The Spread of Cotton Agriculture in the Old World: Some New Insights from Central Asia

Date and Time: 
Friday, 13 April, 2012 - 18:20 to 18:40
BRITE, Elizabeth B. - Auburn University

Recent excavations at the site of Kara-tepe in northwestern Uzbekistan revealed evidence for the production of cotton (Gossypium sp.) in domestic contexts dated to A.D. 340-420. These remains help to document the spread of Old World cotton production, and predate the existing evidence for its cultivation in Central Asia. Moreover, the context in which these remains were found – amidst intense environmental degradation – additionally suggests that the initial incorporation of cotton cultivation into domestic production regimes in Central Asia may have been an adaptive strategy aimed at the expansion of sustainable subsistence practices. In contrast to modern cotton production, which is highly damaging to soils and freshwater ecosystems, ancient cotton production in parts of the Old World may have helped people to conserve and optimize scarce environmental resources.