Original Article

Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 197-204

First online:

The origins of cultivation of Cicer arietinum L. and Vicia faba L.: early finds from Tell el-Kerkh, north-west Syria, late 10th millennium b.p.

  • Ken-ichi TannoAffiliated withArchéorient CNRS JalèsResearch Institute for Humanity and Nature Email author 
  • , George WillcoxAffiliated withArchéorient CNRS Jalès

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Cicer arietinum L. (chickpea) and Vicia faba L. (faba bean, broad bean or horse bean) were found in late 10th millennium b.p. levels at Tell el-Kerkh, in north-west Syria. They are the earliest well preserved archaeobotanical finds of these two species. Over a hundred C. arietinum specimens were recovered which showed a wide morphological diversity varying from C. arietinum ssp. reticulatum to the more rounded shape as seen in cultivated varieties. For Vicia faba, 29 complete and 119 half seeds, as well as many fragments were recovered. Tell el-Kerkh is one of the few early PPNB Near Eastern sites situated in the Mediterranean zone which could have been the habitat of the unknown wild progenitor of the faba bean. The wild progenitor of chickpea, C. a. reticulatum, is found in a limited area of southeast Turkey, at a considerable distance from Tell el-Kerkh. These finds suggest that the use and domestication of these pulses is perhaps earlier than was previously supposed.


Cicer arietinum Vicia faba Domestication Neolithic Near East