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Between Domestication and Civilization: The role of agriculture and arboriculture in the emergence of the first urban societies

Fuller, D; Stevens, C; (2019) Between Domestication and Civilization: The role of agriculture and arboriculture in the emergence of the first urban societies. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany , 28 (3) pp. 263-282. 10.1007/s00334-019-00727-4. Green open access

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Abstract

The transition to urbanism has long focused on annual staple crops (cereals and legumes), perhaps at the expense of understanding other changes within agricultural practices that occurred between the end of the initial domestication period and urbanisation. This paper examines the domestication and role of fruit tree crops within urbanisation in both Western Asia and China, using a combination of evidence for morphological change and a database that documents both the earliest occurrence of tree fruit crops and their spread beyond their wild range. In Western Asia the domestication of perennial fruit crops likely occurs between 6500 BC and 3500 BC, although it accompanies a shift in location from that of the earliest domestications within the Fertile Crescent to Mesopotamia, where the earliest urban societies arose. For China, fruit-tree domestication dates between ca 4000 and 2500 BC, commencing after millet domestication and rice domestication in Northern and Southern China, respectively, but within the period that led up to the urban societies that characterised the Longshan period in the Yellow River basin and the Liangzhu Culture in the Lower Yangtze. These results place the domestication of major fruit trees between the end of the domestication of staple annual crops and the rise of urbanism. On this basis it is argued that arboriculture played a fundamental role within the re-organisation of existing land use, shifting the emphasis from short-term returns of cereal crops into longer term investment in the developing agricultural landscape in both Western and East Asia. In this respect perennial tree crops can be placed alongside craft specialisation, such as metallurgy and textiles, in the formation of urban centres and the shaping the organisational administration that accompanied the rise of urbanism

Type: Article
Title: Between Domestication and Civilization: The role of agriculture and arboriculture in the emergence of the first urban societies
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1007/s00334-019-00727-4
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00334-019-00727-4
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author(s) 2019 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Keywords: Arboriculture, NearEast, Ficus, Olea, Phoenix, Vitis, China, Ziziphus, Amygdalus, Armeniaca
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10071654
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