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A ceramic and plant and parasite microfossil record from Andarayan, Cagayan Valley, Philippines, spanning the last ca. 2080 years reveals cultigens and human helminthiases

by Mark Horrocks last modified 2022-11-19 02:42 PM

Horrocks M, Peterson J, Presswell B. 2022. Asian Perspectives 61, 317-336.


Understanding the timing and nature of ancient agricultural development in the Philippines is hindered by a paucity of direct evidence of crops, i.e., plant remains identified to taxa. Here we present analysis of plant microfossils (pollen, phytoliths, and starch), with the addition of ceramic and parasitological analyses, in archaeological samples from Andarayan, Cagayan Valley, northern Luzon, to shed light on human activity in the region.

Combined with previous ceramic and alluvial records from this area, the results are consistent with a continuity of a Neolithic subsistence tradition throughout the Cagayan Valley and its tributaries for the last 4,000-500 years. Rice (Oryza sativa), taro (Colocasia esculenta), and cf. cassava (Manihot esculenta) starch provide evidence for cultivation of these taxa in the catchment. As plant taxa vary considerably in their production and preservation of different tissue types, the study also shows the value of a combined plant microfossil approach to cast the net widest when looking for direct evidence of horticulture. The parasitological analysis, showing a range of helminth parasites of humans and their commensals, dogs, pigs, and rats, to our knowledge represents the first ancient helminth eggs reported in the Philippines.


Ancient agriculture, Oryza sativa, Colocasia esculenta, Manioc esculenta, helminth eggs, plant microfossils.

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