Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 213–217 | Cite as

An archaeobotanical contribution to the history of watermelon, Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai (syn. C. vulgaris Schrad.)

  • Krystyna Wasylikowa
  • Marijke van der Veen
Original Article


The discovery of several 5000-year old seeds of wild watermelon, Citrullus lanatus, at an archaeological site Uan Muhuggiag in southwest Libya, re-opens the debate on the origin, wild distribution and domestication history of this species. The seeds were found within a plant assemblage of wild seeds and fruits, associated with pottery and bones of domestic animals belonging to Neolithic pastoralists. The presumed wild progenitor of the modern cultivar C. lanatus is today found exclusively in a region centring on the Kalahari Desert. This new archaeobotanical record raises the possibility that this distribution was much more extensive in the past.


Citrullus lanatus Libya Wild distribution Domestication history 



We would like to thank C. Jeffrey for the examination of the Uan Muhuggiag specimens, R. Housley for his help with arranging the radiocarbon dates of the seeds, S. Colledge for the seed drawings and A. Bieniek for the seed photographs.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.W. Szafer Institute of BotanyPolish Academy of SciencesKrakówPoland
  2. 2.School of Archaeology & Ancient HistoryUniversity of LeicesterLeicesterUK

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