Tag Archives: Turkey

Y-chromosomes in Anatolia

Excavating Y-chromosome haplotype strata in Anatolia

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Analysis of 89 biallelic polymorphisms in 523 Turkish Y chromosomes revealed 52 distinct haplotypes with considerable haplogroup substructure, as exemplified by their respective levels of accumulated diversity at ten short tandem repeat (STR) loci. The major components (haplogroups E3b, G, J, I, L, N, K2, and R1; 94.1%) are shared with European and neighboring Near Eastern populations and contrast with only a minor share of haplogroups related to Central Asian (C, Q and O; 3.4%), Indian (H, R2; 1.5%) and African (A, E3*, E3a; 1%) affinity. The expansion times for 20 haplogroup assemblages  was estimated from associated STR diversity. This comprehensive characterization of Y-chromosome heritage addresses many multifaceted aspects of Anatolian prehistory, including: (1) the most frequent haplogroup, J, splits into two sub-clades, one of which (J2) shows decreasing variances with increasing latitude, compatible with a northward expansion; (2) haplogroups G1 and L show affinities with south Caucasus populations in their geographic distribution as well as STR motifs; (3) frequency of haplogroup I, which originated in Europe, declines with increasing longitude, indicating gene flow arriving from Europe; (4) conversely, haplogroup G2 radiates towards Europe; (5) haplogroup E3b3 displays a latitudinal correlation with decreasing frequency northward; (6) haplogroup R1b3 emanates from Turkey towards Southeast Europe and Caucasia and; (7) high resolution SNP analysis provides evidence of a detectable yet weak signal (<9%) of recent paternal gene flow from Central Asia. The variety of Turkish haplotypes is witness to Turkey being both an important source and recipient of gene flow.

I know there are some interesting snippets of information in this paper about the neolithic expansion, but I’m too tired and will pay more attention to it tomorrow, maybe Monday.


Mitochondrial DNA sequence variation in the Anatolian peninsula (Turkey)

Mitochondrial DNA sequence variation in the Anatolian peninsula (Turkey)

Received: 24 June 2003  Revised: 4 November 2003  

 Throughout human history, the region known today as the Anatolian peninsula (Turkey) has served as a junction connecting the Middle East, Europe and Central Asia, and, thus, has been subject to major population movements. The present study is undertaken to obtain information about the distribution of the existing mitochondrial D-loop sequence variations in the Turkish population of Anatolia. A few studies have previously reported mtDNA sequences in Turks. We attempted to extend these results by analysing a cohort that is not only larger, but also more representative of the Turkish population living in Anatolia. In order to obtain a descriptive picture for the phylogenetic distribution of the mitochondrial genome within Turkey, we analysed mitochondrial D-loop region sequence variations in 75 individuals from different parts of Anatolia by direct sequencing. Analysis of the two hypervariable segments within the noncoding region of the mitochondrial genome revealed the existence of 81 nucleotide mutations at 79 sites. The neighbourjoining tree of Kimura’s distance matrix has revealed the presence of six main clusters, of which H and U are the most common. The data obtained are also compared with several European and Turkic Central Asian populations.

Unfortunately I can’t access the pdf, but the core information is that the haplogroups present are…

  • H,  33.3%
  • U,  36%
  • K,   5.3%
  • U2, 1.3%
  • U5, 2.6%
  • J,     8%
  • T,  1.3%
  • M,  10.6%
  • W,  1.3%

Neolithic skull shapes and demic diffusion.

Neolithic skull shapes and demic diffusion> a bioarchaeological investigation into the nature of the Neolithic transition

Link broke, only HTML available!

ABSTRACT – There is a growing body of evidence that the spread of farming in Europe was not a single uniform process, but that it involved a complex set of processes such as demic diffusion, folk migration, frontier mobility, and leapfrog colonisation. Archaeogenetic studies, which examine contemporary geographical variations in the frequencies of various genetic markers have not succeeded in addressing the complex Neolithisation process at the required level of spatial and temporal resolution. Moreover, these studies are based on modern populations, and their interpretive genetic maps are often affected by post-Neolithic dispersals, migrations, and population movements in Eurasia. Craniometric studies may provide a solid link between the archaeological analysis of past events and their complex relationship to changes and fluctuations in corresponding morphological and thus biological variations. This paper focuses on the study of craniometric variations between and within Pre-Pottery Neolithic, Pottery Neolithic, and Early Neolithic specimens from the Near East, Anatolia and Europe. It addresses the meaning of the observed multivariate morphometric variations in the context of the spread of farming in Europe.

