that is long before we’d thought previously.
It was unclear whether the forest had been cleared by farmers to plant fields, or by hunter-gatherers, so they could hunt more easily.
And many plant remains like seeds and fruits don’t preserve well in swampy soils, in humid environments like you often find in New Guinea.
So really, the proof was limited. But recent research has turned up some pretty convincing support.
A group of archaeologists returned to a site that had been previously examined, Kuk Swamp,
which is in a mountain valley in the highlands of what is now Papua, New Guinea.
Based on their findings, they identified a succession of phases of agricultural development in the wetland there,
with several of these phases predating the earliest known agricultural influence from Southeast Asia.
At the site in Kuk, they used an array of modern archaeological methods to analyze sediment samples from the soil.
From the oldest soil layer dating back 10,000 years, they found evidence of pits, stake holes and ditches.
Now, these all indicate that crops were being planted.
Plants are tied to stakes, the ditches are for...for drainage, a proof of a very early, first phase of agricultural development.
The second phase, which they identify from a higher layer of soil, featured regularly distributed mounds.