Bananas are basically giant herbs, rather than trees, and there are approximately 50 species in the Musa genus, which includes the edible forms of bananas and plantains. Succulent and sweet, bananas make an ideal snack--but they can also tell us a lot about human civilization. Origin and distribution East African Highland bananas were introduced early into Africa from Southeast Asia during the first to sixth centuries AD, probably via trade. Mbida and others published The initial history of bananas in Africa. Both women and men were important in market life. Kuk Swamp: Early Agriculture in Papua New Guinea, The Domestication of Sesame Seed - Ancient Gift from Harappa, The History of the Domestication of Chocolate, The History and Domestication of the Sweet Potato, The Origins and History of Rice in China and Beyond, The Three Sisters: the Traditional Intercropping Agricultural Method, Domestication History of the Squash Plant (Cucurbita spp), History of the Domestication of Cows and Yaks, History of the Domestication of Sunflowers, Sahul: Pleistocene Continent of Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea, The Domestication of Pigs: Sus Scrofa's Two Distinct Histories. There are differences in the phytoliths between varieties of bananas, but variations between wild and domesticated versions are not as yet definitive, so additional forms of research need to be used to fully understand banana domestication. The banana actually originated in South Asia, and was distributed across Africa by the Arabs. If correct, these findings would radically alter current assumptions about when agriculture came to the continent. Indeed, banana cultivation was the economic backbone of some African kingdoms that thrived before European colonization. K. Kris Hirst is an archaeologist with 30 years of field experience. AAAS is a partner of HINARI, AGORA, OARE, CHORUS, CLOCKSS, CrossRef and COUNTER. Bananas for Africa In Tanzania bananas are part of the staple diet and are eaten in nearly all households. The other States where bananas are grown in South Africa are: Limpopo; Kiepersol; The main area accounts for the production of this beneficial fruit are North and South Coasts of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Between 9-14 months after planting, each plant produces some 20-40 kilograms of fruit. Why is a banana called a banana? Her work has appeared in scholarly publications such as Archaeology Online and Science. When settlers came from southeast Asia to settle the island of Madagascar a little after that, they probably also brought bananas with them. Bananas, which are considered botanical berries, are most likely native to Australia, but were first cultivated in Papua New Guinea.Journalist and food historian Dan Koeppel explains in his book, Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World, that many scholars believe that bananas were actually Eve’s apple in the Garden of Eden. ), it is also likely that bananas may have been introduced to Africa several times. The different varieties are characterized by wide differences in peel color and thickness, flavor, fruit size, and resistance to disease. * In 1516 Tomás de Berlanga, a Spanish priest, brought banana stalks to the New World, to the island of Hispañiola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic). Banana phytoliths are uniquely shaped: they are volcaniform, shaped like little volcanoes with a flat crater at the top. Until recently, most … A Brief History Bananas were originally found in South East Asia, mainly in India. Instead, early bananas were green or red, and were prepared using a variety of cooking methods. From India, traders carried bananas across the ocean to East Africa. Until recently, most African scholars assumed that the banana, which is native to New Guinea, was not introduced into Africa earlier than about 2000 years ago. and moved from Asia Minor to Africa and finally carried to the New World by the first explorers and missionaries to the Caribbean. Critical crop. They were brought west by Arab conquerors in 327 B.C. Bananas are planted at a typical density of between 1500-2500 plants per square hectare. Prices for Bananas, 1939-2020 ($3.50) According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices for bananas were 1,233.34% higher in 2020 versus 1939 (a $43.17 difference in value).. Africans harvested bananas as long as 4500 years ago. Exploitation of early wild forms of bananas has been noted at the Beli-Lena site of Sri Lanka by c 11,500-13,500 BP, Gua Chwawas in Malaysia by 10,700 BP, and Poyang Lake, China by 11,500 BP. Bananas produce vegetative suckers at the base of the plant which can be removed and planted separately. They cultivated the fruit on the Canary Islands. The introduction of the