Tag Archives: Syria

The Turkish domestication of the chickpea.

One of the neolithic farmers founder crops.

Chickpeas (Cicer arietinum) are large roundish legumes, that look rather like a large round pea with an interesting bumpy surface. A staple of Middle Eastern, African and Indian cuisines, domesticated chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans) come in two main groups called desi and kabuli, but you can also find varieties in 21 different colors and several shapes. The wild version of chickpeas (Cicer reticulatum) is only found in parts of what is today southeastern Turkey and adjacent Syria, and it is likely that it was first domesticated there, about 10,500 years ago. Chickpeas store really well, and are high in nutritive value, and were part of the farming culture that grew out of the Neolithic of the Fertile Crescent.

Domesticating Chickpeas
There are some interesting features about the domestication of chickpeas that were pointed out in a 2007 article by Zohar Kerem and colleagues at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Faculty of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Quality Sciences. The wild form of chickpea ripens only in the winter, while the domesticated form can be sown during the spring for summer harvest. Chickpeas grow best in winter when there is adequate water available; but during the winters they are susceptible to Ascochyta blight, a devastating disease which has been known to wipe out entire crops.

In addition, according to recent studies, the domesticated form of chickpea contains nearly twice the tryptophan of the wild form, an amino acid that has been connected with higher brain serotonin concentrations and higher birth rates and accelerated growth in humans and animals.

Chickpea Varieties and Archaeological Sites
The oldest variety of chickpea is the desi form; desi are small, angular, and variegated in color. Scholars believe desi originated in Turkey and was subsequently introduced into India where the most common form of chickpea is the kabuli. Kabuli have large beige beaked seeds.

Domesticated chickpeas have been found at several archaeological sites, including Tell el-Kerkh in Syria; Cayönü (7250-6750 BC), Hacilar (ca 6700 BC), and Akarçay Tepe (7280-8700 BP) in Turkey; and Jericho (8350 BC to 7370 BC) in the West Bank. The earliest to date is Tell el-Kerkh, in the late 10th millennium BC, and scholars suspect that since el-Kerkh is a considerable distance from the native lands of the wild chickpea, the domestication took place somewhat earlier than that.

So, the  domestication seems to be Turkish, about 10,000 plus years ago.

The Turkish/Northern Syrian origin of lentils.

Identification of the lentil’s wild genetic stock

  The origin of lentil from the taxon Lens culinaris subsp. orientalis has been proved by morphological evidence and breeding experiments. This wild form exhibits variation in many characters and is distributed over a vast area from the Middle-East to central Asia. Characters that are polymorphic in the wild progenitor but monomorphic in the cultigen can be utilized for better identification of the genetic stock which gave rise to the domesticated lentil. Three characters of that kind have been identified in lentil: chromosomal architecture, crossability potential and restriction pattern of chloroplast DNA. Nearly all accessions of the cultivated lentil tested to these three characters have been found monomorphic, but considerable polymorphism exists in the wild accessions. Three subsp. orientalis accessions have been shown to share the above characters with the cultigen and hence can be regarded as members of the genetic stock from which lentil was domesticated. These three accessions originated from eastern Turkey and northern Syria.

Also, the oldest lentils found were 11,000 years old from a Greek cave. Since the lentil is not native to Greece, it’s not a stretch to figure out these must have been cultivated. This would mean the growing of lentils predates cereals in Greece, meaning farming started earlier than believed in Europe (by about two thousand years) and that cultivation of lentils predates the cultivation of cereals.

The worlds oldest mural, at Djade al-Mughara.

  Djade al-Mughara

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

DAMASCUS (Reuters) – French archaeologists have discovered an 11,000-year-old wall painting underground in northern Syria which they believe is the oldest in the world.

The 2 square-meter painting, in red, black and white, was found at the Neolithic settlement of Djade al-Mughara on the Euphrates, northeast of the city of Aleppo, team leader Eric Coqueugniot told Reuters.

“It looks like a modernist painting. Some of those who saw it have likened it to work by (Paul) Klee. Through carbon dating we established it is from around 9,000 B.C.,” Coqueugniot said.

“We found another painting next to it, but that won’t be excavated until next year. It is slow work,” said Coqueugniot, who works at France’s National Centre for Scientific Research.

Rectangles dominate the ancient painting, which formed part of an adobe circular wall of a large house with a wooden roof. The site has been excavated since the early 1990s.

The painting will be moved to Aleppo’s museum next year, Coqueugniot said. Its red came from burnt hematite rock, crushed limestone formed the white and charcoal provided the black.

The world’s oldest painting on a constructed wall was one found in Turkey but that was dated 1,500 years after the one at Djade al-Mughara, according to Science magazine.

The inhabitants of Djade al-Mughara lived off hunting and wild plants. They resembled modern day humans in looks but were not farmers or domesticated, Coqueugniot said There was a purpose in having the painting in what looked like a communal house, but we don’t know it. The village was later abandoned and the house stuffed with mud,” he said.

A large number of flints and weapons have been found at the site as well as human skeletons buried under houses.

“This site is one of several Neolithic villages in modern day Syria and southern Turkey. They seem to have communicated with each other and had peaceful exchanges,” Coqueugniot said.

Mustafa Ali, a leading Syrian artist, said similar geometric design to that in the Djade al-Mughara painting found its way into art throughout the Levant and Persia, and can even be seen in carpets and kilims (rugs).

“We must not lose sight that the painting is archaeological, but in a way it’s also modern,” he said.

France is an important contributor to excavation efforts in Syria, where 120 teams are at work. Syria was at the crossroads of the ancient world and has thousands of mostly unexcavated archaeological sites.

Swiss-German artist Paul Klee had links with the Bauhaus school and was important in the German modernist movement.