International Centre for Chinese Heritage and Archaeology


ICCHA Lecture Series in Peking University

The Beginning and Development of Agriculture in the Old World: a Global Prospective

Starting in 10 December 2015, Professor Dorian Fuller, the executive UK director of International Centre for Chinese Heritage and Archaeology (ICCHA) will present the ICCHA-PKU Lecture Series at the School of Archaeology and Museology, Peking University, the ICCHA's long term China partner. The series consist six lectures entitled 'the Beginning and Development of Agriculture in the Old World: a Global Prospective'. These lectures will explore the some of the most recent research on the origins of agriculture and archaeobotany in various parts of the Old World, based on fieldwork in recent years and new or recent laboratory analyses of plant remains from Western Asia, India, China and parts of Africa. The recent discussions around the term "Anthropocene" will be considered, seen by some as a new geological epoch in which human activities have an impact that has modified earth's ecologies and climate at a global level. Professor Fuller currently runs a major research project funded by the European Research Council on "Comparative Pathways to Agriculture" and another funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council on the spread of rice and its impact in China and Southeast Asia.

1. The coevolution of crop domestication, lithic technology and village life in Neolithic Southwest Asia

19:00 10/12/2015

This lecture will present the latest research on the transition to farming in Southwest Asia's Fertile Crescent, including the evidence for the evolution of domesticated wheat and barley, and how this relates to the evolution of the technology of cereal harvesting (sickle blades) and the economic transition from a collecting economy with some cultivation to a predominantly agricultural economy.

Background reading:

Asouti & Fuller (2013) A Contextual Approach to the Emergence of Agriculture in Southwest Asia: Reconstructing Early Neolithic Plant-Food Production,Current Anthropology 54 (3): 299-345

2. Pastoralists and mobile millet domesticators: Neolithic in Saharan and Sub-Saharan Africa

9:00 11/12/2015

This lecture will look at current evidence for plant domestication and the transition to agriculture in the Sudan and Mali, based on sorghum and pearl millet. While pastoralism mixed with hunting and gathering become widespread in era of the Green Sahara (6000-3000 BC), drying climatic condition forced population southwards and set off the beginnings of cultivation. New evidence from the use of millet chaff in ceramic pastes preserves clues for the domestication processes in sorghum and pearl millet.

Background reading:

Manning, Katie and Dorian Q Fuller (2014) Early Millet Farmers in the Lower Tilemsi Valley, Northeastern Mali, In: Stevens, Chris J., Sam Nixon, Mary Anne Murray, and Dorian Q Fuller (Eds.) The Archaeology of African Plant Use. Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek, Ca. Pp. 73-82 [Available on academia.edu]

3. The rise and fall of early farming societies in South India

19:00 14/12/2015

This lecture will review the current evidence for the emergence of sedentary farming villages in South India (Karnataka state), which were based on a mixture of introduced pastoralism and indigenous domestication of millets and beans. Society was focused on hilltop villages and seasonal cattle fair that left behind large ashmounds. Social changes and climatic drying forced an end this tradition through a combination of site abandonment in direr region and a focus on more hierarchical social system concerned with iron metallurgy and control of water.

Background reading:

Roberts, P., Boivin et al (2015). Local diversity in settlement, demography and subsistence across the southern Indian Neolithic-Iron Age transition: site growth and abandonment at Sanganakallu-Kupgal. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, 1-25. DOI: 10.1007/s12520-015-0240-9

4. Transfer, Adaptation and Collapse in Neolithic and Bronze Age agriculture in Europe

9:00 15/12/2015

This lecture will review the evidence for the spread of west Asian agriculture into Neolithic Europe starting before 8000 BP and reaching Britain around 6000 BP. Nevertheless new research indicates that throughout most of Europe early agricultural societies suffered population collapse, in Britain between 5300 and 5000 BP. The potential role of warfare, over exploitation of soils and climatic change will be considered. The Bronze Age, the represents a second resurgence of agriculture which in many region appear to represent a new introduction involving new immigrant populations. Recent evidence from aDNA, and hypotheses connecting these new populations to Indo-European speaking peoples from Central Asia will be considered.

Background Reading:

Stevens, C. J., & Fuller, D. Q. (2015). Alternative strategies to agriculture: the evidence for climatic shocks and cereal declines during the British Neolithic and Bronze Age (a reply to Bishop). World Archaeology, 47(5), 856-875.

Rosie R. Bishop (2015) Did Late Neolithic farming fail or flourish? A Scottish perspective on the evidence for Late Neolithic arable cultivation in the British Isles, World Archaeology, 47(5), 834-855.

5. Domestication, dispersal and diversification of rice: current archaeobotany across East, South and Southeast Asia

19:00 15/12/15

This lecture will review the current record for the origins and spread of rice, from Yangtze domestication zones to the dispersals to Yunnan, Thailand and India. We will consider the evidence for whether rice was grown wet or dry. And we will review the current evidence for a distinctive hybridization process in India (the 'proto-indica' hypothesis).

Background reading:

FULLER, DQ (2011) Pathways to Asian Civilizations: Tracing the Origins and Spread of Rice and Rice Cultures. Rice 4(3-4): 78-92 DOI 10.1007/s12284-011-9078-7

6. Anthropocene Archaeology: Long-term impacts of the development of farming

19:00 17/15/2015

Currently there is much debate about whether or a not a new geological era the "Anthropocene should be recognized, and if so, when does it begin. This lecture will introduce the arguments for an early anthropocene, i.e. a prehistoric change in the earth system in which human activities at a global scale begin to influence climate patterns. This includes the role of rice and livestock in creating extra methane, and the spread of farming and deforestation in adding to carbondioxide. We will consider how archaeological evidence can and should be used to contribute to this debate by building empirical evidence for the scale of past landuse.

Background reading:

Ellis, E. C., Kaplan, J. O., Fuller, D. Q., Vavrus, S., Goldewijk, K. K., & Verburg, P. H. (2013). Used planet: A global history. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(20), 7978-7985.