Special Issue "Human Activities and Development of Food Production in the Holocene"

A special issue of Quaternary (ISSN 2571-550X).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (20 September 2021).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Marc Vander Linden
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Archaeology & Anthropology, Bournemouth University, Fern Barrow, Poole BH12 5BB, UK
Interests: archaeology; late prehistoric European archaeology; demography; computational and statistical modelling
Dr. Philip Riris
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Archaeology & Anthropology, Bournemouth University, Fern Barrow, Poole BH12 5BB, UK
Interests: archaeology; climate change; computational modelling; demography; rock art

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

One of the defining traits of human societies in the Holocene is the adoption of farming, that is, systems of production that involve the management of domesticated plants and animals to varying degrees. This technological innovation is related to shifts in demographic regimes and increased anthropic pressure on the environment, processes whose combined and cumulative impact sets apart the Holocene from other geological periods. As productivity demands increase, due, for instance, to demographic pressure, human societies have developed two general strategies to assure the required supply of calories: land use expansion (i.e., conversion from one land class to land primarily dedicated to food production) and intensification (i.e., practices that increase land productivity and/or alter ecosystem properties).
Recent research, furthermore, underscores the diversity within and between known hearths of domestication across the globe. The adaptive strategies that emerged from structural transformations to human–environment relationships display a concordant variety of configurations, with specific long-term trajectories and consequences. This quality is a challenge to global syntheses of ancient land use change, as archaeology and allied disciplines are pressed to systematise diverse data to a degree that facilitates comparisons. Proposed solutions include adopting approaches from socio-ecological systems (SES), middle-range theory and computational modelling, as well as interdisciplinary dialogue, all of which archaeologists are actively engaging with.
Contributions to this Special Issue will explore the range of strategies deployed to expand and/or intensify land productivity, including, but not restricted to, introduction of domesticates outside of their original ecological niches, modification of domesticate behaviour and/or properties, settlement in diversified landscapes, investment in landesque capital/infrastructure, and changes to demographic and/or social regimes. We also invite perspectives on the challenges that can follow from socio-ecological regime shifts under land use expansion/intensification, for example, impacts on biodiversity, human health and mortality, runaway environmental feedbacks and institutional change.
Contributions are requested from any geographical, chronological or methodological perspective, with regional and comparative syntheses being particularly welcome.

Dr. Marc Vander Linden
Dr. Philip Riris
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Holocene
  • farming
  • domesticates
  • land use

