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Forthcoming Current Anthropology Wenner-Gren Symposium

Current Anthropology
Supplementary Issues (in order of appearance)

The Biological Anthropology of Modern Human Populations: World

Histories, National Styles, and International Networks. Mary Susan
Lindee and Ricardo Ventura Santos, eds.

Human Biology and the Origins of Homo. Susan Antn and Leslie C. Aiello,


Previously Published Supplementary Issues

October 2011
Engaged Anthropology: Diversity and Dilemmas. Setha M. Low and Sally NEW IDEAS
Engle Merry, eds.
Working Memory: Beyond Language and Symbolism. Thomas Wynn and T. DO U G LAS PRICE AND O F ER BAR- Y O S EF
Frederick L. Coolidge, eds.
The Origins of Agriculture

Volume 52
Corporate Lives: New Perspectives on the Social Life of the Corporate Form. Climatic Fluctuations and Early Farming in West and East Asia
Damani Partridge, Marina Walker, and Rebecca Hardin, eds. Neolithization Processes in the Levant
Becoming Farmers
The Origins of Agriculture in the Near East
The Neolithic Southwest Asian Founder Crops
The Early Process of Mammal Domestication in the Near East

Supplement 4
The Beginnings of Agriculture in China
New Archaeobotanic Data for Origins of Agriculture in China
The Transition from Foraging to Farming in Prehistoric Korea
Advances in Understanding Early Agriculture in Japan
Finding Plant Domestication in the Indian Subcontinent
Holocene Population Prehistory in the Pacific Region
Current Anthropology is sponsored by The Early Agriculture and Plant Domestication in Island Southeast Asia
Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological
Domestication Processes and Morphological Change
Research, a foundation endowed for scientific,
educational, and charitable purposes. The Westward Expansion of Farming from Anatolia to the Balkans
Pages S161S512

Foundation, however, is not to be understood as The Spread of Agriculture from Central Europe to the Atlantic
endorsing, by virtue of its financial support, any of Origins of Plant Cultivation in the New World Tropics
the statements made, or views expressed, herein.
Cultural Context of Plant Domestication in Eastern North America
Genetics and Domestication
Agricultural Demographic Transition and the Agriculture Inventions

S p o n s o r e d b y t h e We n n e r - G r e n F o u n d a t i o n f o r A n t h r o p o l o g i c a l R e s e a rc h

Wenner-Gren Symposium Series Editor: Leslie Aiello
Wenner-Gren Symposium Series Managing Editor: Victoria Malkin
Current Anthropology Editor: Mark Aldenderfer
Current Anthropology Managing Editor: Lisa McKamy
Book Reviews Editor: Holley Moyes
Corresponding Editors: Claudia Briones (IIDyPCa-Universidad Nacional de Ro Negro, Argentina;, Anne
de Sales (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France;, Michalis Kontopodis (Humboldt
Universitat zu Berlin, Germany;, Jose Luis Lanata (Universidad Nacional de Ro Negro San
Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina;, David Palmer (Hong Kong University, China;, Zhang
Yinong (Shanghai University, China;

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Current Anthropology
Volume 52 Supplement 4 October 2011

The Origins of Agriculture: New Data, New Ideas

Leslie C. Aiello
The Origins of Agriculture: New Data, New Ideas S161
T. Douglas Price and Ofer Bar-Yosef
The Origins of Agriculture: New Data, New Ideas: An
Introduction to Supplement 4 S163
Ofer Bar-Yosef
Climatic Fluctuations and Early Farming in West and East
Asia S175
A. Nigel Goring-Morris and Anna Belfer-Cohen
Neolithization Processes in the Levant: The Outer
Envelope S195
Anna Belfer-Cohen and A. Nigel Goring-Morris
Becoming Farmers: The Inside Story S209
Melinda A. Zeder
The Origins of Agriculture in the Near East S221
Ehud Weiss and Daniel Zohary
The Neolithic Southwest Asian Founder Crops: Their
Biology and Archaeobotany S237
Jean-Denis Vigne, Isabelle Carrere, Francois Briois, and Jean
The Early Process of Mammal Domestication in the Near
East: New Evidence from the Pre-Neolithic and Pre-
Pottery Neolithic in Cyprus S255
David Joel Cohen
The Beginnings of Agriculture in China: A Multiregional
View S273
Zhijun Zhao
New Archaeobotanic Data for the Study of the Origins of
Agriculture in China S295
Gyoung-Ah Lee
The Transition from Foraging to Farming in Prehistoric
Korea S307
Gary W. Crawford
Advances in Understanding Early Agriculture in Japan S331
Dorian Q Fuller
Finding Plant Domestication in the Indian Subcontinent S347
Peter Bellwood
Holocene Population History in the Pacific Region as a
Model for Worldwide Food Producer Dispersals S363
Tim Denham
Early Agriculture and Plant Domestication in New Guinea
and Island Southeast Asia S379
Fiona Marshall and Lior Weissbrod
Domestication Processes and Morphological Change:
Through the Lens of the Donkey and African Pastoralism S397
Mehmet Ozdogan
Archaeological Evidence on the Westward Expansion of
Farming Communities from Eastern Anatolia to the
Aegean and the Balkans S415
Peter Rowley-Conwy
Westward Ho! The Spread of Agriculturalism from
Central Europe to the Atlantic S431
Dolores R. Piperno
The Origins of Plant Cultivation and Domestication in
the New World Tropics: Patterns, Process, and New
Developments S453
Bruce D. Smith
The Cultural Context of Plant Domestication in Eastern
North America S471
Greger Larson
Genetics and Domestication: Important Questions for
New Answers S485
Jean-Pierre Bocquet-Appel
The Agricultural Demographic Transition During and
After the Agriculture Inventions S497
Erratum S511
Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011 S161

The Origins of Agriculture:

New Data, New Ideas
Wenner-Gren Symposium Supplement 4

by Leslie C. Aiello

The Origins of Agriculture: New Data, New Ideas resulted from terest in the origins of agriculture and domestication. One of
a Wenner-Gren-sponsored symposium held at the Hacienda the earliest meetings organized by the Foundation in July 1960
Temozon, Merida, Yucatan, Mexico, March 613, 2009 (fig. led to the seminal publication Courses toward Urban Life:
1). The symposium was organized by T. Douglas Price (Uni- Archaeological Considerations of Some Cultural Alternates
versity of WisconsinMadison and the University of Aber- (Braidwood and Willey 1962). Other influential meetings in-
deen) and Ofer Bar-Yosef (Harvard University). cluded the Origins of African Plant Domestication (Harlan, De
The major aim of the symposium was to better understand Wet, and Stemler 1972) and Where the Wild Things Are Now
the origins of agriculture in light of new fieldwork, new sites, (Mullin and Cassidy 2007), which invited anthropologists
new analytical techniques, and more radiocarbon dates. The from all subfields to rethink the concept of domestication in
global nature of agricultural origins was a key theme, and a anthropology. Information on these meetings and others can
major focus of the discussions was on East Asia as well as be found on our Web site at
lesser-known regions such as Papua New Guinea, Africa, and Most recently, agricultural origins were explored in a special
eastern North America, alongside more traditional areas such issue of Current Anthropology titled Rethinking the Origins of
as the Near East and Mesoamerica. The papers presented in Agriculture introduced by Mark Cohen (Cohen 2009). The
this supplementary issue are designed to provide the latest current supplementary issue continues the discussions and
information on the antiquity of agriculture covering at least debates explored in this earlier contribution but is perhaps
10 different centers of domestication. more data rich and geographically diverse. Together these two
The organizers, Price and Bar-Yosef, note in their intro- CA issues provide an excellent contemporary overview of the
duction that emerging data point to an unexpected synchron- state of research in this exciting area of inquiry.
icity in the timing of the first domesticates around the end The Wenner-Gren Foundation is always looking for in-
of the Pleistocene. They also note that, contrary to earlier novative new directions in the field for future Foundation-
thought, the environments in which agriculture originated sponsored and organized symposia and eventual CA publi-
were not marginal and that agricultural experimentation took cation. We encourage anthropologists to contact us with their
place in areas of concentrations of populations and resources. ideas for future meetings. Information about the Wenner-
Each major area may also have included multiple loci for Gren Foundation and the Symposium program can be found
domestication. These were major areas of agreement in a on the Foundations Web site (
meeting that was characterized by lively debate over the va- programs/international-symposia).
riety of hypotheses proposed for agricultural origins and
whether global or more area-specific explanations were most
appropriate. As in any good meeting, there were more ques- References Cited
tions than answers, but this is the sign of a dynamic field.
The degree of collegiality and collaboration among the diverse Braidwood, Robert John, and Gordon Randolph Willey, eds. 1962.
Courses toward urban life: archaeological considerations of some cul-
symposium participants and the speed at which new data are tural alternates. Viking Fund Publications in Anthropology, no. 32
accumulating are good signs that our understanding of this (Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research). Chi-
important period in human adaptation will continue to evolve cago: Aldine.
rapidly. Cohen, Mark Nathan. 2009. Introduction: rethinking the origins of
The Wenner-Gren Foundation has had a long-standing in- agriculture. Current Anthropology 50:591595.
Harlan, Jack R., Jan M. J. De Wet, and Ann B. L. Stemler, eds. 1976.
Origins of African plant domestication. World Anthropology Series.
The Hague: Mouton.
Leslie C. Aiello is President of the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Mullin, Molly, and Rebecca Cassidy, eds. 2007. Where the wild things
Anthropological Research (470 Park Avenue South, 8th Floor North, are now. Wenner-Gren International Symposium Series. Oxford:
New York, New York 10016, U.S.A.). Berg.

2011 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. All rights reserved. 0011-3204/2011/52S4-0001$10.00. DOI: 10.1086/660154
Figure 1. Participants in the symposium The Origins of Agriculture:
New Data, New Ideas. Front row from left: Laurie Obbink (Wenner-
Gren staff), Carolyn Freiwald (monitor), Leslie Aiello, Fiona Marshall,
Ofer Bar-Yosef, Gyoung-Ah Lee, Ehud Weiss, Anna Belfer-Cohen. Middle
row from left: Tim Denham, Peter Bellwood, Melinda A. Zeder, Dolores
R. Piperno, Greger Larson, Richard H. Meadow, Jean-Denis Vigne, Meh-
met Ozdogan, Peter Rowley-Conwy. Back row from left: David Joel Co-
hen, Zhao Zhijun (Jimmy), Dorian Q Fuller, Bruce D. Smith, Gary W.
Crawford, T. Douglas Price, Jean-Pierre Bocquet-Appel, A. Nigel Goring-
Morris. A color version of this photo appears in the online edition of
Current Anthropology.
Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011 S163

The Origins of Agriculture:

New Data, New Ideas
An Introduction to Supplement 4

by T. Douglas Price and Ofer Bar-Yosef

This introduction to the symposium and to this issue of Current Anthropology attempts to provide
some sense of the topic, the meeting itself, the participants, and some of the initial results. Our
symposium brought together a diverse international group of archaeological scientists to consider a
topic of common interest and substantial anthropological importthe origins of agriculture. The
group included individuals working in most of the places where farming began. This issue is organized
by chronology and geography. Our goal was to consider the most recent data and ideas from these
different regions in order to examine larger questions of congruity and disparity among the groups
of first farmers. There is much new information from a number of important areas, particularly
Asia. Following a review of the history of investigation of agricultural origins, this introduction
summarizes the results of the conference. There are at least 10 different places around the world
where agriculture was independently developed, and the antiquity of domestication is being pushed
back in time with new discoveries. Our symposium has emphasized the importance of a multidis-
ciplinary approach to such large questions in order to assemble as much information as possible.
We anticipate that the results and consequences of this symposium will have long-term ripple effects
in anthropology and archaeology.

