Letter | Published:

Pollen analytical evidence for early forest clearance in North Sumatra

Subjects

Abstract

Pollen analysis of sediments from the Toba Highlands of North Sumatra, Indonesia reported here suggests strongly that forest clearance by man began 7,500 yr BP. Less convincing evidence suggests that man may have been disturbing the vegetation perhaps from 17,800 yr BP, but climate has also changed and isolation of causal factors is, therefore, difficult. No Suma-tran archaeological sites have yet been scientifically excavated, nor are 14C dates available1. However, megaliths possibly 2,000 yr old occur in the study area2 and Hindu–Buddhist remains occur further south2. Lowland shell-middens may be much older1,3. Forest clearance may havebegun by 11,000 yr BP on Taiwan4 and agriculture between 14,000 and 8,000 yr BP in Thailand5,6 but these conclusions have been disputed7,9. Archaeological evidence for agriculture dating from 9,000 yr BP onwards has been found in Papua New Guinea10,11 while rice may have been cultivated in Sulawesi12 by 6,000 yr BP.

References

  1. 1

    Bellwood, P. Man' Conquest of the Pacific: the Prehistory of Southeast Asia and Oceania (Collins, Auckland, 1978).

  2. 2

    Schnitger, F. M. Int. Archiv, v. Ethnogr 35, Suppl. 1–44 (1938).

  3. 3

    van Heekeren, H. R. The Stone Age of Indonesia (Nijhoff, The Hague, 1972).

  4. 4

    Tsukada, M. Palaeogeogr. Palaeoclimatol. Palaeoecol. 3, 49–64 (1967).

  5. 5

    Gorman, C. Science 163, 671–673 (1969).

  6. 6

    Gorman, C. World Archaeol. 2, 300–320 (1971).

  7. 7

    Harlan, J. R. & de Wet, J. M. J. Curr. Ant. 14, 51–55 (1973).

  8. 8

    Vishnu-Mittre in Evolutionary Studies in World Crops (ed. Hutchinson, J.) 3–30 (Cambridge University Press, London, 1974).

  9. 9

    Vishnu-Mittre in Gastronomy: the Anthropology of Food and Food Habits (ed. Arnot, M. L.) 13–21 (Nijhoff, The Hague, 1975).

  10. 10

    Golson, J. in Sunda and Sahul: Prehistoric Studies in Southeast Asa, Melanesia and Australia (eds Allen, J., Golson, J. & Jones, R.) (Academic, London, 1977).

  11. 11

    White, J. P. & Allen, J. Science 207, 728–734 (1980).

  12. 12

    Glover, I. C. Indonesia Circle No. 12, 6–20 (1977).

  13. 13

    Morley, R. J. J. thesis, Univ. Hull (1976).

  14. 14

    Maloney, B. K. thesis, Univ. Hull (1979).

  15. 15

    Flenley, J. R. The Equatorial Rainforest: A Geological History (Butterworth, London, 1979).

  16. 16

    Ninkovich, D., Shackleton, N. J., Abdel-Monem, A. A., Obradovich, J. D. & Izett, G. Nature 276, 574–577 (1978).

  17. 17

    Boerma, J. Kon. Mag. Met. Obs. Batav., Dl. 1 (1925).

  18. 18

    Backer, C. A. & Bakhuizen van den Brink, R. C. Flora of Java (Noordhoff, Groningen, 1963–68).

  19. 19

    Bartlett, H. H. Pap. Mich. Acad. Sci. 6, 1–66 (1926).

  20. 20

    Holttum, R. E. Flora of Malaya, Vol. 2 (Government Printer, Singapore, 1954).

  21. 21

    Ridley, H. N. J. Malay Brch R. Asiat. Soc. S. 1, 46–115 (1923).

  22. 22

    van Steenis, C. G. G. J. Mountain Flora of Java (Brill, Leiden, 1972).

  23. 23

    van Steenis, C. G. G. J. (ed.) Flora Malesiana, Ser. 1, Vols 4–6 (Wolters-Noordhoff, Groningen, 1948–62); Ser. 2, Vols 6–7 (Wolters-Noordhoff, Groningen, 1959–74).

  24. 24

    Stein, N. Die Erde, 105, 34–61 (1974).

  25. 25

    Whitmore, T. C. (ed.) Tree Flora of Malaya (Longman, London, 1972–73).

  26. 26

    Anderson, J. Mission to the East Coast of Sumatra in 1823 (London, 1826).

  27. 27

    Burton, R. & Ward, N. Trans. R. As. Soc. 1, 485–513 (1826).

  28. 28

    von Hügel, A. Geogr. J. 7, 75–82, 175–183 (1896).

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

To obtain permission to re-use content from this article visit RightsLink.

About this article

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.