I. Prehistoric Times > K. Early Food Production in the Old World (c. 10,000 B.C.E. and Later) > 4. Asian Farmers
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  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
 
 
4. Asian Farmers
 
We do not know if cereal agriculture developed independently in India and Pakistan. Farmers were living at Mehrgarh west of the Indus River by 6000 B.C.E. Cereal crops, humped cattle, pig, and water buffalo were domesticated by local south Asian populations in this region. The new economies spread rapidly in northwest Pakistan and into other areas. By 5000 B.C.E., the Mehrgarh people were cultivating locally domesticated cotton, which became a vital trade commodity in later centuries, one of the foundations of later urban civilization in the Indus River Valley.  1
There are signs of intensive exploitation of wild plant foods in the Southeast Asian highlands, and perhaps even domestication of wild yams and other root plants as early as 8000 B.C.E., but the evidence is very controversial. The rices and Asian millets ancestral to modern rice were first domesticated somewhere between northeast India, Southeast Asia, and southern China. The initial process of domestication probably took place in an alluvial swamp area where there was plenty of seasonal flooding to stimulate crop growth. The earliest records of cultivated rice come from China's Middle Yangzi River Valley, dating from as early as 7000 B.C.E., but it is likely that similar early dates will come from the Ganges Plain and other regions in the future.  2
By 6500 B.C.E., Southeast Asians were moving from the hills onto river plains and into lowland areas, where intensive cultivation and irrigation permitted rice agriculture. Rice soon became the vital staple of farmers throughout southern and Southeast Asia, but its spread is not well documented. At Homutu in coastal southern China, a community of rice farmers lived in a marshy area between 5000 and 4000 B.C.E. Their village of beautifully made wooden houses was surrounded by forests and was close to a great diversity of food resources. The women of Homutu made a distinctive type of cord-decorated pottery, which was also widespread in Southeast Asia, Taiwan, and Japan.  3
North Chinese farmers relied not on rice, but on local cereals and seeded plants such as millets, sorghum, and the mulberry planted on river valley soils. Again, agriculture was a local development. The earliest farming villages date to about 5000 B.C.E., perhaps earlier. For the next 2,000 years, the Yangshao farming culture flourished in the Yellow River Basin, an area as large as the early centers of agriculture in Egypt or Mesopotamia. Each Yangshao community was self-contained, overlooking a fertile river valley. By 3000 B.C.E., Yangshao people were enjoying a characteristic and thoroughly Chinese culture with its own naturalistic art style. The roots of Chinese cuisine and language may date from Yangshao times.  4
During these 2,000 years, many distinctive farming cultures developed throughout China. They became the Longshanoid cultures, which were the founder societies of early Chinese civilization.  5
 
 
 
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

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