, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 313-325

Early Holocene cultivation before domestication in northern Syria

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Abstract

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

Communicated by A. Fairbairn.