Early Holocene cultivation before domestication in northern Syria

Early Holocene cultivation before domestication in northern Syria

Abstract Charred plant remains from the sites of Tell Qaramel, Jerf el Ahmar, Dja’de and Tell ‘Abr situated in northern Syria and dated to the tenth and ninth millennia cal B.C. demonstrate that a wide variety of wild pulses, cereals, fruits and nuts was exploited. Five lines of evidence suggest that cultivation was practised at three of the sites. (1) Wild einkorn, wild rye and lentils occur outside their natural habitats. (2) The founder crops barley, emmer and single-grained einkorn appear at different times. (3) An assemblage of weeds of cultivation was identified. (4) There is a gradual decrease in gathered plants such as small seeded grasses and Polygonum/Rumex. (5) Barley grains increase in breadth and thickness. Morphological domestication did not become established, perhaps because seed stock was regularly collected from wild stands. Charred rodent droppings indicate large-scale grain storage.

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I shall have a go at reading this one when my kids are at school tomorrow. So far, I have picked out-

A good sign of pre-domestic cultivation is the presence of wild cereals outside their natural habitats. The sites of Jerf el Ahmar, Cheik Hassan, Mureybet and Abu Hureyra are almost 200 km south of current-day wild rye habitats and between 100 and 150 km south of wild einkorn habitats.

-as interesting. Which makes it even more baffling that rye was being grown at Abu Hureyra about 13k ago, and suggests that a more northerly Euphrates based group started growing it first. However, this will have to wait until tomorrow as dinner has to be put on the table right now.

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