Fig. 2. Principal components analysis of craniometric measurements
of skulls from Early Neolithic sites.

This is another study that suggests an Anatolian center of dispersal for the Neolithic. It’s well worth a read if you are interested in the Natufians and other ancient farming groups from the neolithic. Interestingly, it observes that the Anatolians of Catal Hoyuk seem very different to thsoe of Cayonu.

Özdogan (1997) points out that the Neolithic communities of the Central Anatolian plateau form a distinct entity which differs from the south-eastern Anatolian, Levantine and Mesopotamian contemporaneous cultures in settlement pattern, architecture, lithic technology, bone tools, and other archaeological aspects. There is no simple corollary between specific cultural-archaeological entities and biological populations. However, in the case of the above analyses, the population of Çatahöyük differed biologically from the populations of the Near East and southeast Anatolia and were similar to the SKC and Nea Neikomediea cultures. Indeed in a previous publication (Pinhasi 2003), it was demonstrated that the Squared Mahalanobis Distance between Çatalhöyük and Çayönü is twice to three times the average distance between the former and any of the Early Neolithic southeast or central European Early Neolithic populations. The above analysis therefore confirms the archaeological observations made by Özdogan (1997) and reaffirms in this specific case a correspondence between cultural boundaries that define a prehistoric culture and its biological basis.

This would seem to support a population ‘boundry’, between the expanding Natufians (later Belbasi/Beldibi) with their moderate affinities to sub Saharan Africans, and the indigenous Eurasian people of Anatolia. It also states..

There are no grounds for believing that the settlement of mainland Greece, either by land or sea, can be compared with the slow movements of populations characteristic of the Cardial or Danubian ‘waves of advance’. On the contrary, it seems to relate to these long-distance expeditions, well exemplified in the Mediterranean by the colonisation of Crete, Corsica and the Balearic Iislands, for instance” (Perlès 2001).

However, the craniometric analysis indicates no morphological differences between Nea Nikomedeia and the Çatalhöyük populations, which contrasts with the differences between these and the PPN Levantine/ Anatolian samples.


It appears that a Neolithic dispersal from the Near East/Anatolia to Europe may have occurred at least twice: once as a PPN maritime expansion from the Levant/southern Anatolia, and later on during the Pottery Neolithic period as an overland dispersal from Central/Western Anatolia to southeast Europe (Perlés 2001; Özdogan 1997). This means that more than one founder Neolithic population dispersed out of the Near East/Anatolia to Europe, and that each
dispersal event must have left certain demographic and genetic signatures on modern Europeans.

Which supports other evidence from Franchthi and the cave of the Cyclops about sea colonisations from ancient Anatolia all through the Med (elsewhere on blog), with a slower overland colonisation following. That you have two very distinct populations present in Anatolia might explain how both Indo European and Afro Asiatic languages apparently expanded out from Turkey at about the same time (IE from the plateau Anatolians, and the Natufian derived AA speaking Southerners).

C.Loring Brace commented that all the sub Saharan traces vanished from the Levant about the time of the neolithic expansion, so it seems probable that the majority of the ancestry of the expanding wave of colonists was from the plateau Anatolians, not the Natufian’s descendants in the south.

Animal domestication is older than previously thought

NY times article

Like this surprises me much, I’ve said before that it was older than claimed. At least this map agrees with my points of domestication (I did something similar a few months ago). I’ve always maintained Southern Turkey was the origin point of the Western Neolithic revolution.

The invention of agriculture was a pivotal event in human history, but archaeologists studying its origins may have made a simple error in dating the domestication of animals like sheep and goats. The signal of the process, they believed, was the first appearance in the archaeological record of smaller boned animals. But in fact this reflects just a switch to culling females, which are smaller than males, concludes Melinda Zeder, an archaeologist at the Smithsonian Institution.

