Tag Archives: domestication

The case for and against cattle domestication and sorghum cultivation at Nabta Playa

First of all a link to a Fred Wendorf paper on Nabta PLaya.

Nabta Playa and Its Role in Northeastern African Prehistory

Nabta Playabasin offers an unprecedented longitudinal view on the emergence, consolidation and complexification on human–livestock relationships, from the early stage of the Early Holocene (c. 11,000 cal. B.P.) to 6000 B.P. The problem of cattle domestication in Northeastern Africa is considered and hopefully ‘‘solved’’ in the light of new mtDNA evidence which suggest an early late Pleistocene split between African, Asian, and Eurasian wild Bospopulations. The paper presents a contextualized analysis of almost all the components of archaeological investigation, including climatic change, culture history of Early to Mid-Holocene Nabta-Playans, the development of social differentiation, and probably ranking with ‘‘labor-consuming’’ megalithic features with the emergence of characteristic features of pastoralideology and religions. As far as the emergence and adoption of new food ways are concerned, the cultural development outlined with the Nabta Playa  archaeological record is important for the understanding of the Holocene prehistory of Africa as a whole.

nabta1

One of the most interesting bits (my POV) from this paper was the presence of legumes at about 10,000 BC.

One of these sites yielded charred seeds of wild millet and two varieties of legumes (Wasylikowa, report to F. Wendorf 1996)

It also has a reference to possible early domesticated sorghum. Although again the case is bit weak. There’s more reference to it here. The seeds don’t appear to resemble any kind of cultivated sorghum though. They did seem to be harvesting and storing them in large amounts; some of the houses had storage pits for the grains.

Preliminary chemicalanalyses by infrared spectroscopy of the lipids in the archaeological sorghum show closer resemblance to some modern domestic sorghum than to wild varieties (Wasylikowa et al. 1993)

In a later publication (97)  Wasylikowa describes the Sorghum as more likely to be wild, after another study of the seeds showed them to be typically wild seeds. 

Smaller grain size and the lack of any spikelets containing attached branchlets of the inflorescence or rachis fragments suggest that the material harvested and eaten at the Nabta Playa site were of a wild type.

This sorghum doesn’t seem to ‘spread out’, as farmers tend to expand massively into their hunter gatherer neighbours very rapidly. The expansion of domesticated sorgum doesn’t seem to begin until the expansion  of the domesticated donkey, which parallels it’s spread into Asia quite well, and the donkey seems to have been domesticated about 6,000 BP.

It also mentions the barley from this site, once thought to be an ancient domesticate, but now known to be a neolithic contaminant.

The barley recovered from this site during the 1977 excavations (Hadidi in Wendorf and Schild 1980: 347) is regarded as intrusive.

And the first appearance of goats and sheep.

Around 8000 cal B.P. there was an important new addition to the food economy of the Middle Neolithic. Domestic caprovids, either sheep or goat, or both, were introduced from Southwest Asia, probably by way of the Nile Valley (although the oldest radiocarbon dates now available for the Neolithic along the Nile are about 500 years later)

Since the only legumes I know of come from Anatolia, I shall dig a bit deeper into this. This could possibly be a breadcrumb for my ‘proto-Neolithic’ expansion from the near east, circa 13,000 to 14,000 years ago. The paper has made me warm a bit more to pastoralism there in the Holocene, although I’m not sure that it went beyond providing water to keep the cattle around. The claims for dairying are a bit dubious IMO. There’s a link here to a Wendorf item on the Saharan cattle. I think analysing lipids on the surviving pottery from the era might be a good way forward in this case. There have done some kind of analysis along these lines already (sorghum lipids) but there was no sign of milk fats -I’m sure Wendorf would have mentioned them  if they had been found. If there were dairy fats in the pots that would be a different story, a wild cow isn’t going to let a human near her udders. One of my main objections to the very early pastoralism at Nabta PLaya is that it should have seen a population expansion from the area, and to date no sign of that is to be found.

Also, to quote another source…

Grigson’s study concluded cattle from all periods at Nabta Playa were morphologically wild (2000).

Smith’s study: morphologically wild prior to and including the El Nabta/Al Jerar Maximum (7050 – 6150 BC), but domesticated from the Ru’at El Ghanam phase (5900 – 5500 BC) onward

From the Wendorf item on cattle domestication, it states that domesticated sheep, goats etc are all included in the proto Sahelian, but (as he says above) they all arrive with the early neolithic from the near East about 8,000 years ago along with agriculture (they have been shown to be native Asian domesticates, not African, and the date is more like 7,500 years), so the 9,000 year time depth given for proto Sahelian seems unlikely, 7,500 years or younger would make more sense. These Sahelian words appear to be words of Neolithic and not older origin. You’d also expect the domesticated cattle dates in Mali and Mauritania to be a lot older than 4,200 years if the Sahara was the source of very early domesticated cattle.

Another issue is how long it takes animals to show physical signs of domestication. The domestication of Asian cattle now seeming about 11,000 years old) didn’t show any real changes until about 9,500 years ago, a similar situation is seen with domesticated donkeys-they show signs of load bearing and heavy labour for about 1000 years  before they begin to change physically. This would suggest some leeway in the morphologically studies of the cattle. However, there should still have been physically differentiated domesticated African cattle existing right across the Nile region and the Sahara/East Africa by about 7,5000 BP; domesticates spread out quickly, as does pastoralism/agriculture, and there is no sign of fully domesticated cattle at so early a date in Africa. If there were, they should be definably different to the Asian domesticates (through drift) by the time the sheep, goats, and cereals arrive from Asia. So far, domesticated cattle track the arrival of the rest of the neolithic, evidence for domestication in Nabta is still negligible.

