Tracing Early Agriculture in the Highlands of New Guinea: Plot, Mound and Ditch, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Tracing Early Agriculture in the Highlands of New Guinea

Plot, Mound and Ditch, 1st Edition

By Tim Denham

Routledge

200 pages

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Hardback: 9780815361817
pub: 2018-07-05
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Description

In this book, historical narratives chart how people created forms of agriculture in the highlands of New Guinea and how these practices were transformed through time. The intention is twofold: to clearly establish New Guinea as a region of early agricultural development and plant domestication; and, to develop a contingent, practice-based interpretation of early agriculture that has broader application to other regions of the world.

The multi-disciplinary record from the highlands has the potential to challenge and change long held assumptions regarding early agriculture globally, which are usually based on domestication. Early agriculture in the highlands is charted by an exposition of the practices of plant exploitation and cultivation. Practices are ontologically prior because they ultimately produce the phenotypic and genotypic changes in plant species characterised as domestication, as well as the social and environmental transformations associated with agriculture. They are also methodologically prior because they emplace plants in specific historico-geographic contexts.

Table of Contents

TABLE OF CONTENTS

DEDICATION

TABLE OF CONTENTS

LIST OF FIGURES

LIST OF TABLES

FOREWORD

ACKNOWLDGEMENTS

PART I. RETHINKING EARLY AGRICULTURE

CHAPTER 1. EARLY AGRICULTURE IN THE HIGHLANDS: AN UNEXPECTED STORY

Why is early agriculture in New Guinea contentious?

A focus on practices

CHAPTER 2. DEFINING EARLY AGRICULTURE IN NEW GUINEA

A continuum of human-environment interactions

Low-level food production and the ‘middle-ground’

Social dependence and environmental transformation

The conditions of growth: A post-processual turn?

Towards a contingent conception of early agriculture

Articulating space and place

Domains, transformative mechanisms and archaeological expression

Temporalities of associated phenomena

Context, specificity and visibility

Clarification of terminology

PART II. PLACES, PRACTICES AND PLANTS

CHAPTER 3. THE IMPORTANCE OF PLACE

Ages of discovery

Archaeological frames of reference

An introduction to highland environments

CHAPTER 4. CULTIVATION PRACTICES IN THE HIGHLANDS

A vegetative disposition

Diversity of plant exploitation in New Guinea

Practices of cultivation

Plot clearance

Ground preparation and earthworks

Mounds

Raised beds

Ditches

Terraces

Planting, weeding and harvesting

Fallowing and nutrient cycling

Types of plot

Tools of cultivation

Ambiguity of early practices: questions of archaeological visibility

Lower-intensity practices

Higher-intensity practices

A practice-based method for the investigation of early agriculture

A chronology of constituent practices

Bundling practices in time and place

Transposing plants and practices

Transformation through time

CHAPTER 5. THE PLANTS OF HIGHLAND CULTIVATION

Domesticatory relationships, degrees of domestication and cultivation mosaics

Loss of sex in vegetatively propagated plants

Hypothetical domestication scenarios for the highlands

Crop plants in the highlands

Staple Crops

Bananas (Musa cvs.)

Taro (Colocasia esculenta)

Yams (Dioscorea spp.)

Sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum)

Other traditional staples

Sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas)

Manioc, or cassava (Manihot esculenta)

Vegetables

Assorted green leafy vegetables

Edible cane grasses (pitpit)

Winged bean (Psophocarpus tetragonolobus)

Gourds

Nut and fruit trees

Castanopsis (Castanopsis acuminatissima)

Pandanus – karuka (Pandanus julianettii/iwen/brosimos complex) and marita (Pandanus conoideus)

Archaeobotanical visibility of vegetative domestication and cultivation

PART III. PRACTICES IN THE PAST

CHAPTER 6: EXPLOITING DIVERSITY IN THE PLEISTOCENE

To Sahul

Archaeological traces

Palaeoecological inference

Not just trees and tubers …

Pandanus species in the highlands

More than hunting and the seasonal exploitation of Pandanus

Rethinking occupation of the interior during the Pleistocene

Common practices in diverse contexts

CHAPTER 7: AMBIGUITIES OF PRACTICE DURING THE EARLY HOLOCENE

Multidisciplinary evidence at Kuk, c. 10,000 years ago

A gap, patch or plot on the wetland margin?

People’s use of plants

Natural ranges and loci of plant domestication

Transitional steps to cultivation

A novel form of plant exploitation

CHAPTER 8. THE EMERGENCE OF SHIFTING CULTIVATION

What are we looking for?

Is there a neolithic signature?

Ground stone axe-adzes

Tanged blades

Stone mortars, pestles and figurines

Palaeoecology, geomorphology and landscape change

From patch to plot: the transition to cultivation

CHAPTER 9. THE ADOPTION OF MOUND CULTIVATION DURING THE MID HOLOCENE

Dramatic deforestation in the Upper Wahgi Valley

The archaeological evidence for mound cultivation at Kuk

Palaeoenvironments within cultivated plots

Multidisciplinary consilience

Mounds at other sites

The purpose of mounds

A later development

Summary of agronomic innovation

CHAPTER 10. THE DIGGING OF DRAINAGE DITCHES DURING THE LATE HOLOCENE

Drainage ditches in the highlands

The Tambul spade

The archaeological sequence of early ditches at Kuk

Chronology

Ditch complexes

Artificiality

The emergence of rectilinear field systems

The dispersal of ditch-digging, 2750-2150 cal BP

Warrawau

Minjigina

Haeapugua

Kana

Additional technological considerations

The design, planning and organisation of drainage

Wooden tools

Cultivation of drains

Planting seed in a vegetative world

Agricultural innovation and transfer of practical knowledge

Social transformations in the highlands

Ditches and sedentism

Group identity, territoriality and inscription

Some thoughts on timing and causation

CHAPTER 11. LATER INNOVATIONS, INTRODUCTIONS AND ADOPTIONS

Tillage

Formalisation of ditch networks

The introduction of animal domesticates from Island Southeast Asia

Plant introductions from Island Southeast Asia

Casuarina tree-fallowing

Ethnography, ethnohistory and local-scale exchange: A Kalam case study

Sweet potato, pigs and big men

Why adopt?

PART IV. TAKING A BROADER VIEW

CHAPTER 12. HISTORICAL RESILIENCE OF AGRICULTURE IN THE HIGHLANDS

Learning from the past

Agricultural sustainability

Crop diversity and improvement

Adapting to climate change

Making social sense

A look to the future

CHAPTER 13. THE GLOBAL SIGNIFICANCE OF EARLY AGRICULTURE ON NEW GUINEA

Telling a story from the margins

Is New Guinea unique within the Asia-Pacific region?

Plant exploitation in the tropics is different

The search for origins: a regulative idea

BIBLIOGRAPHY

INDEX

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author

Dr Tim Denham is Reader/Associate Professor of Archaeology at the Australian National University. He has undertaken fieldwork in Papua New Guinea, mostly in the highland interior, since 1990. His primary research has focussed on plant exploitation and the emergence of agriculture in the highlands during the Holocene. He has also published on the Holocene histories of Island Southeast Asia and northern Australia. Over the last decade, his interests have diversified to include: the domestication of vegetatively propagated crops, especially bananas; geoarchaeology and environmental change, mainly in the wet tropics; and, the application of new technologies to archaeological questions.

About the Series

UCL Institute of Archaeology Publications

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOC003000
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Archaeology