Using a different criterion, that of when herds first show signs of human management, Dr. Zeder finds that goats and sheep were first domesticated about 11,000 years ago, much earlier than previously thought, with pigs and cattle following shortly afterwards. The map, from her article in the August 11 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows the regions and dates where the four species were first domesticated. Other dates, color-coded as to species, show where domesticated animals first appear elsewhere in the Fertile Crescent.

The earlier dates mean that animals were domesticated at much the same time as crop plants, and bear on the issue of how this ensemble of new agricultural species – the farming package known as the Neolithic revolution – spread from the Near East to Europe.

Some experts say the technology spread by cultural diffusion, others that the first farmers themselves moved into Europe, bringing their new technology with them and displacing the resident hunter gatherers.

Dr. Zeder concludes that both processes were involved. A test case is the island of Cyprus, where the four domesticated species of livestock appear as early as 10,500 years ago, replacing native fauna such as pygmy elephants and pygmy hippopotamuses (large animals often get downsized in island settings).

Since Cyprus lies 60 kilometers off the Turkish coast, the suite of agricultural species must have been brought there on boats by the new farmers. That establishes one episode of colonization, and Dr. Zeder sees evidence for several others. The second map shows, in red circles, the dates when farming colonists’ enclaves were set up around the Mediterranean.

Dr. Zeder believes that in France and Spain the indigenous hunter gatherers adopted the new farming technology by cultural diffusion (shown as green dots). The farmers themselves settled the regions that are now Turkey and the Balkans (red dots) but in surrounding areas they integrated with indigenous peoples (blue dots).

Dr. Zeder says her evidence indicates that several waves of settlers spread the new farming technology through the Mediterranean. It’s yet not known what drove the expansion, or what the relationship was between the colonists and the native inhabitants. Studies of ancient DNA, she said, may help test her thesis that farming spread through a mix of colonization and cultural diffusion.

The logic that is used to observe the livestock arriving in Cyprus is similar to my dating of agriculture arriving at Francthi cave; essentially multiple crop plants make a simulaneous appearance in Francthi cave about 11,000 years ago (500 years before cereals are seen).

A nicely dated map/timeline of the expansion of farming (well, it’s a bit out, as Francthi in Greece was 11,000 BP)

I’m feeling moderately smug now. Told ’em so.

The neolithic Turkish origin of Indo-European languages

Indo-European languages came from Turkey
Anna Salleh, 27 November 2003   

Evolutionary biologists have waded into the stormy debate over when and where Indo-European languages originated.

Dr Russell Gray and PhD student Quentin Atkinson from the University of Auckland in New Zealand have calculated this group of 87 languages – as diverse as English, Lithuanian and Gujarati – arose between 8000 and 9500 years ago.

Their findings were reported in today’s issue of the journal Nature and support the theory that Indo-European languages arose around this time among farming communities in Anatolia, now known as Turkey.

The main competing theory to the Anatolian farmer theory is that these languages originated 6000 years ago among nomadic Kurgan horsemen sweeping down from the Russian Steppes. Some researchers say they spread their language and genes across Europe “through the sword” and through the use of horses and horse-drawn vehicles, Gray told ABC Science Online.

“People have been puzzled since at least Sir William Jones noticed in 1786 that Sanskrit, an ancient language in India, bore striking similarities to Greek and to Latin and to English. Where did all those languages come from and when did they split up?” he asked. “What we’ve been doing is to try and answer that question and in particular to test the two current major views about the origins of the European languages.”

While evidence of horse-drawn wheeled vehicles supported the “power of the sword” Kurgan theory, Gray said the fact that certain genes become rarer as you get further away from the Turkish region supported the “much kinder, gentler” Anatolian farmer theory.

“People have had huge arguments about that,” said Gray, who decided to try and settle the question using a technique from a branch of research called molecular phylogenetics. This computational and statistical method compares genes and builds family trees by inferring when different biological organisms diverged during evolution.

“Language like biological species diverge with time,” Gray said.

Using vocabulary and grammar instead of genes, the researchers used the same method to build a “family tree” of Indo-European languages. This was the first time methods like these have been applied to finding the roots of Indo-European languages.

Gray said his study came up with a root date that agreed with the Anatolian farmer theory “unbelievably closely”. The researchers checked and double-checked their findings: “We did everything we could possibly think of, like changing different assumptions, to try and see if we could get a different date range.”

Evolutionary biologist Gray said the findings were bound to inflame rather than settle the debate and said there had been some “fairly vigorous responses” to the findings so far: “Some linguists have been fairly kind of agitated I guess, having people come in from the outside and saying look we can solve these problems.

I can’t say I’m the least bit surprised.

The domestication of the goat, another first from Neolithic Turkey.

Science News,  Oct 14, 2006  by B. Bower

Present-day domestic goats may look humble, but they harbor more genetic diversity than any other livestock species. In fact, analyses of goats’ mitochondrial DNA have shown that these animals evolved through five distinct maternal lines that spread from the Near East and central Asia across Europe.

A new study indicates that goats representing the earliest two of the five genetic lines inhabited the same location in southwestern Europe by about 7,000 years ago, only 3,000 years after the initial domestication of the animals in the Near East.

This ancient genetic diversity in a region far from the goat strains’ origins reflects the long-distance transport of goats from the Near East by European pioneers soon after the origins of animal domestication, farming, and village life, say geneticist Pierre Taberlet of Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble, France, and his colleagues in an upcoming Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Today’s other three genetic lines arose later in parts of central Asia, Taberlet’s group proposes.

The scientists analyzed mitochondrial DNA retrieved from 19 goat bones found at an ancient farming site in southern France. Other researchers had excavated these fossils about 20 years ago in soil that contained the remains of more than 5,000 animals, including pigs, cattle, and sheep.

New radiocarbon measurements of five goat bones placed them at between 7,300 and 6,900 years old.

By extracting and analyzing genetic material from several goat bones, two independent laboratories confirmed that the sequences that Taberlet’s group examined were uncontaminated, ancient DNA.

Comparisons of the ancient goat mitochondrial DNA with sequences of modern goat DNA revealed that the two Near Eastern lineages had inhabited the prehistoric French site at the same time.

Taberlet and his colleagues suspect that early farmers transported each line of goats into Europe along a separate westward route, one inland and the other running along the Mediterranean Sea.

A preference for moving goats long distances in ancient times makes sense (SN: 5/12/01, p. 294). Goats are the hardiest livestock species. They’re easy to transport by land or boat, and they willingly follow people.

The new data convincingly show the domestication of two ancient goat lineages at the same time somewhere in the Fertile Crescent region, remarks archaeobiologist Melinda A. Zeder of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

Genetic studies of modern domestic sheep have revealed a pattern similar to that of goats, with three to four ancient lineages, Zeder notes. “This suggests that both sheep and goats moved together, as they do today, in mixed herds as they diffused out of the Near East,” she says.


Archaeological data suggest two distinct places of domestication: the Euphrates river valley at Nevali Çori, Turkey (11,000 bp), and the Zagros Mountains of Iran at Ganj Dareh (10,000). Other possible sites of domestication include the Indus Basin in Pakistan at (Mehrgarh, 9,000 bp) and perhaps central Anatolia and the southern Levant.

And, a DNA study on goats.

Divergent mtDNA lineages of goats in an Early Neolithic site, far from the initial domestication areas

Helena Fernández*, Sandrine Hughes,,, Jean-Denis Vigne¶, Daniel Helmer||, Greg Hodgins**, Christian Miquel*, Catherine Hänni,, Gordon Luikart*,, and Pierre Taberlet*,

Goats were among the first farm animals domesticated, 10,500 years ago, contributing to the rise of the “Neolithic revolution.” Previous genetic studies have revealed that contemporary domestic goats (Capra hircus) show far weaker intercontinental population structuring than other livestock species, suggesting that goats have been transported more extensively. However, the timing of these extensive movements in goats remains unknown. To address this question, we analyzed mtDNA sequences from 19 ancient goat bones (7,300–6,900 years old) from one of the earliest Neolithic sites in southwestern Europe. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that two highly divergent goat lineages coexisted in each of the two Early Neolithic layers of this site. This finding indicates that high mtDNA diversity was already present >7,000 years ago in European goats, far from their areas of initial domestication in the Near East. These results argue for substantial gene flow among goat populations dating back to the early neolithisation of Europe and for a dual domestication scenario in the Near East, with two independent but essentially contemporary origins (of both A and C domestic lineages) and several more remote and/or later origins.

Ancient Cayonu Tepesi, the likely domestication site of emmer wheat.

Cayonu Tepesi

The site of Cayonu Tepesi is located in Eastern Anatolia, which is present day Turkey. The exact location is near the northern arc of the Fertile Crescent in the Taurus Mountains foothills intermediate between Levant and Zagros on the Ergani Plain. This is the earliest Neolithic settlement discovered to date in Turkey and is believed to have been occupied from approximately 7,250 BCE to 6,750 BCE. At the time of habitation, this location was surrounded by steppe forests of oak and pistachio trees. This was a sedentary farming village which showed the earliest remains of copper metalworking. The Cayonu settlement is located not far from the city of Diyarbakir and was excavated between 1964 and 1991 by expedition teams under the leadership of Cambel, Braidwood, Mehmet Ozdogan and Wulf Schirmen. The anthropologist who receives the most credit for the excavation of Cayonu is Robert Braidwood, who also excavated other sites in the Middle East. This site is important because of it’s Neolithic age and the fact that it spanned a time when humans moved from hunting and gathering to more domestication of animals and plants.

Beads from Cayonu Tepesi, and bone implements, 7000 BC.









Photos of the site. The top picture shows the ‘grill’ pattern of the foundations.

The area of the settlement consists of an occupation mound 200 meters in diameter. There are five to six occupation levels that have been discovered over the 600 years of occupation with the earliest even pre-farming. The earliest levels do not include buildings, only cooking pits. The second layer has a grill like foundation with pebble pavement, parallel walls which probably supported wooden beams and plaster-like floors. The third level had 9 x 10 meter buildings that had terrazzo floors and homes constructed of white limestone cobbles and crushed rock. This level also had a number of decorative ornamentations included in the design. The fourth occupation level had stone foundations and formed cell-like units with walls built of mud. The final levels consisted of residential buildings arranged in a rectangular fashion with a number of the buildings housing larger rooms possibly used for public functions. It is believed that the total population was between 100 and 200 people and the community consisted of twenty-five to fifty buildings. The overall layout of the village’s design showed a square in the center of the town with rectangular shaped buildings and housing surrounding it. The majority of the houses have the upper level built with mud bricks and the lower level made out of stones. Some floors were made of plastered clay while others were terrazzo floors. In addition to the buildings, there are also indications that Cayonu had a number of storage facilities probably used for grains. A deep cylindrical hole with remains of clay and a domed structure was also discovered at this site and was more than likely used for storage of various products.

The people of Cayonu are believed to be tribal and were the first farmers of Anatolia. The figurine of a female deity was found on this site and provides sound evidence that religion was an important aspect of everyday life. This female deity is one of the earliest traces of a cult that has come to be known as the Mother Goddess of Anatolia and the female deity has been worshiped for millenniums by the name of “Cybele.” The burial practices of the settlement also indicate different burial practices including interment under the house floors with special orientation differences between male and female members. Jewelry such as bone belt buckles and necklaces of stone or shell beads have been found with some of the burials. The village was dependent on wild and domesticated plants, especially wheat and barley and some hunting of large numbers of deer and aurochs. Cayonu was one of the first areas where domestication of goats and sheep occurred although a number of anthropologists believe that sheep were consistently more common than goats. It is also believed that the dog was the very first domesticated animal in the village followed by pigs, then goats and sheep.

A number of artifacts of great value have been unearthed at Cayonu including stone tools of flint and obsidian along with copper pins which indicate evidence of the earliest know use of metal tools. Also, hammered native copper has also been discovered in conjunction with other artifacts. Clay pottery has been found including stone vessels and two small clay models of houses. Impressed or incised bone pieces have also been found which may be indications of art, numerical counters or an early experiment in writing. Cayonu was a very import discovery for the archeology community and disclosed many clues into the life of early humans in Turkey and the Middle East. The discoveries made at this site have shown early use of tools, domestication of animals and plants, religious beliefs and the earliest Neolithic settlement yet discovered in Turkey.

Beginnings of Village-Farming Communities in Southeastern Turkey-1972

Ritual clues flow from prehistoric blood

Never mind conventional wisdom; you can get blood from a stone. Anthropologists have extracted the blood of humans, sheep and an extinct form of cattle from the surface of a stone slab at an approximately 10,000-year-old agricultural village in Turkey. Analysis of hemoglobin in the samples leaves them with intriguing clues and questions about the ritual activities of early farmers.

The polished slab lies among the remains of a structure known as the “skull building,” which contains more than 90 human skulls and several complete and partial human skeletons.

“We don’t know exactly what was going on in the skull building, but human and animal blood was abundant on the slab,” says Andree R. Wood of the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute. “It reinforces an argument for at least its occasional use for the cutting up of humans as well as of animals.”

Human sacrifice is one grisly possibility, Wood notes, or human bodies may have been carted to the building after death and placed on the slab for some type of preburial ritual. The skulls show no evidence of decapitation.

Whatever took place in the building, it now appears that one of the world’s earliest known farming villages had developed surprisingly complex traditions by that time, she contends. Previous estimates place the emergence of such villages no farther back than 10,000 years.

Blood from the slab, dated with an advanced technique called accelerator mass spectroscopy radiocarbon dating (SN: 12/16/89, p. 388), is about 9,000 years old, say Wood and Thomas H. Loy of the Australian National University in Canberra.

Their method for removing blood from stone was described by Loy in 1983 and has since been used in the laboratory with artifacts dating from as early as 100,000 years ago. But the new study, conducted at the village of Cayonu Tepesi, marks the first time researchers have removed, stored and undertaken preliminary analysis of blood in the field. This capability offers a great advantage when labs are far away and artifacts cannot be taken out of their country of origin, Wood and Loy maintain.

Loy’s technique involves locating suspected blood residue with a low-power microscope, then analyzing it with a coated paper strip sensitive to hemoglobin. Confirmed blood deposits are scraped off and crystallized. The size and shape of hemoglobin crystals differ among animal species, allowing researchers to match a sample with a particular species.

Initial work at the slab identified human and sheep blood, as well as the blood of an unknown, nonhuman species. The team later obtained blood from bone fragments of an extinct cattle species unearthed at the site and found that its hemoglobin crystals matched those of the unknown species taken from the slab. This is the first identification of the blood of an extinct species, they say.

After analyzing the blood, the researchers excavated from the building a number of skulls and horns belonging to the extinct cattle. They also uncovered a large flint knife whose blade held traces of cattle and human blood. Wood says it may have been used in human sacrifices or mortuary rituals, but she notes that toolmakers’ blood often ends up on sharp tools as a result of accidental cuts.

Ritual activity at Cayonu remains largely a mystery, says Robert J. Braidwood of the Oriental Institute. Nonetheless, he says, the cultural complexity hinted at by the skull building and other structures at the site strengthens his “gut feeling” that humans crossed the threshold to a village-farming life more than 10,000 years ago.

The domestication of emmer wheat.

The domestication of emmer wheat (Triticum turgidum spp. dicoccoides, genomes BBAA) was one of the key events during the emergence of agriculture in southwestern Asia, and was a prerequisite for the evolution of durum and common wheat. Single- and multilocus genotypes based on restriction fragment length polymorphism at 131 loci were analyzed to describe the structure of populations of wild and domesticated emmer and to generate a picture of emmer domestication and its subsequent diffusion across Asia, Europe and Africa. Wild emmer consists of two populations, southern and northern, each further subdivided. Domesticated emmer mirrors the geographic subdivision of wild emmer into the northern and southern populations and also shows an additional structure in both regions. Gene flow between wild and domesticated emmer occurred across the entire area of wild emmer distribution. Emmer was likely domesticated in the Diyarbakir region in southeastern Turkey, which was followed by subsequent hybridization and introgression from wild to domesticated emmer in southern Levant. A less likely scenario is that emmer was domesticated independently in the Diyarbakir region and southern Levant, and the Levantine genepool was absorbed into the genepool of domesticated emmer diffusing from southeastern Turkey. Durum wheat is closely related to domesticated emmer in the eastern Mediterranean and likely originated there.
So, another Turkish origin for a neolithic founder crop. So far, the only non-Turkish wild progenitor crop seems to be barley (Israel/Jordan). I’m starting to doubt that ‘it all began in the Levant’. I’m thinking, mmm, you know, the evidence is way better for Turkey. Specifically, the Cayonu/Taurus mountains area in South East Turkey. This would make the nearest known neolithic settlement to the area of Emmer domestication Cayonu Tepesi.

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.