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


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.

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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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Correspondence to Krystyna Wasylikowa.

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Wasylikowa, K., van der Veen, M. An archaeobotanical contribution to the history of watermelon, Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai (syn. C. vulgaris Schrad.). Veget Hist Archaeobot 13, 213–217 (2004).

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  • Citrullus lanatus
  • Libya
  • Wild distribution
  • Domestication history