Tracing the cereal trail: archaeobotany of plant use and culture change on Taiwan, 6000-4000 years ago

Event details

PhD Seminar

Date & time

Wednesday 11 October 2017


Talanoa Room


Tuukka Kaikkonen


Tuukka Kaikkonen

This TPR seminar presents the background, rationale and approach to my PhD research project, where I propose to investigate the relationship between plant use and culture change on Taiwan during the Neolithic period between c. 6000 and 4000 years before present (BP) through the study of archaeological plant remains.

The early cultivation and domestication of rice and millets in the river valleys of China has been intensively studied, but the southward spread of cultivation and domesticates beyond these regions is less well understood. This is despite the fundamental impacts that agriculture has had on the land, cultures, and demography of East and Southeast Asia over the past 7,000 years.

In my research, I focus on the area of Taiwan between 6000 and 4000 years ago. During this time period, new Neolithic cultures of continental East Asian origin were introduced to, developed in, and dispersed from Taiwan, reaching further south to the islands of Southeast Asia by c. 4000 BP. It has been hypothesised that this spread of cultures was at least partly caused by the beginnings of plant food production and subsequent population growth. However, so far attempts to assess this hypothesis have been hampered by patchy evidence for plant use and food production on Taiwan during this time period. What food plants were in use? How important was food production, especially millets and rice, during this formative period? Was cultivation begun together with or separate from the earliest arrival Neolithic cultural influences on Taiwan? And what was the role of plants in initiating and sustaining population growth and the spread of Neolithic cultures from Taiwan into the islands of Southeast Asia? These questions and my approach to address them will be covered in this TPR seminar.

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