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Dr. Yoshi Maezumi,

 

Original article:

Popular-archaeology.com

UNIVERSITY OF EXETER—Ancient communities transformed the Amazon thousands of years ago, farming in a way which has had a lasting impact on the rainforest, a major new study* shows.

Farmers had a more profound effect on the supposedly “untouched” rainforest than previously thought, introducing crops to new areas, boosting the number of edible tree species and using fire to improve the nutrient content of soil, experts have found.

The study is the first detailed history of long-term human land use and fire management in this region conducted by archaeologists, paleoecologists, botanists and ecologists. It shows how early Amazon farmers used the land intensively and expanded the types of crops grown, without continuously clearing new areas of the forest for farming when soil nutrients became depleted.

The research team examined charcoal, pollen and plant remains from soil in archaeological sites and sediments from a nearby lake to trace the history of vegetation and fire in eastern Brazil. This provided evidence that maize, sweet potato, manioc and squash were farmed as early as 4,500 years ago in this part of the Amazon. Farmers increased the amount of food they grew by improving the nutrient content of the soil through burning and the addition of manure and food waste. Fish and turtles from rivers were also a key part of the diets at the time.

The findings explain why forests around current archaeological sites in the Amazon have a higher concentration of edible plants.

Dr Yoshi Maezumi, from the University of Exeter, who led the study, said: “People thousands of years ago developed a nutrient rich soil called Amazonian Dark Earths (ADEs). They farmed in a way which involved continuous enrichment and reusing of the soil, rather than expanding the amount of land they clear cut for farming. This was a much more sustainable way of farming.”

The development of ADEs allowed the expansion of maize and other crops, usually only grown near nutrient rich lake and river shores, to be farmed in other areas that generally have very poor soils. This increased the amount of food available for the growing Amazon population at the time.

Dr Maezumi said: “Ancient communities likely did clear some understory trees and weeds for farming, but they maintained a closed canopy forest, enriched in edible plants which could bring them food. This is a very different use of the land to that of today, where large areas of land in the Amazon is cleared and planted for industrial scale grain, soya bean farming and cattle grazing. We hope modern conservationists can learn lessons from indigenous land use in the Amazon to inform management decisions about how to safeguard modern forests.”

Professor Jose Iriarte, from the University of Exeter, said: “The work of early farmers in the Amazon has left an enduring legacy. The way indigenous communities managed the land thousands of years ago still shapes modern forest ecosystems. This is important to remember as modern deforestation and agricultural plantations expand across the Amazon Basin, coupled with the intensification of drought severity driven by warming global temperatures.”

*The legacy of 4,500 years of polyculture agroforestry in the eastern Amazon is published in the journal Nature Plants.

 

 

 

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After it was first domesticated from the wild teosinte grass in southern Mexico, maize, or corn, took both a high road and a coastal low road as it moved into what is now the U.S. Southwest, reports an international research team that includes a UC Davis plant scientist and maize expert.

The study, based on DNA analysis of corn cobs dating back over 4,000 years, provides the most comprehensive tracking to date of the origin and evolution of maize in the Southwest and settles a long debate over whether maize moved via an upland or coastal route into the U.S.

Study findings, which also show how climatic and cultural impacts influenced the genetic makeup of maize, will be reported Jan. 8 in the journal Nature Plants.

The study compared DNA from archaeological samples from the U.S. Southwest to that from traditional maize varieties in Mexico, looking for genetic similarities that would reveal its geographic origin.

“When considered together, the results suggest that the maize of the U.S. Southwest had a complex origin, first entering the U.S. via a highland route about 4,100 years ago and later via a lowland coastal route about 2,000 years ago,” said Jeffrey Ross-Ibarra, an associate professor in the Department of Plant Sciences.

The study further provided clues to how and when maize adapted to a number of novel pressures, ranging from the extreme aridity of the Southwest climate to different dietary preferences of the local people.

Excavations of multiple stratigraphic layers of Tularosa cave in New Mexico allowed researchers to compare genetic data from samples from different time periods.

“These unique data allowed us to follow the changes occurring in individual genes through time,” said lead author Rute Fonseca of the University of Copenhagen. Researchers used these data to identify genes showing evidence of adaptation to drought and genes responsible for changes in starch and sugar composition leading to the development of sweet corn, desired for cultivation by indigenous people and later Europeans.

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The international team of authors also included Bruce D. Smith of the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution and M. Thomas P. Gilbert, University of Copenhagen. The study was funded primarily by the Danish Council for Independent Research and a Marie Sk?owdowska-Curie fellowship from the European Commission.

About UC Davis:

UC Davis is a global community of individuals united to better humanity and our natural world while seeking solutions to some of our most pressing challenges. Located near the California state capital, UC Davis has more than 34,000 students, and the full-time equivalent of 4,100 faculty and other academics and 17,400 staff. The campus has an annual research budget of over $750 million, a comprehensive health system and about two dozen specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and 99 undergraduate majors in four colleges and six professional schools.

Original article:
January 8, 2015

eurekalert.com

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in Temanggung regency, Central Java, has again proven its position as home to one of main archeological findings in Indonesia after archeologists from the Yogyakarta Archeology Agency found the fossilized remnants of staple foods, comprising maize and rice, still inside a bamboo basket at the site.

The archeologists said the finding indicated that Indonesia had long been part of an international agriculture network because maize was not endemic to Java and at the site they had also found many artifacts from other countries, especially China.

Head of the Yogyakarta Archeology Agency, Siswanto, said the findings proved that agricultural produce had been one of the primary commodities traded between Indonesia and its trade partners.

“The finding is also crucial to help us trace the history of food cultivation and technology in Indonesia, especially in Java,” said Siswanto, who spoke during the opening of the 2014 General Soedirman University (Unsoed) Fair in Purwokerto, recently.

During the excavation, the archeologists reportedly found fossilized maize and grains of rice in Liyangan, Purbosari village, Ngadirejo district, which is located 7.5 kilometers from the peak of Mt. Sindoro.

It was believed that the fossilized staple food grew between the eighth and tenth centuries, during the era of the ancient Mataram kingdom.

Siswanto said the excavation took place on a plot of land approximately one hectare in size. At the location, the archeologists also unearthed a temple and 40 ancient Chinese vases dating back to the Tang Dynasty.

Liyangan is a residential settlement in Temanggung at which archeologists had previously found many important archeological objects.

An earlier team of archeologists had also found fossilized grains of rice, indicating that food security in Java was well-managed during that time. (tah/ebf)(++++)

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thejakartapost.com

Agus Maryono
The Jakarta Post, Temanggung | October 29 2014 | 8:31 PM

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