Forest Gardens

So, a member of the Out of Babel research team sent me this cool link. (The research team being blog readers/friends who send me links.)

Apparently, the native peoples of British Columbia made gardens in the temperate rain forests up there. These were patches of forest where they planted edibles such as “hazelnuts, crabapples, cranberries, and hawthorn.” These patches persist to this day. They did not look like agriculture to the Europeans. We are just now realizing what they were, a mere 200 years behind the times as usual.

This article brings to mind the Wild Yam Question, which was raised by an old ethnology professor of mine. Part of the Wild Yam thesis is that people groups who look to city-dwellers’ eyes like hunter-gatherers, may actually be engaging in horticulture, where they plant a staple food (such as sago palm) in clusters in the forest and then rotate where they harvest it, which looks like pure foraging but isn’t. According to the linked article, the forest gardens in BC are the first instance of this kind of horticulture that has been discovered in a temperate climate.

And not to go on a patented Out of Babel rant, but I’ll just note that this kind of discovery undermines the old model of anthropology where people start out as hunter-gatherers and progress to gardens, then large-scale agriculture, and so on, becoming more urban as they go. This suggests that there are a variety of ways to do agriculture and that people can mix elements of different lifestyles to suit their needs. This, in turn, suggests that we can’t just look at whether a given people group has agriculture, and assume that we can infer from this when they lived or what stage of development they were in. There may well have been people groups who went from being farmers or herdsmen to being hunters when forced to do so, either because they were migrating or in response to some disaster. In fact, this is exactly what happens to Enmer’s tribe in my trilogy.

11 thoughts on “Forest Gardens

  1. This is great!
    I just started a book this week, Hok the Mighty, by Manly Wade Wellman and it’s a pre-history. Except it’s old school pre-history and I immediately thought of you because it has neanderthals in it. and how they’re depicted would be sure to drive you up a wall 😀

    I am totally linking to this post when I write the review.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Em @ The Geeky Jock

    Sigh. I am continually … shocked? by how so much local knowledge isn’t legitimized until it’s “discovered”. This is home for me … and First Nations traditional agriculture is pretty well known amongst the locals. (I empathize with people around the world who experience the same thing.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Em @ The Geeky Jock

      Though, not to be too witchy 😉 It is a pretty cool fact. We live close to a meadow that was maintained for … well, many many years by the local tribe. It’s amazing.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. A part of me is completely with you (which is also why I got a little witchy in the above post). Another part of me reflects that it’s not possible for everyone to know about everything all at once, especially if we don’t live there. I’m grateful to these researchers for publishing their findings, even though they are not the first to discover these forest gardens, so that those of us who don’t live in BC can add this to our cumulative picture of the world.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Pingback: The Complete Hok the Mighty ★★✬☆☆ – Bookstooge's Reviews on the Road

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