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Plant Domestication and the Shift to Agriculture in the Andes

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The Andes encompass deserts, tropical forests, and high elevation environments. An equally diverse array of crops is present, many with origins in regions as distant as west Mexico and Brazil (Figure 7.1). The story of agriculture, and the plant domestication underwriting it, begins in the Early Holocene, in the economies of early hunter-gatherers. It culminates in the late pre-Hispanic period when populations throughout the area had agricultural economies that supported large populations, many of which were organized as highly complex societies. In this chapter I review the crops that underlie Andean agriculture, summarize our understanding of their areas of origin, and review the archaeological record of plant domestication and agriculture. I focus only on major domesticated plants that occur in the Andean archaeological record. The key sources include Hernández Bermejo and León (1994), Piperno and Pearsall (1998), Sauer (1993), and Smartt and Simmonds (1995).

Keywords

  • Sweet Potato
  • Common Bean
  • Economic Botany
  • Lima Bean
  • Plant Domestication

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Pearsall, D.M. (2008). Plant Domestication and the Shift to Agriculture in the Andes. In: Silverman, H., Isbell, W.H. (eds) The Handbook of South American Archaeology. Springer, New York, NY. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-0-387-74907-5_7

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