In the middle of March 2009, we were part of a group of 22 The Symposium and the Participants
individuals that included archaeologists, archaeobotanists, ar-
chaeozoologists, a geneticist, and a physical anthropologist
We, the coorganizers of this symposium, first met in 1968 at
that took a 6-day trip to a lovely hacienda near Merida in the Paleolithic site of Ubeidiya in the rift valley of Israel. It
the Yucatan of Mexico. We were well cared for and well fed, was about 120F in the shade. Doug was a graduate student
but it was an intense and demanding journey and at the same visiting from another excavation. Ofer was digging in the hot
time one of those rare opportunities for like-minded indi- sun and seemed to enjoy it a lot. We next spent a week
viduals (we use that term loosely) to get together and explore together at a School for American Research Seminar in Santa
a subject of shared interest, even fascination. We spent those Fe in 1993. We had a small, fine meeting on the earliest
days trying to better understand the origins of agriculture. farming. We have been talking ever since, and a few years ago
The people were passionate, the ideas powerful, the infor- we decided that there was so much new information on ag-
mation thought provoking, and it is small meetings like this riculture that another meeting was needed, and we ap-
that are the ones that we remember, that leave an imprint, proached the Wenner-Gren Foundation.
and that generate messages and ideas that form and transform Wenner-Gren has organized more than 140 symposia, so
our views of the past. they have a pretty good feel for what works and for how to
run a successful academic meeting. However, one of the com-
plexities of small, intensive workshop meetings is that each
T. Douglas Price is Weinstein Professor of European Archaeology, participant arrives with his or her own set of perspectives,
Department of Anthropology, University of WisconsinMadison
experiences, and biases that provide insight but that can also
(5240 W. H. Sewell Social Science Building, 1180 Observatory Drive,
act as blinders. The insight is of course important, but the
Madison, Wisconsin 53706, U.S.A. []). Ofer Bar-
Yosef is MacCurdy Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology, Department blinders can impede broader synthesis. We observe only the
of Anthropology, Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts world we know. For example, Doug does archaeology in
02138, U.S.A.). This paper was submitted 13 XI 09, accepted 1 III northern Europe, and from that perspective he witnesses only
11, and electronically published 19 VIII 11. the arrival of farming, not its origins. But the larger questions

2011 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. All rights reserved. 0011-3204/2011/52S4-0002$10.00. DOI: 10.1086/659964
S164 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

are often the same. Why do hunters become farmers? Why terests are concerned with ancient DNA and the evidence for
is agriculture so dynamic in changing human adaptation and domestication. Gyoung-Ah Lee is an assistant professor at the
behavior? University of Oregon. Trained as an archaeobotanist, her in-
Our symposium brought a number of biases: there was an terests focus on the origins of agriculture and its impact in
Old World bias, an East Asia bias, a plant bias, a male bias, East Asia, including Korea, China, and Japan.
and an age bias; someone even suggested an anticamel bias. Fiona Marshall is a professor at Washington University in
Specific individual knowledge and bias were critical for our St. Louis, where she directs research in African prehistory and
discussions. At the same time, most of the participants did zooarchaeology. Her interests are in domestication, pastor-
manage to put aside their blinders and take a wider point of alism, climate change, and mobility. Mehmet Ozdogan is an
view. archaeologist and chair of the prehistory department at Is-
The biases at our symposium can be documented in part tanbul University. His research for the past 2 decades has
by a brief glimpse at the background of the participants. There focused on the emergence of early food-producing sedentary
were 22 scientists invited to the symposiumnine archae- communities and the spread of agriculture from Anatolia to
ologists, six archaeobotanists, five archaeozoologists, a phys-
ical anthropologist/demographer, and an archaeological ge-
Dolores R. Piperno is Senior Scientist and Curator of Ar-
neticist. These individuals came from eight countries and
chaeobotany and South American Archaeology at the Na-
work in many major areas of agricultural origins and/or
tional Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, and
spread. A brief biography of each participant (in alphabetical
the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Balboa, Panama.
order) may provide some sense of the perspectives at the
Her interests are in domestication and tropical archaeology
symposium. Coauthors who did not attend the meeting are
not included. and paleoecology. T. Douglas Price is Weinstein Professor of
Ofer Bar-Yosef is an archaeologist and MacCurdy Professor European Archaeology at the University of WisconsinMad-
of Prehistoric Archaeology at Harvard University. Among ison and 6th Century Chair in Archaeological Science at the
many other interests, he has investigated the origins of ag- University of Aberdeen. His major interests involve the tran-
riculture in both Southwest Asia and China. Anna Belfer- sition from hunters to farmers in northern Europe and ar-
Cohen is professor of archaeology at the Hebrew University chaeological chemistry. He is director of the Laboratory for
in Jerusalem with interests in the transition to farming in the Archaeological Chemistry in Madison. Peter Rowley-Conwy
Near East. Peter Bellwood is an Australian archaeologist and is a professor at Durham University, United Kingdom, and
professor at Australian National University. His interests focus an archaeozoologist with interests in the spread of pigs and
on Southeast Asia and the Pacific, and he is a proponent of agriculture across Europe. Bruce D. Smith is Curator of North
the connectedness of culture, linguistics, and human biology. American Archaeology and Senior Research Scientist in Ar-
Jean-Pierre Bocquet-Appel is an anthropological demogra- chaeobiology at the National Museum of Natural History in
pher and research director at Centre National de la Recherche Washington, DC. He is currently interested in integrating bi-
Scientifique in Paris. His current interest concerns the agri- ological and anthropological approaches to documenting
culture demographic transition worldwide. plant and animal domestication.
David Joel Cohen is an archaeologist and adjunct assistant Jean-Denis Vigne is an archaeozoologist with interests in
professor at Boston University, where he helped establish the mammal domestication in Eurasia. He is employed by Centre
International Center for East Asian Archaeology and Cultural National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris, and is in charge
History. His current research focuses on the origins of agri- of the laboratory of archaeozoology and archaeobotany at the
culture in East Asia. Gary W. Crawford is an archaeobotanist
French National Museum of Natural History. Ehud Weiss is
and professor at the University of Toronto Mississauga, Can-
a senior lecturer and the director of the archaeobotanical
ada, and is interested in the origins and intensification of
laboratory at Bar-Ilan University and the Weisman Institute
agriculture in China, Japan, Korea, and Eastern North Amer-
of Science in Israel. He is interested in the beginning of plant
ica. Tim Denham is a research fellow at Monash University
domestication in the Near East through the prism of archaeo-
in Victoria, Australia. Over the past decade his research has
focused on the emergence of agriculture in Papua New botany. Melinda A. Zeder is Senior Research Scientist and
Guinea. Curator of Old World Archaeology and Zooarchaeology at
Dorian Q Fuller is a lecturer in archaeobotany at the In- the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC.
stitute of Archaeology, University College London. His re- Her interests concern the domestication of animals in general
search focuses on the origins of agriculture in South and East and the social and environmental implication of early agri-
Asia. A. Nigel Goring-Morris is an archaeologist at Hebrew culture in the ancient Near East more specifically. Zhijun
University in Jerusalem. His interests are in the beginnings (Jimmy) Zhao is a staff scientist at the Institute of Archae-
of complexity in the Near East and Neolithization processes. ology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing. His re-
Greger Larson is a research fellow at Durham University in search is focused on the origins of agriculture in China and
the United Kingdom. As an archaeological geneticist, his in- East Asia using archaeobotanical evidence.
Price and Bar-Yosef The Origins of Agriculture S165

Definitions and Dates Dating

Also for purposes of consistency, the authors in this issue
have been asked to report radiocarbon dates in terms of cal-
Definitions ibrated years before present (BP cal) with 1 SD, unless
otherwise noted. Authors were also asked to note the cali-
To enhance consistency in our discussions we have tried to bration program that was used.
define some terms of common usage. There was not universal
agreement on the meaning of these words, of course, and the
individual authors use these definitions or not as they find
appropriate in the following articles. Our purpose here is not The Organization of This Issue
to set the final definitions of important terminology but rather
simply to try to use these words consistently in the papers Because of the number of participants and the size and format
presented here. A number of authors have suggested defini- of this publication, we are limited to brief contributions and
a few illustrations each. For these reasons as well, our intro-
tions for these terms over the years (e.g., Harris 1996, 2007),
duction will be brief. All of the papers have been rewritten
but there are still no widely accepted meanings. In the papers
following the symposium to incorporate the ideas and input
in this issue of Current Anthropology, the following definitions
from our discussions. These revisions clearly reflect the impact
will be used unless noted by the individual authors.
of the discussions on the participants and the stimulus that
Mobility and sedentism. These are relative terms that de-
was provided by the symposium.
scribe a range from completely mobile to completely sed-
The papers in this issue have been organized largely by
entary. Sedentism is difficult to measure in the archaeology chronology and geography to facilitate access for the reader.
of the last hunters and first farmers, and this definition at- The earliest evidence for the origins of agriculture comes from
tempts to recognize that. It was suggested that the presence Southwest Asia. Bar-Yosef (2011) writes about the role of
of commensals, such as house mice, and the seasonal distri- climate change and the congruence in the chronology of ag-
bution of plant foods within the same site may indicate an ricultural origins in the Near East and China with the Younger
annual long-term occupation. Dryas cold episode at the end of the Pleistocene. Goring-
Management. Manipulation and some degree of control Morris and Belfer-Cohen (2011; see also Belfer-Cohen and
of wild species (plants or animals) without cultivation or Goring-Morris 2011) have provided two contributions de-
morphological changes. In the 1970s this kind of treatment tailing the Neolithization process in the Near East as seen
was referred to as cultural control. within the core area and from the larger region. One of the
Cultivation. Intentional preparation of the soil (Oxford fascinating things about their contribution about the Neo-
English Dictionary) for planting wild or domesticated plants. lithic revolution is that is has little to do with subsistence.
Identified in many cases by arable weeds in cereal caches Animal and plant management as well as domestication in
(Bogaard et al. 1999; Harris 2007). The term is often used to the Near East are the focus of papers by Zeder (2011), Weiss
indicate cultivation of wild plants before domestication. and Zohary (2011), and Vigne et al. (2011). Zeder provides
Domestication. Morphological or genetic changes in plant a thorough discussion of current evidence for domestication.
and animal species. Archaeozoologists also use criteria such Weiss and Zohary consider the evidence for the major founder
as age profiles, milking, and osteological pathologies. species of plants. Vigne and colleagues provide a look at the
Farming. Utilization of domestic plants and/or animals remarkable evidence from Cyprus where Pre-Pottery Neo-
lithic people brought plants and animals, essentially re-cre-
for food as well as other resources.
ating an Early Neolithic ecosystem on that rather barren Med-
Agriculture. Farming and/or herding predominate the ac-
iterranean island.
tivities of a particular community and determine the main
The next set of papers deals with East Asia, largely from
diet, although hunting and gathering may continue.
an archaeobotanic perspective. Cohen (2011) offers an over-
There were also a number of terms that were not used
view of the beginnings of agriculture in China in the context
often at the symposium. Words such as horticulture, ar- of interregional interaction. Zhao (2011) details the abundant
boriculture, herding, pastoralism, husbandry, stor- new botanical data that have appeared in the past 10 years.
age, agropastoralism, and intensity of food production Lee (2011) elaborates on agricultural origins in Korea. Craw-
may also be important and useful to scholars of early agri- ford (2011) provides an overview of recent advances in our
culture in both the Old and New Worlds. Bruce Smith and understanding of early cultivation in East Asia with a focus
others, for example, found utility in the concept of low-level on Japan.
food production (Smith 2001). In an ideal world, all of these South Asia and Africa provide a very different statement
terms would have fixed meanings that could be used easily on the beginnings of farming, and questions continue about
in discussions of the first farmers, but for the present such the appearance of native domesticates. Fuller (2011) tracks
consensus does not exist. this issue, finding plant domestication in the Indian subcon-
S166 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

