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Original work by more than 30 leading international researchers synthesizes of our current knowledge about the origins and spread of animal domestication. In this comprehensive book, the zooarchaeological record and discussions of the evolution and development of Neolithic stock-keeping take center stage in the debate over the profound effects of the Neolithic revolution on both our biological and cultural evolution.

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The Origins and Spread of Domestic Plants in Southwest Asia and Europe

Back to top. Get to Know Us. A where the wild ancestral stocks abound today. Apart above and domestic animals. There is also a sharp from flax and barley, the wild ancestors of the quantitative and qualitative drop in the wild-species founder crops have a rather limited distribution. Assuming that their distri- such an ensemble of plants and animals in Early bution did not change drastically during the last ten PPNB Cyprus, although some of them were not yet millennia, the domestication of these crops could strictly domesticated.

It also marks the rather 9,—9, cal BP. By ca. By Neolithic agriculture could have originated. Wild the end of the ninth millennium BP, these crops forms of einkorn wheat, lentil, pea, and bitter vetch were grown in Obre in Bosnia-Hercegovina and in have a somewhat wider distribution, but all, includ- Jeitun in Turkmenia. Soon after, agriculture appears ing barley, are centered in the Fertile Crescent; that as far west as Balma Margineda in Andorra, Spain, is, the region in which the earliest farming villages and Sacarovca in Moldavia—and as far south as have been discovered.

By the second half of the eighth millennium BP, the Linearbandkeramik farming culture was already firmly established in The spread of south-west Asian crops loess soil regions throughout central Europe, A most remarkable feature of south-west Asian extending to Poland in the east, to northern France, Neolithic agriculture is its rapid expansion soon and Germany in the west.

At the same time, early after establishment in the nuclear area see Map Neolithic farming villages appeared in south Spain, 2—Plate 6. The quality and quantity of available the Nile Valley, and in Chokh in Caucasia. Comprehensive information is early farming cultures is available for Europe, available for most parts of Europe, but there is much where radiocarbon dating of sites exhibiting evi- sparser and frequently incomplete documentation dence of early farming enabled the reconstruction from Caucasia, Eastern Europe, and central Asia.

In of the diffusion of agriculture. The evidence from Africa, critical data on plant remains are available Caucasia, central Asia, and eastern Europe is much only for Egypt but a few current projects might add more fragmentary. Yet the finds retrieved from sites vital data for north Africa.

In spite of the uneven including Jeitun p. Asia happened relatively early, although it took The spread of agriculture from its south-west longer to reach Transcaucasia and the Nile Valley. Asian core to Europe and central Asia involves the All over these vast areas, the start of food produc- species contained in the Neolithic crop assemblage. Map 2 Plate 6 summarizes the information about the six most important south-west Asian crops: Availability of archaeological evidence emmer wheat including its free-threshing deriva- tives , einkorn wheat, barley, lentil, pea, and flax.

Any attempt to reconstruct the origins and diffu- From the data presented in this map and in Chapter sion of agriculture in Eurasia and Africa must 10, it is evident that crops domesticated in the address the uneven archaeological record. As south-west Asian core area were the initiators of already mentioned, plant remains of Europe, food production in Europe, central Asia, and the south-west Asia, and the Mediterranean Basin pro- Mediterranean Basin including the Nile Valley.

In contrast, the archaeobotanical evidence more of the other south-west Asian founder crops from central and eastern parts of Asia and from east- frequently present as well. It is very poor in Establishment of the south-west Asian crop Africa north of the Sahara. Consequently, while the assemblage in the Fertile Crescent and its spread early stages of food production in south-west Asia both west to Europe and east to central Asia and are relatively well documented, most founder crops to the Indian subcontinent was rapid see Map are adequately identified, and the expansion to 2—Plate 6.

However in the last few years, archaeobo- Its dry tubers were found in large quantities in tanical findings in these agricultural domains have Egypt from pre-dynastic times on. The early improved considerably. The history of crop domes- appearance of broomcorn millet, Panicum mil- tication in the African Savanna belt is still largely iaceum, in the Caspian basin and the Czech uncharted and we still know very little about the Republic pp.

However, since the archaeological evi- region Harlan a.

