Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology

pp 4487-4490

Lentil: Origins and Development

  • Leilani LucasAffiliated withInstitute of Archaeology, University College London Email author 
  • , Dorian Q. FullerAffiliated withInstitute of Archaeology, University College London

Basic Species Information

Lentil is the common English name of the cultivated legume, Lens culinaris Medik. The genus, Lens, is in the plant family Fabaceae, in the subfamily Papilionoindeae, and in the tribe Vicieae. Lentil ranks fifth in the world’s production of seed legumes, after soybean (Glycine max L.), pea (Pisum sativum), chickpea (Cicer arietinum), and cow pea (Vigna unguiculata). It is grown worldwide and the largest producing country is Canada, followed by India, Turkey, and the United States (http:/ The global success of this crop is due largely to the high protein content of its seeds (25 %) and therefore its use as a common meat substitute (Zohary 1995). In addition to being a companion to a starch-rich diet of cereal-based agriculture, legumes are a valuable resource in restoring nitrogen to the soil as they are able to fix atmospheric nitrogen and replenish soil fertility (Zohary et al. 2012).

Lens culinaris was domesticated in S ...

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