tinent. Animal domestication in Africa is the subject of the sidering the early theories first. Explanations of why domes-
contribution by Marshall and Weissbrod (2011), with a focus tication occurred include the oasis hypothesis, the natural-
on the donkey in particular and African pastoralism in gen- habitat hypothesis, the population-pressure hypothesis, the
eral. edge hypothesis, the social hypothesis, and more. A consid-
In the Pacific, two studies are presented. Bellwood (2011) eration of these ideas also reveals much about the nature of
provides an overview of Holocene population history of the archaeology and archaeologists.
region as a model for worldwide food-producer dispersals. During the first half of the twentieth century, the best in-
Denham (2011), on the other hand, offers details of the evi- formation on early farming villages came from riverine areas
dence for domestication and early agriculture in New Guinea or oases in Northeast Africa and Southwest Asiaalong the
and Island Southeast Asia. Nile River in Egypt and at Jericho in the Jordan Valley, for
The spread of agriculture subsequent to its origins is the example. Early views on the origins of agriculture focused on
subject of papers dealing with the European evidence. Oz- climate change. At that time, the end of the Pleistocene was
dogan (2011) provides an in-depth look at the archaeological assumed to have been a period of increasing warmth and
evidence for the westward movement of early farmers from dryness in the earths climate. Scholars reasoned that because
Anatolia to the Aegean and Balkans of Europe. The new evi- the ice ages were cold and wet, they should have ended with
dence from European Turkey and Bulgaria is rewriting our higher temperatures and less precipitation. Given that view
understanding of this spread. Rowley-Conwy (2011) contin- of past climate, logic suggested that areas such as Southwest
ues the story of westward movement from Central Europe to Asia, a dry region to begin with, would have witnessed sig-
the Atlantic. The picture of the expansion of early farming nificant aridity at the end of the Pleistocene when vegetation
across Europe is now one of repeated episodes of very rapid grew only around limited water sources. The oasis hypothesis
spread followed by long periods of stability. Bursts of regional suggested a circumstance in which plants, animals, and hu-
expansion are not in contrast to the overarching model of mans would have clustered in constrained zones near water.
continuous millennial-scale demic diffusion but provide a V. Gordon Childe, one proponent of this idea, argued that
more detailed picture that brings the information closer to the only successful solution to the competition for food in
the social history of particular populations. these situations would be for humans to domesticate and
Turning to the New World, Piperno (2011) examines the control the animals and the plants. In this sense, domesti-
evidence for origins of plant cultivation and domestication cation emerged as a symbiotic relationship for the purpose
in the tropics of Central and South America. Abundant new of human survival.
evidence from starch grains and phytoliths as well as mac- During the 1940s and 1950s, however, new evidence sug-
robotanical remains provides exciting new information and gested that there had been no dramatic climatic changes in
pushes back the dates for early domestication. Smith (2011) Southwest Asia at the close of the Pleistoceneno crisis dur-
continues his documentation of an early center for domes- ing which life would concentrate at oases. The new infor-
tication in Eastern North America with a consideration of the mation forced a reconsideration of the origins of agriculture.
cultural context of this process, the evidence coming from The late Robert Braidwood pointed out in his natural-habitat
archaeology. hypothesis that the earliest domesticates therefore should ap-
Two papers were topical rather than areal and covered im- pear where their wild ancestors lived. That area, the hilly
portant aspects of the study of agricultural origins. Larson flanks of the Fertile Crescent in Southwest Asia, should be
(2011) provides a refreshingly candid view of the role of ge- the focus of investigations. Braidwood and a large team of
netics in the study of plant and animal domestication. There researchers excavated at the site of Jarmo in northern Iraq
is great promise in this method, but serious problems remain and elsewhere in the Fertile Crescent and found evidence of
to be solved. Jean-Pierre Bocquet-Appel (2011), proponent early agriculture, supporting his hypothesis that domestica-
of the concept of the Neolithic demographic transition, de- tion did indeed begin in the natural habitat.
scribes the background and development of this model of Braidwood did not offer a specific reason as to why do-
population growth across the transition to agriculture (Boc- mestication occurred other than to point out that technology
quet-Appel and Bar-Yosef 2008). and culture were ready by the end of the Pleistocene and that
humans were familiar with the species that were to be do-
mesticated. At that time, archaeologists and others generally
considered that farming was a highly desirable and welcome
The State of Play invention providing security and leisure time for prehistoric
In order to place the results of our symposium and some of peoples. Once human societies had recognized the possibilities
the new ideas and information that emerged in perspective, of domestication, they should have immediately started farm-
it may be useful to briefly review the development of ideas ing following the perspectives of the time.
about the origins of agriculture and some of the explanations Lewis Binford (1968) challenged those ideas in the 1960s
that have been proffered. We can best understand ideas about and focused on population. Binford argued that farming was
the origins of agriculture from a historical perspective, con- backbreaking, time consuming, and labor intensive. Citing
Price and Bar-Yosef The Origins of Agriculture S167

studies of ethnographically known hunter-gatherers, he in the ability of certain individuals to generate a surplus of
pointed out that they spend only a few hours a day obtaining food and to transform that surplus into more valued items,
food; the rest of their time is for visiting, talking, gambling, such as rare and valued materials and objects. From this per-
and the general pleasures of life. Even in very marginal areas, spective, agriculture was the means by which social inequality
such as the Kalahari Desert of South Africa, food collecting emerged and egalitarian societies became hierarchical. Such
is a successful adaptation, and people rarely starve. Binford a view is intriguing if difficult to document. It is very much
argued, therefore, that human groups would not become a chicken-egg question, like the issue of population pressure,
farmers unless they had no other choice, that the origins of of which came first. There is subtle evidence for social in-
agriculture was not a fortuitous discovery but a last resort. equality in the Early Neolithic of the Near East (Price and
Binford made his point by positing an equilibrium between Bar-Yosef 2010), but such reorganization of social relations
people and food, a balance that could be upset by either a and wealth accumulation may be a consequence of agricul-
decline in available food or an increase in the number of tural production rather than a cause.
people. Because climatic and environmental changes appeared There are a number of other intriguing theories about why
to be minimal in Southwest Asia, Binford thought it must human societies began to cultivate the earth along with some
have been increased population size that upset the balance. not so enlightening ideas. Geographer Carl Sauer (1952) sug-
Population pressure was thus introduced as a causal agent for gested that agriculture began in the hilly tropics of Southeast
the origins of agriculture: more people required more food. Asia, where sedentary groups with knowledge of the rich plant
The best solution to the problem was domestication, which life of the forest might have domesticated plants for poisons
provided a higher yield of food per acre of land. At the same and fibers. Botanist David Rindos (1984) has argued that
time, however, agricultural intensification required more la- domestication was a process of interaction between humans
bor to extract the food. and plants evolving together into a more beneficial symbiotic
Binfords concern with population was elaborated and ex- relationship.
tended as a global explanation by Mark Cohen (1977, 2009). In a fascinating volume titled Naissance des divinites, naiss-
Cohen argued for an inherent tendency for growth in human ance de lagriculture: la revolution des symboles au Neolithique
population, a pattern responsible for the initial spread of the (The Birth of the Gods and the Origins of Agriculture), French
human species out of Africa, the colonization of Asia and archaeologist Jacques Cauvin (1994) argued that the impor-
Europe, and eventually colonization of the Americas as well. tant changes associated with the Neolithic revolution were
According to Cohen, after about 10,000 BC, all the habitable more cultural than economic. He meant that the transition
areas of the planet were occupied, and population continued to farming involved concepts and ideas as much as or more
to grow. At that time, there was an increase in the use of less than food production. Specifically, he suggested that agricul-
desirable resources in many areas. Land snails, shellfish, birds, ture was preceded by the emergence of new cosmologies,
and many new plant species were added to the human diet religious practices, and symbolic behaviors. This transfor-
around the end of the Pleistocene. Cohen argued that the mation of hunter-gatherers that allowed them to view their
only way for a very successful but rapidly increasing species habitat in a different way also promoted the more active
to cope with declining resources was for them to begin to exploitation of that environment according to the views of
cultivate the land and domesticate its inhabitants rather than Cauvin.
simply to collect the wild produce. In recent years, the school of evolutionary ecology in ar-
Domestication for Cohen was a solution to problems of chaeology has provided its take on the origins of agriculture
overpopulation on a global scale. There is, however, very little in a series of papers and volumes (e.g., Bleed and Matsui
evidence for population pressure in the record of agricultural 2010; Gremillion and Piperno 2009; Winterhalder and Ken-
origins. Population is a notoriously difficult parameter to nett 2006, 2009). Evolutionary ecology developed out of an
grasp in prehistory. In the very few cases where some infor- earlier perspective known as cultural ecology, which focused
mation is available, such as in the Levant as presented in this on the dynamic relationship between human society and its
issue by Belfer-Cohen and Goring-Morris (2011), there may environment using culture as the primary mechanism of ad-
even be some population decline shortly before the first ap- aptation. Culture is a giant concept and hard to work with,
pearance of domesticates. As Bocquet-Appel (2011) points so evolutionary ecologists have emphasized human abilities
out in this issue and elsewhere, most of the evidence for to reason and to optimize their behavior. In this view, natural
growing population comes after the origins of agriculture, not selection is thought to operate on the behavior of individuals.
before. Evolutionary ecologists assume that natural selection designed
Others, arguing that the transition to farming and food organisms to adapt to local conditions in fitness-enhancing
storage and surplus cannot be understood simply in terms of or optimizing ways.
environment and population, have developed social hypoth- One of the major tenets of this perspective involves a con-
eses to explain the origins of agriculture. Barbara Bender cept known as optimal foraging theoryborrowed from bi-
(1975) and Brian Hayden (1992, 1995), among others, have ologyto explain the food-getting behavior of humans, es-
suggested that the origins of food production may lie more pecially hunter-gatherers. Optimal foraging theory argues that
S168 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

the most efficient foraging strategies produce the greatest re- single accepted theory for the origins of agriculturerather,
turn in energy relative to time and effort expended. Optimal there is a series of ideas and suggestions that do not quite
foraging assumes that humans make rational decisions based resolve the question. At the same time, of course, the evidence
on economic efficiency. Evolutionary ecologists examine the we have is scanty and limited. A great deal more research and
archaeological and ethnographic record looking for things discussion needs to be done. That is why we convened this
such as optimization goals, currencies, and constraints symposium.
and applying ecological and mathematical models to explain
human behavior.
Ideas about the origins of agriculture have sometimes been
categorized as either push or pull models. Hunter-gatherers Some Observations
are either pushed, or forced, to become farmers or they are
The focal point of the symposium was, of course, the origins
pulled, drawn by the benefits of a new lifestyle. Population-
of agriculture. We hoped to bring together new data and new
pressure models, for example, force human societies to find
ideas to push our understanding of this remarkable phenom-
new ways to feed growing numbers of members. Social hy-
enon further along. The origins of agriculture is one of the
potheses usually involve pull, in which members of society
are drawn into relationships of inequality in order to benefit most important developments in our past. Virtually every-
from new arrangements that reduce risk or increase wealth. thing we as humans know and do today stems from this
The perspective of evolutionary ecology involves push remarkable transition. Detailed study of this issuethe pre-
models. Hunter-gatherers operate on the premise of efficiency sentation of evidence and the evaluation of potential an-
to acquire sufficient food to eat. Foods are ranked by net swershas significance for students of the past, for anthro-
energy value, and lower-ranked subsistence resources (such pology as a whole, and for a wide range of related areas of
as seeds) are added only as higher-ranked foods become un- scholarly interest.
available. Such push perspectives appear to assume that There are both practical and theoretical implications of the
hunter-gatherers are surviving among limited resources in study of agricultural transitions. The documentation of when
difficult environments. One of the most important and en- and where farming began provides a powerful statement re-
lightening realizations in recent years is the fact that agri- garding the global nature of this event. Investigation of the
cultural origins take place in relatively abundant environ- shift from hunting and gathering to farming invokes virtually
ments, not in places where little food is available (Price and all aspects of anthropological perspectives on human behavior
Gebauer 1995). It is in such situations of sufficient subsistence and cultural change. The transition to agriculture is a com-
resources, where risk is limited, that experiments leading to mon human experience that has effected us all in terms of
the origins of agriculture took place. Higher-ranked food re- rapid population growth and aggregation and social inequal-
sources do not appear to have declined or become unavailable ity. Is it the worst mistake in the history of the human race
in such contexts, bringing into question the utility of such (Diamond 1987) or an inevitable step in the evolution of
optimal foraging models. human society?
More recently, detailed information on climate change has A multitude of developments concerned with the origins
come from a most unlikely place, the glaciers of Greenland. and spread of agriculture have taken place in recent years.
Deep corings of the ice sheets there have provided a layered New fieldwork and new sites in new and old places, more
record of changes in temperature and other aspects of climate radiocarbon dates, and new methods have documented earlier
for the past 100,000 years and more. One of the very inter- transitions to agriculture in parts of Asia, the south Pacific,
esting results of this research is the documentation of a 33% and the Americas. Studies of microscopic plants remains, es-
increase in atmospheric CO2 at the end of the Pleistocene pecially starch grains and phytoliths, have revolutionized
(Sage 1995). Higher levels of CO2 would foster the expansion identification of plant exploitation before the emergence of
of temperate species such as grasses, which include many of cultivation as well as the appearance of domesticated plants.
the ancestors of the major domesticated species. The full im- Advances in the genetics of domestication, such as utilizing
plications of such changes in the atmosphere are not yet clear ancient DNA to examine the relationships among prehistoric
but may play a role in the transition from hunting to farming. domestics, are beginning to resolve standing questions about
The evolutionary ecologists have picked up on CO2 and argue where and when. It is time to assemble this new information,
that climatic amelioration that followed in the Early Holocene to sift and winnow, and to summarize our current under-
and the accompanying rise in CO2 made the origins of ag- standing of the origins and spread of agriculture.
riculture compulsory (Bettinger, Richerson, and Boyd Our symposium on the state of the art in the study of the
2009). origins of agriculture was intended to provide a baseline for
The simple fact is that we do not yet have a good grasp continuing and future work. We wanted to learn new facts,
on the causes for the origins of agriculture. The how and the examine a wide range of variables, and use our knowledge to
why of the Neolithic transition remain among the more in- evaluate current explanations and to explore new ideas for
triguing questions in human prehistory. There is as yet no understanding what took place at the origins of agriculture.
Price and Bar-Yosef The Origins of Agriculture S169

