Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 45–54 | Cite as

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

  • Danièle MartinoliEmail author
  • Stefanie Jacomet
Original Article


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.


Amygdalus Prunus Endocarp identification Wild-food gathering Detoxification Epipalaeolithic Turkey 



This research has been funded by the research grant 12–64974.01 awarded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. The authors would like to thank the directors of the Öküzini excavation, I. Yalçınkaya (Ankara University) and M. Otte (Liège University), for allowing us to study the plant remains from Öküzini cave;. Hillman and D. Fuller (University College London), H. Elton (British Institute of Archaeology in Ankara), A. Felipe and R. Socias i Company (Institute of Mediterranean Agriculture in Zaragoza), M. Nesbitt (Botanical Garden Kew) and D. Samuel (University College London) for giving us access to their seed and fruit collections, René Cappers and an anonymous reviewer for the revision of the manuscript. Our study has benefited from the help and comments of Sue Colledge (University College London), Ali Dönmez (Hacettepe University), Aylan Erkal (University of California, Berkeley), Fusun Ertug-Yaras (Istanbul University), Mark Nesbitt (Royal Botanical Garden Kew), Manon Savard (Cambridge University), Emin Uğurlu (Ege University) and the teams of archaeobotanists both at the University of Basel and at University College London.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für Prähistorische und Naturwissenschaftliche Archäologie IPNA, ArchäobotanikUniversität BaselBaselSwitzerland

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