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The origins of cultivation of Cicer arietinum L. and Vicia faba L.: early finds from Tell el-Kerkh, north-west Syria, late 10th millennium b.p.

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Cicer arietinum L. (chickpea) and Vicia faba L. (faba bean, broad bean or horse bean) were found in late 10th millennium b.p. levels at Tell el-Kerkh, in north-west Syria. They are the earliest well preserved archaeobotanical finds of these two species. Over a hundred C. arietinum specimens were recovered which showed a wide morphological diversity varying from C. arietinum ssp. reticulatum to the more rounded shape as seen in cultivated varieties. For Vicia faba, 29 complete and 119 half seeds, as well as many fragments were recovered. Tell el-Kerkh is one of the few early PPNB Near Eastern sites situated in the Mediterranean zone which could have been the habitat of the unknown wild progenitor of the faba bean. The wild progenitor of chickpea, C. a. reticulatum, is found in a limited area of southeast Turkey, at a considerable distance from Tell el-Kerkh. These finds suggest that the use and domestication of these pulses is perhaps earlier than was previously supposed.

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We thank A. Tsuneki, Tsukuba University, Japan and J. Hydar, Latakia Museum, Syria who directs the excavations at Tell el-Kerkh, and M. Arimura, Maison de Orient, Lyon, France, who took charge of the excavation of the early PPNB levels. Our appreciation must go to seven students of Aleppo University, A. Kharbotly, O. Sarhan, M. Maqdad, S. Kurdy, M.N. Habbak, A. Altunji and J. Alasfary, for their help in the water flotation and especially the manual recovery of seeds, and to members of the Department of Antiquities in Syria. This study was financed by the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (P.D.-R.A. H15-16).

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Correspondence to Ken-ichi Tanno.

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Communicated by F. Bittmann

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Tanno, Ki., Willcox, G. The origins of cultivation of Cicer arietinum L. and Vicia faba L.: early finds from Tell el-Kerkh, north-west Syria, late 10th millennium b.p. . Veget Hist Archaeobot 15, 197–204 (2006).

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