Above all we wanted to think in new directions about this (Piperno 2011). New work is beginning to provide data from
large, complex, and obstinate issue. critical regions in Mesoamerica, one of the least understood
There is too little collaboration and interaction between regions of early agricultural origins (Piperno et al. 2009; Ran-
the varied disciplines investigating this question (e.g., genetics, ere et al. 2009). Archaeobotany is moving forward rapidly
botany, zoology, archaeology, linguistics, demography). An with a variety of techniques for recording information related
enormous amount of research is going on today in a rather to domestication (Allaby, Fuller, and Brown 2008; Fuller
uninformed context. This symposium was intended to inte- 2011). Genetic studies of modern and ancient DNA in do-
grate that context and provide shared perspectives on the mesticated plants and animals are also providing remarkable
question of agricultural origins. This work is going on around data on species distribution and evolution (e.g., Dobney and
the world, and one of our primary goals was to bring together Larson 2006). Genetic markers for domestication are starting
the leading scholars concerned with this question from diverse to be identified. At the same time, a note of caution regarding
places and origins. Such gatherings are extremely rare and genetic studies, especially age estimation based on mutation
often very fruitful. rate, permeated the symposium and was reiterated by our
We were a volatile mix of scholars, from many times and resident archaeogeneticist (Ho and Larson 2006).
places. At the end of our time together, we did not determine One of the most interesting phenomena we noted was not
why agriculture originated. We did not even agree on whether pattern but variation. In the one or two places where data
its causes were global or local. Archaeozoologists decried the on the transition are relatively rich, there appears to be a
difficulties involved in identifying domestication and seek period of chaos, a zone of variability at the origins of ag-
complex forms of evidence for the process (Zeder 2006a, riculture (Weiss, Kislev, and Hartmann 2006). There seems
2006b); archaeobotanists seek changes in morphology and to be a period for the auditioning of many possible new
genetic makeup as indicators of changes in plants (e.g., Smith options in human adaptation. This is the beginning of a new
2006; Zohary and Hopf 2000). These differences mean distinct way of life.
views on the question of agricultural origins from the two Three recent discoveries from the earliest Neolithic in the
subdisciplines. Some might conclude that our symposium was Near East highlight this zone of variability, change our un-
not successful. derstanding of this period in human prehistory, and raise
In fact, we believe this symposium was a great success. enormous new questions. The colonization of the Mediter-
Perhaps most importantly there was a strong sense of collab- ranean island of Cyprus by Late Pre-Pottery Neolithic A and
oration at the meeting. There was much new in terms of both Pre-Pottery Neolithic B people carrying domestic plants and
information and ideas. There was a major emphasis on the domestic and wild animals by boat is an extraordinary story
origins of agriculture in East Asia. Lesser-known regions such (Guilaine et al. 1998, 2000; Peltenburg and Wasse 2004; Pel-
as Papua New Guinea, Africa, and eastern North America tenburg et al. 2000; Simmons 2007; Vigne et al. 2000). Ex-
were included in our discussions. Lots of new data were pre- cavations at Gobekli Tepe in southern Turkey have revealed
sented from East and West Asia, Africa, and Central and South a series of remarkable shrines or centers associated with large
America. We were able to put together a table of the latest stone architecture and art from the same time period (Peters
information on the antiquity of agriculture in various parts and Schmidt 2004; Schmidt 2001, 2003, 2006; Schmidt and
of the world and recognized that there are at least 10 different Hauptman 2003). The roughly contemporary burial ground
places with claims as original centers of domestication (fig. of Kafar HaHoresh in Israel documents enormous new var-
1). Information on estimated dates BP cal for domestication iation in the treatment of the dead and indications of emerg-
in these areas is provided in table 1 (see also fig. 1). ing social inequality at this time (Goring-Morris 2005; Gor-
The antiquity of domestication has been pushed deeper ing-Morris et al. 1998).
into the past in many areas. Today, an eerie synchronicity in A number of potentially important variables involved in
the timing of the first domesticates around the end of the the shift from foraging to farming were discussed at the sym-
Pleistocene is emerging. Another commonality among the posium. These include sedentism, storage, population density,
cradles of agriculture is the rich environments in which farm- population pressure, resource abundance, resource availabil-
ing originates. Experiments in domestication do not take place ity, niche construction, processing and harvesting technolo-
in marginal areas but amid concentrations of population and gies, climate and environmental changes, ownership of pro-
resources across the globe. It also appears that in each area duce and resource localities, potential domesticates,
where several different species are involved in the transition competition, inequality, risk reduction, nutritional require-
to agriculture, there are multiple centers of domestication ments, choice, chance, and a receptive social/cultural context.
within the region. A number of groups appear to be manip-
ulating their natural world.
Remarkable new studies are documenting this evidence.
Microscopic studies of starch grains in South America have
Some Conclusions
identified a number of early crops, and more specific infor- Farming is a way of obtaining food that involves the culti-
mation on their origin and distribution is becoming available vation of plants and the controlled herding of animals. But
Figure 1. Major centers of domestication and dates for earliest plants and animals. Illustration by Marcia Bakry. A color
version of this figure is available in the online edition of Current Anthropology.
Price and Bar-Yosef The Origins of Agriculture S171

Table 1. Approximate dates for the appear- the process of domestication and to distinguish biology from
ance of domesticated species in various parts culture in the transition from hunting to farming. The criteria
of the world for identifying domestication differ significantly for plants and
animals. Plants rather quickly exhibit distinct morphological
Date of appearance changes; animals are much slower to show such develop-
Place and species (cal BP)
ments. Archaeozoology has introduced a number of impor-
Southwest Asia: tant new concepts regarding the process. Three classes of do-
Plants 11,500
mesticates can be identified: (1) commensals, adapted to a
Animals 10,500
China: human niche (e.g., dogs, cats, guinea pigs); (2) prey animals
Millet 10,000 sought for food (e.g., cows, sheep, pig, goats); and (3) targeted
Rice 17000 animals for draft and nonfood resources (e.g., horse, camel,
Mexico: donkey). Changes related to domestication may be more spe-
Corn 9000
cies specific in animals. These differences mean that non-
South America:
Plants 10,000 morphological criteria, such as changes in age profiles of
Animals 6000 herds, may be required for fauna.
New Guinea: Increasing site size is one of the primary archaeological
Plants 17000 indicators of changes in human subsistence and organization
South Asia:
associated with the agricultural revolution. This increase is a
Plants 5000
Animals 8000 reflection of population growth as well as new forms of set-
Africa: tlement and organization. One of the more striking devel-
Plants 5000 opments associated with the arrival of farming is the increas-
Animals 9000 ing visibility of a human presence in the archaeological record.
Eastern North America:
Hunter-gatherers rarely leave visible traces, few bumps in the
Plants 5000
landscape. Shell middens, some ditches, and other features
remain today, but even the most complex hunter-gatherer
adaptations did not modify the landscape to a large extent or
leave many traces that are visibly on the surface of the earth
the beginnings of new subsistence systems were much more today.
than cultivation, herding, or the ensuing domestication of The phantom of causality floated at the edge of our delib-
various species. This revolution entailed major long-term erations at Temozon, always there but not often addressed.
changes in the structure and organization of the societies that This transition from hunting to farming poses one of the
adopted this new way of life as well as a totally new rela- most intriguing questions about the human past and one of
tionship with the environment. Humans truly began to har- the most difficult to answer: why did hunters become farmers?
ness the earth. While hunter-gatherers live off the land in an Causality is such a thorny issue. There is no common playing
extensive fashion, generally exploiting a diversity of resources field or shared rules of engagement. The evidence from dif-
over a broad area, farmers utilize the landscape intensively ferent parts of the world varies in both quantity and quality.
and create a milieu that suits their needs. That discordance is disconcerting. Variation generates many
The symposium at Temozon and the papers proffered in perspectives and divergence. Consensus on fundamentals is
this issue attempt to describe some of the latest evidence and lacking.
to comprehend these extraordinary developments. Here, we Are there general causes? The almost simultaneous devel-
hope to provide some sense of the results of the symposium opment of agriculture in so many different places is not simple
and our own perception of the state of knowledge concerning coincidence. Should we invoke climate, environment, pop-
the origins of agriculture. We learned a great deal. Some of ulation, subsistence intensification, brain capacity, religion,
the major threads woven throughout the symposium included inequality, entrepreneurs? Are there specific conditions? Are
the importance of integrating the subdisciplines, the aban- there immediate and local causes distinct from global ones?
donment of dichotomies for the study of process and trans- Are the origins of agriculture the results of a perfect storm
formation, the chaos of transitions (a period of auditioning, of factors that forced or encouraged human societies to do-
as Bruce Smith termed it), the importance of attention to mesticate plants and animals?
detail in the study of landscapes and species as well as ar- The division between generalists and particularists was clear
chaeological sites, the punctuated nature of agricultural at Temozon. Particularists wanted to look at each individual
spread, the many major gaps in our knowledge, and the ne- case of agricultural origins as unique; generalists sought a
cessity for critically reevaluating existing information. There more global explanation that would encompass all of the areas
was also lots of terminology, much new data, some innovative where early agriculture appeared. Some in the group insist
ideas about causality, and many remaining questions. that causality is a local or regional phenomenon that varies
It is important to separate the origins of agriculture from across time and space. Zeder and Smith (2009) have argued
S172 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

at some length that global views, one-size-fits-all approaches important factors in the transition from the perspective of
to the explanation of agricultural emergence and dispersal, the authors presented here include, in order of suggested
are not feasible. Bruce Smith enlivened the symposium one importance, available protodomesticates, human sedentism,
morning by arguing that causality is in the eye of the be- higher population density, resource abundance, geographic
holderthat generalization was not possible because of the and/or social constraints, processing and harvesting technol-
complexity of individual contexts. ogy, storage, and wealth accumulation. A change from com-
Others believe that the simultaneity of the origins of ag- munity to household levels of economic organization ob-
riculture in time argues for general or global causes. It is served in several areas may have accompanied the transition
completely remarkable that the process of domesticating to agriculture, including a shift from communal sharing to
plants and animals appears to have taken place separately and familial or individual accumulation. Economic intensification
independently in a number of areas at about the same time. and competition were frequent companions of the Neolithic
Given the long prehistory of our species, why should the revolution society (Price and Bar-Yosef 2010). Wealth accu-
transition to agriculture happen within such a brief period, mulation and status differentiation appear at the individual,
a few thousand years in a span of more than 6 million years household, or lineage level.
of human existence? An important and dramatic shift in the We were, however, unable to agree on the primacy of causal
trajectory of human adaptation would seem to demand gen- factors or on the major issue of general versus specific ex-
eral explanation. But such answers are hard to reach. planation. The frustrations of explanation leave us asking
Anna Belfer-Cohen brightened the symposium room one questionsmany important questions were raised at the sym-
morning with a quote from Nigel Barley (1989, p. 205): An- posium. Beyond the specific details of local sequences, the
thropology largely neglects the individual to deal in gener- nuances of plant and animal domestication, and concerns
alizations. Generalizations always tell a little lie in the service with the meaning of the evidence, certain larger questions
of greater truth. Conclusions, of course, involve generali- arose again and again. What determines where the first farm-
zations. It is important to recognize some of the limitations ers appeared? What makes centers of origin special places?
and constraints on such broad speculation. In spite of ex- Why do humans domesticate plants and animals? Why are
traordinary advances in a variety of fields, many detailed at some plants and animals selected for manipulation and not
the symposium, we really know very little about the origins others? Is the domestication process determined solely by the
of agriculture. There is some information from Southwest biology of the selected species? What can we say about timing?
Asia, a little data from East Asia and North America, and How long does it take to domesticate plants and animals?
next to nothing from the rest of the world. We are still in the How does the timing of this process interlace with develop-
early stages of the process of identifying and understanding ments such as sedentism, population growth, and social in-
this transition from hunting to farming. equality? Why was agriculture such a successful adaptation?
Moreover, as we learn more about a specific region, it be- How does agriculture spread quickly to areas with different
comes clearer how complex the past was, exhibiting much cultures, climates, and environments? Can the spread of ag-
more variability than we have admitted or realized. The Near riculture tell us about its origins? What spreads, people or
East is the prime example. There is more information from things? How do we best explain the origins of agriculture?
this region about the origins of agriculture than anywhere Questions provide the right subject to end our introduction
else in the world: more sites, more excavations, more analyses, and enter the assembled essays that follow. Questions and
more publications, and so on. Yet new discoveries in the past curiosity, of course, are inherent in the pursuit of knowledge;
20 years have completely altered our understanding of this unanswered questions drive continuing research. Archaeology
area and revealed levels of complexity not even imagined 2 is concerned with questions about the past. The origins of
decades ago. agriculture is one of the most important and most obstinate.
A number of important general factors in the origins of Yet we have no doubt that while it will be a long and arduous
agriculture were recognized at the symposium. These factors journey, our search for answers will have a successful end.
can be categorized as exogenous, or natural (e.g., climate/ Our goal for the symposium was to develop and explore
environment, population growth), and endogenous, or cul- a rich and productive dialog among scholars from diverse
tural (e.g., social change, religion). Theories on the transition branches of archaeology and related disciplines focused on
to agriculture have most often focused on external factors the beginnings of farming. Through the course of the sym-
such as climatic change or inherent growth in population as posium there was a growing respect and a leveling of bound-
problems solved by the cultivation of plants and animals. aries between the subdisciplines. There was lots of news
Exogenous factors are generally natural forces over which much information and inspiration. We believe that the par-
human groups have little control; endogenous factors reflect ticipants in this symposium returned home with renewed
internal change within society and decisions that humans optimism about the state of researchboth data and ideas
make. on the origins of agriculture. It is our hope that enthusiasm
A series of significant variables involved in the shift from will be conveyed through the continuing studies of the par-
foraging to farming were discussed at Temozon. The most ticipants and will be passed to their colleagues and students.
Price and Bar-Yosef The Origins of Agriculture S173

