Emergence of Agriculture in the Foothills of the Zagros Mountains of Iran

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Science  05 Jul 2013:
Vol. 341, Issue 6141, pp. 65-67
DOI: 10.1126/science.1236743

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Early Farmers?

What was the role of the eastern Fertile Crescent (which includes southeastern Turkey, northeastern Iraq, and western Iran) in the transition from foraging to farming? Riehl et al. (p. 65; see the Perspective by Willcox) investigated an archaeobotanical assemblage from Chogha Golan, in modern Iran over an apparently continuous occupation of the site over 2000 years, which captures the transition from foraging to farming. The rich archaeobotanical remains suggest the use of a wide array of plant species, including the progenitors of key crop plants (wheat, barley, and large-seeded legumes). Residents of the eastern Fertile Crescent thus appear to have been involved in plant management and possibly in the domestication of wild crop plants.


The role of Iran as a center of origin for domesticated cereals has long been debated. High stratigraphic resolution and rich archaeological remains at the aceramic Neolithic site of Chogha Golan (Ilam Province, present-day Iran) reveal a sequence ranging over 2200 years of cultivation of wild plants and the first appearance of domesticated-type species. The botanical record from Chogha Golan documents how the inhabitants of the site cultivated wild barley (Hordeum spontaneum) and other wild progenitor species of modern crops, such as wild lentil and pea. Wild wheat species (Triticum spp.) are initially present at less than 10% of total plant species but increase to more than 20% during the last 300 years of the sequence. Around 9800 calendar years before the present, domesticated-type emmer appears. The archaeobotanical remains from Chogha Golan represent the earliest record of long-term plant management in Iran.

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