The Roots of Cultivation in Southwestern Asia

Science  05 Jul 2013:
Vol. 341, Issue 6141, pp. 39-40
DOI: 10.1126/science.1240496

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The origins of agriculture have been the source of much speculation, but recent discoveries are enabling archaeologists to piece together a more accurate picture. Fifty years ago, the earliest known farming village was Jericho in the southern Levant, dated to about 11,000 years ago (1). Since then, a series of sites dated hundreds of years earlier has been found in an arc extending to northern Iraq. Discoveries in Iran at Chogha Golan and Sheikh-e Abad (2), dated to 11,700 years ago, extend the arc to Iran, allowing five clusters of sites to be defined (see the figure, panel A). Archaeological excavations in the foothills of the Zagros Mountains of Iran reported by Riehl et al. on page 65 of this issue (3) provide evidence that wild cereal cultivation in the eastern cluster occurred almost as early as in the clusters farther west.