In this way, our symposium will have a large impact on the Cohen, David Joel. 2011. The beginnings of agriculture in China: a
archaeological community, and we can help to push future multiregional view. Current Anthropology 52(suppl. 4):S273S293.
Cohen, Mark. 1977. The food crisis in prehistory: overpopulation and
research along a well-lit path. the origins of agriculture. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
. 2009. Introduction: rethinking the origins of agriculture.
Current Anthropology 50:591595.
Crawford, Gary W. 2011. Advances in understanding early agriculture
Acknowledgments in Japan. Current Anthropology 52(suppl. 4):S331S345.
Denham, Tim. 2011. Early agriculture and plant domestication in
Special thanks to Leslie Aiello, whose presence we enjoyed at New Guinea and Island Southeast Asia. Current Anthropology
the symposium and whose constant interest and occasional 52(suppl. 4):S379S395.
participation were much appreciated. Leslie has also played Diamond, Jared. 1987. The worst mistake in the history of the human
a key role in the final editing of this issue of Current An- race. Discover, May.
thropology. Kudos and enormous thanks to Laurie Obbink of Dobney, Keith, and Greger Larson. 2006. Genetics and animal do-
mestication: new windows on an elusive process. Journal of Zoology
the Wenner-Gren Foundation, who is responsible for the lo- 269:261271.
gistics and function of these meetings and has been doing a Fuller, Dorian Q. 2011. Finding plant domestication in the Indian
magnificent job for many years. Our symposium ran re- Subcontinent. Current Anthropology 52(suppl. 4):S347S362.
markably smoothly and enjoyably. Carolyn Freiwald of the Goring-Morris, A. Nigel, and Anna Belfer-Cohen. 2011. Neolithi-
University of WisconsinMadison attended the symposium zation processes in the Levant: the outer envelope. Current An-
thropology 52(suppl. 4):S195S208.
as an invited graduate student, and her presence was appre- Goring-Morris, N. 2005. Life, death and the emergence of differential
ciated by all. Thanks also to the staff of the Hacienda Temozon status in the Near Eastern Neolithic: evidence from Kfar Ha-
who went beyond the call of duty to ensure a pleasant stay Horesh, Lower Galilee, Israel. In Archaeological perspectives on the
for all of us with wonderful food, flower-strewn rooms, and transmission and transformation of culture in the Eastern Mediter-
much individual attention. David Meiggs has done a masterful ranean. J. Clarke, ed. Pp. 89105. Oxford: Council for British
Research in the Levant/Oxbow.
job of editing the manuscripts for publication. Goring-Morris, N., R. Burns, A. Davidzon, V. Eshed, Y. Goren, I.
Hershkivitz, S. Kangas, and J. Kelecevic. 1998. The 1997 season
of excavations at the mortuary site of Kfar Hahoresh, Galilee,
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Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011 S175

Climatic Fluctuations and Early Farming in

West and East Asia
by Ofer Bar-Yosef

This paper presents a Levantine model for the origins of cultivation of various wild plants as motivated
by the vagaries of the climatic fluctuation of the Younger Dryas within the context of the mosaic
ecology of the region that affected communities that were already sedentary or semisedentary. In
addition to holding to their territories, these communities found ways to intensify their food pro-
curement strategy by adopting intentional growth of previously known annuals, such as a variety of
cereals. The Levantine sequence, where Terminal Pleistocene and Early Holocene Neolithic archae-
ology is well known, is employed as a model for speculating on the origins of millet cultivation in
northern China, where both the archaeological data and the dates are yet insufficient to document
the evolution of socioeconomic changes that resulted in the establishment of an agricultural system.

Opening Remarks: Observations cieties in core areas and their reactions to abrupt climatic
changes, require some brief statements and clarifications.
and Statements
Although history was not recorded during the onset of the
Neolithic Revolution, the foundations laid by early farmers
The Neolithic Revolution, or the Agricultural Revolution, was unexpectedly led in due course to the invention of writing
a major point of no return in human evolution. After 2.6 systems. Indeed, in an evolutionary sense it was a set of rapid
million years of hunting and gathering, low population den- socioeconomic changes. We should therefore refer to our data
sities, and a series of dispersals to the edges of Eurasia and sets from the first half of the Holocene as the history of
beyond to the Americas and Australia, human societies de- people without names, and like all historical documents
veloped a new economic system that changed the course of they are amenable to different interpretations.
prehistory. Instead of survival based on foraging with partial Investigations into the reasons why people became farmers
or full-time residential and logistical mobility, the appearance are not new. Since the nineteenth century, scholars have
and disappearance of sedentary and semisedentary commu- searched for where, when, how, and why cultivation
nities, and episodes of genetic bottlenecks, the first farming became an attractive survival strategy. Botanists such as Al-
villages in a limited number of regions led unintentionally to fonse de Candolle, Nikolai Vavilov, and Jack Harlan explored
a revolutionary social upheaval. Although a few Late Pleis- the natural habitats where the wild progenitors of domesti-
tocene hunter-gatherers developed low-level food production, cated plants were found, assuming that these were the cen-
the people who started cultivating the wild species of the ters of plant domestications. The desire to find primordial
locations is still pertinent, as recent investigations in the Le-
winning plantsthose that feed the world of today (wheat,
vant (e.g., Zohary and Hopf 2000) or the efforts to find the
barley, rice, and corn)were in retrospect responsible for the
location of millet progenitors in East Asia (e.g., Lu et al. 2009)
rapidly increasing world population that led to the Industrial
Historically, these natural habitats or their margins were
Before delving into the particular cases of West and East
thought by archaeologists to have been the core areas where
Asia (fig. 1), where I believe the earliest manifestations of this cultivation and domestication occurred (e.g., Binford 1968;
socioeconomic revolution were triggered by the impact of the Braidwood 1952; Flannery 1973). What seems to be a feasible
Younger Dryas (YD), several issues, such as small-scale so- research target in the Levant because of its relatively small
dimensions and the large number of different schools of ar-
Ofer Bar-Yosef is George Grant MacCurdy and Janet G. B. MacCurdy chaeology involved in fieldwork is more complex in East Asia,
Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology in the Department of where investigations began almost half a century later and
Anthropology, Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts where the core area is at least two to four times as large.
02138, U.S.A. []). This paper was submitted Hence, using the primacy of the Levant, I discuss the role of
13 XI 09, accepted 17 II 11, and electronically published 24 VIII 11. core areas and refer to places into which agricultural systems

2011 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. All rights reserved. 0011-3204/2011/52S4-0003$10.00. DOI: 10.1086/659784
S176 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

Figure 1. Regions discussed in the text: the Levant and China.

were transmitted to as secondary core areas. For example, In this paper, I suggest that at the two ends of the Asian
the Levant was the core area where the cultivation of wild continent, a climatic change was the main trigger for the onset
cereals, also known as predomestication cultivation or low- of cultivation (i.e., growing the progenitors of wheat, barley,
level food production (e.g., Smith 2001) began and where rye, millet, and other grains) in a context of low level food
these plants became the cultigens after more than 1,000 years production (Smith 2001). This either evolved into major
of farming. These domesticated crops were introduced into food production or failed (e.g., Weiss, Kislev, and Hartmann
Europe and the Nile Valley, both secondary centers. 2006; Weiss and Zohary 2011). Hence, before delving into the
The archaeological evidence for the initiation of cultivation, climatic, social, and economic evidence acquired from ar-
the corralling of wild herd animals, and the ensuing trans- chaeological investigations, we need to examine briefly the
mission of knowledge, techniques, plants, and animals, as well past human experience in the face of abrupt climatic change.
as voluntary and/or forced movements of humans among More than once during the Pleistocene, humans faced en-
village-based societies, is characteristic of interregional con- vironmental changes that improved, worsened, or did not
nections. Short- and long-distance interactions did not always affect their basic ecological conditions. While we sometimes
occur under stable environmental conditions. Paleoclimatic tend to see these climatic changes as the causes for the ex-
proxies from the Terminal Pleistocene and Early Holocene tinction of particular populations or eventual dispersals, the
record numerous fluctuations. Even minor shifts in local con- overall picture is too coarse-grained. History, however, has
ditions, given the available technology and social structure of taught us different lessons. Slow or abrupt shifts of environ-
human groups, could make the difference between successful mental conditions that resulted in social and economic dis-
biological survival and failure. asters have been recorded (e.g., Bell 1971; Hassan 2002; Shen
Bar-Yosef Early Farming in the Levant and China S177

et al. 2007; Weiss and Bradley 2001). The impacts of droughts, or increasing the distance of forays by task groups if neigh-
harsh winters, flooding by rivers or the sea, failing harvests, boring territories are less affected, thereby facing foes or
famines, wars, spreads of disease, disturbances of the social friends (in the best situation, kin relations); (b) to stay put
order, and the demise of peoples are reasonably well docu- and defend the reliable natural resources within their im-
mented. Some societies were able to cope with or to minimize mediate territory; or (c) to actively intensify the yield of avail-
disastrous effects, while others collapsed (Rolett 2008). The able plant resources through technological improvements,
challenge for archaeologists is to find how humans handled new inventions, part-time cultivation, the tending of fruit
a situation and either succeeded or failed in coping with the trees, and even the corralling of herd animals as pets and
impacts of natural calamities (Rosen 2007). When biological food. The sum of all these traits, or only a few, provide the
survival is critical for individuals or a group of peoplebe cultural filter through which environmental changes are
it a band, a macroband, or a tribe (using an approximate mitigated by the affected society or negotiated with its neigh-
scale of population size; see Binford 2006; Hawkes and Paine bors, whether they belong to the same culture (and speak the
2007; Marcus 2008; Roscoe 2008, 2009)they will use a num- same language or the same dialect) or to a different society.
ber of strategies within their knowledge, depending on the Many archaeologists are reluctant to accept the notion that
resilience of their social structure and cultural concepts, to climatic changes expressed in environmental degradation, re-
insure their physical existence in the world. flected in climatic proxies, and seemingly of the same date of
The capacity to minimize risk, for example, can be in- an observed cultural break in the archaeological sequence
creased by actively intervening in the natural environment were the cause for turnover or crisis. They are right. Chro-
when K-selected (e.g., large-bodied mammals) and r-selected nological correlation is not causation. Employing approxi-
(e.g., small-bodied mammals such as hare and tortoise, as mate chronological correlations as the basis for proposed in-
well as fruits and seeds) resources decrease or when required terpretations is merely a hypothesis to be verified or falsified.
foray distances increase. This can be accomplished by inten- This paper relies on that approach but advocates, even if it
sifying food-acquisition techniques such as tending particular is not yet completely feasible, that sound interpretations
plants, using fire to enhance the growth of wild stands of should be grounded on precisely dated paleoclimatic infor-
herbaceous vegetation, digging simple irrigation canals, and mation obtained from archaeological deposits and their con-
in some cases being involved in low-level food production tents (e.g., plants and animal bones). In addition, it should
(e.g., Binford 2006; Denham et al. 2003; Kelly 1995; Lewis be stressed that proposals by nonarchaeologists that abrupt
1972; Lourandos 1997; Roscoe 2009; Smith 2001). climatic changes resulted in a socioeconomic shift should in-
The ability to handle the complexity of the social organi- corporate an anthropologically oriented explanation for re-
zation through the articulation of its members and the spatial sponding to the why question. However, this is rarely done.
distribution of the mating system under stressful circum- Shying away from the impacts of climatic changes has
stances is another strategy. The increased social cohesion by marked the archaeological literature of the last decades. Pref-
increasing group size (agglomeration) or reducing (fissioning) erence has been given to explanatory models that involved
in face of natural disasters includes the perception of home social changes emanating from intra- and intersociety political
territory and its ranges, incorporation of sacred localities, and pressures, physical conflicts and wars, rapid population
the degree of preparedness of the group to pay for costly growth, and fissioning of settlements attributed to scalar
signaling of their ownership (e.g., Roscoe 2006). stress (Johnson 1982) or the Irritation Coefficient (Rap-
The level of preparedness of those who inhabit ecologically paport 1968; cited in Bandy 2004), although New Guinean
marginal zonesfor example, those with increased frequency ethnography offers an alternative model (Roscoe 2009). In-
of droughts or prolonged cold winterswhen facing natural deed, the main question is how did foragers and farmers
disasters is tested when and if they are ready to change or minimize the risk to survival (Rosen 2007)?
successfully move out (Kawecki 2008). Much depends on the In studying human responses to environmental disasters,
survival skills, ability to mitigate relations with neighbors, and an important source of information comes from recent in-
socioeconomic information transmitted through the living ternational relief programs, which are forced to identify the
memory of the social unit (e.g., Minc and Smith 1989; Rosen specific interactions between populations affected by calam-
2007). ities such as earthquakes, droughts, or floods in their im-
The ability of the population to sustain its biological sur- mediate environments and within given political regimes.
vival for future generations within a large geographic region Some reactions are common across the human spectrum,
is tested in times of stress. The intervariability of the social while others express the individual nature of the impaired
organization, alliances with neighboring groups, and the his- human group. In each case, anthropologists discover that the
tory of conflicts often play an important role in adaptation outcome resulted from previously held beliefs, social and po-
to new conditions, although recovering all this information litical organization, and historical interactions with neigh-
from the archaeological record is difficult (e.g., Marcus 2008). boring societies (e.g., Glantz et al. 1998).
As a result, when disasters strike, the options for all foragers Currently, information concerning changing past climates
are (a) to increase mobility by moving to another territory relies on speleothems, terrestrial and marine pollen cores, and
S178 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

