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Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 534–541 | Cite as

The distribution, natural habitats and availability of wild cereals in relation to their domestication in the Near East: multiple events, multiple centres

Original Article

Abstract

In this article we examine the natural habitats and distribution of the six wild cereals: Triticum urartu (wild urartu wheat), T. boeoticum aegilopoides (single-grained wild einkorn), T. boeoticum thaoudar (two-grained wild einkorn), T. dicoccoides (wild emmer wheat), Secale spp. (wild ryes) and Hordeum spontaneum (wild barley). A comparison of late Pleistocene/early Holocene archaeobotanical assemblages in the Near East with present-day distributions of wild cereals shows a good correlation. The regional variation in the archaeobotanical cereal assemblages and the ensuing domestication provide evidence that different cereal species were domesticated independently in different areas. Some sites were not situated near wild cereal habitats and a few were located outside the limits of distribution, even accounting for moister climatic conditions. I argue here that current models which try to explain the shift to farming have tended to over-emphasize the effect of the Younger Dryas climatic change. First, it would have had only a minor effect on cereal availability. Secondly, agriculture appears to have been established after the Younger Dryas. Thirdly, there is no evidence for a single centre of origin; agriculture arose in widely separated geographic and climatic regions. And fourthly, agriculture depends on stable climatic conditions which were not established until after the Younger Dryas.

Keywords

Wild cereals Habitats Domestication Near East Neolithic 

Notes

Acknowledgements

My thanks to R. Buxo, S. Fornite, D. Helmer, L. Herveux, M. Molist, D. Stordeur, E. Willcox, and colleagues at the Department of Antiquities, Damascus. Part of this ongoing work was financed by the European Union contract ICA3-CT-2002-10022. Thanks also to S. Jacomet, M. Kislev, F. Bittmann, and an anonymous reviewer for their corrections and helpful suggestions

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CNRS Archéorient UMR 5133BerriasFrance

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