Linguistic evidence

The Proto-Northern Sudanic language contains root words such as “to drive,” “cow, “grain,””ear of grain,” and “grindstone.” Any of these might apply to food production, but another root word meaning “to milk” is cetainly the most convincing evidence of incipient pastoralism. There are also root words for “temporary shelter” and “to make a pot.” In the succeeding Proto-Saharo-Sahelian language, there are root words for “to cultivate”, “to prepare field”, to “clear” (of weeds), and “cultivated field.” this is the first unambiguous linguistic evidence of cultivation. There are also words for “thornbush cattle pen,” “fence,” “yard,” “grannary,” as well as “to herd” and “cattle.” In the following Proto-Sahelian period, there are root words for “goat,” “sheep,” “ram,” and “lamb,” indicating the presence of small livestock. There are root words for “cow,” “bull,” “ox,” and “young cow” or “heifer” and, indeed, a variety of terms relating to cultivation and permanent houses

The word for grindstone could date back to about 25k ago, so it’s not likely to be associated with agriculture, and wild grains were being eaten in the area for a very long time, as were cattle. As for the word ‘to milk’, it’s suggestive but again not exactly solid. Pottery in the Sahara does go back that far though, and the main word for pot seems to have derived from water pot, which is interesting. There are cached book links here and here that go into this in more depth, but as they’ve already make a miscalculation for the age of proto Sahelian judging by the inclusion of sheep and goats which dates it securely to the arrivval of the neolithic-as sheep and goats are not native to Africa and only appear when the domesticates are being herded in from Asia. Non- pastoral people in the Sahara were penning and keeping wild animals (Barbary sheep at Uan Afada); so assuming terms that describe fencing in animals must be from domestication is a fallacy. In essence the presence of the words goat and sheep in proto Sahelian, that can only date to the Neolithic, torpedoes a lot of the linguistics argument, and means proto Sahelian probably has a date of 7,500 BP or slightly younger. This would bring proto Sahara Sahelian within the range of the Neolithic as well, as it’s only slightly older (estimated). A link to the Nilo Saharan Language family family tree. In fact, I’d suggest the presence of agricultural terms dates the arrival of the Neolithic, rather than showing agriculture there at an earlier date. This also casts some major doubt on Ehrets dates for proto Sudanic if it’s estimated by the same method.

This linguistic information would really depend on the dating of the age of proto Sudanic. One inaccuracy I’ve spotted in these links is that Proto Indo European is down as 6,000 years old; it’s now estimated at more like 9,000 years, seems to come from Turkey and is a very good match for the start date and location of the Neolithic expansion. There’s another link that discusses the claimed domestication.

So,  predating the Asian domestication seems unlikely (since it now dates pretty reliable back to 11,000 Bp, the same as sheep and goats), and in a lot of African sites domesticated cattle bones don’t show up until sheep, goats and grain do. It’s not convincing for a very early domestication in the Sahara, although there does seem to have been a specific domestication of African cattle at some point, similar to the domestication of the Zebu In Pakistan. My theory is that the Asian cattle just weren’t up to the local climate and parasites and tended to die in droves, making a local domestications necessary. I’d suggest African cattle domestication probably dates to the Neolithic, sometime between 8,000 and 6,000 BP, and so does sorghum.

Earliest date for milk use in the Near East and southeastern Europe linked to cattle herding

Earliest date for milk use in the Near East and southeastern Europe linked to cattle herding
Richard P. Evershed1, Sebastian Payne2, Andrew G. Sherratt3,16, Mark S. Copley1, Jennifer Coolidge4, Duska Urem-Kotsu5, Kostas Kotsakis5, Mehmet Özdoan6, Aslý E. Özdoan7, Olivier Nieuwenhuyse8, Peter M. M. G. Akkermans8, Douglass Bailey9, Radian-Romus Andeescu10, Stuart Campbell11, Shahina Farid12, Ian Hodder13, Nurcan Yalman14, Mihriban Özbaaran6, Erhan Bçakc6, Yossef Garfinkel14, Thomas Levy15 & Margie M. Burton15

The domestication of cattle, sheep and goats had already taken place in the Near East by the eighth millennium bc1, 2, 3. Although there would have been considerable economic and nutritional gains from using these animals for their milk and other products from living animals—that is, traction and wool—the first clear evidence for these appears much later, from the late fifth and fourth millennia bc4, 5. Hence, the timing and region in which milking was first practised remain unknown. Organic residues preserved in archaeological pottery6, 7 have provided direct evidence for the use of milk in the fourth millennium in Britain7, 8, 9, and in the sixth millennium in eastern Europe10, based on the 13C values of the major fatty acids of milk fat6, 7. Here we apply this approach to more than 2,200 pottery vessels from sites in the Near East and southeastern Europe dating from the fifth to the seventh millennia bc. We show that milk was in use by the seventh millennium; this is the earliest direct evidence to date. Milking was particularly important in northwestern Anatolia, pointing to regional differences linked with conditions more favourable to cattle compared to other regions, where sheep and goats were relatively common and milk use less important. The latter is supported by correlations between the fat type and animal bone evidence.

I can’t access the whole text (again), but this puts the earliest dairying in Anatolia at 8,500 years ago

The domestication of sorghum

sorghum

From this paper.

Sorghum domestication
Arthropological evidence suggests that hunter-gatherers consumed sorghum as early as 8000 BC (Smith and Frederiksen, 2000). The domestication of sorghum has its origins in Ethiopia and surrounding countries, commencing around 4000–3000 BC. Numerous varieties of sorghum were created through the practice of disruptive selection, whereby selection for more than one level of a particular character within a population occurs (Doggett, 1970). This results from a balance of farmer selection for cultivated traits and natural selection for wild characteristics, generating both improved sorghum types, wild types and intermediate types (Doggett, 1970). These improved sorghum types were spread via the movement of people and trade routes into other regions of Africa, India (approx. 1500–1000 BC), the Middle East (approx. 900–700 BC) and eventually into the Far East (approx. AD 400). By the time sorghum was transported to America during the late 1800s to early 1900s, the diversity of new sorghum types, varieties and races created through the movement of people, disruptive selection, geographic isolation and recombination of these types in different environments would have been large (Wright, 1931; Doggett, 1970).

This would date the domestication of sorghum to roughly the same era that the Neolithic arrived in east Africa, about 6,000 years ago, and would seem to be a secondary domesticate. There is a mention in a Wendorf ? article that lipids in a sorghum pot from el Nabta were more like domesticated Sorghum..

Radiocarbon dates place the El Nabta sites between 8,100 and 7,900 B.P. One of these, E-75-6, is much larger than the others and consists of a series of shallow, oval hut floors at–ranged in two, possibly three, parallel lines. Beside each house was one or more bell-shaped storage pits; nearby were several deep (2.5 m) and shallow (1.5 m) water-wells. This site, located near the bottom of a large basin, was flooded by the summer rains. The houses were repeatedly used, probably during harvests in fall and winter Several thousand remains of edible plants have been recovered from these house floors. They include seeds, fruits, and tubers representing 44 different kinds of plants, including sorghum and millets. All of the plants are morphologically wild, but chemical analysis by infrared spectroscopy of the lipids in the sorghum indicates that this plant may have been cultivated. Of the four El Nabta sites that have yielded fauna, two contained bones of a large bovid identified as Bos. The faunal samples from the other two sites are very small.

