Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Finding Plant Domestication in the Indian Subcontinent

Recent research indicates that cultivation may have begun in as many as five regions of India before the introduction of exogenous crops and cultivation systems: South India, Orissa, the Middle Ganges, Saurashtra, and the Himalayan foothills of the Punjab region. These potential centers of crop origin have been triangulated from data on the biogeography of wild progenitors and a growing archaeobotanical database. Nevertheless, none of these centers provide unambiguous evidence for local domestication or evidence that domestication occurred entirely in the absence of introduced crops and food-production systems. One of the major lacunae is archaeobotanical evidence from hunter-gatherer sites or evidence of the transition to initial cultivation. In addition, documentation of the morphological changes accompanying domestication is available for only a few species. This paper reviews the arguments for local domestication in each of these five regions, paying particular attention to data that might document domestication processes. But an alternative hypothesis for several regions also can be considered in which agriculture arose as a result of secondary domestications of local species after an initial introduction of farming from outside. On the basis of these alternative working hypotheses, research priorities are identified for resolving these issues.


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