supporting evidence from long-distance correlations with the determine their 18O content (see, e.g., Kolodny, Stein, and
Greenland ice core (Greenland Ice Sheet Project 2 [GISP2]) Machlus 2005). Subregional ecological variability is fully ex-
for the following reasons. (1) Speleothems are found in many pressed in the Levant because precipitation, the determinant
caves (whether occupied by humans or not) located in dif- factor, decreases dramatically from west (the sea) to east (the
ferent types of environments (forest, parkland, steppe, arid). desert) and from north (the foothills of the Taurus and moun-
Mass spectrometers produce dates with calendar ages, and the tain areas) to south (the Negev and Sinai). Thus, a paleo-
basic isotopic information (d18O and d13C) traces the sources ecological mosaic of habitats should be taken into account
and the amounts of local precipitation (e.g., Lachniet 2009). when sites are discussed.
(2) Lake and marsh pollen cores provide information con- The speleothems, despite disagreements concerning the
cerning vegetational fluctuations in their drained basins but precise conversion of their fluctuating d18O and d13C contents
do not always produce precise radiocarbon dates. Correlations to the amount of annual rainfall, reflect past centennial and
with marine pollen cores may refute or substantiate the ter- millennial fluctuations (e.g., Bar-Matthews and Ayalon 2003;
restrial sequences. (3) Ice cores provide the most detailed Frumkin, Ford, and Schwarcz 2000; Vaks et al. 2003). Spe-
information concerning climatic changes, and studies of prox- leothem data from Soreq Cave, on the western flanks of the
ies from other regions compare their results to GISP2. How- central hilly ridge, and Maaleh Efriam Cave, on the eastern
ever, in regions farther from the Arctic, the role of local con- flanks (Bar-Matthews et al. 1999; Vaks et al. 2003; fig. 2),
ditions increases and time correlations become more tentative compare well with marine and lake cores from Greece and
and less secure, although the major trends of climatic fluc- the Aegean Sea (e.g., Rohling et al. 2002).
tuations remain the same. (Examples of each are given below.) The Late Glacial Maximum (LGM; ca. 24,00018,000 cal
Taking the above comments into account, I try to demonstrate
below that the conditions imposed by the YD triggered cul-
tivation in two subregions in West and East Asia (fig. 1).

The Levantine Paleoclimatic Sequence

and the Onset of Intentional Cultivation
The Levant is a region located on the edge of the eastern
Mediterranean basin, geographically bordered by the Taurus
Mountains on the north, the Mediterranean Sea on the west,
the Syro-Arabian desert on the east, and the Sinai Desert on
the south (Cauvin 2000; also see Belfer-Cohen and Goring-
Morris 2011; Goring-Morris and Belfer-Cohen 2011; Vigne
et al. 2011; Weiss and Zohary 2011; Zeder 2011). Its optimal
habitats for exploitation are within the Mediterranean and
Irano-Turanian (steppic) vegetational belts, which stretch in
parallel from north to south, have variable topography, and
are watered from west to east in decreasing amounts of annual
precipitation. Every model of optimal foraging should take
these conditions into account. Under favorable climatic con-
ditions, the Levantine flora and fauna expand mainly to the
north, along the foothills of the Taurus and the Zagros arc
and beyond the Euphrates, the Balikh, the Khabur, and the
Tigris rivers (an area called Upper Mesopotamia that bears
historic connotations irrelevant to the prehistoric northern
The paleoclimatic information is derived from cave spe-
leothems, Mediterranean marine pollen, and lake cores. The
current interpretation of the terrestrial pollen cores is based
on the correlations of vegetational zones within the marine
cores (Rossignol-Strick 1995; van Zeist, Baruch, and Bottema
2009). Latitudinal and longitudinal shifts in several atmo-
spheric systems dictate changing climatic patterns in this re-
gion (e.g., Enzel et al. 2008). Most of the storm tracks that Figure 2. Paleoclimatic changes based on Soreq Cave speleothem
transport the winter rain to the region originate in the Atlantic (after information from M. Bar-Matthews and A. Ayalon, with
Ocean and cross the Mediterranean along different paths that permission).
Bar-Yosef Early Farming in the Levant and China S179

Figure 3. Chronological chart of Levantine late prehistory.

BP), as elsewhere, was a cold and dry period in the Levant, (Goring-Morris 1995; Goring-Morris and Belfer-Cohen 2011;
and its conditions are reflected in decreasing precipitation fig. 3). More or less at the same time, the Mushabian and
over the drainage basin of Lake Lisan, which began shrinking Ramonian entities were competing/coexisting with the Lev-
(Bartov et al. 2002). While this period witnessed a discernible antine foragers (Goring-Morris and Belfer-Cohen 2011). One
reduction of global human populations in the higher latitudes, interpretation suggests their origins in Northeast Africa, while
it affected the eastern Mediterranean less. another proposal has them originating from local Levantine
A rapid post-LGM rainfall increase is recorded in speleo- groups. It is conceivable that additional groups of hunter-
thems, marine pollen cores, and lake pollen cores in the Hula gatherers were attracted by the improving ecological condi-
and the Ghab valleys (van Zeist, Baruch, and Bottema 2009). tions and penetrated the eastern Levantine marginal areas
These sources demonstrate that the return of wetter condi- through the Syro-Arabian desert and/or the Taurus foothills.
tions from ca. 16,500 to 14,700/14,500 cal BP facilitated a By the end of these several millennia, there were groups of
pan-Levantine distribution of foragers, bearers of the mi- mobile foragers everywhere in the Levant. Most intriguing is
crolithic Geometric Kebaran industry in every ecological hab- the question of whether a short, cold climatic episode (known
itat from the northern Levant through the Sinai Peninsula in Europe as Dryas I) caused a temporary retraction of the
S180 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

steppic belt and triggered a relative demographic pressure. ditions in the Levant probably began somewhat later, ca.
It is at that point in time that certain groups established the 12,600/12,500 cal BP (e.g., Mayewski et al. 2004; Rohling et
Early Natufian hamlets, although none are as yet known in al. 2002; Sima, Paul, and Schultz 2004). Thus, the duration
the northern Levant (e.g., Bar-Yosef 2002; Bar-Yosef and Bel- of the YD in the Levant is still unresolved, but it could have
fer-Cohen 1989; Henry 1989). This initial formation of hu- been shorter than that indicated by the ice cores and as long
man agglomerations, departing from the old lifeway of resi- as that in western Europe or eastern China (Liu et al. 2008),
dential mobility by building pit houses and burying the dead that is, about 1,000 years.
on site (Belfer-Cohen 1995) and by forming sedentary or The Ghab pollen core in the Orontes River valley dem-
semisedentary permanent camps, is indicated by the presence onstrates a clear decline of arboreal pollen during the YD,
of commensals such as house mice, rats, and sparrows (Tcher- with a major recovery of the oak-pistachio forests during the
nov 1991). Accommodating a few families or even subclans Early Holocene (van Zeist, Baruch, and Bottema 2009; van
within a settlement marked territorial ownership, expressed Zeist and Bottema 1991; Yasuda 2002). The reduction in ar-
in intrasite cemetery areas, enabling the group to achieve a boreal pollen is less well marked in pollen cores from Ana-
sense of security and defense either by force or by symbolic tolian lakes located in the steppic areas or from the coast of
acts (see Roscoe 2009 and references therein). Mount Carmel (Kadosh et al. 2004; Lev-Yadun and Weinstein-
The success of the Natufian as a well-organized society of Evron 2005). Localities close to the Mediterranean Sea were
foragers could be related to the wetter and warmer climatic generally forested, and even a reduction of ca. 30% of annual
conditions of the Blling-Allerd (ca. 14,50013,000/12,800 precipitation had a minimal ecological impact.
cal BP). The establishment of the Early Natufian sites is what The proxy data from marine cores across the eastern Med-
we once referred to as a point of no return (Bar-Yosef and iterraneanfrom the Adriatic Sea, the Aegean, and Cyprus
Belfer-Cohen 1989; Belfer-Cohen and Bar-Yosef 2000). Their support the overall picture described above. The temperature
small villages and hamlets were constructed from a series of cline from the Atlantic Ocean through the Mediterranean,
brush huts built over circular stone foundations, sometimes shown by the analysis of planktonic foraminifera (Kuhlemann
with wooden poles. Larger structures could have served for et al. 2008), demonstrates the general time correlations of
special uses such as rituals and were the forerunners of the climatic fluctuations between the two water bodies. Com-
Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA)Pre-Pottery Neolithic B parisons between the oxygen and stable carbon isotopes from
(PPNB) kiva-type subterranean buildings (e.g., house 131 cave speleothems and those from the marine cores indicate
in Eynan [Valla 1989]; Stordeur and Abbes 2002; Stordeur that the same sequence of climatic changes occurred in the
and Ibanez 2008). The on-site burials (often of different so- Levant (Bar-Matthews and Ayalon 2003). Hence, in spite of
cially unexplained styles; Belfer-Cohen 1995); the rich lithic, probable attenuation due to local conditions, proxies from
bone, and horn-core objects, including incised items; the nu- neighboring regions within the Northern Hemisphere can be
merous marine shells and stone beads for body decoration; employed (e.g., Enzel et al. 2008; Willcox, Buxo, and Herveux
animal figurines; incised slabs; and much more are among 2009). Missing from the proposed paleoclimatic interpreta-
the markers of this culture. Our knowledge of Natufian econ- tions are the simulated impacts of reduced precipitation on
omy is limited to hunted, trapped, and gathered mammals, the Mediterranean forests, open parklands, and steppic en-
birds, and reptiles, with evidence of fishing in some sites. It vironments. The overall trend was marked by diminishing
is, however, obvious from sickle blades that bear the special yields of wild plant seeds and annual fluctuations in the pro-
sheen resulting from harvesting cereals and the mortars in duction of acorns and pistachio nuts, which were intensively
which cereals were processed, in addition to cup holes and collected or harvested by Terminal Pleistocene foragers, as
rare grinding slabs, that a considerable amount of plant food well as changes in the spatial distribution of game animals.
was consumed. Given the wealth of literature concerning the Thus, the impact in a land full of people was that those
Natufian culture and the variable social interpretations, only who occupied the better areas probably stayed put and in-
a few selected references are mentioned here in addition to tensified their food acquisition. Others increased their mo-
those above (e.g., Bar-Yosef 1998, 2002; Bar-Yosef and Valla bility.
1991 and references therein; Belfer-Cohen and Bar-Yosef 2000; The Late and Final Natufian sites in the southern Levant
Belfer-Cohen and Goring-Morris 2011; Belfer-Cohen and (ca. 13,000/12,80011,700/11,500) produced poorer remains
Hovers 2005; Byrd 2005; Cauvin 2000; Edwards 2007; Goring- than the Early Natufian. It probably reflects the return in
Morris and Belfer-Cohen 2011; Grosman, Munro, and Belfer- many of the exploited habitats to a mobility greater than their
Cohen 2008; Henry 1989; Munro 2004; Price and Bar-Yosef ancestors. Flimsy dwelling structures characterize these sites,
2010; Valla 1995, 1999; Valla et al. 2007; Weinstein-Evron and the dead were rarely buried with adornments, but rich
2009). lithic and bone-tool assemblages were produced (Valla et al.
Currently, the radiocarbon dates for the cultural transition 2007). The Late and Final Natufians increased consumption
from the Early to the Late Natufian indicate that it occurred of low-ranked resources such as bone grease, juvenile gazelles,
before the climatic crisis of the YD, which started ca. 13,000/ and fast-moving small game such as hare (Munro 2004; Stiner,
12,800 cal BP in the northern latitudes. The worsening con- Munro, and Surovell 2000). Two mounds, Abu Hureyra
Bar-Yosef Early Farming in the Levant and China S181

