Instead of nutrient-rich collect plants, people began once they grow targeted: The development of agriculture was a Revolution in the history of mankind, which led to the emergence of all civilizations. So far, it is of at least four independent centers of plant domestication in the early Holocene in the Middle East and in China and two in the area of today’s Mexico. As a possible fifth region of origin to the southwest of the Amazon region is also regarded for some time.

The clues were previously, however, indirect: In this Region, the wild varieties of important crop plants such as manioc, squash, peanuts, Chili and beans although. But so far, unambiguous archaeological traces, which documented a domestication of this globally important crops in the southwest of Amazonia were missing. In the case of cassava and pumpkin this researchers have managed to Umberto Lombardo of the University of Bern now.

Distinctive traces of settlement

The archaeological evidence from the Moxos plain in the Northern lowlands of Bolivia. It is an approximately 110,000 square kilometres of the flooding savanna In the rainy season it is flooded from July to October, however, is extremely dry, which is why the Region is largely dominated by grasslands. In this savanna landscape however, there are numerous Islands: It is an average of 0.65 hectares of areas that are slightly elevated and, therefore, not be flooded. On them trees and bushes to grow, thus making you stand out even in the dry time significantly of the grass landscape.

A previous study had already shown that many of these forest Islands are characterized by the presence of the people. Finds of skeletons, wood, coal, and food remains showed that they formed from around 10,000 years ago, the homes of the people. In the context of the current study, the researchers to Umberto Lombardo of the University of Bern have now come to the conclusion that there is in the Moxos level 4700 forest Islands, created by human habitation. In the case of 30 of them, the scientists have also carried out archaeobotanical investigations in order to obtain information on the use of certain plants.

agriculture – more than 10,000 years ago

plant-based micro-fossils, which can remain in the soil over tens of thousands of years – the so-called Phytolithe analyzed. This is Silica particles whose characteristics are typical of certain plants. “Sometimes these plants from say, remains only something about what family a particular Plant is, in some cases, however, particularly in the case of domesticated plants can be closed in a certain way,” explains Lombardo.

according to the researchers, they were able to demonstrate by this method that the people in the area of the forest Islands were already amazing early two prominent crops: “We were able to show that the earliest age for cassava is in the Amazon 10.350 years, for pumpkin 10.250 years, and for Corn 6850 years,” says Lombardo. “Our study shows that small communities that operated a mixed economy, began to shape 8000 years earlier than was previously the landscape of the Amazon region, accepted to,” says Lombardo. The results thus confirm that the southwestern Amazon was one of the few early centers around the world for the domestication of plants, the scientists say.

As you emphasize, the study illustrates how early humans began to shape entire landscapes: “The very early spread of the people in the Region had far-says-reaching effects on the environment,” Lombardo: The approximately 4700 artificial forest Islands, changes in the ecological character of these seasonally flooded savannahs significantly. “Our study changed, thus also the understanding of the chronology and intensity of the human footprint in the Amazon region”, said the scientist.

source: University of Bern, technical article: Nature, doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2162-7

*The contribution of “forest Islands: Ancient traces of cultivation” is published by Contact with the executives here.