banana to Africa occurred so long ago that areas of Uganda and the Congo basin have become secondary centers of genetic diversity. Moreover, the researchers argue that recent work by an Australian team indicating that bananas were cultivated in New Guinea at least 6500 years ago (Science, 11 July 2003, p. 189) makes the early African dates all the more plausible. In 1516, they were taken from the Canary Islands to Hispaniola by a Spanish missionary, then onto Jamaica. There is linguistic evidence that bananas were known in Madagascar around that time. 73% of all South African banana exports in 2010 went into Africa while a further 25% was not allocated at the time of reporting. Banana plants first arrived in Australia in the 1800s. It is believed that more than 20 varieties of bananas grow in Tanzania but not all are suitable for eating. People were definitely growing bananas in East Africa by 600 AD. The original banana was different from current sweet yellow bananas. Phytolith discoveries in Cameroon dating to the first millennium BCE triggered an as yet unresolved debate about the date of first cultivation in Africa. The healthy breakfast fruit, banana, is called such because it … The evolution, or plant systematics, of bananas are difficult to study archaeologically, and so the domestication history was unknowable until recently. Bananas were probably taken to Madagascar by the Arabs and spread from there to mainland Africa. And genetic evidence from other studies suggests that bananas were first introduced from New Guinea into southeast Asia. Portuguese sailors brought bananas to Europe from West Africa in the early fifteenth century. In the 16th century, the Portuguese took bananas to the New World. The earliest prior evidence indicates that cultivation dates to no earlier than late 6th century CE. These bananas are presently referred to as plantains or cooking bananas in order to distinguish them from the sweet bananas we know today. •Arabs traders brought the banana to the Middle East and Africa in the 7th century. The bright yellow one found most frequently in western markets is called the Cavendish. 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Will warming make animals darker—or lighter? Little is known of the size of Africa’s population; by 1500 it may have totaled 30 to 60 million. PDF | On Jan 1, 2005, C.M. Genetics and linguistic studies also help in understanding banana history. Such is the case with a new archaeological discovery, which indicates that Africans were harvesting the fruit as early as 4500 years ago. Bananas have been cultivated and hybridized a number of times over several thousand years, so we'll concentrate on the original domestication, and leave the hybridization to botanists. Isn't it fuzzy exactly when/how bananas and plantains reached Africa? © 2021 American Association for the Advancement of Science. Between the 16th and 19th centuries, suckers were traded in the Americas and plantations were established in Latin America and the Caribbean. All rights Reserved. Genetic changes from M. acuminata created by the domestication process include the suppression of seeds and the development of parthenocarpy: the ability of humans to create a new crop without the need for fertilization. Africa - Africa - Fruits and vegetables: Among the important fruits are bananas, pineapples, dates, figs, olives, and citrus; the principal vegetables include tomatoes and onions. The earliest documentary reference to bananas in Africa is from the sixth century A.D. Earlier excavations at Munsa led by Robertshaw had shown that the site was first occupied by large numbers of people about 1000 year ago. In contrast, wild bananas are packed full of bullet-like seeds and contain very little edible fruit. The banana is well distributed throughout tropical Africa, but it is intensively cultivated as an irrigated enterprise in Somalia, Uganda, Tanzania, Angola, and Madagascar. Kuk Swamp, in Papua New Guinea, so far the earliest unequivocal evidence for banana cultivation, had wild bananas there throughout the Holocene, and banana phytoliths are associated with the earliest human occupations at Kuk Swamp, between ~10,220-9910 cal BP. Furthermore, over a thousand different types of cultivars of bananas and plantains are recognized today. Bananas are produced mainly in tropical and sub-tropical areas of Africa, Asia, and America, as well as the Canary Islands and Australia. During the period under review exports into Africa peaked at 1 140 tons in 2001. While this implies a long history of cultivation and experimentation within Africa (but see ref. Northern Africa was an integral part of classical Mediterranean civilization. The villages at Munsa, for example, had vanished by 1800 C.E. By the 1200s, the banana