high banana phytolith percentages reflect large plant populations rather than high phytolith pro- duction relative to other species. Second, large quantities of Musa bananas would not be ex- pected in a grassed landscape subject to period- ic burning. Other banana species, such as Ensete glaucum, are more fire-tolerant and might be expected to thrive in repeatedly burned landscapes; however, they account for only a minor component of Musaceae phyto- liths during the Holocene at Kuk. The large percentages of bananas within a managed grassed landscape beginning at 6950 to 6440 cal yr B.P. are interpreted to be diagnostic of deliberate planting.
Eumusa bananas were identified from diag- nostic seed phytolith morphotypes throughout the Holocene sequence. Although no diagnostic seed phytoliths of Australimusa bananas were found, other species, including Musa ingens and Ensete glaucum, were present (Fig. 4). The presence of Eumusa bananas has implications for understanding mainstream banana domesti- cation involving hundreds of diploid and polyploid varieties. Eumusa cultivars were for- merly considered to be Southeast Asian domes- ticates (20). More recent genetic research sug- gests that the wild Eumusa seeded banana,
Musa acuminata ssp. banksii, was domesticated in New Guinea and subsequently dispersed to Southeast Asia, where hybridization with local varieties occurred (21). The Eumusa morpho- types in early Holocene contexts at Kuk, in- cluding both seed and leaf morphotypes identi- cal to those found in Musa acuminata ssp. banksii, corroborate these interpretations.
Conclusion. The gradual emergence of agriculture in the Highlands of New Guinea during the early Holocene is suggested by cumulative anthropogenic forest disturbance, the archaeological remains of cultivation on the wetland margin at Kuk, the use of Colo- casia taro, and the presence of Eumusa ba- nanas. Although this evidence is consistent with shifting cultivation practices, more sub- stantial evidence for deliberate planting and incipient domestication is not unequivocally demonstrable until the mid-Holocene. By 6950 to 6440 cal yr B.P., land use patterns changed dramatically with intensive wetland cultivation (mounding); the creation and maintenance of an anthropogenic grassland landscape; and the deliberate planting of ba- nanas, including Eumusa bananas from which the most important and largest group of banana domesticates arose. These multi-
disciplinary lines of evidence signify that ag- riculture was being practiced within an an- thropogenic landscape.
The idea of early and independent agricul- tural origins in New Guinea challenges en- trenched and pervasive assumptions about the genesis and diffusion of agriculture and about the development of human societies. First, New Guinea has generally been considered to be a secondary center, where agricultural develop- ment was derived from or triggered by the arrival of domesticates from Southeast Asia (22, 23). The evidence from Kuk confirms that New Guinea was a primary center of agricul- tural development and plant domestication be- fore any known Southeast Asian influence. The archaeobotanical finds corroborate genetic in- terpretations that Eumusa bananas and C. escu- lenta were independently domesticated in Melanesia (21). Only after 3500 cal yr B.P. was New Guinea a recipient of domesticated plants from Southeast Asia, after Austronesian expan- sion into the region (15).
Second, early and independent agriculture is often linked to large-scale demic expan- sions, social stratification, and the rise of “civilization” (23, 24), none of which are typical of New Guinean societies today or in
Fig. 4. Photographs il- lustrating discrimination of contemporary and prehistoric Musa spp. phytoliths. (A) Articulat- ed phytoliths from seed of Musa acuminata ssp. banksii showing distinct dorsal ridging of Eumusa seed phytoliths (mo- dern reference: sample QH067962). (B) Seed phytolith from seed of Musa ingens (modern reference sample). (C) Dorsal and lateral views of Ensete glaucum seed phytoliths (mo- dern reference: sample QH356652). (D) Fossil Eumusa seed phytolith with distinct dorsal ridg- ing found in the phyto- lith assemblage from the base of a phase 2 feature fill (sample 5). (E) Faceted phytolith morphotype found in the phytolith assem- blage from the upper fill of the phase 1 pa- leochannel (sample 19). It is similar to the seed morphotype of Musa in- gens, although its sur- face is more heavily tex- tured. (F) Lateral view of Ensete seed morpho- type found in a phase 2 feature fill and the clayey black sediment above (samples 3 and 4). (G) Articulated chain of Musa leaf phytoliths from within the gray clay sequence between phase 1 and phase 2 (sample 10). (H) Fossil leaf
phytolith of Musa acuminata from the upper fill of the phase 1 paleochannel (sample 19). (I) Fossil Eumusa seed phytolith from the upper fill of the phase 1 paleochannel (sample 19).
11 JULY 2003 VOL 301