A 3800 year old prehistoric garden has been found on Katzie First Nation territory, located to the east of Vancouver.
The spuds are blackened and surely inedible, but are the first proof that North American natives tended gardens at least 3,800 years ago. The excavated potato patch on the ancestral lands of the Katzie tribe in British Columbia is “the first evidence” of gardening by local hunter-gatherers of the era.
The garden was once underwater, 3800 years before, in an ecologically rich wetland. And it shows signs of sophisticated engineering techniques used to control the flow of water to more efficiently grow wild Wapato tubers, also known as Indian potatoes.
Archaeologist Tanja Hoffmann of the Katzie Development Limited Partnership and Simon Fraser University in British Columbia led the excavation of the site. It yielded more than 3,700 whole and fragmented wapato plants, which grow in wetlands and produce starchy roots similar to potatoes.
The plants were not domesticated, but Hoffmann said they were grown in a plot set over a pavement of tightly packed, uniformly sized rocks, which would have made it easier to harvest the tubers. Also discovered at the site was close to 150 fire-hardened wood tool fragments, believed to have been the tips of “digging sticks.”
They installed a rock pavement that “formed a boundary for the cultivation” of the potatoes, which were found in growing position.
Typically harvested from October to February, Wapato was an important dietary source of starch through the winter months.
The study published in the journal Science Advances’ December issue