, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 85-94
Date: 30 Jul 2011

Harvesting practices and early Neolithic barley cultivation at el-Hemmeh, Jordan

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Abstract

Recent research strongly suggests polyphetic origins of multiple cultigens across Southwest Asia approximately 11,000 years ago during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A period. The harvesting practices that contributed to the dedicated use of cultivation as a plant exploitation strategy remain largely unidentified. Archaeobotanical data from el-Hemmeh, a settlement site dating to ca. 10850 cal. b.p., provides an opportunity to examine in close detail the harvesting strategies that may have contributed to the development of domesticated forms. Initial analyses indicate a variety of wild plant foods including barley, lentils, vetch, Pistacia cf. atlantica and fig were exploited, while the presence of large predomesticated barley grains and potential weed species suggest cereal cultivation was also pursued at the site. Barley rachis internodes from el-Hemmeh typically possess a wild morphology, but 22% of specimens show evidence of a forced or “ripped” disarticulation. This suggests barley may have been harvested while ears were partially immature and required subsequent processing in order to disarticulate spikelets.

Communicated by G. Willcox.