Chickens and Millet: The Significance of New Findings in Chinese Food Archaeology

Anderson, E. N. - UC Riverside

Recent findings in archaeology have considerably pushed back the dates for domestication of chickens, millets, rice, pigs, and other domestic life forms of eastern Asia.  North China has taken a lead over south China, though this may change with further investigation.  Early evidence of milking and stockraising in central Asia is relevant. To a cultural anthropologist working with modern uses of plants and animals, the new findings confirm my models and suppositions about the origins and development of agriculture: it happened when environmental conditions improved and food got more abundant, not during periods of scarcity; it probably involved trade and certainly contact with other groups; it took place in favorable locations at probable trade crossroads.  Early items grown were those either storable or highly valued or both.  Uses of many items tended to shift over time as more efficient systems were discovered.  The development of food systems has to be understood in a context of induced biological development: changes were most likely when they removedbottlenecks that inhibited trade, contact, and efficiency.