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Agriculture probably began in a garbage heap

Agriculture probably began in a garbage heap


This documentary film also presents another cultural trait, which links the Uchee People to Northwest Europe.

Forensic botanists and anthropologists in the UK have become convinced that the domestication of plants began when sedentary hunter-gatherers threw vegetative leftovers onto garbage heaps containing decomposed garbage and bones.  What they have observed is that agriculture evolved independently only in those regions of the world where the diversity of edible plants & fruits, plus the abundance of game or fish made it possible for humans to establish permanent base villages, even though as hunter-gatherers, they continued for some time to go on food gathering expeditions that might last weeks.   Agriculture did not appear independently in Europe for this reason, but was introduced by immigrants from the Middle East.

The garbage middens created artificial environments, which contained dense concentrations of the nutrients that plants needed, but none of their competitors.  The result was bigger plants with larger fruits or seeds (grain).   Occupants of these villages observed them to be superior and over time learned that they could be replanted in the garbage middens.  This started the process of selective cultivation of plants, which could not compete in wild environments, but were capable of far greater productivity.  Over time, the domesticated plants became genetically different than their wild ancestors.

This garbage midden theory might also explain the still-not-understood evolution of maize ( American corn) from an insignificant wild grass to the most productive grain on the planet today.   Maize has very demands for nitrogen, calcium, phosphorous and magnesium . . . the latter four minerals being concentrated in bones. 

The Magic Biochar Terrace Garden is now six times larger than the one you saw on the History Channel’s “America Unearthed” five years go.  As seen in the foreground on right, I started out with slash-and-burn techniques on a steep mountain slope then converted the scrub trees into retaining walls.  Essentially, what I did next was to convert sterile, acidic soil into a well-decomposed garbage midden.

This theory has direct implications for understanding the evolution of indigenous cultures in the Southeastern United States, because the Upper Southern Piedmont/Cumberland Plateau area WAS one of the regions in the world, where agriculture appeared independently.   The other regions were the (1) the Jordan River Valley and Syria, (2) eastern China, (3) Indus River Basin,  (4) Andean foothills of Peru and (5) southern Mexico/Central America.

North American anthropological orthodoxy is based on observations of indigenous peoples in New England, the Midwest and the Western Plains.  Radiocarbon dating was invented in 1947, the same year that an anthropological conference at Harvard University divided Native American cultures in the United States into the Paleo-Indian,  Archaic, Woodland and Mississippian Periods.  However, it was not a readily accessible technology until around 1955. 

Because the academicians assumed that since Southern whites were obviously less intelligent and more backward that whites elsewhere in North America, the Southern Indians were also less intelligent and backward.  Thus, the presumption was that advanced cultures moved from north to south and west to east.   Until the 1970s, Ocmulgee National Monument in Macon, GA gave visitors a brochure, which stated that the Swift Creek Culture People came to the Ocmulgee River from New England and the Master Farmers-Moundbuilders came from southern Illinois.   All these orthodoxies collapsed when radiocarbon dates were obtained from some mounds in Georgia and Louisiana, showing them to be thousands of years older than any mounds elsewhere in North America . . . and pottery in Georgia being the oldest in North America.  The Bilbo Mound in Savannah was radiocarbon dated at 3545 BC!  It is probably no accident that the onset of mound building coincided with the beginnings of agriculture.

In the late 1990s, forensic botanists in the Southeast determined that many plants, which are today considered wild or “pests” in gardens are actually the feral descendants of crops, domesticated by American Indians.  In addition,  several members of the squash-pumpkin family, which were assumed to have originated in Mexico, actually were domesticated in the Southeastern United States. The process for domestication perhaps began as early as 5,500-3,500 BC for some plants such as the sunflower and squash families.



Stories from the Stone Age

Beaker Culture artifacts

This TV documentary series was produced by Pantheon Films for the Australian Broadcasting Company.  It transports viewers on a journey from the Middle Stone Age to the Bronze Age. Although the actors are Aussies, the scientists and anthropologists interviewed are mostly from the UK and Israel.  The three programs probably do a better job of explaining the transition from hunters to city dwellers than any documentaries ever produced.

