Searching for the origins of arable weeds in the Near East

Abstract

This short note adds to earlier attempts at identifying arable weeds on late Pleistocene/early Holocene sites in the Near East. Nineteen potential arable weed taxa that have no known use were selected. The occurrence of these taxa at sites with morphologically wild cereals was compared to sites with morphologically domestic cereals. The presumed arable weed taxa were as common on three PPNA (Pre Pottery Neolithic A) sites without domestication as they were on Middle PPNB (Pre Pottery Neolithic B) sites with domestication, which lends support to arguments for pre-domestic cultivation at the former sites. Arable weed taxa were less common at Natufian sites but their presence raises the question of whether they originated in cultivated fields or were the ancestors of weeds gathered accidentally alongside wild cereals in their natural habitat.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1

References

  1. Colledge S (1998) Identifying pre-domestication cultivation using multivariate analysis. In: Damania A, Valkoun J, Willcox G, Qualset CO (eds) The origins of agriculture and crop domestication. ICARDA, Aleppo, pp 121–131

    Google Scholar 

  2. Colledge S (2002) Identifying pre-domestication cultivation in the archaeobotanical record using multivariate analysis: presenting the case for quantification. In: Cappers RTJ, Bottema S (eds) The dawn of farming in the Near East. Studies in Early Near Eastern Production, Subsistence and Environment 6. Ex Oriente, Berlin, pp 141–152

    Google Scholar 

  3. Colledge S, Conolly J (2010) Reassessing the evidence for the cultivation of wild crops during the Younger Dryas at Tell Abu Hureyra, Syria. Env Archaeol 15:13–124

    Google Scholar 

  4. Colledge S, Conolly J, Shennan S (2004) Archaeobotanical evidence for the spread of farming in the eastern Mediterranean. Curr Anthropol 45(suppl):S35–S58

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Coward F, Shennan S, Colledge S, Conolly J, Collard M (2008) The spread of Neolithic plant economies from the Near East to northwest Europe: a phylogenetic analysis. J Archaeol Sci 35:42–56

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Diamond J (2002) Evolution, consequences and future of plant and animal domestication. Nature 418:700–707

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Edwards PC, Meadows J, Sayej G, Westaway M (2004) From the PPNA to the PPNB: new views from the southern Levant after excavations at Zahrat adh-Dhra 2 in Jordan. Paléorient 30:21–60

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Fuller D (2007) Contrasting patterns in crop domestication and domestication rates: recent archaeobotanical insights from the Old World. Ann Bot 100:903–909

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Harlan J (1995) The living fields our agricultural heritage. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  10. Harris DR (1977) Alternative pathways towards agriculture. In: Reed CA (ed) The origins of agriculture. Mouton, The Hague, pp 179–243

    Google Scholar 

  11. Hillman G, Hedges R, Moore A, Colledge S, Pettitt P (2001) New evidence of Late Glacial cereal cultivation at Abu Hureyra on the Euphrates. Holocene 11:383–393

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Jones G, Charles M, Bogaard A, Hodgson JG, Palmer C (2005) The functional ecology of present-day arable weed floras and its applicability for the identification of past crop husbandry. Veget Hist Archaeobot 14:493–504

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Jones G, Charles M, Bogaard A, Hodgson J (2010) Crops and weeds: the role of weed functional ecology in the identification of crop husbandry methods. J Archaeol Sci 37:70–77

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Kislev M (1997) Early agriculture and palaeoecology of Netiv Hagdud. In: Bar-Yosef O, Gopher A (eds) An early Neolithic village in the Jordan valley. Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, pp 209–236

    Google Scholar 

  15. Kreuz A, Marinova E, Schäfer E, Wiethold J (2005) A comparison of early Neolithic crop and weed assemblages from the Linearbandkeramik and the Bulgarian Neolithic cultures: differences and similarities. Veget Hist Archaeobot 14:237–258

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Kuijt I, Finlayson B (2009) Evidence for food storage and predomestication granaries 11,000 years ago in the Jordan Valley. Proc Natl Acad Sci 106:10,966–10970

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Meadows J (2004) The earliest farmers? Archaeobotanical research at Pre-Pottery Neolithic A sites in Jordan. In: Al-Khraysheh F (ed) Studies in the history and archaeology of Jordan VIII: 16 archaeological and historical perspectives on society culture and identity. Department of Antiquities of Jordan, Amman, pp 119–128

    Google Scholar 

  18. Nesbitt M (2002) When and where did domesticated cereals first occur in southwest Asia? In: Cappers R, Bottema S (eds) The dawn of farming in the Near East. Ex Oriente, Berlin, pp 113–132

    Google Scholar 

  19. Purugganan M, Fuller DQ (2009) The nature of selection during plant domestication. Nature 457:843–848

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Savard M, Nesbitt M, Jones MK (2006) The role of wild grasses in subsistence and sedentism: new evidence from the northern Fertile Crescent. World Archaeol 38:179–196

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Steensberg A (1986) Man the manipulator. National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen

    Google Scholar 

  22. Tanno K, Willcox G (2011) Distinguishing wild and domestic wheat and barley spikelets from early Holocene sites in the Near East. Veget Hist Archaeobot (this volume)

  23. Van Zeist W (1993) Archaeobotanical Evidence of the Bronze Age Field-Weed Flora of Northern Syria. Diss Bot 196:499–511

    Google Scholar 

  24. Van Zeist W, Bakker-Heeres JA (1984) Archaeobotanical studies in the Levant 3. Late Palaeolithic Mureybet. Palaeohistoria 26:171–199

    Google Scholar 

  25. Van Zeist W, de Roller GJ (1994) The plant husbandry of Aceramic Cayönü, E. Turkey. Palaeohistoria 33(34):65–96

    Google Scholar 

  26. Weiss E, Kislev ME, Hartmann A (2006) Autonomous cultivation before domestication. Science 312:1608–1610

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. White C, Makarewicz C (2011) Harvesting practices and early Neolithic barley cultivation at el-Hemmeh, Jordan. Veget Hist Archaeobot. doi:10.1007/s00334-011-0309-z

  28. Willcox G, Fornite S, Herveux L (2008) Early Holocene cultivation before domestication in northern Syria. Veget Hist Archaeobot 17:313–325

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Zohary M (1950) The segetal plant communities of Palestine. Plant Ecol 2:387–411

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

Thanks to Sue Colledge for providing information on weed identifications from the Near East and for her work on potential arable weed assemblages. My gratitude to Gordon Hillman and Willem van Zeist who carried the pioneering work on identifying weed floras on early farming sites in the Near East.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to George Willcox.

Additional information

Communicated by F. Bittmann.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Willcox, G. Searching for the origins of arable weeds in the Near East. Veget Hist Archaeobot 21, 163–167 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00334-011-0307-1

Download citation

Keywords

  • Weeds
  • Origins
  • Near East
  • Pre-domestic cultivation
  • Domestication
  • Agriculture