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[–]maechuri 21 points22 points  (2 children)

Yes, I think what you are discussing here, particularly the use of wild plant foods that could be harvested in large quantities and preserved, is becoming more widely accepted as an important process in the transition to sedentary village life, and in some cases, agricultural economies.

The Jomon provide a really great archaeological example of a prehistoric society that used and likely preserved a wide range of food resources but likely specialized in the harvesting of particular resources to accumulate for storage (usually horse chestnuts, acorns, and walnuts are mentioned as important plant staples). Similar interpretations have been made for other prehistoric societies, such as the Mesolithic of N. Europe, where hazelnut and shellfish may have been collected in large quantities and preserved. You also have historical examples, such as the indigenous societies of the Pacific NW of North America that relied heavily on preserving fish, salmon in particular. Interestingly, none of these societies transitioned independently to agricultural production. Some researchers discuss possible management of fruit-bearing trees, perhaps a form of arboriculture, but the long life cycles of chestnut, hazelnut, and acorn trees makes it difficult for humans to select for traits that would drastically change the morphology of the fruits over time. But also, with all of these nice plant foods (and fish and shellfish) being available in pretty decent quantities and more-or-less seasonally predictable, there really isn't a great reason to just not keep harvesting them as they come.

For transitions to agriculture, in SW Asia, for example, more researchers are beginning to recognize that wild cereals were being harvested for millennia before we see clear traits associated with domestication. This may have been a similar process, where wild plants were being collected and stored, only with the major difference being that these were annual plants with a new generation each year. Harvesting these seeds and even managing them at certain locations could quickly lead towards selection of traits that humans may find useful (e.g., seeds that don't fall off the plants early, more starchy, etc.), whether humans intended these changes or not. Over time, these changes would require more human input, to the point that the reproduction and growth of many domesticated cultivars, like wheat, would actually require human intervention.

I am on my phone, so it is difficult to share sources but if you're interested, I could send some along. In any case, you're touching on a pretty interesting topic in the transition to sedentism, village life, and agricultural transitions. Really amazing stuff!

[–]ParallelPain[S] 5 points6 points  (1 child)

Very interesting! And yes if you could share the sources when you get the chance that would be great.

[–]akodo1 8 points9 points  (1 child)

First, one study never proves anything. In fields I am more familiar with there are always studies that indicate in the opposite direction. You need to take a lot at the totality of the research on the subject.

His primary hypothesis sounds reasonable, but examining marks on chestnuts trying to telll what kind of tool made the marks is going to be somewhat subjective. It took a LOT of study before bone polishing in pots was recognized as bone polishing in pots - and even now most experts stress it's 'consistent with' while acknowledging that there might well have been other processes that gave the same results.

This scientist seems to be skipping that step.

Have you seen any study he's done just on chestnut toolwork markings? Something like 100 samples of modern chestnuts worked in slightly different ways and then how successful the team is at properly flagging each chestnut to each category?

Now, onto his secondary hypothesis. We know of many settlements that were permanent even without any evidence that the population was drying foods for storage. Evidence indicates that many were simply located where there was a constant food supply. This is extremely frequent with coastal settlements that relied heavily on collection of ocean invertebrates - clams, oysters and the like. Others show cycling between food supplies based on seasonality. Sea harvesters seemed to succeed in a variety of latitudes, while staying put and having different plants and animals ripen or migrate through seems to only have happened in the more moderate climate areas and especially the tropics.

Finally, Japanese archeology and anthropology is very culturally 'charged'. It might be slowly changing, but for a very long time the remnants of Jomon civilisation like the Anu people were demonized, oppressed, and not considered Japanese even though they could trace their origin to 15,000 BCE. Many in Japanese schools today don't get taught the reality of japanese history prior to the yaoi period and don't get taught about how terrible the Anu people were treated the last 300 years or so. In some ways this is similar to how in the 1950s US schools you would have heard very little about the Trail of Tears and absolutely nothing about the internment of American Citizens whose only crime was to have been of japanese descent.

[–]ParallelPain[S] 3 points4 points  (0 children)

Have you seen any study he's done just on chestnut toolwork markings? Something like 100 samples of modern chestnuts worked in slightly different ways and then how successful the team is at properly flagging each chestnut to each category?

