Skip to main content
Ref ID: 30550
Ref Type: Journal Article
Authors: Blench, Roger
Title: Fruits and arboriculture in the Indo-Pacific Region
Date: 2004
Source: Bulletin of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association
Notes: Proceedings of the 17th Congress of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association Taipei, Taiwan 9 to 15 September 2002
Abstract: One unconscious bias that commonly creeps into accounts of the development and spread of agriculture is an emphasis on cereals and tubers. Since these are the basis of agriculture in the developed world, when students of prehistory construct narratives in the tropics they tend to focus on these classes of cultigen and to downplay both trees and herbs. The domestication of tree products must be identified principally on distributional grounds as they are used and discarded far from their 'home' area. Although prehistory in the Indo-Pacific region has begun to emphasise the importance of arboriculture in overall subsistence, it has been hamstrung by weak synchronic accounts of the taxonomy, origin and spread of the major and minor fruit trees. Recent ethnographic work has begun to remedy this situation, but has yet to be absorbed into archaeological models. Biogeography can therefore be of considerable importance in determining the evolution of arboricutural subsistence, especially in a region with so many islands, where settlement can be associated with the introduction of new species. Another tool which has barely been used is comparative linguistics. Despite a relatively strong empirical base for the description of Pacific languages in general, rich ethnobotanical accounts of cultivated and protected trees are still scarce, reducing the potential to reconstruct the history of cultivated trees. But a variety of lexical databases do exist, incorporating terms for major fruit species which can enable us to reconstruct a notional history. In addition, the diversity of language phyla on the Southeast Asian mainland allows us to unravel the routes whereby fruit cultivation spread, through the analysis of loanwords. The paper attempts a broad-brush survey of the role of fruit cultivation in the East Asia/Pacific region.
Date Created: 9/19/2005
Volume: 24
Page Start: 31
Page End: 50