But it’s not exactly conclusive.

There’s a book reference here for sorghum.

Prehistoric contacts over the Straits of Gibraltar indicated by genetic analysis of Iberian Bronze Age cattle

Prehistoric contacts over the Straits of Gibraltar indicated by genetic analysis of Iberian Bronze Age cattle
Cecilia Anderung*, Abigail Bouwman†, Per Persson‡, José Miguel Carretero§, Ana Isabel Ortega§, Rengert Elburg¶, Colin Smith∥, Juan Luis Arsuaga**, Hans Ellegren*, and Anders Götherström*,††
+Author Affiliations
The geographic situation of the Iberian Peninsula makes it a natural link between Europe and North Africa. However, it is a matter of debate to what extent African influences via the Straits Gibraltar have affected Iberia’s prehistoric development. Because early African pastoralist communities were dedicated to cattle breeding, a possible means to detect prehistoric African–Iberian contacts might be to analyze the origin of cattle breeds on the Iberian Peninsula. Some contemporary Iberian cattle breeds show a mtDNA haplotype, T1, that is characteristic to African breeds, generally explained as being the result of the Muslim expansion of the 8th century A.D., and of modern imports. To test a possible earlier African influence, we analyzed mtDNA of Bronze Age cattle from the Portalón cave at the Atapuerca site in northern Spain. Although the majority of samples showed the haplotype T3 that dominates among European breeds of today, the T1 haplotype was found in one specimen radiocarbon dated 1800 calibrated years B.C. Accepting T1 as being of African origin, this result indicates prehistoric African–Iberian contacts and lends support to archaeological finds linking early African and Iberian cultures. We also found a wild ox haplotype in the Iberian Bronze Age sample, reflecting local hybridization or backcrossing or that aurochs were hunted by these farming cultures.

It seems they were moving cattle across the straits about 4,000 years ago.

Dingoes arrived in Australia about 6,000 years ago, from China.

The dingo may have been introduced on a single occasion to Australia

Dingo, APA genetic analysis of the Australian dingo suggests the dogs tagged along on an epic expansion of people out of southern China around 6,000 years ago.
An international team claims dingoes descend from a small group that could have been introduced to Australia in a “single chance event” from Asia.

Evidence from mitochondrial DNA suggests that the wild dogs arrived on the continent around 5,000 years ago.

The work appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Peter Savolainen of the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, and colleagues think the introduction of the dogs may be associated with the spread of seafaring Austronesian-speaking people throughout South-East Asia.

The Austronesian culture had its origins in south China, expanding from Taiwan via the Philippines to Indonesia.

Although dingoes are now wild, they descend from domestic dogs that accompanied these Austronesians on their voyages.

Family tree

The new data comes from an analysis of dingo, dog and wolf mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) types. This is the DNA found in the cell’s “power houses”, and it is passed down from parent to offspring on the maternal side only.

On a family tree of mtDNA types in different members of the dog family, dingoes sit on a major branch alongside 70% of domestic dog sequences.

All the dingo mtDNA types either belonged to or showed great similarity to a single type called A29.

DNA links dingoes to an expansion out of southern China
Studies of dingo physiques suggest they are very similar to Indian pariah dogs and wolves. This has led some researchers to propose that seafaring peoples from India may have introduced them to Australia.

But among domestic dogs, A29 is found only in East Asia, suggesting the dogs’ origins lie here, rather than on the Indian subcontinent. The researchers analysed mtDNA sequences in 211 dingoes and compared them to a world-wide sample of 676 dogs.

When Europeans arrived in Australia, the dingo was widespread, living mostly as a wild animal. However, some Aboriginal groups kept them as pets or as hunting dogs.

And the DNA study for more detail

A detailed picture of the origin of the Australian dingo, obtained from the study of mitochondrial DNA
Peter Savolainen*,†, Thomas Leitner‡, Alan N. Wilton§, Elizabeth Matisoo-Smith¶, and Joakim Lundeberg*
+Author Affiliations 

Abstract
To determine the origin and time of arrival to Australia of the dingo, 582 bp of the mtDNA control region were analyzed in 211 Australian dingoes sampled in all states of Australia, 676 dogs from all continents, and 38 Eurasian wolves, and 263 bp were analyzed in 19 pre-European archaeological dog samples from Polynesia. We found that all mtDNA sequences among dingoes were either identical to or differing by a single substitution from a single mtDNA type, A29. This mtDNA type, which was present in >50% of the dingoes, was found also among domestic dogs, but only in dogs from East Asia and Arctic America, whereas 18 of the 19 other types were unique to dingoes. The mean genetic distance to A29 among the dingo mtDNA sequences indicates an origin ≈5,000 years ago. From these results a detailed scenario of the origin and history of the dingo can be derived: dingoes have an origin from domesticated dogs coming from East Asia, possibly in connection with the Austronesian expansion into Island Southeast Asia. They were introduced from a small population of dogs, possibly at a single occasion, and have since lived isolated from other dog populations

Domestication of the horse dates back 5,600 years in Kazakhstan.

przewalski

A wild Przewalski’s horse. Probably close to how ancient wild horses looked.

I was looking up this subject in relation to the wheel. I found this article:

Soil from a Copper Age site in northern Kazakhstan has yielded new evidence for domesticated horses up to 5,600 years ago. The discovery, consisting of phosphorus-enriched soils inside what appear to be the remains of horse corrals beside pit houses, matches what would be expected from Earth once enriched by horse manure. The Krasnyi Yar site was inhabited by people of the Botai culture of the Eurasian Steppe, who relied heavily on horses for food, tools, and transport.

“There’s very little direct evidence of horse domestication,” says Sandra Olsen, an archaeologist and horse domestication researcher at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, PA. That’s because 5,600 years ago there were no saddles or metal bits to leave behind. Equipment like bridles, leads, and hobbles would have been made from thongs of horse hide, and would have rotted away long ago. Likewise horses themselves have not changed much physically as a result of domestication, unlike dogs or cattle. So ancient horse bones don’t easily reveal the secrets of domestication.

With research funding from the National Science Foundation, Olsen’s team took a different tack. They looked for circumstantial evidence that people were keeping horses. One approach was to survey the Krasnyi Yar site with instruments to map out subtle electrical and magnetic irregularities in the soils. With this they were able to identify the locations of 54 pit houses and dozens of post moulds where vertical posts once stood. Some of the post moulds were arranged circularly, as would be most practical for a corral.

