Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 5, Issue 1–2, pp 143–152 | Cite as

Evidence for plant exploitation and vegetation history from three Early Neolithic pre-pottery sites on the Euphrates (Syria)

  • George Willcox


Archaeobotanical results based on a limited number of samples from three aceramic sites dating from 9800 to 7800 B.P., which are under excavation in the valley of the Middle Euphrates, are discussed. The finds are presented simply by presence, and are compared to the contemporary vegetation and finds from similar sites. Carbonised plant remains recovered by flotation from levels dated to between 9800 and 9200 B.P. (Dja'de and Jerf al Ahmar) indicate that wild cereals (einkorn wheat, rye and barley) and pulses (lentils, pea and bitter vetch) were exploited. Other plants such as wild grasses, Pistacia, wild almond and oak, suggest that the local vegetation provided a rich diversity of resources. A study of possible weed taxa is being carried out in order to see whether this assemblage could be used to identify the cultivation of morphologically wild cereals for this period. Ninth millennium B.P. levels at Halula see the appearance of domestic crops such as emmer, naked wheat and barley, but wild-type cereals persist. The cultivars appear to have been introduced from elsewhere and later ninth millennium B.P. species include olive and flax. Ash, vine, maple, plane, alder and elm from the gallery forest, wild rye, wild einkorn, deciduous oak, wild almond, Pistacia, and Pyrus, from the hinterland, indicate cooler conditions.