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In numerous cases, the wild progenitors Asia, or whether this cereal represents an east have not yet been satisfactorily identified or they Asiatic domestication independent of the south- are only very superficially known. However, critical west Asian diffusion.


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Their essential role in the independent rise of farming in China is now Olive, grapevine, fig, and date palm seem to have well documented. Definite signs of olive and date-palm Eurasia and Africa is unbalanced. While there is domestication appear in Chalcolithic Levant about relatively reliable information on its development 6,—6, cal BP. Indications of date-palm domes- in the classical Old World, we are largely unin- tication are also available from contemporary lower formed of events south and east of this area.

We also Mesopotamia. We still do not know the extent of know relatively little about the early interactions Chalcolithic horticulture. Except for the Israel- between west Asia and the major agricultural prov- Jordan area, the archaeobotanical information from inces in east and south Asia, and in Africa south of seventh—sixth millennia BP sites in the Levant is the Sahara.

Signs of additional domesticants start appearing These crops were subsequently planted throughout soon after the introduction of south-west Asia the Mediterranean Basin. The extensive Bronze Age agriculture to Europe, central Asia, and the cultivation of olives and grapes is indicated by the Mediterranean Basin. Addition of some of these appearance of numerous presses and remains of crops obviously took place outside south-west storage facilities for olive oil and wine. At the same Asia, but they developed within the already estab- time, dates were domesticated on the southern lished agriculture of the south-west Asian crop fringes and the warm river basins of the south-west assemblage.

The poppy, Papaver somniferum, pro- Asia, and they abound in the Nile Valley during the vides a well-documented example of such domes- New Kingdom. Both the area of distribution of the wild Apple, pear, plum, and cherry seem to have been poppy and the archaeological finds p.

It was added to the in the first millennium BC. Chufa, domesticated extensively only after the introduc- Cyperus esculentus, is another example of an early tion of this sophisticated method of vegetative local addition, this time in the Nile Valley p. Thus, during the sixth millennium BP, those harvested from domesticated orchards. To a eastern Mediterranean Basin human societies large extent, recognizing domestication in fruit belonging to the Chalcolithic and Bronze Age cul- crops is based on circumstantial evidence, such as tures, were introduced to the use of copper and the finding of fruit remains in areas in which the bronze, and they also mastered horticulture.

Vegetables oil, wine. It is difficult, therefore, to determine the initial stage of fruit crop domestication: in other This is the least-known group of domesticated food words, it might well be that olive, grape, fig, or date plants of the Old World.

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Vegetable material consists cultivation did not originate in the Chalcolithic almost entirely of perishable soft tissues, which sixth millennium BP , but was already active in the stand a meagre chance of charring and surviving as late Neolithic seventh millennium BP. Consequently, Despite these uncertainties, the following have only few vegetable remains have been detected in been confirmed: a the earliest definite signs of fruit excavations. The exceptions here are Egyptian and tree domestication appear in the south-west Asia; Judean Desert caves. In Egypt, especially arid coun- b horticulture developed only after the firm estab- try vegetables placed in pyramids and graves com- lishment of grain agriculture; c as with grain crops, monly survived by desiccation, and show that several local wild fruits were taken into domestica- garlic, leek, onion, lettuce, melon, watermelon, and tion at about the same time; d domestication of chufa were cultivated in the Nile Valley in the sec- fruit crops relied heavily on the invention of vegeta- ond and the first millennia BC.

As amply described tive propagation; e planting of perennial fruit trees by Keimer , , vegetable gardens consti- is a long-term investment, promoting a fully settled tuted an important element of food production in way of life; f soon after its successful establish- Egyptian dynastic times. However, early and south-west Asia; and g after the introduction literary sources show that by the start of the second of grafting pp. Furthermore, in both areas the crops grown were Available archaeobotanical evidence of the more or less the same. The only major exception beginning of fruit-crop domestication can also be was chufa which was restricted, almost entirely, to supported by information on the wild relatives.

Wild olive, grapevine, fig, and date are widely In summary, available evidence makes it clear distributed over the Mediterranean and south- that by the Bronze Age vegetable crops were part of west Asia. They have a wide geographic distribu- food production both in Lower Mesopotamia and tion, so this by itself does not provide critical in Egypt. It is very likely that this geographic pat- values for a precise delimitation of the place of tern is not accidental.


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