Volltext: Anthropos, 78.1983,1-4

History of Southeast Asian Agriculture 
177 
economic uses, 4 and their propagation often depends greatly on human 
activity, so that it may be difficult to draw a rigid line between cultigens 
and weeds. 
What, then, is the essence of domestication? Most basically, it represents 
a process of genetic rather than environmental manipulation. That is, humans 
interfere with the process of propagation of natural populations of plants 
and animals by acting as agents of genetic selection. This is being done by 
conferring some sort of reproductive advantage on individuals who have par 
ticularly desirable characteristics (e.g., large fruit size, high meat ratio, sweet 
ness, docility, features that make a plant easier to harvest, and so on). In 
principle, the process of domestication is not all that different from genetic 
change th^t occurs through natural selection except that an important selective 
agent here is man. The fundamental similarity with natural selection is indi 
cated by the fact that, with sufficient time, artifically selected (domesticated) 
populations may vary from their ancestral populations to such a degree that 
they will not be able to interbreed with them successfully and must, there 
fore, be classified as new species. Most often, domestication and cultivation 
do go hand-in-hand. In these cases, domestication may progress to a point 
where the domesticated species (“domesticate”) cannot survive outside the 
special environmental conditions maintained for its cultivation by man. 
3. The Ecology of Domestication and Early Agriculture in Southeast Asia 
I have said above that the process of cultivation entails human manipula 
tion of natural environments, and that the process of domestication entails 
human manipulation of the gene pool of natural populations. The genetic 
make-up of natural populations of plants and animals itself is, of course, 
at least partially determined by environmental conditions. It follows, there 
fore, that an ecological appraisal of native environments, and of potential 
cultivars and domesticates found in them, is essential to an understanding 
of prehistoric domestication and the development of agriculture. 
a) The Natural Ecology of the Indo-Pacific Region 
Southeast Asia and the islands of the Western Pacific fall entirely within 
a broad environmental zone of the world referred to as “tropics.” It is diffi 
cult to make generally valid statements about tropical environments since 
they are extremely diverse as well as complex. In addition, a large portion 
of the area under consideration here consists of islands of varying size. 
A study in West Bengal, India, showed that of 158 weed species collected in rice 
fields, 124 are of some kind of economic importance (Datta and Banerjee 1978)! 
Anthropos 78.1983 
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