had reached into North Africa and in Moorish-controlled Spain. Bananas were redistributed and rediscovered for a second time around the Indian Ocean world carried by the wave of Islam. Fossil plant fragments, called phytoliths, of the banana genus Musa are present in these earliest levels, the team reports this month in the Journal of Archaeological Science. Bananas were discovered by the Portuguese on the Atlantic coast of Africa. •By the late 1400s bananas were a staple food along the western coast of Africa where Portuguese sailors collected plants and brought them to the Canary Islands, between Africa and Spain. The genus is split into four or five sections, based on the number of chromosomes in the plant, and the region where they are found. The Arrival of Islam in North Africa. Indeed, banana cultivation was the economic backbone of some African kingdoms that thrived before European colonization. From there sea traders could have brought them to East Africa across the Indian Ocean. Introduction of Bananas to Africa - Bananas created a fresh migratory surge, the first domesticated bananas showed up in Southeast Asia by sea lanes. Bananas for sale on a street cart, circa 1902, when the fruit was still a curiosity in the US. Referenced in Islamic literature in the 11 th century BCE, muslim merchants carried the banana along trade routes to and from various places in South Asia and the Middle East. Now, work at an archaeological site in Uganda has challenged that assumption. Uganda grows more Bananas, in a small country the size of the State of Oregon than any other nation in the World, but India. It remains to be seen if these very early banana farmers were the direct ancestors of later African agriculturists, he says, "or whether they were societies that disappeared and left little or no trace." International trade increased in some regions, mainly toward the Islamic world. 1700 ha of total are of this region cultivate a large amount of banana. The researchers say that this early date for banana cultivation is consistent with the findings of another team working at the site of Nkang, in southern Cameroon, which previously found evidence of banana cultivation dating back about 2500 years ago--a finding that was controversial at the time but which now, they say, seems much less so. For people living in the tropics, bananas can be vital to daily survival. Portuguese sailors discovered bananas in West Africa and established banana plantations in the 15th century off the coast, in the Canary lslands. Antonius Musa was the personal physician to Roman emperor Octavius Augustus, and it was he who was credited for promoting the cultivation of the unusual African fruit from 63 to 14 B.C. For many years after, bananas became the main crop of export for Saint Lucia. In addition, linguistic studies of local terms for bananas support the notion of the spread of the banana away from its point of origin: island southeast Asia. Diploid and triploid forms of bananas have been identified, and their distribution throughout the world is a key piece of evidence. They are genetically distinct from the other AAA cultivars, having evolved locally in the African Great Lakes region for over a millennium. The earliest banana evidence found in Africa is from Munsa, a site in Uganda dated to 3220 cal BC, although there are problems with the stratigraphy and chronology. Driving through the country, banana plants and plantations are seen everywhere. Soon Saint Lucia became the biggest supplier of Bananas in the Winward Islands. W ild bananas can be found in the wet, hot forests of New Guinea and South and Southeast Asia, but for many years the origin of domesticated bananas was a complete mystery. * By the late 1400s, bananas were a staple food along the western coast of Africa where Portuguese sailors collected plants and brought them to the Canary Islands, between Africa and Spain. Between 1939 and 2020: Bananas experienced an average inflation rate of 3.25% per year.This rate of change indicates significant inflation. Even though the plant thrived in Africa, it is believed to have its origins in Oceania and parts of eastern Asia. The results are "exciting," says David Schoenbrun, a historian specializing in Africa at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. There are various types of banana unique to Africa, and these can be eaten fresh, cooked, fried and processed to be served as baby food, juice and beer. Drivers would make eight to ten trips to the city where they would off load their bananas. A reply to Jan Vansina, Azania, 2003 | Find, read and cite all the research you need on ResearchGate Perhaps 87% of the total bananas consumed worldwide today are locally consumed; the rest is distributed outside of the wet tropical