout pains.

20. Date and bronchial asthma: Decoction of tamr and fenugreek if drunk twice daily is recommended in the treatment of bronchial asthma.

21. Date and hyperacidity: Tamr or Agua when added to the food gets rid of stomach hyperacidity as well as blood acidity.

22. Date and general health: Mixture of 50 gram nuts (pinus + hazel nut + almond + walnut) and 50 gram of tamr were added to 15 gram margarine. The mixture is a dosage of one spoon (10 gram) before breakfast followed with a cup of hot Chamomil decoction. The mixture has general benefits for health and activity especially cardiac muscles and nervous system in addition to its increase of body immunity.

23. Date and renal disorder: Tamr is a renal restorative; its daily consumption prevent the formation of renal calculei due to its diuretic and anti-inflammatory actions.

24. Date and night blindness: the daily consumption of tamr in meals and its decoction as eye-lotion help in maintenance of eye hygiene and remedy curative to the night blindness and ophthalmia.

25. Date is a hygienic fruits: Date (tamr, Agua and Rutab) cannot transfer the infectious germs. Tamr were mixed with germs of Cholera (100-1000 times as noticed in the waste of infected persons) after three days the tamr under investigation were completely free from Cholera germs.

26. Palm and stomach bleeding: A remedy composed of the terminal bud of palm tree (Gomar) and honey for daily breakfast gets rid of stomach bleeding. The breakfast must be followed with a cup of Chamomile decoction.

27. Palm and depression: A decoction of palm leaf sheaths (fibrous sheath) sweetened with fructose sugar and drunk twice daily is efficient as an anti-depression drug.

original article:


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Topic : Ancient Peruvian agriculture practices


The coastal desert of Peru. (Wikimedia Commons)

What do the characters in The Grapes of Wrath, Icelandic shepherds in the Middle Ages and ancient Peruvians have in common? They all suffered from the effects of intensive agriculture on sensitive environments.

Throughout human history unsustainable agricultural practices have turned fragile ecosystems into wastelands and left people starving. During the Dust Bowl, American farmers learned the consequences of removing the deep rooted grasses from the Great Plains when the soil blew away in tremendous dust storms. Icelandic shepherds learned that the sheep rearing practices their ancestors used on the European mainland destroyed the thin soils of their island and left them with starving herds and little to eat.

The ancient inhabitants of what is now Peru also learned the unhappy consequences of farming in a delicate ecosystem. The Ica Valley, near the coast of southern Peru and the famous Nazca lines, is now a barren desert, but was once a fertile floodplain, anchored by the roots of the huarango tree.

People were able to raise a variety of crops there for several centuries. But intensive agriculture in pre-conquest times led to ecosystem collapse. The history of the land was recently reconstructed by bioarcheologist David Beresford-Jones of the University of Cambridge by looking at plant remains left in ancient garbage heaps.

Beresford-Jones and a team of archeologists studied plant remains associated with settlement sites spanning roughly 750 B.C. to 1000 A.D. They observed the change as the valley inhabitants went from eating mostly gathered foods, to a period of intense agriculture, then back again to surviving on what they could eke out of nature’s diminished bounty.

“The farmers inadvertently crossed an ecological threshold and the changes became irreversible,” says Dr. David Beresford-Jones of the University of Cambridge.

Farming the Ica Valley was possible because of the huarango tree woodland, which literally held the floodplain together. The roots of the tree physically anchored the soils and protected the ground from erosion. The trees also maintained fertility by fixing nitrogen from the air and keeping moisture in the soil.

But as more land was cleared for crop production, so much of the woodland was cleared that the huarango’s benefits were lost. The land was then exposed to floods from El Niño events and strong winds parched the land when it wasn’t flooded.
Clearing the land of trees in order to grow crops had inadvertently and ironically made it impossible to grow crops.

Earlier residents of the valley had survived largely on land snails, along with sea urchins and mussels gathered from the Pacific coast, an eight-hour walk to the west. The researchers found no evidence of domesticated crops in the refuse heaps, called middens, left by these early inhabitants.

Things started to change around 100 B.C. Remains from crops, including pumpkins, maize, and manioc tubers, began appearing in the garbage heaps. Within a few hundred years there was more intensive agriculture. People added beans, peanuts, and chili peppers to their menus.

The feast didn’t last long though. After about 500 years of agriculture, the domesticated crops disappeared. People once again survived on only snails and seafood with some wild plants.

In less than two thousand years, the people went full circle and ended up eating what their ancestors had, but without the huarango forests. To this day, the land is barren, with only the ghostly outlines of irrigation canals to suggest that the land once supported an agrarian society.

Further evidence of the change is found in the disappearance of the use of a blue dye from the indigofera shrub. The shrub grows only in the shelter of huarango trees along waterways. The peoples of the Ica Valley frequently sported clothes dyed a rich blue between 100 and 400 A.D. But as agriculture increased, the use of the dye decreased, suggesting the indigofera’s habitat was also disappearing. Seeds from the shrub also became rare in the archeological record.

The indigofera eventually disappeared from the lower Ica Valley, but other plants became more common. Grasses that thrive in open areas became more common as the trees were cut down. Weeds that sprout in soil disturbed by agriculture also became more common.

The study of land use in the Ica Valley was recently published in the journal Vegetation History and Archaeobotany.

The peoples of the Ica Valley are not the only Peruvians to  suffer from the effects of deforestation. The hills around Lima, Peru were once
covered in huarango trees as well. The trees captured the fog from the ocean and  fed local aquifers. But after the Spanish conquest, the trees were cut and the  hills went dry.


Coast of Peru



Original article:



IMAGE 1: The coastal desert of Peru. (Wikimedia Commons)

IMAGE 2: Photo STS109-730-80
from the STS-109 crew on March 9, 2002, showing layers of coastal Peruvian fog
and stratus being progressively scoured away by brisk south to southeast winds.
Remnants of the cloud deck banked against the larger, obstructing headlands like
Peninsula Paracas and Isla Sangayan, giving the prominent “white comma” effect.
Southerlies also produced ripples of internal gravity waves in the clouds
offshore where warm, dry air aloft interacts with a thinning layer of cool,
moist air near the sea surface on the outer edge of the remaining cloud bank.
South of Peninsula Baracas, the small headlands channeled the clouds into
streaks—local horizontal vortices caused by the headlands provided enough lift
to give points of origin of the clouds in some bays. Besides the shelter of the
peninsula, the Bahia de Pisco appears to be cloud-free due to a dry, offshore
flow down the valley of the Rio Ica. Caption provided by NASA Earth
; image provided by the Earth
Sciences and Image Analysis Laboratory
at Johnson Space Center.

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