The third program of the series contained some startling information that is missing from standard online references.   If you recall, it was the “Beaker People” of northwestern Europe, whose rock art is identical to that on several boulders in North Georgia, and whose pottery is almost identical to the pottery of the Deptford Culture, whose oldest mounds are near Downtown Savannah, GA.  Also, the rock carvings of boats found on the Tugaloo Stone in Northeast Georgia is identical to the rock carvings of the Beaker People boats in Scandinavia.

Here is the surprise.  The Beaker People were NOT indigenous to northwestern Europe.  They were traders, who traveled long distances in their sleek boats with double prows.  Over time Beaker People families and bands settled among the indigenous Northwest Europeans then established trade routes within the interior to interconnect tribes.  This is why almost all of their rock art is near the sea. It is very likely that the Beaker People originated in southeast corner of Iran, next to the Indus Valley civilization because the earliest portrayals of their distinctive style of boats is in that region of the world.  They were forced to leave the Indus Valley, when the climate became hotter and drier, thus causing the Indus Valley civilization to collapse.   So those unusual boats on Bronze Age Scandinavian rock art were developed at the southeastern tip of the Middle East. 

The Tugaloo Stone was found at the head of the Savannah River.

Since “Stories from the Stone Age” was produced,  the University of København (Copenhagen) has discovered that the genes, which cause blond/red hair and blue/gray eyes in Scandinavians are not aboriginal Germanic traits, but can be traced to the southeastern tip of Iran.   That is the same locale, where the Beaker People boats originated. 

Last year, we learned that the closest relative of the Araucano Chicken . . . the indigenous American chicken in Peru and South Georgia . . . was the aboriginal chicken of the Indus River Basin.   The Araucano chicken was named after the brownish/red haired, green eyed, Araucano (Gold people) of Chile, who survived the onslaught of the Incas and the Spanish.

A strange, totally unanticipated tapestry is being woven.  It you recall . . . Kon Tiki was a Red Haired God, living in Peru.

Now what do we know about the Uchee People?   They said that they came by boat across the Atlantic from the home of the sun and settled along the Savannah and Ogeechee Rivers.   The Tugaloo Petroglyphs were found at the headwaters of the Savannah River.

What else?   At the time that British colonists settled the South Atlantic coast, the Uchee were known as consummate traders, who, like the Beaker People in northwest Europe had established satellite villages and a trading network across Southeastern North America.  The same petroglyphs can be found in Northeast Georgia and Parawan Gap, Utah.  Parawan is the Ute Indian way of saying words, which essentially mean the same as Apalache . . . the advanced people of the Southern Highlands.

Don’t you wish you had a time machine?




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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.



    Richard, These ancient stone artworks of double brow ships might also be Catamaran type boats. I have read that type of boat was created by people that lived around the Arabian sea which fits well with the “Beaker people” leaving from the Indus Valley. Some of the ancient people of Argentina, Chile , Peru “cloud people”, Western Mexico, New Zealand and the Duhare people of North Carolina were noted as having “red hair”. Perhaps they were all related to the Amorite people noted in the Torah. Among the Amorites were Nephilim: “the same were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown”, which seems to fit with some of the Native American lore and many newspaper articles in the 18th century of very large skeletons (8-9 ft.) being found then.


    WOW, I love this post Richard, which brings me to the question you asked about Aboriginal people in Britain. I had a reply from one of my colleagues and here was his reply. The earliest inhabitants of the British Isles were the Bronze Age ‘beaker people’ but we are not sure where the cut-off point would be as the place has been invaded forever one way or another. You might claim the ab’original population was established by the cutting of the land bridge and the end of the Ice age- periods of greater numbers of incomers which may have occurred at various times, and one contender would be Bronze Age ( beakers ) I suppose someone might in that context use the term “Aboriginal for the more original inhabitants; My colleague says this does not sit easy with him but he knows no one else who studies your subject. Best wishes


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