archaeobotany, genetics, Zea mays, Manihot esculenta, Bactris gasipaes


Recent decades have witnessed the rapid expansion of interest in and research on the domestication of crop plants worldwide. These species are the basis of the rise to dominance of Homo sapiens over the last 10,000 years. New techniques in archaeology and the expansion of molecular genetics are uncovering abundant evidence to support or refute old hypotheses about human domestication of crops and creation of food production systems that fueled population expansions and linguistic diasporas, and to raise new hypotheses. In Amazonia and elsewhere in lowland South America, archaeologists are starting to examine these hypotheses in earnest, and geneticists are starting to generate data to identify crop origins and dispersals. Archaeologists now generally agree that Amazonia was inhabited by numerous advanced societies before European conquest, especially along the major white water rivers and in other favorable locations for food production, and that these societies had domesticated significant areas of numerous landscapes. This special section of Tipití summarizes a set of presentations given during the recent 2nd International Meeting on Amazonian Archaeology, held in Manaus, Amazonas, in September 2010. An overview of plant domestication opens the sequence, followed by new archaeobotanical evidence from the southeastern Colombian and central Brazilian Amazonia and from the southern savannas of Brazil, and new molecular genetic evidence about the origins of peach palm (Bactris gasipaes) and the dispersal of manioc (Manihot esculenta), maize (Zea mays), and peach palm in lowland South America.

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