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The climate of the Younger Dryas as a boundary for Einkorn domestication

  • Sylvi Haldorsen
  • Hasan Akan
  • Bahattin Çelik
  • Manfred Heun
Review

Abstract

The domestication of the Neolithic founder crops of the Near East has recently been a topic of debate particularly with respect to how rapidly the domestication of these crops occurred. One school of thought maintains that these processes lasted several thousand years (‘protracted model’ with ‘gathering’, ‘cultivation’ and ‘domestication’ as three stages of a continuum, each taking up to several thousand years), while another favors the view that domestication occurred much more quickly, over several hundred years at most (‘rapid transition’). Our study focuses on one of these crops, 1-grained domesticated Einkorn wheat, incorporating data from geology, vegetation history, and climate. In the Karacadağ region of southeastern Turkey, where 1-grained Einkorn wheat was domesticated, the climate was severe (i.e. cold and dry) during the Younger Dryas. The climate of the Younger Dryas acted as boundary during which a) conditions were not suitable for ‘cultivation’, and b) Einkorn would have retreated to refugia exhibiting more suitable moisture-bearing soils that would have made ‘gathering’ difficult. Around 11600 cal. b.p., the Younger Dryas ended and a very rapid climatic amelioration commenced at the beginning of the Early Holocene, enabling grasses to spread throughout the region. A ritual PPNA/PPNB site (Göbekli Tepe) and associated PPNB settlements such as Nevali Çori and Çayönü were established at this time. In the settlements of Nevali Çori and Cafer Höyük, the oldest domesticated Einkorn was found in the earliest archaeological layers. This confirms that the inhabitants made use of domesticated 1-grained Einkorn from the very beginning of settlement activity, although they continued to practice a mixed lifestyle as hunter-gatherers and farmers. For Çayönü the issue is more complex, but here domesticated Einkorn also appears around the same time. In summary, by 10400 cal. b.p. domesticated 1-grained Einkorn was present in large quantities at a variety of sites. This would give a maximum window of time lasting approximately 1,200 years and is therefore not in agreement with the ‘protracted’ model but would be consistent with a ‘rapid transition’. It is improbable that the ‘cultivation’ of wild Einkorn was practiced in the Karacadağ region, since wild Einkorn was plentiful during the favorable growing conditions following the Younger Dryas, making it more likely that ‘gathering’ would have been practiced. Because Einkorn has not been found in early settlements in the southern Levant, this crop cannot have been ‘gathered’ and ‘cultivated’ there but instead was ‘domesticated’ independently and solely in southeastern Turkey. Therefore, the YD acts as a boundary, providing a maximum time frame for 1-grained Einkorn domestication.

Keywords

Einkorn Domestication Younger Dryas Holocene Neolithic Southeastern Turkey 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Thanks are due to K. Schmidt, DAI, Berlin, Germany, for allowing M. Heun to visit Göbekli Tepe in 2008 and for patiently explaining the archaeology of the site in detail. Conversations with J. Peters, LMU, Munich, Germany and N. Pöllath, LMU, Munich, Germany, held in a taxi on the way to the Karacadağ region (2008) were very helpful as well. Thanks go also to A. Coşkun who explained Körtik Tepe to M. Heun during a trip in 2010 and to V. Özkaya for arranging this trip. M. Simsek accompanied M. Heun during a second trip into the Karacadağ and to Çayönü in 2010. Two phone conversations with R. Pasternak, Kiel, Germany provided support for the domestication status of the Einkorn samples from Nevali Çori. Å. Borgan and B. Hopland, both at UMB, kindly drafted the final versions of most figures. H. Woldring kindly shared his knowledge about the grassland expansion in the Early Holocene with us. N. Roberts read the manuscript and suggested a number of useful changes. The English was improved by C. McGregor and his wife. Sincere thanks to all who aided us in this work; however, we take responsibility for any errors which may occur in this publication.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sylvi Haldorsen
    • 1
  • Hasan Akan
    • 2
  • Bahattin Çelik
    • 2
  • Manfred Heun
    • 1
  1. 1.Norwegian University of Life SciencesÅsNorway
  2. 2.Harran University, Science and Art FacultyOsmanbeyTurkey

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