Experimental botanical studies have shown that the wild ancestors of the plantsdomesticated in the region could have provided as much as one ton of seeds per acre,which would yield 50 kilocalories of food in return for one kilocalorie of effort(Diamond 1997: 136).Plant domestication resulted from the intimate knowledge that foragers had of their ecological environment (Diamond 1997: 144-5). At Tell Abu Hureyra, inmodern Syria, evidence has been uncovered for the collection and use of 157 wild plant species, whose charred remains were uncovered at the site (ibid; Renfrew &Bahn 2004: 287). Rather than being the result indiscriminate gathering, these plantswere deliberately collected and utilised by the inhabitants (Diamond 1997: 144-5).Further evidence of pre-agricultural sedentism in the Levant is provided by the Natufian culture sites, such as Jericho, roughly 12,000 to 10,000 years ago
(Renfrew& Bahn 2004: 286; Christian 2004: 220). Going back even further, evidence has been uncovered for the use of wild cereals as part of a foraging economy at the site of Ohalo II near the Sea of Galilee dating to c.19,000 years ago (Renfrew & Bahn 2004:287). This is significant, as it illustrates that the development of cereal usage was asocial process evolving over time, becoming more intense and rationalised as itmoved from the gathering of wild cereals to their eventual deliberate cultivation.The domestication of animals was part of an already long running process of exploitation. Higgs asserts that gazelle had been intensely exploited in Mesopotamia prior to the domestication of animals there (as cited in Renfrew & Bahn 2004: 286-7).Goats, sheep, pigs and cattle,
four of the major five domesticates, were firstdomesticated in Mesopotamia, albeit in different areas (Diamond 1997: 141, 160;Renfrew & Bahn: 287). They were not the first animals to be domesticated, with thewolf having been domesticated in the Palaeolithic. (Scarre 2005: 183). Thedomestication of these four large mammals led to the utilisation of a pastoraleconomic system. Pastoral economies have tended to remain relatively low density polities, due to their semi-nomadic nature and the dearth of dietary carbohydrates,leading to lower birth rates. That said, history’s largest continual land empire, the
Christian alternates between BP dates and years ago dates, never stating whether or not they arecalibrated or not, which can be quite misleading due to the fact that the difference between BP andcalibrated BC dates can be in the order of hundreds of years. Even Renfrew & Bahn can be guilty of this at times, with Diamond being one of the few to use calibrated dates at all times.
That is Taurene cattle. Related species of cattle were also domesticated in Asia (Diamond 1997: 160-1 etc.). Also, the dog is not counted among these five, having been developed as a hunting aid rather than as a direct means to provide food, bar in Mesoamerica and possibly Australia.