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

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Article
‘Moving South’: Late Pleistocene Plant Exploitation and the Importance of Palm in the Colombian Amazon
Quaternary 2021, 4(3), 26; https://doi.org/10.3390/quat4030026 - 24 Aug 2021
Viewed by 549
Abstract
The role of plants in early human migrations across the globe has received little attention compared to big game hunting. Tropical forests in particular have been seen as a barrier for Late Pleistocene human dispersals due to perceived difficulties in obtaining sufficient subsistence [...] Read more.
The role of plants in early human migrations across the globe has received little attention compared to big game hunting. Tropical forests in particular have been seen as a barrier for Late Pleistocene human dispersals due to perceived difficulties in obtaining sufficient subsistence resources. Archaeobotanical data from the Cerro Azul rock outcrop in the Colombian Amazon details Late Pleistocene plant exploitation providing insight into early human subsistence in the tropical forest. The dominance of palm taxa in the assemblage, dating from 12.5 ka BP, allows us to speculate on processes of ecological knowledge transfer and the identification of edible resources in a novel environment. Following the hypothesis of Martin Jones from his 2009 work, “Moving North: archaeobotanical evidence for plant diet in Middle and Upper Paleolithic Europe”, we contend that the instantly recognizable and economically useful palm family (Arecaceae) provided a “gateway” to the unknown resources of the Amazon forest. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Human Activities and Development of Food Production in the Holocene)
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Article
Mapping Food Production in Hyper-Arid and Arid Saharan Africa in the Holocene—A View from the Present
Quaternary 2021, 4(2), 13; https://doi.org/10.3390/quat4020013 - 22 Apr 2021
Viewed by 804
Abstract
The reconstruction of land use practices in hyper-arid Saharan Africa is often hampered by the accuracy of the available tools and by unconscious biases that see these areas as marginal and inhospitable. Considered that this has been for a long time the living [...] Read more.
The reconstruction of land use practices in hyper-arid Saharan Africa is often hampered by the accuracy of the available tools and by unconscious biases that see these areas as marginal and inhospitable. Considered that this has been for a long time the living space of pastoral mobile communities, new research is showing that agriculture might have been more important in these areas than previously thought. In this paper, after a review of present-day land use strategies in Saharan Africa, we show how ethnographic and ethnoarchaeological data can offer us a different point of view and help in better defining land use and food production strategies in this area. Ultimately, these insights can be integrated into the ongoing efforts to reconstruct past land use globally. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Human Activities and Development of Food Production in the Holocene)
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Article
Facing Change through Diversity: Resilience and Diversification of Plant Management Strategies during the Mid to Late Holocene Transition at the Monte Castelo Shellmound, SW Amazonia
Quaternary 2021, 4(1), 8; https://doi.org/10.3390/quat4010008 - 03 Mar 2021
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Abstract
Recent advances in the archaeology of lowland South America are furthering our understanding of the Holocene development of plant cultivation and domestication, cultural niche construction, and relationships between environmental changes and cultural strategies of food production. This article offers new data on plant [...] Read more.
Recent advances in the archaeology of lowland South America are furthering our understanding of the Holocene development of plant cultivation and domestication, cultural niche construction, and relationships between environmental changes and cultural strategies of food production. This article offers new data on plant and landscape management and mobility in Southwestern Amazonia during a period of environmental change at the Middle to Late Holocene transition, based on archaeobotanical analysis of the Monte Castelo shellmound, occupied between 6000 and 650 yr BP and located in a modern, seasonally flooded savanna–forest mosaic. Through diachronic comparisons of carbonized plant remains, phytoliths, and starch grains, we construct an ecology of resource use and explore its implications for the long-term history of landscape formation, resource management practices, and mobility. We show how, despite important changes visible in the archaeological record of the shellmound during this period, there persisted an ancient, local, and resilient pattern of plant management which implies a degree of stability in both subsistence and settlement patterns over the last 6000 years. This pattern is characterized by management practices that relied on increasingly diversified, rather than intensive, food production systems. Our findings have important implications in debates regarding the history of settlement permanence, population growth, and carrying capacity in the Amazon basin. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Human Activities and Development of Food Production in the Holocene)
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Article
A Tale of Maize, Palm, and Pine: Changing Socio-Ecological Interactions from Pre-Classic Maya to the Present Day in Belize
Quaternary 2020, 3(4), 30; https://doi.org/10.3390/quat3040030 - 17 Oct 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1482
Abstract
The environmental impact of the ancient Maya, and subsequent ecological recovery following the Terminal Classic decline, have been the key foci of research into socio-ecological interactions in the Yucatán peninsula. These foci, however, belie the complex pattern of resource exploitation and agriculture associated [...] Read more.
The environmental impact of the ancient Maya, and subsequent ecological recovery following the Terminal Classic decline, have been the key foci of research into socio-ecological interactions in the Yucatán peninsula. These foci, however, belie the complex pattern of resource exploitation and agriculture associated with post-Classic Maya societies and European colonisation. We present a high-resolution, 1200-year record of pollen and charcoal data from a 52-cm short core extracted from New River Lagoon, near to the European settlement of Indian Church, northern Belize. This study complements and extends a previous 3500-year reconstruction of past environmental change, located 1-km north of the new record and adjacent to the ancient Maya site of Lamanai. This current study shows a mixed crop production and palm agroforestry management strategy of the ancient Maya, which corroborates previous evidence at Lamanai. Comparison of the two records suggests that core agricultural and agroforestry activities shifted southwards, away from the centre of Lamanai, beginning at the post-Classic period. The new record also demonstrates that significant changes in land-use were not associated with drought at the Terminal Classic (ca. CE 1000) or the European Encounter (ca. CE 1500), but instead resulted from social and cultural change in the post-Classic period (CE 1200) and new economies associated with the British timber trade (CE 1680). The changes in land-use documented in two adjacent records from the New River Lagoon underline the need to reconstruct human–environment interactions using multiple, spatially, and temporally diverse records. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Human Activities and Development of Food Production in the Holocene)
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Review

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Review
Disentangling Domestication from Food Production Systems in the Neotropics
Quaternary 2021, 4(1), 4; https://doi.org/10.3390/quat4010004 - 28 Jan 2021
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 2400
Abstract
The Neolithic Revolution narrative associates early-mid Holocene domestications with the development of agriculture that fueled the rise of late Holocene civilizations. This narrative continues to be influential, even though it has been deconstructed by archaeologists and geneticists in its homeland. To further disentangle [...] Read more.
The Neolithic Revolution narrative associates early-mid Holocene domestications with the development of agriculture that fueled the rise of late Holocene civilizations. This narrative continues to be influential, even though it has been deconstructed by archaeologists and geneticists in its homeland. To further disentangle domestication from reliance on food production systems, such as agriculture, we revisit definitions of domestication and food production systems, review the late Pleistocene–early Holocene archaeobotanical record, and quantify the use, management and domestication of Neotropical plants to provide insights about the past. Neotropical plant domestication relies on common human behaviors (selection, accumulation and caring) within agroecological systems that focus on individual plants, rather than populations—as is typical of agriculture. The early archaeobotanical record includes numerous perennial and annual species, many of which later became domesticated. Some of this evidence identifies dispersal with probable cultivation, suggesting incipient domestication by 10,000 years ago. Since the Pleistocene, more than 6500, 1206 and 6261 native plant species have been used in Mesoamerica, the Central Andes and lowland South America, respectively. At least 1555, 428 and 742 are managed outside and inside food production systems, and at least 1148, 428 and 600 are cultivated, respectively, suggesting at least incipient domestication. Full native domesticates are more numerous in Mesoamerica (251) than the Andes (124) and the lowlands (45). This synthesis reveals that domestication is more common in the Neotropics than previously recognized and started much earlier than reliance on food production systems. Hundreds of ethnic groups had, and some still have, alternative strategies that do involve domestication, although they do not rely principally on food production systems, such as agriculture. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Human Activities and Development of Food Production in the Holocene)
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