XX. Frontiers in Domestication Research
XX. Frontiers in Domestication Research
While the domestication of wild plants began about 10,000 years ago, it still continues today, particularly in areas where local people bring wild plants into their cultivated production systems. Few published studies have provided cases that reveal driving factors of wild plant domestication in recent decades. Based on ethnobotanical methods and other approaches in 2010-2018, four food plant species were investigated, including Baccaurea ramiflora (fruit), Colocasia gigantea (vegetable), Acorus macrospadiceus (spice) and Hedychium flavum (spice). Results showed that indigenous peoples in China are still domesticating wild food plants. More species have been domesticated in southwest China, the region with richest biocultural diversity in the country. The tastes, favors, odors, and demands of market and social activities are the main driving factors for wild food plant domestication. Easier accessibility and better social networks have accelerated the dispersal of newly domesticated crops.
Agave murpheyi Gibson (Agavaceae) was described as a rare, new species from south-central Arizona in 1935, within the prehistoric homeland of the Hohokam people. The Hohokam developed a sophisticated and intensive agriculture system along major river systems from ca. A.D. 300–1450, which enabled them to become one of the largest population concentrations in the prehistoric American Southwest. Since the 1970s, researchers suspected A. murpheyi to be an ancient Hohokam cultivar, because it was only found growing near archaeological settlements or features. Collaborative research with botanists and archaeologists has led to a fuller understanding of the agaves in the Hohokam context. We now recognize A. murpheyi as a pre-Columbian fully domesticated species that provides unparalleled opportunities for discovering and studying other agave domesticates in Arizona that otherwise would have been overlooked. We discuss A. murpheyi’s natural history, role in Hohokam subsistence patterns, putative origins, and impact on ongoing research.
Botanical exploration over the last thirty years in Arizona has revealed at least six putative domesticated agaves still surviving in their archaeological context. Because of the importance of corn, beans and squash to the pre-Columbian peoples of this region it might be assumed that the agaves are also of Mesoamerican origin. In order to identify the ancestors of these domesticated agaves we have undertaken traditional Sanger, and Next-Gen, sequencing to infer the evolutionary relationships. Our phylogenetic data show that the domesticates are resolved in four distinct clades and only one, Agave murpheyi, has a sister relationship with Mesoamerican taxa; the other are in clades with local wild species or in the case of A. delamateri still unresolved. Expanded sampling of wild species and collaboration with archaeologist to determine when and where these domesticated taxa originated is needed for a better understanding of this new secondary center of plant domestication.
The archaeological site of Santa Ana-La Florida (SALF), located in the Ecuadorian upper Amazon, is in the region of Theobroma spp. greatest genetic diversity, thus making it ideal to investigate the origins of domestication of this enigmatic tree. We present research showing that the residents of SALF were involved in the domestication of cacao, traditionally thought to have been first domesticated in Mesoamerica and/or Central America. We used three independent lines of evidence—starch grains, theobromine residues and ancient DNA—dating from approximately 5,300 years ago, to establish the earliest evidence of T. cacao use in the Americas, the first unequivocal archaeological example of its pre-Columbian use in South America and reveal the upper Amazon region as the oldest centre of cacao domestication yet identified. We suggest that new paleoethnobotanical research will expand our knowledge of this process, including the timing, locations, and uses of cacao by Indigenous South Americans.
Ethnophoresy, the human translocation and introduction of animals to new landscapes, is an ancient practice with a diverse and global history. In this presentation, we summarize mammal translocations in the Caribbean Archipelago during the Ceramic Age (ca. 500 BC-AD 1500) as part of this wider phenomenon. Archaeological evidence indicates that both Caribbean-native and South American mammals were intentionally relocated beyond their natural ranges in spatially heterogeneous, asynchronous events. We discuss the ethno-biological significance of this practice, highlighting recent data and interpretations linking the translocation of mammals to human adaptations, processes of animal management, and possible incipient domestication. Our findings have implications for how we understand contemporary Caribbean mammalian biodiversity and the historical ecology of islands in general.
Ethnic people in China including Dai, Wa, Bulang, Jinuo and others have been living in Xishuangbanna in southern Yunnan Province for centuries. The Xishuangbanna cucumber (XC) is a landrace of Cucumis sativus var. xishuangbannaensis. There is little ethnobotanical record about XC landrace although it is a significant crop variety in local communities. An ethnobotanical investigation was conducted from 2016-2018. The results show that traditionally, XC landrace was cultivated in slash-and-burn fields without irrigation and fertilization. The fruit is characterized by its shelf life, good flavor and large size. XC is a favorite edible fruit for local people, and this landrace has been used for sacrificial offerings by Wa and Bulang people. The XC landrace seeds have been traditionally used as bridal dowries by Dai, Jinuo and Wa. This tradition plays an important role in the conservation of XC diversity and traditional cultures in Xishuangbanna.