(Moore, Hillman, and Legge 2000) and Tell Mureybet (Ibanez PPNA Communities and Early Farming
2008), provided the only Late Natufian archaeobotanical as-
semblages to be discussed below. In sum, in the face of the The PPNA communities (ca. 11,700/11,50010,700/10,500 cal
difficulties of the YD, the solutions triggered for risk mini- BP) are considered the direct descendants of the Natufians,
mization by Late Epi-Paleolithic societies were diverse and although we lack evidence of their contemporaries who in-
included the following: habited southeast Turkey because of a paucity of research,
1. Increased mobility and additional specialized adaptations and they invested more energy and materials than their fore-
to the mosaic ecology of the Levant. In the Negev and the bears in building houses. Circular and oval stone foundations
northern Sinai, these led to the emergence of the unique continued to be the standard shape of the domestic unit, but
Harifian culture and the invention of a typical arrowhead, the quarrying of clay and hand-molding of planoconvex bricks
Harif Point (Goring-Morris 1991; see Belfer-Cohen and Gor- for the walls, as well as the mounting of flat roofs that required
ing-Morris 2011; Goring-Morris and Belfer-Cohen 2011). supporting posts, represent an increased investment in cre-
2. Increased sedentism for security and defense from other ating the human space (Stordeur and Willcox 2009; Watkins
noncultivator groups of foragers. This is demonstrated in the 2006). Private and public storage facilities were erected (Kuijt
and Finlayson 2009). The villages grew up to 2.5 ha in size,
establishment of the village of Hallan Cemi Tepesi (11,900
with populations of at least 150300 people practicing a mixed
10,500 cal BP) on the banks of a tributary of the Tigris River
economy of cultivating different suites of plants, according
(Rosenberg and Redding 2000). No cereals were found at this
to their local ecology, and fig trees in the Jordan Valley (Kislev,
site (Savard, Nesbitt, and Jones 2006), indicating that during
Hartmann, and Bar-Yosef 2006). Hunting the common game
the YD the distribution of einkorn and barley did not extend
in the area and gathering wild plants provided a major part
farther east from its main western habitat. Barley (Hordeum
of the diet (Willcox, Fornite, and Herveux 2008).
cf. spontaneum) makes its first major appearance in this region
Interpretations of the archaeobotanical data indicate that
farther east (Demirkoy and Qermez Dereh) only during the
initiation of intentional cultivation varied. In each subregion,
PPNA (after 11,700/11,500 cal BP; Savard, Nesbitt, and Jones
a different set of wild plants were cultivated and were either
successful or total failures (Weiss, Kislev, and Hartmann
3. Intensified hunting and gathering and part-time culti-
2006). The first experiments in cultivation could have begun
vation. This is evident in the presence of arable weeds, re-
during the Early Natufian, but a step forward was made during
flecting increased sedentism, and it emerges in Tel Qaramel
the Late Natufian (Hillman 2000; Hillman et al. 2001). Most
west of the Euphrates valley, Mureybet, and Jerf el-Ahmar authorities agree that during the closing centuries of the YD
(Willcox, Buxo, and Herveux 2009; Willcox, Fornite, and Her- or the first centuries of the Holocene, bearers of the earliest
veux 2008). Hence, wild cereals were available only along the PPNA tool kits, defined as the Khiamian culture in the north-
western wing of the Fertile Crescent, as predicted by the con- ern Levant, were the first farmers, because their carbonized
ditions of the YD and the plant remains from the Late Na- plant remains contain the weeds that grow in tilled fields in
tufian at Abu Hureyra and Mureybet (Hillman et al. 2001). addition to the cereals (Colledge 2001; Kislev, Hartmann, and
Exploitation of small seeds was already known from the days Bar-Yosef 2006; Willcox, Buxo, and Herveux 2009; Willcox,
of Ohalo II (ca. 23,00021,000 cal BP) and probably from Fornite, and Herveux 2008). The suite of plants grown by the
earlier times as well. The decision to include the cultivation first cultivators included rye (Secale cereale), einkorn (Triticum
of cereals in the economy of these foragers seems to have boeoticum), emmer wheat (Triticum dicoccoides), barley (Hor-
started in the northern Levant, probably before the end of deum spontaneum), and oats (Avena sterilis). Several grass
the YD (ca. 11,700/11,500 cal BP), as in Tel Qaramel (Ma- species, such as Aegilops and Stipa, may represent wild weeds
zurowski, Michczynska, and Padzur 2009 and references that grew in cultivated fields or the results of gathering. Pulses
therein; Willcox, Buxo, and Herveux 2009), and the idea such as lentils (Lens culinaris), peas (Pisum sativum), grass
spread rapidly southward. It has been suggested that the first peas (Lathyrus), bitter vetch (Vicia ervilia), and common
appearance of green beads among Late Natufian body dec- vetch (Vicia sativa) are well recorded, while chickpeas (Cicer
orations marked the onset of beliefs related to the practice of arietinum) and faba beans (Vicia faba) first appeared during
cultivation (Bar-Yosef Mayer and Porat 2008 and references the PPNB (Lev-Yadun, Gopher, and Abbo 2002). Currently,
therein). Indeed, botanical evidence indicates that within a the prevailing view is that systematic cultivation was carried
few centuries, the climatic conditions improved and farming out by several PPNA villages, including Tel Qaramel, where
became successful because there were stable and sufficient all the 14C dates were produced by one laboratory (Mazu-
amounts of winter rain (e.g., Willcox, Buxo, and Herveux rowski, Michczynska, and Padzur 2009).
2009; Willcox, Fornite, and Herveux 2008). The ensuing mil- According to several archaeobotanists, it took some 1,000
lennia of the Holocene enjoyed better climatic conditions, in or 2,000 years of systematic cultivation of wild cereals (Fuller
spite of rapid climatic changes that had variable impacts on 2007; Kislev 1989, 1997; Tanno and Willcox 2006) before a
human communities as population increased and social struc- major portion of the plants acquired the mutation of non-
ture became more complex (Weninger et al. 2009). shattering ears and increased their grain size. This means that
S182 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

without the continuous activities of sowing and harvesting, origins of millet cultivation is focused in a large area of about
the domesticated plants would not have taken over in the 500,000 km2, incorporating the middle and lower Yellow River
fields. This is a process whose meaning is not fully understood basin (Cohen 2011; Zhao 2004). The number of sites where
by some archaeologists, for whom the terms agriculture and plant remains have been carefully recovered and reported is
cultivation are interchangeable (e.g., Hodder 2007). An ad- still small, and the cultural relationships among the different
ditional marker of intentional cultivation is the presence of subregions is debated among archaeologists (Cohen 2011).
typical wild weeds that grow annually in cultivated and har- Hence, we must first consider the overall geographic features
vested fields (Willcox, Buxo, and Herveux 2009). Therefore, of China and the current climate and then proceed to sum-
the domesticated cereals that characterized the agricultural marize the proxies for past climatic fluctuations before delving
economy of PPNB villages were the result of a prolonged into the particular information concerning their impact on
period of cultivation. One should refer to the historical use the local hunter-gatherers.
of terms such as cultivation, domestication, agriculture, The physiography of China (ca. 9.6 million km2) is com-
and others as clearly presented by Harris (2007). If the def- monly subdivided into three topographic landforms, each
inition of cultivation incorporates the entire set of activi- with its own regional variability. These are defined by elevation
tiessuch as tillage, sowing, irrigation, harvesting, and stor- above sea level (a.s.l.): (1) the Tibetan Plateau, some 4,000
age of seeds for consumption and next years plantingthen 5,000 m a.s.l.; (2) the central mountain plateau area, ca. 1,000
regardless of the genetically determined morphological traits 2,000 m a.s.l., incorporating Inner Mongolia, the Loess Pla-
of the plants, early cultivators were simply farmers. One may teau, the Sichuan Basin, and the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau;
argue whether this is a fully agricultural subsistence system and (3) the plains and seacoast, generally below 200 m a.s.l.
or an indication of low-level food production or that the and crossed by numerous copious rivers. This region is strewn
definition should be retained for societies where husbandry with hilly areas, mostly south of the Yangtze River, that can
of animals was part and parcel of annual subsistence activities reach ca. 500 m a.s.l. (Zhao 1994).
(Vigne et al. 2009 and references therein). But farmers who The climate of China is characterized by the tropical and
grow tubers that are not fully domesticated are classified as subtropical Pacific and Indian Ocean summer monsoons. The
agriculturalists and/or horticulturalists, because it is the arrival of the monsoon marks the onset of the rainy season,
practice and not the state of domestication of the plants starting in the south and advancing northward from early
that counts when the economic system is categorized. March to JuneJuly (fig. 4). Later, the rains retreat to the
Finally, all PPNA villages in the Levant show the same south and may last from late August through September and
crowded clustering that a millennium later became the hall- October. During the winter, the entire landmass is dominated
mark of several PPNB sites. Calibrated radiocarbon chro- by Siberian-Mongolian high-pressure systems that often pro-
nologymostly derived from short-lived, site-by-site sam- duce strong winds. But the winter monsoon carries some
plesindicates that almost every village, including those moisture from the Pacific into eastern China, and the north-
situated next to a copious spring, like Jericho, or along the west enjoys the westerlies that bring some precipitation from
river banks, as in the Euphrates valley, was abandoned within western Eurasia. Winter temperatures are close to or below
a few centuries. 0C in the north, while summer temperatures may rise to
above 30C, particularly in the south, and higher in the west-
Terminal Pleistocene and Early Holocene ern deserts. Topographic variability within each of the sche-
matically averaged levels results in a mosaic distribution of
Climatic Fluctuations in China precipitation and temperature and thus of flora and fauna
The basic assumptions for discussing the origins of cultivation (Zhao 1994).
in China are the same as for the Levant, namely, that Late The Last Glacial in China was characterized by significant
PleistoceneEarly Holocene climatic fluctuations in North and frequent oscillations well recorded in a suite of proxies
China played a similar role as in the Levant, triggering the such as the Himalaya ice cores, loess sediments, pollen cores,
transition to cultivation of wild millets for the intensification marine cores, and cave speleothems (e.g., Cosford et al. 2008;
of a staple food. In this argument, I follow the footsteps of Lin et al. 2006; Yu, Luo, and Sun 2008; Yu et al. 2000; fig.
others who have already suggested, either partially or fully, 4). Unfortunately, the distribution of caves with studied spe-
the relationship between the impact of the cold and dry YD leothems is uneven, and most are located in southeastern and
conditions on the survival strategies of mobile foragers and central China and in Tibet, where karstic landscapes prevail
the primacy of millet cultivation (e.g., Barton et al. 2009; (fig. 4). Hence, most of the paleoclimatic information for the
Bettinger, Barton, and Morgan 2010; Bettinger et al. 2007; Lu western and northern regions are drawn from lake and marine
1999, 2006; Shelach 2000). The emergence of rice cultivation, pollen cores, loess sequences, and deep-sea cores in the East
which followed during the Early Holocene (Cohen 2011; Zhao China Sea (e.g., Wen et al. 2010; Yi et al. 2003). The different
2010, 2011), is briefly discussed below in relation to climatic data sets reflect the impacts of the Pacific and Indian Ocean
fluctuations and resources in South China. monsoons and show some differences between the strengths
It is important to stress that the ongoing search for the of the two systems as well as the impact of the westerlies.
Figure 4. Location of Chinese caves with studied speleothems mentioned
in the text.
S184 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

