June 30th, 2018
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: firstname.lastname@example.org
It all started about 45,000 years ago. At that point, people began burning down vegetation to make room for plant resources and homes. Over millennia, the simple practice of burning back forest evolved. People mixed specialized soils for growing plants; they drained swamps for agriculture; they domesticated animals like chickens; and they farmed yam, taro, sweet potato, chili pepper, black pepper, mango, and bananas.
École française d’Extrême-Orient archaeologist Damian Evans, a co-author on the Nature paper, said that it wasn’t until a recent conference brought international researchers together that they realized they’d discovered a global pattern. Very similar evidence for ancient farming could be seen in equatorial Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Much later, people began building “garden cities” in these same regions, where they lived in low-density neighborhoods surrounded by cultivated land.
Evans, Roberts, and their colleagues aren’t just raising questions about where cities originated. More importantly, Roberts told Ars via email, they are challenging the idea of a “Neolithic revolution” in which the shift to city life happened in just a few hundred years. In the tropics, there was no bright line between a nomadic existence and agricultural life. When humans first arrived in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Melanesia, they spent millennia adapting to the tropics, eventually “shaping environments to meet their own needs,” he said. “So rather than huge leaps, what we see is a continuation of this local knowledge and adaptation in these regions through time.”