, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 45-54
Date: 05 Feb 2004

Identifying endocarp remains and exploring their use at Epipalaeolithic Öküzini in southwest Anatolia, Turkey

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Abstract

Excavation of the Epipalaeolithic levels of the cave site Öküzini in southwest Anatolia produced many “nutshell” remains, mainly endocarp fragments belonging either to Prunus or Amygdalus. Morphological comparison with the range of potential species and present geographical distribution made it possible to refine the determination to either of two species of wild almond, Amygdalus orientalis or A. graeca . These plants could grow in the surroundings of the site on rocky slopes or sandy hills and had to be collected during late summer. All wild Amygdalus seeds are toxic, so that their use as food is disputed. This paper explores the detoxification possibilities, nutritional properties and ethnographic analogies for the use of wild almonds. It comes to the conclusion that the seeds probably played a notable role in the diet of the Epipalaeolithic population of southwest Anatolia, complementing meat and other plant food. An examination of further prehistoric “nutshell” finds from Anatolia supports a long and widely distributed tradition of almond use.