Next, geologist Michael Rosenmeier from the University of Pittsburgh collected soil samples from inside the fenced area and outside the settlement. The samples were analyzed for nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium concentrations by Rosemary Capo, University of Pittsburgh geochemist, and her students. Modern horse manure is rich in phosphorous, potassium, and especially nitrogen, compared to undisturbed soils. But because nitrogen is mobile in soils, it can be lost to groundwater or transferred to the atmosphere by organic and inorganic processes. Phosphorus, on the other hand, can be locked into place by calcium and iron and is more likely to be preserved in the soils for millennia.

As it turned out, the soil from inside the alleged corral had up to ten times the phosphorus concentration as the soils from outside the settlement. Lots of phosphorus can also indicate a hearth, said Capo, but that phosphorus is usually accompanied by a lot of potassium, which is not the case in the corral at Krasnyi Yar.

The corral soils also had low nitrogen concentrations, says Capo, reducing the likelihood that the phosphorus came from more recent manure. “That’s good, actually,” she said of the recently completed nitrogen analyses. “It suggests we’ve got old stuff.”

I had a nose about on line, and the same team also want to analyse pottery for the remains of mares milk, which would confirm domestication.

While on this subject I found mt DNA study that suggests the horse was domesticated in multiple locations; Asia, Europe and Iberia/NW Africa.

Mitochondrial DNA and the origins of the domestic horse.

The place and date of the domestication of the horse has long been a matter for debate among archaeologists. To determine whether horses were domesticated from one or several ancestral horse populations, we sequenced the mitochondrial D-loop for 318 horses from 25 oriental and European breeds, including American mustangs. Adding these sequences to previously published data, the total comes to 652, the largest currently available database. From these sequences, a phylogenetic network was constructed that showed that most of the 93 different mitochondrial (mt)DNA types grouped into 17 distinct phylogenetic clusters. Several of the clusters correspond to breeds and/or geographic areas, notably cluster A2, which is specific to Przewalski’s horses, cluster C1, which is distinctive for northern European ponies, and cluster D1, which is well represented in Iberian and northwest African breeds. A consideration of the horse mtDNA mutation rate together with the archaeological time frame for domestication requires at least 77 successfully breeding mares recruited from the wild. The extensive genetic diversity of these 77 ancestral mares leads us to conclude that several distinct horse populations were involved in the domestication of the horse.

The Aurignacian domestication of the dog.

The Goyet dog.

goyet

 

A few months ago during my reading up on domesticates, I posted a piece on how the mt DNA of modern dogs was 15,000 years old and traced back to China. Well, it seem that this was premature, or at best only half the picture. A study of mulitple ancient canid remains concluded that one Belgian specimen from Goyet wasn’t a wolf, but was sufficiently different to be recognised as a dog. At a staggering 31,700 years old. The oldest domesticated animal known, as far as I know at least. Prior to this the oldest domesticate was also a dog, but Russian and 14,000 years old.

agoyetbdogcwolf

Skulls compared. A: Goyet dog, B: dog, C: wolf.

The Paleolithic dogs had wider and shorter snouts and relatively wider brain cases than fossil and recent wolves. They are described as-being Husky like, but the size of large shepherd dogs. A real mans dog. I’m guessing it’s main functions were hunting and guarding the home. 

From what I’ve read of the Belyaev foxes, it only takes 20 generations to fully domesticate (10 to usable levels) a wild animal.

The discrepancy between the mt DNA and the fossil evidence (don’t get me started) is explained by this publication; Ancient DNA supports lineage replacement in European dog gene pool: insight into Neolithic South-East France, which suggests that the older Mt DNA lineages have a very different frequency, and suggesting that some were lost altogether, saying that..

Altogether, these results support the proposition that palaeogenetic studies are essential for the reconstruction of the past demographic history and the domestication process of dogs.

Which would explain why their mt DNA seems to have ‘got lost’. Prior to this I put down claims of Aurignacian dogs as a bit far fetched, but it seems they may be true. One passage, that I’ve lifted straight from John Hawks, read..

Ancient, 26,000-year-old footprints made by a child and a dog at Chauvet Cave, France, support the pet notion. Torch wipes accompanying the prints indicate the child held a torch while navigating the dark corridors accompanied by a dog

Apparently he’d never heard of this either, which means the rest of us shouldn’t feel bad about not knowing it.

Plants and people from the Early Neolithic to Shang periods in North China

Plants and people from the Early Neolithic to Shang periods in North China
Gyoung-Ah Lee*, Gary W. Crawford†,‡, Li Liu*, and Xingcan Chen§
+Author Affiliations

*Archaeology Program, La Trobe University, Victoria 3086, Australia;
†Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto Mississauga, Mississauga, ON, Canada L5L 1C6; and
§Chinese Academy of Social Science, Beijing 100710, China
Communicated by Bruce D. Smith, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, November 11, 2006 (received for review August 15, 2006)

An assemblage of charred plant remains collected from 26 sites in the Yiluo valley of North China as part of an archaeological survey spans the period from the sixth millennium to 1300 calibrated calendrical years (cal) B.C. The plant remains document a long sequence of crops, weeds, and other plants in the country. The results also demonstrate the effectiveness of sediment sampling as part of an archaeological survey. Ten accelerator mass spectrometer (AMS) radiocarbon dates on crop remains inform an assessment of the sequence of agricultural development in the region. Foxtail millet (Setaria italica subsp. italica) was grown during the Early Neolithic period and was the principal crop for at least four millennia. Broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum) was significantly less important throughout the sequence. Rice (Oryza sativa) was introduced by 3000 cal B.C. but apparently was not an important local crop. Wheat became a significant crop between 1600 and 1300 cal B.C. The weed flora diversified through time and were dominated by annual grasses, some of which were probably fodder for domesticated animals. The North China farming tradition that emphasized dry crops (millets, wheat, and legumes) with some rice appears to have been established at the latest by the Early Shang (Erligang; 1600–1300 B.C.) period

Early Neolithic.

Peiligang sites here are small, and cultural deposits are thin, so their representation in our sample is low. Nevertheless, foxtail millet is part of the plant assemblage at Wuluoxipo and Fudian E, in contrast to the Early Neolithic occupations at Xinglonggou in Inner Mongolia and Yuezhuang in Shandong, where broomcorn millet predominates. Weeds are represented only at Wuluoxipo by probable green foxtail grass. Both broomcorn and foxtail millet are reported from the Peiligang site (6), so the absence of broomcorn millet from the small sample in the Yiluo valley late Peiligang is not necessarily evidence of its absence. The two flotation samples, because they contain millet and annual weeds, are qualitatively similar to the rest of the Yiluo survey samples, although they are among the lowest in density of all of the samples. The low density is suggestive of less-intensive food production, but this suggestion needs to be tested by more comprehensive sampling.