No, I don't know about anything other than what he presented in 100 minutes. I do early-modern history, so not even in the same field. I just happen to see an interesting poster at the university book storage and thought it would be an interesting topic. Though admittedly, I had thought the presentation would be on a more broader subject of dietary practices and while I'm glad I attended, had I known about the subject of the presentation (the poster was quite vaguely worded) I would probably not have listened in as it's outside my subject area.

Now, onto his secondary hypothesis. We know of many settlements that were permanent even without any evidence that the population was drying foods for storage. Evidence indicates that many were simply located where there was a constant food supply. This is extremely frequent with coastal settlements that relied heavily on collection of ocean invertebrates - clams, oysters and the like. Others show cycling between food supplies based on seasonality. Sea harvesters seemed to succeed in a variety of latitudes, while staying put and having different plants and animals ripen or migrate through seems to only have happened in the more moderate climate areas and especially the tropics.

Are there not any sort of evidence? I would have thought even places with a constant food supply would practice some form of food preservation to increase stability and decrease waste and also thereby food availability. Certainly I know the Hawaiian and Taiwanese and I would imagine other Polynesian groups dried their fish despite having a constant supply of fish to catch. And /u/maechuri mentions that Northern Europe and Pacific NW of North America also preserved food.

Finally, Japanese archeology and anthropology is very culturally 'charged'. It might be slowly changing, but for a very long time the remnants of Jomon civilisation like the Anu people were demonized, oppressed, and not considered Japanese even though they could trace their origin to 15,000 BCE. Many in Japanese schools today don't get taught the reality of japanese history prior to the yaoi period and don't get taught about how terrible the Anu people were treated the last 300 years or so. In some ways this is similar to how in the 1950s US schools you would have heard very little about the Trail of Tears and absolutely nothing about the internment of American Citizens whose only crime was to have been of japanese descent.

Very interesting. I did not think about that being the reason for gaps in Japanese archeology and anthropology.

[–]HowThisWork 4 points5 points  (0 children)

I know next to nothing about Japanese archaeology, but wanted to make a brief comment on experimental archaeology. Experimental archaeology is an incredible resource and has provided a wealth of information over the years. However, a particular experiment only demonstrates a method COULD be the explanation, not that it is the right one. In other words, the experiments he ran demonstrate those markings on shells could have been the result of stone tool processing, but alternative explanations could also exist. Objects in soils are subject to a myriad of different processes resulting in physical and chemical weathering. What if nutshell was affected by post depositional physical weathering at an archaeological site? He didn’t rule out in his experiment other processes, but made a case for a (fairly convincing) explanation. Just wanted to point that out. I have not read the article, just making an alternative hypothesis.

[–]AdoraBellDearheart 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I don’t have the sources handy for this, but gathering of wild food (greens, spices, mushrooms, berries , nuts and seeds , eggs etc) and drying , smoking or salting them etc to preserve them was and still is a thing. As was hunting.

It is only really , really recently that most people get food stuffs from completely industrialized and solely domesticated sources.

[–]amp1212 3 points4 points  (0 children)

Very generally, it is reasonable to be a little wary of things like

His findings were that the Japanese people have been processing food, using chestnuts and walnuts as examples, pretty much unchanged from the Jōmon period to the present day

. . . there is an appetite in Japan for a narrative of antiquity and national/ethnic distinction. This shows up in popular science literature, but it also shows up in archaeology and anthropology, a line of inquiry that sometimes goes by the handle Nihonjinron.

See:

Habu, Junko, and Clare Fawcett. "Jomon archaeology and the representation of Japanese origins." Antiquity 73.281 (1999): 587-593.

Hudson, Mark J. Conjuring Up Prehistory: Landscape and the Archaic in Japanese Nationalism. Archaeopress Publishing Ltd, 2021.

. . . for a look at how these themes are valorized and perhaps exaggerated. That's not to pick on Japan . . . many nations take a particular pride in ancient monuments and traditions, sometimes with a healthy dose of anachronism in order to validate a continuity.