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Invading a new niche: obligatory weeds at Neolithic Atlit-Yam, Israel

Abstract

A characteristic group of obligatory weeds was found in the well of the submerged Pre-Pottery Neolithic C site of Atlit-Yam, Israel. Identifying these finds to species level was crucial for defining them as obligatory weeds. We deal here with the earliest and largest assemblage of obligatory and facultative weeds in the southwest Asian Neolithic. Atlit-Yam may reflect a stage in the establishment of weeds in cultivated fields. Weeds are an important resource for reconstructing the agricultural situation in archaeological sites, as weed-crop interactions reflect an agricultural lifestyle. Some of the weeds of Atlit-Yam grow in fields as well as in Mediterranean herbaceous habitats. This may indicate that the local herbaceous ecosystem was the original habitat of the weeds and the place where the first fields were planted. Presence in a single context of the earliest identified obligatory grain pest beetle (Sitophilus granarius) along with obligatory weeds reflects a novel change made to the ecosystem by the farmers, in which stored crops were invaded by pests.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank E. Donahaye of the Department of Plant Protection, Beit-Dagan, Israel, for confirming the identification of S. granarius; J. Langsam for the SEM micrographs; Y. Mahler-Slasky for the stereo-microscope pictures and we thank the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments. We also thank the COST program, action TD0902, SPLASHCOS of the European Commission, the National Geographic Research Foundation, CARE Archaeological Foundation, MAFCAF Foundation, and Sandy and Joseph Lepelstat for their financial support of research on the submerged Carmel coast sites. The Israel Antiquities Authority, the Israel Prehistoric Society and Haifa University are acknowledged for their financial and administrative support of the underwater excavations.

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Correspondence to Ehud Weiss.

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Communicated by F. Bittmann.

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Hartmann-Shenkman, A., Kislev, M.E., Galili, E. et al. Invading a new niche: obligatory weeds at Neolithic Atlit-Yam, Israel. Veget Hist Archaeobot 24, 9–18 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00334-014-0498-3

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Keywords

  • Pre-Pottery Neolithic C (PPNC)
  • Submerged settlement
  • Agriculture
  • Obligatory weeds
  • Sitophilus granarius