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Re-analysis of archaeobotanical remains from pre- and early agricultural sites provides no evidence for a narrowing of the wild plant food spectrum during the origins of agriculture in southwest Asia

Michael, Wallace; Glynis, Jones; Michael, Charles; Emily, Forster; Eleanor, Stillman; Vincent, Bonhomme; Alexandra, Livarda; Colin, P. Osborne; Mark, Rees; Georg, Frenck; Catherine, Preece

Authors

Wallace Michael

Jones Glynis

Charles Michael

Forster Emily

Stillman Eleanor

Bonhomme Vincent

Livarda Alexandra

P. Osborne Colin

Rees Mark

Frenck Georg

Preece Catherine



Abstract

Archaeobotanical evidence from southwest Asia is often interpreted as showing that the spectrum of wild plant foods narrowed during the origins of agriculture, but it has long been acknowledged that the recognition of wild plants as foods is problematic. Here, we systematically combine compositional and contextual evidence to recognise the wild plants for which there is strong evidence of their deliberate collection as food at pre-agricultural and early agricultural sites across southwest Asia. Through sample-by-sample analysis of archaeobotanical remains, a robust link is established between the archaeological evidence and its interpretation in terms of food use, which permits a re-evaluation of the evidence for the exploitation of a broad spectrum of wild plant foods at pre-agricultural sites, and the extent to which this changed during the development of early agriculture. Our results show that relatively few of the wild taxa found at pre- and early agricultural sites can be confidently recognised as contributing to the human diet, and we found no evidence for a narrowing of the plant food spectrum during the adoption of agriculture. This has implications for how we understand the processes leading to the domestication of crops, and points towards a mutualistic relationship between people and plants as a driving force during the development of agriculture.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jul 1, 2019
Journal Vegetation History and Archaeobotany
Print ISSN 0939-6314
Electronic ISSN 1617-6278
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 28
Issue 4
Pages 449–463
APA6 Citation Michael, W., Glynis, J., Michael, C., Emily, F., Eleanor, S., Vincent, B., …Catherine, P. (2019). Re-analysis of archaeobotanical remains from pre- and early agricultural sites provides no evidence for a narrowing of the wild plant food spectrum during the origins of agriculture in southwest Asia. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, 28(4), 449–463. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00334-018-0702-y
DOI https://doi.org/10.1007/s00334-018-0702-y
Keywords Archaeobotany; Neolithic; Pre-Pottery Neolithic; Wild plant foods; Wild plants; Broad spectrum
Publisher URL https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00334-018-0702-y

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