Middle Neolithic

Millets are the main crop remains during the Yiluo valley Late Yangshao. Weedy annuals are also quite common. Seed densities are higher at Late Yangshao sites than in the Early Neolithic (Fig. 3), suggesting a greater intensity of crop production and land disturbance by 3500–3000 B.C. Rice phytoliths have been identified at the Yulinzhuang site, situated on the tableland near the Shengshui River (3). Charred rice is in samples that are part of the ongoing analysis of samples from the excavation phase of the Zhaocheng site (Table 1). Subsistence may have been enhanced with the introduction of rice either as a trade item or as a locally grown crop. A possible soybean is in the Zhaocheng sample, but the plant appears to have no more significance there than at other sites in the region. Climatic amelioration and fertile, stable lowlands probably contributed to the success of intensifying agricultural production with two types of millets and possibly rice and soybean being grown. By this time, a two-tiered settlement hierarchy had appeared in the region with the rise of the large center at Zhaocheng (2) in addition to a number of small sites. The other Late Yangshao occupations sampled are the comparatively small ones. The samples, one or two pits from each site, are far too few to provide a comprehensive assessment of hierarchical specialization here. In fact, the evidence for such specialization from the perspective of the plant remains is weak.

Late Neolithic.

Foxtail millet is still the dominant crop during the Longshan. Broomcorn millet density is higher in both the Early and Late Longshan period compared with other periods. Three sites have relatively dense representation of this millet, the highest for all sampled periods (Table 1). Rice is present at Huizui, and an AMS date on the rice (SNU04416) confirms its Late Longshan association in the Yiluo region (Fig. 2). Rice phytoliths have been found in pit samples at Nanshi and Luokou NE, but charred grains have not been found at either location (3). The majority of weedy grasses appear to be millet-tribe grasses (Paniceae) and exhibit far greater morphological variation than do the grasses from earlier periods. Some specimens may be Panicoideae rather than Paniceae. The mannagrass-type seeds are more common than in preceding periods, suggesting that, if the specimens are mannagrass, aquatic habitats are increasing in local significance. Anthropogenic habitats were far more extensive in the Longshan period, and people may have encouraged the grasses, possibly for fodder. Indeed, the Late Longshan Huizui occupation has significant evidence of livestock, primarily pig, but also cattle, sheep, and goat.

Population density, intensified intergroup conflict, and social stratification all increased during the Longshan in the Huanghe basin. The Late Longshan marked a significant increase in the number of sites compared with the preceding Early Longshan, when there was a significant drop in settlement numbers, perhaps representing a local depopulation. Hierarchically organized societies were well established by this time. Agricultural intensification evidenced by expansion of anthropogenic habitats and higher densities of crops correlates with these developments. Broad interregional interaction such as trade in the Yiluo region is evidenced for the first time. To what extent plants were traded is a question for further research. For example, rice may have been a product brought to the region from the south and east. Increasing land instability and climate deterioration during the third millennium B.C. did not deter agricultural intensification (9). The deterioration clearly did not go beyond the tolerances of productive agriculture.

Erlitou Period.

The trends noted for the earlier periods continue. Rice is more prevalent in the samples, although it is still rare and restricted to the large sites, particularly Shaochai. The large Erlitou-period sites also have higher weed diversity, but this may well be a factor of the larger sample size from this period. Preliminary animal-bone analysis at Huizui indicates the continuing importance of livestock. Pigs are dominant, followed by cattle, sheep/goats, and dogs. Many of the weeds are potential animal fodder as they may have been earlier in the valley. Stable isotope analyses at the Yangshao period Xipo site in western Henan provide evidence that pigs and dogs consumed substantial quantities of C4 plants, probably domesticated millet and green foxtail grass (21). Settlement number and size increased significantly during the Erlitou period, and the first major urban center emerged at the Erlitou site (3). Settlement nucleation appears in the survey area for the first time. Shaochai is a large regional administration center, subsidiary to Erlitou (3). The rest of the settlements dating to this period consist of large, medium, and small sites. Small sites have no evidence of craft specialization (2), so they were probably agricultural villages.

Erligang (Early Shang) Period.

Erligang samples are not as numerous as those from the preceding Erlitou period because of a significant reduction in population in the Yiluo valley. Most Erligang period sites are small because the primary urban center moved from Erlitou to Yanshi and subsequently ≈60 km east to Zhengzhou (2). Nevertheless, four sites have substantial plant remains. Foxtail millet still outnumbers other crops, but wheat has the second-highest representation next to foxtail millet at this time (Table 1). The Erligang association of wheat is confirmed by an AMS date (Fig. 2). Beefsteak plant, a potential domesticate for seasoning, oil, and possibly leafy greens, first appears in the flotation record at this time (SI Fig. 15). Rice constitutes a negligible proportion of the grain at the Shangzhuang and Tianposhuiku sites.

Discussion
Conducting flotation during the survey stage of this project has proven to be an effective heuristic device as well as a method for developing basic knowledge of subsistence through time in a narrowly defined region, the Yiluo valley. Interpretations and limitations of the data must be contextualized in terms of sample size and type. In particular, plants that people rarely used are likely not represented in the flotation samples, so, for example, the initial appearance of introduced crops such as wheat and rice may not be resolvable yet. Two crops, hemp (C. sativa) and canola or rapeseed (B. rapa) reported from a few Neolithic sites in North China have not been found in the Yiluo sequence. Foxtail millet was an important crop, whereas broomcorn millet was a minor, secondary crop throughout the sequence. Broomcorn millet was probably an important insurance food in case of drought. We need to assess whether the Early Neolithic predominance of broomcorn over foxtail millet at Xinglonggou and Yuezhuang ca. 6000 cal B.C. is a regional phenomenon or whether broomcorn millet was domesticated earlier than foxtail millet. No occupations contemporary with these sites are known in the Yiluo valley. However, we suspect that the predominance of foxtail millet relative to broomcorn millet was established by the Late Peiligang/Early Yangshao. Rice was not domesticated in the Huanghe valley but was apparently used in the Yiluo region by Late Yangshao times as evidenced at Zhaocheng. Rice has occasionally been reported from other Yangshao contexts in North China, but none of these specimens has been AMS-dated. Its Yangshao association is feasible because it was as far north as Yuezhuang in Shandong by 6000–5800 cal B.C. AMS dates on rice clearly associate the crop with Longshan occupations at both Huizui in this study and the Liangchengzhen site in Shandong (9). If rice was a valuable commodity, it may have been consumed primarily by the elite lineages living at the largest towns that so far are the only sites with rice in the Yiluo region. However, large sites with rice are situated in the lowlands close to wetlands where rice could have been grown productively, so rice may have been a resource available mainly in these locales. More extensive sampling will help answer such questions related to the distribution and importance of rice in the region.

