Thanks to global connectivity and migration, we currently have access to an extremely diverse diet. Diets were also diverse in the past, but there were limitations on the crops that were available in any one area. We know that Indus Civilisation populations lived across an area that was extremely diverse environmentally and benefitted from both summer and winter rainfall (hence TwoRains) (http://www.arch.cam.ac.uk/research/projects/two-rains), and it has long been argued that Indus populations engaged in multi-cropping, or the growing of multiple crops in various ways or multiple seasons.
During a bumpy (and slightly tortuous) taxi ride and an extended wait for a plane flight in 2012, Jennifer and I started talking about the concept of Indus multi-cropping. We quickly came to the realisation that although it was clear that Indus farmers were well informed about their environment and capable of growing a range of crops, archaeologists were not being very specific in the way that Indus multi-cropping practices were being discussed. We also had a hunch that the archaeobotanical evidence from the Land, Water and Settlement project (http://www.arch.cam.ac.uk/research/projects/land-water-settlement) excavations in northwest India might be used to deconstruct (and then hopefully reconstruct) the concept of multi-cropping.
Yesterday, the fruits of our investigation into the concept of multi-cropping, and the nature of Indus cropping practices was published in the Journal of World Prehistory (http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10963-017-9101-z).
We should warn you that it is not a short read, but we hope that it is an interesting one. Essentially we have set out to “unpack” the concept of multi-cropping by discussing some of the various ways that cropping was practiced in the ancient world, and have then focussed on characterising the diversity and variation of Indus cropping practices.
We have concluded that the evidence currently available shows that Indus cropping practices were extremely diverse and nuanced. Farmers in some areas were primarily growing winter crops, while farmers in other areas primarily grew summer crops. However, there is also now clear evidence that farmers in areas that receive both winter and summer rain also had extremely variable practices, ranging from an intensive focus on winter crops with some supplement of summer crops, through to almost completely mixed winter and summer cropping. The farmers in northwest India appear to have been very flexible in their cropping both across time and across space, and this has all sorts of social, economic and potentially even political implications. Our hope is that we can now be more specific in the way that we characterise Indus cropping in different regions and at different settlements. In turn, this will allow us to consider properly the various issues related to adaptation, intensification and resilience in the face of changing social, political, economic and environmental climates that are at the core of the work of the TwoRains project. We hope you enjoy it.