Environmental change, agricultural innovation, and the spread of cotton agriculture in the Old World


Elizabeth Baker Brite; Marston, John M.

Journal or Book Title: Journal of Anthropological Archaeology

Year Published: 2012


Recent excavations at the site of Kara-tepe in northwestern Uzbekistan revealed evidence for the production of cotton (Gossypium sp.) in domestic contexts dated to ca. 300–500 AD. These archaeobotanical remains help to document the spread of Old World cotton production, and predate the existing evidence for its cultivation in Central Asia. The context in which these remains were found—in temperate Eurasia at a time of intense environmental and social change—suggests that the spread of cotton agriculture to this region occurred when new plant varieties were incorporated into domestic production regimes as part of local adaptive strategies. The development and transmission of cotton as a global cultigen was initiated by these small-scale innovations aimed at the expansion of economically and environmentally sustainable subsistence practices in Central Asia. Subsequent worldwide transmission occurred when emerging empires helped to spread cotton agriculture more widely across the Old World.

DOI: 10.1016/j.jaa.2012.08.003

Type of Publication: Journal Article