Wheat, the only crop in the Yiluo samples not native to East Asia, appears during the Erligang (Early Shang) period and was probably a significant crop by then. It is a rare component of Longshan period crop assemblages in Shandong (9) and elsewhere, so we surmise that it was grown in the Yiluo region during the Longshan period as well. More sampling should resolve this issue. Soybean is also a minor component of the Yiluo plant remains from Longshan times onward. Soybean domestication is an unresolved problem, with historic and archaeological data hinting that it was present from the Xia period (equivalent to the Erlitou period) and domesticated by the Zhou period. Where it was domesticated, or whether there were multiple domestications, are unanswered questions. Beefsteak plant, a potential cultigen, is rare but was also present by Erligang times. There is a limited record of this plant for the Late Neolithic period elsewhere (9). A wide range of annual weeds consistent with agricultural land disturbance and possibly fodder for domesticated animals is a component of all assemblages in the region.

Differences in site function and/or taphonomy are suggested by the contrast in seed densities between small and large sites. The highest seed densities are found at small sites, particularly from the Late Yangshao and later periods from which we have substantial samples. Crops are found in higher densities in small sites, but small Late Longshan and Erlitou sites have higher proportions and densities of crops than do larger sites. In contrast, all other artifact classes are common in the larger sites, indicating that craft production and administration occurred only in large settlements. Future research will examine this issue closely by broader sampling of a variety of contexts, particularly to test the possibility that some form of redistributive system that moved products from specialized production centers has a long history in the region. The archaeological record indicates, in fact, that social complexity was well developed by Late Yangshao times in the Yiluo valley (3). Site functions were apparently becoming specialized by the Late Yangshao; smaller settlements may have functioned mainly for agricultural production. Future research will assess whether crops were a component of the redistributive system. However, crops were probably produced as well as consumed at the large sites. Late Longshan agriculture at the large and complex Liangchengzhen and Shantaisi sites to the east have a wide variety of plant remains that vary in composition depending on their context. The same situation likely holds true in the Yiluo valley. The Yiluo plant remains are generally similar to those from both Shantaisi and Liangchengzhen with respect to both weeds and crops, suggesting that food production throughout North China shared many features. Another similarity lies in the limited evidence for the use of nuts and fleshy fruits. These and other questions pertaining to the relationship between plants and people in the Yiluo valley will be more adequately tested in the excavation phase of the project.

Materials and Methods
The Yiluo team systematically surveyed 219 km2 of alluvial plains and loess terraces (Fig. 1) (3). Sediment samples were collected from each site. Assemblages of plant remains tend to vary by context, so every reasonable effort was made to minimize the impact of contextual variation on this stage of the study by sampling the same type of context at each site. Sites are often buried 0.5–2 m below the surface, but pit features visible in vertical cuts of the loess terraces enabled the collection of samples from pits representing domestic contexts (SI Fig. 16). Pit fill normally represents secondary deposition (i.e., infill of general sediment and refuse resulting from a variety of activities by the site occupants). Thus, such samples are ideal for intersite comparisons of a general nature. Samples were collected from one to seven pits at each site depending on the number that was visible. To some extent, the soil volume collected is proportional to the number and complexity of sites in each period (Fig. 4). Individual sample volumes are proportional to the size of each pit and range from 3 to 14 liters of sediment. The relatively small sample from each site limits interpretations to discussions of fundamental similarities and differences among the assemblages. One variable that is affected by the sample size is the number of plant taxa recovered. The number of taxa in the samples exhibits a positive correlation with sample volume (Fig. 6), so small samples tend to contain fewer plant taxa and few or no examples of plants that are rare in the collection as a whole. Details of the flotation process are available elsewhere (22), and sample processing procedures are described in SI Text.

I always associated China with rice. It’s interesting that it wasn’t their first crop. Domesticated rice first appears in Korea about 13,000 years ago. From my previous entry, it seems to have a genetic origin in the Yangzte river area. It’s quite possible that the original domestication site is underwater, as large areas of South East Asia are underwater, mostly the fertlile lowland areas wher rice would have grown, which would have put the Yangtze river delta quite close to Korea

Domestication rates in cereal and pulse crops

Contrasting Patterns in Crop Domestication and Domestication Rates: Recent Archaeobotanical Insights from the Old World
Dorian Q Fuller*
Institute of Archaeology, University College London, 31–34 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PY, UK

Received: 20 September 2006   
   Background: Archaeobotany, the study of plant remains from sites of ancient human activity, provides data for studying the initial evolution of domesticated plants. An important background to this is defining the domestication syndrome, those traits by which domesticated plants differ from wild relatives. These traits include features that have been selected under the conditions of cultivation. From archaeological remains the easiest traits to study are seed size and in cereal crops the loss of natural seed dispersal.

Scope: The rate at which these features evolved and the ordering in which they evolved can now be documented for a few crops of Asia and Africa. This paper explores this in einkorn wheat (Triticum monococcum) and barley (Hordeum vulgare) from the Near East, rice (Oryza sativa) from China, mung (Vigna radiata) and urd (Vigna mungo) beans from India, and pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum) from west Africa. Brief reference is made to similar data on lentils (Lens culinaris), peas (Pisum sativum), soybean (Glycine max) and adzuki bean (Vigna angularis). Available quantitative data from archaeological finds are compiled to explore changes with domestication. The disjunction in cereals between seed size increase and dispersal is explored, and rates at which these features evolved are estimated from archaeobotanical data. Contrasts between crops, especially between cereals and pulses, are examined.

