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Geobotany pp 209-232 | Cite as

An Agricultural Revolution in the Lower Great Lakes

  • David M. Stothers
  • Richard A. Yarnell

Abstract

Until relatively recent times the earliest evidence of prehistoric agriculture in the Great Lakes region came from components representing the proto-Iroquoian Princess Point Complex of southwestern Ontario. However, subsequent research has revealed earlier evidence of plant husbandry by proto-Iroquoian peoples in northwestern Ohio and southeastern Michigan, who represent the late Middle Woodland to early Late Woodland of the Western Basin Tradition.

Apparently, about 350–400 A.D. there occurred a climatic shift as a result of a shift in atmospheric circulation patterns, which brought about the end of the previous Sub-Atlantic period which had been cooler and wetter or more severe. This atmospheric shift brought about a climatic episode referred to as the Scandic episode, which was a period of climatic amelioration. The climatic amelioration would have shifted the northern edge of the biotic province within which maize agriculture had previously been practical, to an even more northerly position, opening a new and hospitable ‘frontier’.

The sociological implications of the settlement-subsistence shift from seasonally wandering bands of hunters, gatherers, and fishers to larger social aggregates of sedentary village agriculturalists are considered in terms of the social foundations for later Iroquois culture.

The transformation of pre-agricultural levels of socio-cultural integration to those attendant to sedentary agricultural village life, eventually gave rise to socio-political sophistication such as witnessed among the Huron, Neutral, and New York State Iroquois Confederacies at the time of European contact. It would appear that an agricultural revolution, as in other areas of the world, was instrumental in attainment of even greater levels of socio-cultural sophistication, thus arguing in favour of the concept of cultural evolution.

This paper discusses this new research information with the intent of generating theories to explain the source from which this early agriculture, in the region of the Lake Erie drainage basin, was derived; the possible reason for its introduction and adoption; its impact on the already existing settlement-subsistence patterns; and its concomitant ramifications on social organization.

Keywords

Great Lake Radiocarbon Date Maize Kernel Western Basin Wood Charcoal 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • David M. Stothers
    • 1
  • Richard A. Yarnell
    • 2
  1. 1.University of ToledoUSA
  2. 2.University of North CarolinaUSA

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