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No. 86: Mar-Apr 1993

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Where did agriculture really begin?

The archeological party line points to the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. There, the authorities say that, about 10,000 years ago, humans suddenly learned how to sow and harvest such crops as wheat and barley. There, civilization really began. Or was it there?

Wadi Kubbaniya, Egypt. At this site, G. Hillman, of the Institute of Archeology, London, has found grinding stones and tubers. This site is dated at 17,000-18,000 years old.

New Guinea highlands. J. Golson, formerly of the Australian National University, has found ditches and crude fields in this area. The implication is that humans were tending plants here between 7,000 and 10,000 years ago.

Buka Island, Solomons. While excavating Kilu cave, M. Spriggs and S. Wickler unearthed small flake tools with surfaces displaying starch grains and other plant residues. Evidently, these tools were used for processing taro. Further, the starch grains resembled those of cultivated rather than wild taro. Date: about 28,000 years ago.

(Dayton, Leigh; "Pacific Islanders Were World's First Farmers," New Scientist, p. 14, December 12, 1992.)

From Science Frontiers #86, MAR-APR 1993. 1993-2000 William R. Corliss