Conclusions: These data suggest that in domesticated grasses, changes in grain size and shape evolved prior to non-shattering ears or panicles. Initial grain size increases may have evolved during the first centuries of cultivation, within perhaps 500–1000 years. Non-shattering infructescences were much slower, becoming fixed about 1000–2000 years later. This suggests a need to reconsider the role of sickle harvesting in domestication. Pulses, by contrast, do not show evidence for seed size increase in relation to the earliest cultivation, and seed size increase may be delayed by 2000–4000 years. This implies that conditions that were sufficient to select for larger seed size in Poaceae were not sufficient in Fabaceae. It is proposed that animal-drawn ploughs (or ards) provided the selection pressure for larger seeds in legumes. This implies different thresholds of selective pressure, for example in relation to differing seed ontogenetics and underlying genetic architecture in these families. Pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum) may show some similarities to the pulses in terms of a lag-time before truly larger-grained forms evolved.

As I recall, the lentils at Franchthi cave were just slightly bigger than wild lentils, suggesting that the 13,500 date for domestication could be push back possibly as much as 17,000 BP ( I’d say 15,000 BP was more likely). I’d seriously recommend reading this whole paper through if you are interested in the process of domestication of crops. It includes some Indian beans, rice, as well as African pearl millet, and is about the most comprehensive paper I’ve seen on the subject.

It also names the South Asian location of rice domestication as the middle of the Ganges valley, and has some very useful graphs showing the levels of domestication in various near Eastern sites. It suggests that an increase in seed size in cereals is evident for quite some time before a non shattering rachis is selected in. One interesting fact didn’t know was that millet was much more widely grown in China about 8,000 years ago than rice. One to read a couple of times through.

FIG. 1. An evolutionary model from foraging to agriculture, with archaeobotanical expectations indicated at the bottom (modified from Harris, 1989). The stages of pre-domestication cultivation are shaded. In this version, domestication is represented as a process of gradual frequency change, with an earlier, more rapid ‘semi-domestication’ and a later, slower fixation of full domestication. The gap in time elapsed between these two can be taken as a minimal estimate of domestication rate (d.r.).

FIG. 2. Map of south-west Asia, showing the locations of sites with archaeobotanical evidence that contributes to understanding the origins and spread of agriculture. Sites are differentiated on the basis of whether they provide evidence for pre-domestication cultivation, enlarged grains, mixed or predominantly domestic-type rachis data. Note that these sites represent a range of periods, and many sites have multiple phases of use, in which case the earliest phase with significant archaeobotanical data is represented. Shaded areas indicate the general distribution of wild progenitors (based on Zohary and Hopf, 2000, with some refinements from Willcox, 2005). It should be noted that wild emmer (Triticum dicoccoides) occurs over a sub-set of the wild barley zone, and mainly in the western part of the crescent.
Archaeological evidence indicates that the entire domestication syndrome did not suddenly appear when people began to cultivate plants. Rather, different aspects of the syndrome evolved in response to the new ecological conditions of early cultivation. What these data suggest is that in domesticated grasses, changes in grain size and shape (‘semi-domestication’) evolved prior to non-shattering ears or panicles (‘domestication’ sensu stricto). While initial grain size increases may have evolved during the first centuries of cultivation, within perhaps 500–1000 years, non-shattering was much slower, becoming fixed about 1000–2000 years subsequently. Pulses by contrast do not show evidence for seed size increase in relation to the earliest cultivation, but seed size increase may be delayed by 2000–4000 years. This implies that conditions that were sufficient to select for larger seed-size in Poaceae were not sufficient in Fabaceae. This implies different thresholds of selective pressure in relation to differing seed ontogenetics and underlying genetic architecture in these families. Pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum) may show some similarities to the pulses in terms of a lag-time before truly larger-grained forms evolved. These results may aid in predicting when and where certain crop domestications are likely to have occurred based on counting backwards from the earliest known domestic finds. Thus, for example, we would predict that pearl millet cultivation began by 3200–2700 BC. These results also raise questions about taxonomically linked differences in evolution under the selection forces of cultivation.

Reconsidering sickles and cereal domestication
There has been a tendency to assume that harvesting with a sickle was the selective force that led to domestication, i.e. non-shattering (as discussed above). The archaeological evidence, however, does not support this in any documented case. In China, as discussed already, rice grains begin to plump and increase in size but domestication is indicated by the shift towards predominantly mature-grained harvests (and inferred non-shattering), during the fifth millennium BC, and by approx. 4000 BC. In this region there are no clear archaeological sickles until after 3500 BC, the Later Songze period (approx. 3500 BC), after which they become widespread in the Liangzhu culture (3300–2200 BC). These sickles may be a cultural borrowing from millet cultivators in central China, where such tools were in use since at least 5000 BC (cf. Chang, 1986). Even in central and northern China, the earliest sickles occur at sites that already have millet cultivation, and earliest documented domestic millets from Xinglonggou (near Chifeng, China), before 6000 BC (Zhao, 2005), come from a culture without sickles. In China, sickles consistently represent a technology development after domesticated plants are fully established.

In the Near East sickles were in use prior to agriculture and must now be argued to be transferred to agriculture relatively late, after domestication. Preserved sickles, and more commonly lithic sickle blades, are known from Natufian contexts (13 000–10 500 BC), in a period for which there is no evidence for domesticates, and non-shattering domesticates continued to be absent through the PPNA (through 8800 BC) (see Fig. 3). Microscopic studies of ‘sickle gloss’ have been used to suggest they were cereal-harvesting (Unger-Hamilton, 1989; Anderson, 1992), but we cannot rule out harvesting of sedges (Cyperaceae) and reeds (Phragmites) as materials for basketry or thatching. As suggested by Sauer (1958), the early Natufian sickles were prototype saws, designed for raw material gathering rather than seed collecting. As indicated by the archaeobotanical evidence reviewed above, the rate of evolution of tough rachis einkorn and barley is far too slow to be accounted for by a model of strong selective pressure that would be expected if sickling was carried out regularly, as modelled by Hillman and Davies (1990). Thus, it would appear that early cultivators continued to employ the time-efficient harvesting methods associated with hunter-gatherers. Once cultivated, and populations had noticeably large proportions (majorities) of non-shattering types, then the transfer of the sickle technology to agriculture may have been seen as an obvious enhancement. In evolutionary terms the sickle is thus an ‘exaptation’ (sensu Gould and Vrba, 1982), in that it developed for some other purpose, and was later transferred to crop-harvesting of already domesticated crops.