regions in which they are grown. The earliest banana evidence found in Africa is from Munsa, a site in Uganda dated to 3220 cal BC, although there are problems with the stratigraphy and chronology. Gene therapy beats premature-aging syndrome in mice, U.S. law sets stage for boost to artificial intelligence research, American Association for the Advancement of Science. Additional evidence indicates that Musa acuminata ssp banksii F. Muell was dispersed out of New Guinea and introduced into eastern Africa by ~3000 BC (Munsa and Nkang), and into South Asia (the Harappan site of Kot Diji) by 2500 cal BC, and probably earlier. Kongo was founded in 1390, so that's certainly the middle ages. This is particularly true in Africa, which has very few native domesticable plants. Today, M. acuminata is found throughout mainland and island southeast Asia including the eastern half of the Indian subcontinent; M. balbisiana is mostly found in mainland Southeast Asia. Africa : Ranking of statistics – Banana - Production (Tons) The 5 highest records for sovereign countries (1 per country) since 1961 : 1 - Tanzania - Banana - Production (Tons) was 3,507,450 Tons in 2006 2 - Angola - Banana - Production (Tons) was 3,095,013 Tons in 2013 3 - Burundi - Banana - Production (Tons) was 2,235,697 Tons in 2013 A team consisting of Julius Lejju of Mbarara University in Uganda, Peter Robertshaw of California State University, San Bernadino, and David Taylor of Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, analyzed sediment samples from the site of Munsa, about 125 kilometers northwest of Kampala. From there it was introduced to the Americas by Spanish missionaries. AA and AAA cultivars may have been introduced directly from southeast Asia, whereas AAB and ABB hybrids are more likely to have reached Africa from India or Sri Lanka. Farmers from all over the island began to plant bananas on their plantation. Yet radiocarbon dating of the samples indicated occupation up to 4500 years ago. The first recorded sale of bananas in England was in 1633 however they were expensive until the end of the 19th century. Bananas are the most popular fruit in the United States today. The earliest well-supported evidence is at Nkang, a site located in southern Cameroon, which contained banana phytoliths dated between 2,750 to 2,100 BP. Banana pollen, seeds, and pseudostem impressions are quite rare or absent at archaeological sites, and much of the recent research has been focused on the relatively new technologies associated with opal phytoliths—basically silicon copies of cells created by the plant itself. So people were probably growing bananas in East Africa by about 500 BC. The earliest well-supported evidence is at Nkang, a site located in southern Cameroon, which contained banana phytoliths dated between 2,750 to 2,100 BP. All edible bananas today are hybridized from Musa acuminata (diploid) or M. acuminata crossed with M. balbisiana (triploid). It is evident from Figure 7 that over the past decade, most of South Africa’s exports of bananas were destined to the African market. The fruit is non-seasonal, and thus available year round, where it provides key foodstuffs between seasonal harvests of other staple crops. Today there are hundreds of fully domesticated banana varieties, and an uncertain number are still in various stages of domestication: that is to say, they still are inter-fertile with wild populations. Like coconuts, bananas were most widely spread as a result of the sea exploration of the Pacific by Lapita peoples ca 3000 BP, of extensive trade voyages throughout the Indian Ocean by Arab traders, and of exploration of the Americas by Europeans. - Between 300-500 C.E., Madagascar was established and started banana cultivation over there. Bananas (Musa spp) are a tropical crop, and a staple in the wet tropic areas of Africa, the Americas, mainland and island Southeast Asia, South Asia, Melanesia, and the Pacific islands. Bananas and plantains are the world’s fourth most important food crop and are of critical importance to the food security and income generation of more than 70 million Africans. Archaeological evidence from the Kuk Swamp of the highlands of New Guinea indicates that bananas were deliberately planted by at least as long ago as 5000-4490 BC (6950-6440 cal BP). Uganda is the Banana Republic of Africa – more Bananas are grown and consumed here in the Pearl of Africa per capita than anywhere else in all of Africa. Cultivation of the original banana is believed to pre-date rice. Banana: Cultivation While not making them possible, they may have served a similar function to New World crops where their spread enabled much larger populations and thus the growth of these kingdoms. 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