Spengler, Robert N., III, Li Tang, Ayushi Nayak, Nicole Boivin, and Luca Maria Olivieri (2021) The Southern Central Asian Mountains as an Ancient Agricultural Mixing Zone: New archaeobotanical date from Barikot in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany.
The mountain foothills of inner Asia have served as a corridor of communication and exchange for at least five millennia, using historically documented trade routes such as the Silk Road and the Tea-Horse Road. Recent research has illustrated the important role that this mountain corridor played in the dispersal of crops and farming technology between northeast and southwest Asia 5,000 to 1,000 years ago. However, the role of the mountain valleys along the southern rim of the Pamirs and Himalaya in facilitating crop dispersals has not yet been fully explored. Notably, ongoing debates over secondary dispersals of Hordeum (barley) and Triticum (wheat) into China and the routes of dispersal for the East Asian crops Oryza sativa (rice), Prunus persica (peach) and P. armeniaca (apricot) into northern India are continuing topics of inquiry. In this article, we add to these discussions by focusing on archaeobotanical remains from the Barikot site (ca. 1200 bce–50 ce) in the Swat valley of northern Pakistan. The Swat valley is an ancient settlement zone in the Hindu Kush-Karakoram foothills, whose cultural features have always had a strong link with inner Asia. The archaeobotanical assemblage illustrates that a diverse array of crops, with origins across Asia, were cultivated around the same settlement. Additionally, these farmers likely implemented seasonal cropping cycles and irrigation that required various labour inputs and water management regimes.