I would propose alternative explanations for the selection of domesticated-type crops that can account for the slow creep towards domestication. As others have noted, the harvesting of cereals when green, i.e. immature, regardless of technique, will not select for domesticated types (Hillman and Davies, 1990; Willcox, 1999). Harvesting green, however, may not provide full returns from a given stand of crops, as additional seeds (including late tillers) may form and approach maturation subsequent to the harvest. For the early farmers, who have invested significant labour into a restricted unit of land, it becomes important to maximize returns from that unit of land (as noted by Hillman and Davies, 1990: 69; Bar-Yosef, 1998). This may encourage multiple episodes of harvest. Later harvestings, whether by plucking or beating, will encounter domesticated genotypes in a higher frequency than earlier harvests. If, as an aspect of random variation, some farming households choose to store the late harvest as seed for sowing the following year, those fields so sown will start an increase in the domesticated type. Other households, however, may store for sowing their earlier harvests. Therefore, taken at the level of a human community, or on a regional scale, there might be only a very small proportion of sown crop that had some selection for the domesticated type. Such a model might therefore account for significantly longer periods involved in the fixation of non-shattering types in cultivated populations. By contrast, every farmer and every sown population would be under selective pressure to germinate rapidly, leading to seed size increase and loss of germination inhibitors. Similarly, natural selection for dispersal aids such as awns will be uniformly reduced. Thus, we should expect these ‘semi-domestication’ traits to evolve more rapidly.

Domestication as an interdisciplinary study of evolution
Domestication in plants is not one thing, nor has it been one uniform process. While there are recurrent parallels, due to the same selective pressures of cultivation, different domestication traits have evolved at different rates and these have varied markedly across families, such as between cereals and legumes. Further archaeobotanical research will help to pin down the actual rates at which different domesticates evolved, and needs to be expanded to address a larger range of species. The archaeological record also provides insights into what people are doing during this evolutionary process in terms of their technologies and ecological adaptations. Understanding past domestications is an exciting area of interdisciplinary investigation, between archaeologists and plant scientists, which may offer insights relevant to future directions in the evolution of crops under human manipulation.

Figs were grown before cereal crops in Israel.

Ancient Fig Find May Push Back Birth of Agriculture

Scott Norris
for National Geographic News

June 1, 2006
An assortment of 11,400-year-old figs found in Israel may be the fruit of the world’s earliest form of agriculture, scientists say.

Archaeologists from Israel and the United States say the find suggests Stone Age humans may have been cultivating fruit trees a thousand years before the domestication of cereal grains and legumes, such as peas and beans.

“Previously, the oldest cultivated fruits were thought to be olives and grapes found in the eastern Mediterranean that were dated at about 6,000 years old.

Researchers behind the new study discovered the ancient figs at the Gilgal archaeological site in the Jordan Valley near the city of Jericho (see map of Israel.)

The nine carbonized figs were small but ripe and showed signs of having been dried for human consumption.

The finding adds a new twist to the story of agricultural origins.

The so-called agricultural revolution—when ancient humans began to domesticate crops—is now increasingly seen as a long and multifaceted transition, as humans gradually shifted from scattered planting of wild grains to farming with domesticated varieties.

Early-agriculture specialist Mordechai Kislev, of Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel, says fig cultivation may amount to a previously unknown phase of this transition, fitting between the sowing of wild grains and the raising of domesticated cereal crops.

“Domestication of the fig seems to comprise a new stage,” Kislev said.

Kislev is the lead author of the new study, along with Anat Hartmann, also of Bar-Ilan, and Ofer Bar-Yosef of Harvard University.

The researchers report their findings in tomorrow’s issue of the journal Science

The researchers’ case that the Gilgal fruits were deliberately cultivated rests on an idiosyncrasy of fig genetics.

Normally, pollination by specialized wasps is required for fig trees to bear edible fruit.

Occasionally, however, a mutation occurs that allows fruit to develop from unfertilized female flowers, a process known as parthenocarpy.

Some figs grown commercially today are of this variety. Apparently, so were the Stone Age figs at Gilgal.

Microscopic analysis revealed that the figs lacked embryonic seeds, a distinguishing feature of the mutant form, in which fruit are produced without pollination.

“The mutation does not survive in nature more than a single generation,” Kislev said.

That means the fig trees at Gilgal could not have been reproducing naturally.

The large cache of fruit fragments recovered from the site suggests that humans were maintaining the mutant trees by planting live branches in the ground.

Kislev says fig trees are particularly amenable to this common horticultural technique, called vegetative propagation.

Additional fig remains have been recovered from other sites throughout the Middle East, and at least some appear to be of the Gilgal variety.

To Kislev, this suggests that choice trees were being transported and planted to increase agricultural yield at different locations.

Constant Gardeners

“The early propagation of fig trees, if true, has a rather important effect on the way we view the Neolithic [or Late Stone Age],” said archaeologist Joy McCorriston, of Ohio State University in Columbus.

The Neolithic is a loosely dated period of cultural development marked by the invention of agriculture, improved stone stools, and sedentary village life.

McCorriston notes that although planting shoots of fig trees may be simple, early fig farmers would have had to wait several years for their reward.

This suggests relatively long-term ties to land and perhaps new social and economic arrangements prior to the full-scale adoption of an agricultural lifestyle.

“Ownership of trees [may have] provided a way of mapping society onto physical space,” McCorriston said.

As objects of long-term interest and care, fig trees may also have had symbolic significance.

Archaeologist Bruce Smith of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., says early fig cultivation is indicative of a general atmosphere of experimentation following the last ice age.

“Human societies were auditioning a wide range of species” for a role in the unfolding drama of agriculture, Smith said.

There’s a link to the abstract here.

This would be inthe very last days Natufian era, just as they were winding down. The Naufians had some population affinities to Nubian populations, but by this point in time this was being diluted to the point of being undetectable by input from other Eurasian populations; after the Natufian era no sub Saharan affinities are seen (C Loring Brace) and no Sub Saharan affinities are seen in any other Neolithic population of the time, including North Africa. The 11,000 BP is the point in time when Israel starts moving into the pre pottery Neolithic (PPN), and probably marks the point at which expanding proto-agriculturalists from Turkey reached Israel. 

I’ve seen a few indications that trees were planted before any other crops… hazelnuts in northern Europe, pistachio and almond in Turkey/Armenia. It’s a only small step for a hunter gatherer to stick a few nuts in the ground; either as some sort of religious rite or from the realisation that the more nut trees he plants the more nuts there will be when his kids grow up.

The order of domestication, (my best guess): nut trees at some very ancient time, then pulses about 15,000 years ago in Turkey, reaching Franchthi cave  (Greece) about 13,500 BP. Cultivated cereals turn up about 2,000 years later in Franchthi, even wild cereals are 500 years later than the nuts and pulses. I guess figs were probably in orchards before domesticated grains reached the middle east.