Archaeology

Farming Developed in Several Places Simultaneously

Researchers from Tübingen analyse origins of agriculture in Iran.

24. 7. 2013 | For decades archaeologists have been searching for the origins of agriculture. Their findings indicated that early plant domestication took place in the Western and Northern "Fertile Crescent" in the Middle East. These newest findings reveal early farming in the Eastern part of this region.
Excavation sites in the
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Excavation sites in the "Fertile Crescent"
Researchers from the University of Tübingen, together with colleagues from the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Paleoenvironment there, with researchers from the Iranian Center for Archaeological Research show that the foothills of the Zagros Mountains of Iran also were an important centre for early plant domestication. Archaeologists Nicholas Conard and Mohsen Zeidi from Tübingen led excavations at the tell site of Chogha Golan in 2009 and 2010. The term "tell" describes a mound of remains of ancient settlements. The researchers documented an eight meter thick sequence of exclusively aceramic Neolithic deposits dating from 11,700 to 9,800 years ago. These excavations showed a wealth of architectural remains, stone tools, depictions of humans and animals, bone tools, animal bones, and – perhaps most importantly – the richest deposits of charred plant remains ever recovered from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period in the Near East.
The researchers from Tübingen
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(© Nicholas Conard)


The researchers from Tübingen | while they are excavating at the top of the "tell" - mound of ancient settlements.

Simone Riehl, head of the archaeobotany laboratory in Tübingen, analyzed over 30,000 plant remains of 75 taxa or plant species from Chogha Golan, spanning a period of more than 2,000 years. Her results show that the origins of agriculture in the Near East can be attributed to multiple centres rather than a single core area, and that the Eastern Fertile Crescent played a key role in the process of domestication.

Dr. Simone Riehl
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Dr. Simone Riehl
Many pre-pottery Neolithic sites show comparatively short sequences of occupation, making the long sequence form Chogha Golan particularly valuable for reconstructing the development of new patterns of human subsistence. The most numerous species from Chogha Golan are wild barley, goat-grass and lentils - all wild ancestors of modern crops. These and many other species were found in large numbers, starting in the lowest deposits, horizon XI, dating to the end of the last Ice Age roughly 11,700 years ago. In horizon II dating 9,800 years ago, domesticated emmer wheat appeared.

The plant remains from Chogha Golan represent a unique, long-term record of cultivation of wild plant species. Over a period of two millennia, the economy of the site shifted towards the domesticated species that formed the economic basis for the rise of village life and subsequent civilizations in the Middle East. Farmers later took plants including multiple forms of wheat, barley and lentils, together with domestic animals, on their journey across Western Eurasia, gradually replacing the indigenous hunter-gather societies. Many of the plants that were domesticated in the Fertile Crescent provide the basis for the diet of large parts of the world population today.   (© Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen)
Myriam Hönig, Antje Karbe

More information

Source

  • Simone Riehl, Mohsen Zeidi, Nicholas J. Conard: "Local emergence of agriculture in the foothills of the Zagros Mountains of Iran", Science, 5. Juli 2013, doi: 10.1126/science.1236743

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