Key words

Euphrates Early Neolithic Cereals Natural vegetation Palaeoclimate 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Baruch U, Bottema S (1991) Palynological evidence for climatic changes in the Levant ca. 17,000–9,000 B.P. In: Bar-Yosef O, Valla F (eds) The Natufian culture in the Levant. International Monographs in Prehistory, Ann Arbor, pp 11–20Google Scholar
  2. Couvin J (1994) Naissance des divinités: naissance de l'agriculture. Editions du CNRS, ParisGoogle Scholar
  3. Cauvin MC, Molist M (1991) Prospection néolithique sur le Haute Euphrate Syrien. Ann Arab Syriennes 37/38: 78–90Google Scholar
  4. Coqueugniot E (1994) L'industrie lithique de Dja'de el Mughara et le début du PPNB sur l'Euphrate syrien (sondages 1991 et 1992). In: Gebel HG, Koszlowski S K (eds) Neolithic chipped stone industries of the Fertile Crescent. Proceedings of the First Workshop on PPN Chipped Lithic Industries. Berlin 1993. Berlin studies in the early production subsistence and environment. Zaklad Graficzny, Uniwersytet Warszawski, Warsaw, pp 313–330Google Scholar
  5. de Moulins D (1993) Les restes de plantes carbonisées de Cafer Höyük. Cah l'Euphrate 7: 191–234Google Scholar
  6. de Moulins D (1994) Agricultural change at Euphrates and steppe sites in the mid-8th millennium B.C. Ph.D. thesis (unpublished), University College, LondonGoogle Scholar
  7. Davis PH (1985) Flora of Turkey and the Aegean Islands, Volume 9. Edinburgh University Press, EdinburghGoogle Scholar
  8. Harris DR, Masson VM, Berezkin YE, Charles M, Gosden C, Hillman GC, Kasparov AK, Korobkova G F, Kurbansakhatov K, Legge AJ, Limbrey S (1992) Investigating early agriculture in central Asia: new research at Jeitun, Turkmenistan. Antiquity 67: 324–38Google Scholar
  9. Hillman G, Davies S (1990) Measured domestication rates in wild wheats and barley under primitive cultivation, and their archaeological implications. J World Prehist 4: 157–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hillman GC, Colledge SM, Harris DR (1989) Plant food economy during the epi-palaeolithic period at Tell Abu Hureyra Syria: dietary diversity, seasonality and modes of exploitation. In: Harris DR, Hillman GC (eds) Foraging and farming: the evolution of plant exploitation. Unwin and Hyman, London, pp 40–268Google Scholar
  11. Hillman G, Wales S, Mc Laren F, Evans J, Butler A (1993) Identifying problematic remains of ancient plant foods: a comparison of the role of chemical, histological and morphological criteria. World archaeol 25: 94–121Google Scholar
  12. Kerbe J (1987) Climat, hydrologie et aménagements hydro-agricoles de Syrie. Presses Universitaires de Bordeaux, Université de Bordeaux III, TalenceGoogle Scholar
  13. Kislev M (1989) Pre-domesticated cereals in the pre-pottery neolithic A period. In: Hershkovitz I (ed) People and cultural change. BAR, International Series 508 (1), Oxford, pp 147–151Google Scholar
  14. Kislev M (1992) Agriculture in the Near East in the VIIth millennium b.c. In: Anderson P (ed) Préhistoire de l'agriculture, Monographie du CRA 6, Editions du CNRS, Paris, pp 87–94Google Scholar
  15. Konarev AV, Konarev VG (1993) The use of genome-specific antigens and prolamin electrophoresis in the evaluation of wheat and its wild relatives. In. Damania AB (ed) Biodiversity and wheat improvement. Wiley, Chichester, pp 259–272Google Scholar
  16. Miller T (1992) A cautionary note on the use of morphological characters for recognising taxa in wheats (genus Triticum). In: Anderson P (ed) Préhistoire de l'agriculture. Monographie du CRA 6, Editions du CNRS, Paris, pp 249–254Google Scholar
  17. Molist M, Anfrunus J, Catala M, Helmer D, Faura JM, Mateau J, Palmomo A, Sana M, Willcox G (1995) Tell Halula (Siria), un poblat dels primers agricultors I ramaders des VII millenia la vall de l'Efrates. Tribuna d'Arqueologia 1992–1993 (Server d'Arqueologia, Generalitat de Catalunya, Barcelona): 49–61 xxGoogle Scholar
  18. Moore AMT, Hillman GC (1992) The Pleistocene to Holocene transition and human economy in south-west Asia: the impact of the Younger Dryas. Am Antiq 57: 482–494Google Scholar
  19. Moutarde P (1966–83) Nouvelle flore du Liban et de la Syrie, Vols 1–3. Dar el-Machreq, BeyrouthGoogle Scholar
  20. Ramamoorthy J, Chong D, Chinnappa C (1994) Comparative assessment of genetic diversity in wild and cultivated barley using ribosomal DNA spacer length variants. Israel J Plant Sci 42: 115–123Google Scholar
  21. Rossignol-Strick M (1993) Late Quaternary climate in the eastern Mediterranean region. Paléorient 19: 135–151Google Scholar
  22. Traboulsi M (1981): Le climat de la Syrie: exemple de dégradation vers l'aride du climat méditerranéen. Thèse du Troisième Cycle, Université de Lyon 2, LyonGoogle Scholar
  23. Valkoun J (1992) Exploration mission for wild cereals in Syria. Genetic resources unit, annual report 1991. International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas, Aleppo, pp 16–18Google Scholar
  24. van Slageren MW (1994) Wild wheats: a monograph of Aegilops L. and Amblyopyrum (Jaub. & Spach) Eig. Agricultural University Wageningen, WageningenGoogle Scholar
  25. van Zeist W, Bakker-Heeres JA (1982) Archaeobotanical studies in the Levant. 1. Neolithic sites in the Damascus Basin: Aswad, Ghoraife, Ramad. Palaeohistoria 24: 165–256Google Scholar
  26. van Zeist W, Bakker-Heeres JA (1984) Archaeobotanical studies in the Levant. 3. Late Palaeolithic Mureybet. Palaeohistoria 26: 171–199Google Scholar
  27. van Zeist W, de Roller G (1994) The plant husbandry of aceramic Cayönü, SE Turkey. Palaeohistoria 33/34: 65–96Google Scholar
  28. Willcox G (1991) La culture inventée, la domestication inconsciente: le début de l'agriculture au Proche Orient. In MC Cauvin (ed) Rites et ryhmes agraires. Travaux Maison L'Orient 20: 9–31Google Scholar
  29. Willcox G (1992) Archaebotanical significance of growing Near Eastern progenitors of domestic plants at Jalès (France). In: Anderson, P (ed) Préhistorie de l'agriculture: nouvelles approaches expérimentales et ethnographiques. Monographie du CRA 6, Editions du CNRS, Paris, pp 159–178Google Scholar
  30. Zohary M (1973) Geobotanical foundations of the Near East. Fischer, StuttgartGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • George Willcox
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut de Préhistoire OrientaleCNRS JalèsBerriasFrance

Personalised recommendations