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date: 10 December 2022

The Origins and Development of Agriculture in South Asialocked

The Origins and Development of Agriculture in South Asialocked

  • Jennifer BatesJennifer BatesUniversity of Pennsylvania


The South Asian subcontinent contains a vast mosaic of environments and lifeways. Agriculture and pastoralism are important food producing systems within this mosaic but coexist alongside hunter-gatherer-fisher-forager groups, shifting cultivators, and nomadic pastoralists that are often marginalized. This interplay between different lifeways has deep roots in South Asian history and prehistory. Despite this, discussions of early South Asian agriculture and pastoralism often depict a limited and narrow dataset, confined to a few sites. As a result it has been argued that the origins of agriculture and pastoralism in South Asia are hard to pinpoint.

However, archaeobotanical, zooarchaeological, and genetic data, alongside the growing archaeological record, are showing that the South Asian subcontinent is a rich ground for exploring the complexity and nuance of changing lifeways during the transition to agro-pastoralism. People in South Asia incorporated both nonnative crops and animals from southwest Asia, Africa, and China into existing systems, domesticated local taxa in multiple regions, and continued to exploit wild resources throughout periods of established agro-pastoral systems. A diversity of Neolithics are therefore demonstrated within the subcontinent, and the mixing of traditions is a hallmark of South Asia and is critical for discussions about what early agriculture and pastoralism looked like and what the impacts of changing lifeways and economies were over time.


  • Archaeology

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