Friday, May 16, 2008

Map: Distribution of Widespread Fish Poisons

Below is a map showing the distribution of widespread fish poisons mentioned in the previous posting on the diffusion of ancient fishing practices.

The Tephrosia subspecies and the Derris-Lonchocarpus subspecies are especially noteworthy for the wide range of use. Remember that the subspecies within both Derris and Lonchocarpus and the subspecies between Derris and Lonchocarpus are generally very difficult to distinguish from each other physically. Quigley suggested that Derris and Lonchocarpus might one day be folded into the same genus. Currently they are part of the same tribe.

Quigley suggested that some of the poisons may have been diffused by humans across the Atlantic or Pacific although the more general current theory is that there were two major diffusion areas -- one in the "Old World" and one in the "New World."

Click on image for full size version

The map is developed from Carrol Quigley's work, and one can see a clear tropical distribution of the use of fish poisons. In some instances, as in the use of Anamirta cocculus in Brittany, the plant is imported from warmer regions.

Although archaeological evidence of fish poison use is naturally hard to come by in tropical areas nevertheless the ancient Spirit Cave site in Thailand provides evidence of fish poison plant use prior to 9000 BCE. Archaeological evidence of fish poison use in the New World has also been found in Ecuador (Engoroy Culture) dating to the first millennium BCE.

Paul Kekai Manansala


Béarez, Philippe. "First Archaeological Indication of Fishing by Poison in a Sea Environment by the Engoroy Population at Salango (Manabí, Ecuador)," Journal of Archaeological Science Volume 25, Issue 10, October 1998, 943-948.

Misra, V. N. and Peter Bellwood. Recent Advances in Indo-Pacific Prehistory..., Brill, 1985, 268.


Richard said...

I agree totally with the general tendency of your article. See: