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, 113 (49), 14001-14006

Regional Diversity on the Timing for the Initial Appearance of Cereal Cultivation and Domestication in Southwest Asia

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Regional Diversity on the Timing for the Initial Appearance of Cereal Cultivation and Domestication in Southwest Asia

Amaia Arranz-Otaegui et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.

Abstract

Recent studies have broadened our knowledge regarding the origins of agriculture in southwest Asia by highlighting the multiregional and protracted nature of plant domestication. However, there have been few archaeobotanical data to examine whether the early adoption of wild cereal cultivation and the subsequent appearance of domesticated-type cereals occurred in parallel across southwest Asia, or if chronological differences existed between regions. The evaluation of the available archaeobotanical evidence indicates that during Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) cultivation of wild cereal species was common in regions such as the southern-central Levant and the Upper Euphrates area, but the plant-based subsistence in the eastern Fertile Crescent (southeast Turkey, Iran, and Iraq) focused on the exploitation of plants such as legumes, goatgrass, fruits, and nuts. Around 10.7-10.2 ka Cal BP (early Pre-Pottery Neolithic B), the predominant exploitation of cereals continued in the southern-central Levant and is correlated with the appearance of significant proportions (∼30%) of domesticated-type cereal chaff in the archaeobotanical record. In the eastern Fertile Crescent exploitation of legumes, fruits, nuts, and grasses continued, and in the Euphrates legumes predominated. In these two regions domesticated-type cereal chaff (>10%) is not identified until the middle and late Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (10.2-8.3 ka Cal BP). We propose that the cultivation of wild and domesticated cereals developed at different times across southwest Asia and was conditioned by the regionally diverse plant-based subsistence strategies adopted by Pre-Pottery Neolithic groups.

Keywords: Pre-Pottery Neolithic; agriculture; archaeobotany; plant domestication; southwest Asia.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Figures

Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.
Archaeological sites dated to 11.7–10.7 ka Cal BP (PPNA in the Levant) with published archaeobotanical evidence. Sites with combined presence of cultivated-type grains and arable flora, along with predominance of cereals over other plant categories, are considered to indicate wild cereal cultivation practices (based on Tables S1 and S2).
Fig. 2.
Fig. 2.
Archaeological sites dated to 10.7–10.2 ka Cal BP (EPPNB in the Levant) with published archaeobotanical records. Sites where domesticated-type rachis scars comprise >10% of the assemblage are considered to represent evidence of incipient cereal domestication (based on Table S6).
Fig. S1.
Fig. S1.
Cereal grains from TQN: emmer (A), two-grained einkorn (B), one-grained einkorn (C), and barley (D). The first two grains in the left represent wild uncultivated-type and cultivated-type grains, respectively, in lateral view (e.g., A, 12). The rest of the grains are in ventral (e.g., A, 3), dorsal (e.g., A, 4), and transverse (e.g., A, 5) sections. The main difficulty in identification was the separation of two-grained einkorn and emmer. In the ventral/dorsal view, the caryopses of two-grained einkorn were more slender than those of emmer and commonly showed attenuated apical and embryo ends, unlike the blunt ends found in emmer grains (96). In two-grained einkorn the lateral view of the caryopsis was parallel to slightly curved, whereas in emmer the dorsal surface was convex and humpbacked in some specimens, and the ventral face was flat to slightly convex. A key character of two-grained einkorn was the apical compression or indentation in lateral view (marked with an arrow in B, 12) (97). In the transverse section, two-grained einkorn was often asymmetric and was commonly rectangular to square in shape, whereas emmer grains were evenly rounded to somewhat angular and were commonly symmetric.
Fig. S2.
Fig. S2.
Wild and domesticated-type cereal chaff from TQN: emmer (A), einkorn (B), barley (C), indeterminate wheat (D), and indeterminate wheat/barley (E). For emmer (A) and einkorn (B), examples of spikelet forks with domesticated-type (A, 1 and B, 1) and wild-type (A, 2 and B, 2) upper or lower scars, transverse view of the spikelet fork (A, 3 and B, 3), transverse view of a glume base (A, 4 and B, 4), and lateral view of a glume base (A, 5 and B, 5) are given. The arrow in A, 1 and D, 2 shows a domesticated-type emmer scar clearly lifted from the internode surface. For barley (C), indeterminate wheat (D), and indeterminate wheat/barley (E) examples include basal spikelet forks/rachis remains with domesticated-type scar (C, 1; D, 1; and E, 1), nonbasal spikelet forks/rachis remains with domesticated-type scar (C, 2; D, 2; and E, 2), and nonbasal spikelet forks/rachis remains with wild-type scar (C, 3; D, 3; and E, 3).
Fig. 3.
Fig. 3.
Archaeological sites dated to 10.28.3 ka Cal BP (M/LPPNB in the Levant) with published archaeobotanical evidence. Sites where domesticated-type rachis scars comprise >10% of the assemblage are considered to represent evidence of incipient cereal domestication (based on Table S6).

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