10,000 years ago they were farming in South America

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South Americans were raising crops at least 10,000 years ago, about 5,000 years earlier than previously thought and nearly contemporary with the emergence of agriculture in the Old World, based on new ages obtained for agricultural samples excavated from the Andes 20 years ago.

"We always thought there was a gap of several thousand years before agriculture began in the New World," said archeologist Jack Rossen of Ithaca College in New York, one of the authors of the report in today's issue of the journal Science. The new find "is bringing it into line with dates from the Old World."

The plant remains found in the 1,500-foot-high Nanchoc Valley on the lower western slopes of the Andes were not native to the region but came from several other sites on the continent. So even though the communities were small and isolated, the residents were involved in some trade over fairly long distances.

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