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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 61.djvu/507

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THE AMERICAN ORIGIN OF AGRICULTURE.

cereal crop from a pigweed (Chenopodium quinoa), another of many evidences of a very general tendency to agricultural civilization in ancient America.

As long recognized by historians and ethnologists, maize was the most important factor in the material progress of ancient America, and the American civilizations remained on a much more strictly agricultural basis than those of the old world, a fact not without practical significance to modern agriculture since it undoubtedly conduced to the more careful selection and improvement of the many valuable plants which we owe to the ancient peoples of America. Subordinate only to maize from the agricultural standpoint was the domestication of the beans, while the materials for a developed culinary art and a varied and wholesome diet were furnished by a variety of minor products like the Cayenne pepper, the tomato, the tree tomato (Cyphomandra), the pineapple, several species of the strawberry tomato (Physalis), the pawpaw (Carica), the granadilla (Passiflora quadrangularis), the gourd, the squash and the peanut. American fruit trees, such as the custard apple and related species of Anona, the alligator pear (Persea), the sapodilla, Mammeas and Lucumas afford refreshing acids, beverages, relishes or salads, but do not furnish substantial food like the banana. Contrary to the opinion of De Candolle there is every probability that the banana reached America from the west long before the arrival of the Spaniards, but it evidently did not come until after the agriculture and cultivated plants of America had spread into the Pacific.

 

No Pastoral Period.

The agricultural history of the Malays, Chinese, Japanese, and other Mongoloid peoples of the western shores of the Pacific, is exactly that of the American races, and differs fundamentally from that of the peoples of western Asia and the Mediterranean region in giving no indications of a primitive pastoral stage which so many writers have taken to be man's first step from savagery toward civilization. The straight-haired peoples made, however, early and vigorous use of a large number of Asiatic plants and showed skill in agriculture and irrigation equaled in prehistoric times only along the western coasts of America, among the congeries of primitive civilizations commonly not distinguished from the terminal members of the series, the Peruvians and Mexicans.

That the Aztec and Inca empires were comparatively recent organizations has caused many ethnological writers to forget that they incorporated much more ancient culture. For centuries still unnumbered the Andean region of South America supported crowded populations. On the western slopes of Peru every inch of irrigable land was cultivated,