Saturday, May 01, 2021

Ancient Permaculture Was Practiced Continent-Wide

sci-news |  The Llanos de Moxos is a savannah of approximately 126,132 km2 (48,700 square miles) located in the Beni Department of Bolivia in southwestern Amazonia.

The landscape is dotted by earthworks, including raised fields, mounds, canals and forest islands.

“The Llanos de Moxos savannah area floods from December to March and is extremely dry from July to October, but the mounds remain above the water level during the rainy season allowing trees to grow on them,” said lead author Dr. Umberto Lombardo from the University of Bern and colleagues.

“The mounds promoted landscape diversity, and show that small-scale communities began to shape the Amazon 8,000 years earlier than previously thought.”

“Our research confirms this part of the Amazon is one of the earliest centers of plant domestication in the world.”

The researchers looked at the forest islands located within the vast savannah for signs of early gardening.

“We basically mapped large sections of forest islands using remote sensing. We hypothesized that the regularly shaped forest islands had anthropic origin,” said co-author Dr. José Capriles, from the Pennsylvania State University and the Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas y Arqueológicas at the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés.

“However, most circular forest islands are in fact artificial and irregular ones are not. There is not a clear pattern,” Dr. Lombardo said.

In fact, there are more than 4,700 artificial forest islands in the Llanos de Moxos savannah, according to the scientists.

“Archaeological evidence for plant domestication is very poorly available, especially in Amazonia where the climate destroys most organic materials. There is no stone in this area because it is an alluvial plain (water deposited) and it is hard to find evidence of early hunter-gatherers,” Dr. Capriles said.

Using microscopic plant silica bodies called phytoliths, found well preserved in tropical forests, the team documented the cultivation of squash (Cucurbita sp.) at about 10,250 years ago, manioc (Manihot sp.) at about 10,350 years ago and maize (Zea mays) at about 6,850 years ago.

The study involved a large scale regional analysis of 61 archaeological sites, identified by remote sensing, now patches of forest surrounded by savannah.