New York, Jan 18 : The long-held notion that agriculture in Europe started a good 5,000 years before developing in the Americas, has been challenged by new evidence suggesting that farming started in the Old World and New World almost simultaneously.
The evidence, in the form of Peruvian squash seeds, signifies that planting, watering, weeding, and harvesting in the New and Old Worlds was almost concurrent.
In a paper published in the journal Science last June, anthropological archaeologist Tom Dillehay from the Vanderbilt University revealed that the squash seeds he found in the remnants of what may have been ancient storage bins on the lower western slopes of the Andes in northern Peru are almost 10,000 years old.
"I don't want to play the early button game, but the temporal gap between the Old and New World, in terms of a first pulse toward civilization, is beginning to close," Discover magazine quoted him, as saying.
Dillehay said that the seeds aren't the only things that corroborate the argument.
He also discovered evidence of cotton and peanut farming and what seem to be garden hoes, with irrigation canals nearby.
However, he said that what baffled him the most was that why the ancients of the Nanchoc Valley would make the switch to farming from hunting and gathering when a walk of just an hour and a half would bring them to a forest filled with nutritious foods.
Dillehay said that there was a possibility of contact with outsiders and the exchange of foods and other products, as suggested by the presence of squash, which is not native to the area, and tools made from exotic cherts and jaspers from the highlands.
However, he said that there are other factors, including the need for more food, both to feed a growing population and to use for ceremonies and other gatherings.
"The general pattern is that there's a technological, socioeconomic cultural package that indicates something unique and interesting took place," he said.