Domestication of South American Animals & Plants

Petr’s reflections on the domestication of South American Animals…and Plants

Domestications of animals (and plants) was more extensive in South America than in North America. When I saw llamas, alpacas, guanacos and vicunas I considered their domestication thousands of years ago. I could not but reflect on the time when I saw the women of the Amazon jungle suckle a baby anteater. I came to the understanding that perhaps I was witnessing the DOMESTICATION of ANTEATERS. I picture HUNTERS & GATHERERS killing an animal for food and bringing the young home for the women to breast-feed… and initiating a SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIP between humans & beasts. 10,000 years ago it happened in Eurasia with goats, sheep, swine, camels etc. At roughly the same time it happened in the New World with the guinea pigs and the camelids. Much earlier (perhaps by Neanderthals, Denisovans & Australian Aborigines) canines were domesticated. Plants ALSO became dependent on humans. Wild grasses and pulses/legumes routinely drop their seeds to the ground when the plant matures. Alas, seeds on the ground are prone to germination, but they are worthless to granivorous humans. Occasionally a mutant plant holds on to the seeds until humans harvest, thresh or shuck the rachis/ears ….. eat some in the form of our daily bread and PLANT some. This it is true of Teosinte, and the Cereal grains from all over the world. Without seeing the nursing of the anteater I would never had reached such a profound understanding of the Symbiotic relationship between our plants and animals and humans. Humans invest into animals (capital) and expect repayment (with interest) in form of milk, meat, progeny, skins & furs, horns, hooves, sinews, dung, draught, affection etc…..