Peruvian Desert Once a BreadbasketBreaking News
What do the characters in The Grapes of Wrath, Icelandic shepherds in the Middle Ages and ancient Peruvians have in common? They all suffered from the effects of intensive agriculture on sensitive environments.
Throughout human history unsustainable agricultural practices have turned fragile ecosystems into wastelands and left people starving. During the Dust Bowl, American farmers learned the consequences of removing the deep rooted grasses from the Great Plains when the soil blew away in tremendous dust storms. Icelandic shepherds learned that the sheep rearing practices their ancestors used on the European mainland destroyed the thin soils of their island and left them with starving herds and little to eat.
The ancient inhabitants of what is now Peru also learned the unhappy consequences of farming in a delicate ecosystem. The Ica Valley, near the coast of southern Peru and the famous Nazca lines, is now a barren desert, but was once a fertile floodplain, anchored by the roots of the huarango tree.
People were able to raise a variety of crops there for several centuries. But intensive agriculture in pre-conquest times led to ecosystem collapse. The history of the land was recently reconstructed by bioarcheologist David Beresford-Jones of the University of Cambridge by looking at plant remains left in ancient garbage heaps.
Beresford-Jones and a team of archeologists studied plant remains associated with settlement sites spanning roughly 750 B.C. to 1000 A.D. They observed the change as the valley inhabitants went from eating mostly gathered foods, to a period of intense agriculture, then back again to surviving on what they could eke out of nature's diminished bounty....
comments powered by Disqus
- Now it’s the University of Louisville’s turn to remove a Confederate statue
- A fortress built by Alexander the Great after he conquered Jerusalem has been discovered
- Yale students protest decision to keep Calhoun’s name
- Six maps that will make you rethink the world
- Middle Tenn. State President Wants to Strip Confederate General’s Name From Building
- The historian and cartographer Bill Rankin has developed a new way to visualize slavery
- Paula S. Fass says young Americans need required national service
- Historians are now trying to show that the gay revolution also took place in the midwest
- The Unconference Movement Grows – And Historians Are Taking the Lead
- New appeal to "Bring Back Military History"