Origin of agriculture: Evidence for crops cultivated 10,000 years ago in Amazonia

Origin of agriculture: Evidence for crops cultivated 10,000 years ago in Amazonia

Scientists narrowed down to Southwestern Amazonia (Llanos de Moxos) in search for the origins of modern agriculture.

Among the oldest cultivated crops, there were:

  • manioc (10,400 years ago)
  • squash (10,300 years ago)
  • maize (6,900 years ago)

The evidence was gathered by collecting multiple cores of ground to depth of 3 meters with samples related to those plants. In addition, spatial analyses of forest islands – nearly 5 thousand of them – suggested that they have artificial origin, due to early agricultural work.

Context of the origin of agriculture

Previous research placed the origin of many agricultural at a similar period – between 11 and 8 thousand years ago. Although the studies were focused on African and Asian origins, there was archeological work on Mesoamerican farmers. The most significant crop coming from the region – maize – is believed to originate from early Olmecs, Mayas, and Aztecs around 6,300 years ago. In this context, current discovery would suggest that maize cultivation was already present in the continent for hundreds of years. However, previous scientific discoveries on the topic provide cautionary tale, as they were hotly debated and their dating was then refined to later points in time.

The scientific publication is accessible at doi:10.1038/s41586-020-2162-7

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