, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 117-129
Date: 18 Oct 2011

Crop introduction and accelerated island evolution: archaeobotanical evidence from ‘Ais Yiorkis and Pre-Pottery Neolithic Cyprus

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Abstract

Charred plant remains from the Cypriot Pre-Pottery Neolithic site of Krittou Marottou ‘Ais Yiorkis, situated in the foothills of the Troödos Mountains and dated to ca. 7500 cal. b.c., demonstrate the early introduction of two-grained einkorn (Triticum monococcum sensu lato). Grain measurements of two-grained einkorn from ‘Ais Yiorkis are compared to those from Aceramic and early Neolithic sites elsewhere in Cyprus, in northern Syria and central Europe. The grains appear to be larger than domestic grains of a later date from the Levantine mainland. Recent work by Purugganan and Fuller (Evolution 65:171–183, 2011) demonstrates a slow evolutionary rate in increasing grain size relative to the rates of evolution in wild species subject to natural selection. When the measurements of two-grained einkorn wheat from ‘Ais Yiorkis are compared with these same allochronic data the results indicate an accelerated rate in attaining larger grain size on Cyprus than on the mainland. The possibility of a domestication ‘event’ or rapid fixation of larger grain size characteristic of domesticated cereal crops in the context of an initially small island population is suggested by the colonisation by farmers of Cyprus in the Cypro-Pre-Pottery Neolithic.

Communicated by F. Bittmann.