Among the eastern sites, Hulu Cave, near Nanjing (Wang Blling-Allerd increased the potential for hunter-gatherers
et al. 2001), produced a long paleoclimatic curve that best to expand their populations into previously arid or semiarid
fits the GISP2 ice core. Other caves include Dongge (Dykoski habitats in western China. Thus, the abrupt change to the
et al. 2005), Heshang (Hu et al. 2005), Qingtian (Liu et al. YD (e.g., Liu et al. 2008), from around 12,800/12,500 cal BP
2008), Sanbao (Wang et al. 2008), Songjia (Zhou et al. 2008), until 11,700/11,600 cal BP, was a major calamity. This natural
and Timta in Tibet (Sinha et al. 2005). It should be stressed crisis provides early testimony to the problems that North
that all speleothem sequences demonstrate similar trends but China has faced through history from fluctuations in the
that not all correlate well chronologically. In addition, the monsoonal system (Shen et al. 2007).
transition from one climatic stage to another (e.g., from the
Allerd to the YD) took 1 or 2 centuries longer than the
The Role of the YD in North China
comparable transition recorded by the Greenland ice cores
(Liu et al. 2008). However, detailed discussion of these issues Understanding the impact of the rapid climatic change of the
is beyond the scope of this paper. YD on social systems is first appreciated from historical rec-
LGM conditions in North China were cold and dry, and ords. The absence or paucity of summer rains is not an iso-
except for a few protected habitats, most of these steppic- lated phenomenon. This can be seen in every historical review
desertic environments were desolate landscapes (Yu et al. that documents droughts; droughts begin in the north, as a
2000). By ca. 16,000 cal BP, climatic amelioration was wit- recent review of major droughts during the past five centuries
nessed in slowly rising temperatures, increasing rainfall, and in China indicates (Shen et al. 2007). The effects were dra-
a moderate return of forest habitats to the loessic areas, as matic, because anthropogenic activities had already altered
judged from the evidence for the earliest Holocene (e.g., Cai the local environments. Exceptionally severe droughts oc-
et al. 2010; Ren and Beug 2002). As the monsoon system curred in AD 15861589 (when Taihu Lake, the third-largest
became stronger, it penetrated farther north, particularly dur- freshwater lake in China, dried up), in AD 16381641, and
ing the Blling-Allerd (ca. 14,500ca. 13,000/12,800 cal BP), in AD 19651966. More frequent droughts were recorded in
and facilitated the spread of foragers within this region. tree rings in the Tien Shan area (Li et al. 2006). All these
Several researchers have reported information concerning events were caused by a weak summer monsoon, together
the environmental conditions that facilitated the growth of with the westward and northward movement of the western
human populations, producers of the microblade (micro- Pacific subtropical high.
lithic) industries, before the YD (e.g., Bettinger, Barton, and We therefore expect a sudden increase in dryness across
Morgan 2010; Bettinger et al. 2007; Chen 2007; Madsen et North China to have caused the same reactions as observed
al. 1998; Wunnemann et al. 2007). Most sites from this period in the Levant. Unfortunately, the archaeological literature is
are small and ephemeral and reflect varying degrees of mo- not sufficiently detailed, and accelerator mass spectrometry
bility. Series of such occupations with microblade industries (AMS) dates for localities where humans stayed during the
have been sampled and studied (e.g., Chen 1984, 2007; Cohen YD are rarely available. On the other hand, we have more
2003; Madsen et al. 1998). Xiachuan is one of the important information concerning Early Holocene conditions, including
clusters of sites where a few radiocarbon dates indicate the reconstructed vegetation maps based on pollen records. These
presence of at least two major occupations rich in microblades may help us speculate about what happened during the pre-
(ca. 25,000 and ca. 15,000 cal BP) and a large number of vious period (e.g., Ren and Beug 2002; Wen et al. 2010).
grinding slabs (Lu 1999). Lu (2002) reports siliceous sheen Hunter-gatherers retreated to more favorable habitats, in-
on several flakes that resemble her experimental pieces em- cluding river valleys, as in Shizitan, and probably established
ployed in harvesting foxtail grass panicles. Another multilayer semisedentary communities and increasingly intensified ex-
cluster of sites excavated at Shizitan, where occupational ho- ploitation of resources arising from their reduced mobility,
rizons were interspersed with loess accumulations several me- causing population pressure and increased competition for
ters thick (Shizitan Archaeological Team 2002, 2010), is dated resources. Hence, during the YD and in particular during the
to ca. 20,000ca. 9,000 cal BP. On the whole, microblade first two millennia of the Holocene (11,5009500 cal BP), we
industries occur at several hundred sites across North China, note the appearance of larger sites as agglomerations of fam-
southern Siberia, Korea, and Japan (Chen 2007; Kajiwara ilies and possibly subclans reflecting the need for security and
2008; Kuzmin, Keates, and Shen 2007). Larger tools were often territorial defense, in view of real or imaginary enemies (Ros-
made from local raw material, such as quartz or quartzite. coe 2009). Earlier ephemeral occupations in sites such as
Grinding slabs and rubbing stones are a common component Donghulin, Nanzhuangtou, and Zhuannian date to the YD
in these sites, indicating small-seed grass processing. In ad- and/or Early Holocene and are of variable sizes (Cohen 2011).
dition to plant resources, this vast region, dissected by the These are sites of foragers who successfully survived in the
large Yellow River valley and numerous smaller ones, was region (fig. 5).
frequented by several species of deer, equids, wild boar, and Nanzhuangtou (Hebei) contained some rare microblades,
a few carnivores. no pottery, and a rich bone and antler assemblage, including
It seems that the penetration of the westerlies during the the remains of deer, dog, pig, wolf, chicken, softshell turtle,
Figure 5. Partial map of China with all the early farming sites and the
locations of several of the main caves with speleothems. The list of sites
is from Cohen (2011). 1, Yuchanyan; 2, Chengtoushan; 3, Pengtoushan;
4, Bashidang; 5, Xianrendong and Diaotonghuan; 6, Shangshan; 7, Kua-
huqiao; 8, Xiaohuangshan; 9, Hemudu and Tianluoshan; 10, Dadiwan;
11, Shizitan; 12, Xiachuan; 13, Jiahu; 14, Peiligang; 15, Cishan; 16, Yue-
zhuang; 17, Xiaojingshan; 18, Houli; 19, Nanzhuangtou; 20, Yujiagou; 21,
Zhuannian; 22, Xinglongwa; 23, Jiahu.
S186 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

and shellfish (Cohen 2003; Underhill 1997). Only the recovery (Hu, Ambrose, and Wang 2006), propose that only about
of plant remains by flotation will clarify whether the late 1,000 years later did millet become a predominant component
foragers in the north were only collectors or were also part- in daily consumption. In Xinglongwa-type sites (ca. 8100
time cultivators, growing broomcorn or foxtail millet or even 7200 cal BP), d13C values in human bones that mark the
both. consumption of millet (a C4 plant) reflect the presence of
At the site of Donghulin, dated to ca. 10,5009600 cal BP, both species (broomcorn and foxtail), probably indicating the
the excavations and additional field research exposed a pit level of agricultural development (Barton et al. 2009). Inter-
house, numerous stone artifacts (including microblades), pot- estingly, flotation samples from a Houli culture siteYue-
tery, grinding stones, faunal remains, and three burials, one zhuang (Jinan, Shandong), with one AMS date of 7900 cal
of a woman decorated with 68 sea shells (Cohen 2011; Hao BPdemonstrate the presence of 40 broomcorn seeds and
et al. 2001; Zhao et al. 2006). one foxtail millet seed along with 26 rice seeds, indicating an
In spite of a relative paucity of excavations that have pro- unexpectedly early arrival of the latter plant in the Yellow
vided reliable assemblages of plant remains and radiocarbon River area (Crawford, Chen, and Wang 2006).
dates (some of which may represent the use of wood for Animal domestication in North China is an issue raised by
building), the next phase is represented by the cultures or the several authors in spite of the paucity of detailed zooarchae-
cultural groups named Huoli, Cishan, and Peiligang (fig. 5; ological studies (Flad, Yuan, and Li 2007; Yuan and Flad 2002;
further details in Cohen 2011). The bearers of these different Yuan, Flad, and Luo 2008). Given the relative scarcity of fish
groups (identified by their pottery types) emerged as culti- in the Yellow River (when compared with the Yangtze River)
vators of millet within the middle and lower Yellow River and the abundance of nondomesticated species such as deer
basin (Crawford 2006, 2009; Lu et al. 2009; Zhao 2004, 2011). and carnivores (including wolves), the best candidate was the
It seems that they started as dryland farmers of broomcorn wild boar. There is little doubt that pigs were the first animal
and foxtail millets (Zhao 2004, 2010), and they are possibly to be adopted by farmers, who continued to hunt. The pro-
incorporated in the primary core area where agriculture (in cess, possibly similar to the one in the Levant, began with
terms of the set of activities as defined above) was established. cultural control of individuals attracted to the garbage
The first farming communities are characterized as 12 ha in
dumps of villages such as Cishan, at least by 8000 cal BP. By
size with semisubterranean rounded houses; a large number
6000 cal BP, pig meat was 60% of consumed mammal tissues
of storage pits (some containing abundant millet grains); gar-
(Yuan, Flad, and Luo 2008).
bage pits; distinct cemetery areas; abundant pottery, stone
The two domesticated varieties of millet, P. miliaceum and
adzes, axes, and spades; and four-legged grinding stones best
Setaria italica, were identified in Xinglongwa from about
known from Cishan. The architectural change to rectangular
8200/8100 cal BP as well as at Dadiwan (78007300 cal BP)
houses marks a second phase within the developing sedentary
in the Laoguantai area, which is located farther west and in
a higher altitude. The geographic location of both and their
A new biomolecular study of plant remains from Cishan
rectangular houses mark the later phase of the Early Neolithic
suggests that broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum) was first
(by contrast with the rounded ones that characterized the
cultivated/domesticated by ca. 10,3008700 cal BP (Chang
earlier phase) and indicate that they are situated within a
1986; Cohen 2011; Crawford 2009; Lu et al. 2009), although
secondary core area. Archaeological observations in Inner
the earliest radiocarbon dates in this study are older than the
Mongolia have already led Shelach (2000) to suggest that
lowermost reported layer of the village. Northward (such as
to the Xinglongwa culture in Inner Mongolia) and southward millet cultivation must have started earlier than at the Xing-
to the Peiligang area, dispersals of early farming probably longwa site. In addition, the well-ordered rectangular-square
occurred during the second millennium of the Holocene (ca. houses oriented in the same direction, often attached or very
10,5009500 cal BP; Cohen 2011). If this scenario is supported close to one other and surrounded by a trench, hint at a social
by new evidence, we may suggest that cultivation of wild hierarchy (represented by a central house and a burial with
varieties of millet possibly started during the last centuries of jade earrings) that indicates further changes within farming
the YD and probably during the first millennium of the Ho- societies. The location of the site on top of a low hill indicates
locene and that millet became domesticated some 1,5002,000 that the trench was probably not to prevent water from flood-
years later. If such a scenario is supported by additional evi- ing the site but rather to physically and/or symbolically deter
dence, we may conclude that it is an interesting coincidence real or imaginary enemies. Warfare among agricultural tribes
that the impact of the YD on populations in both North China is a well-known phenomenon (e.g., Keeley 1996; Roscoe
and the northern Levant led to the onset of wild-plant cul- 2009). If long-distance similarities are meaningful, then the
tivation (see also Shelach 2000). arrangement of the houses at Xinglongwa resembles sites such
Isotopic analysis of human bones from the Xiaojingshan as Askl and Catalhoyuk in Anatolia that belong to the second
site (ca. 8000 cal BP) suggests that millet made up only 25% phase of the Neolithic Revolution in the Levant, and culti-
of the diet of both males and females (Hu et al. 2008). Hu vation had already been practiced in this region for some
et al. (2008), supported by the isotope analysis from Jiahu 2,000 years.
Bar-Yosef Early Farming in the Levant and China S187

The Role of Paleoclimate in South China A somewhat similar picture emerges from the reports on
Xianrendong and Diaotonghuan (MacNeish et al. 1998). The
South China stretches from south of the Qinling Mountains caves were abandoned by the end of the Blling-Allerd and
and the Huai River to the south and southeast coast, and the early YD (i.e., 13,70012,300 cal BP), and thus direct
although it enjoyed somewhat better climatic conditions than cultural connection with the early villages of the Middle Yang-
the North, several fluctuations are clearly recorded in cave tze basin is unknown. Early Holocene conditions were im-
speleothems and in the South China Sea. Not surprisingly, proved, with more stable monsoonal systems that allowed
these are correlated with Timta Cave in Tibet. However, the foragers to carry on their gathering and hunting activities for
origins of rice cultivation and domestication, currently de- several millennia (Cohen 2011; Zhao 2011). However, the
bated among scholars (e.g., Fuller, Harvey, and Qin 2007; Liu impetus for the onset of cultivation of wild rice is unclear,
et al. 2007; Zhao 2011), are sought in three geographic basins and we should regard as among the potential triggers the social
south of the Yangtze River, namely, the Lake Dongting area connections through the river network with the north, where
(Hunan), the Lake Poyang area (Jiangxi), and the lower Yang- millet was already grown. An additional option is the local
tze River. It should also be remembered that the sea rise during demographic pressure, which can hardly be imagined in an
the post-LGM reduced the coastal belt by at least 250 km. area rich in plant and animal resources, and some social mech-
Hence, the region we briefly examine is about 400,000 anism related to competition with other foragers. In spite of
500,000 km2. the huge areas discussed, long-distance connections in the
The Late Upper Paleolithic sites in South China (ca. 23,000/ Chinese landmass were enormously facilitated by river trans-
20,00011,500 cal BP) preserved the old tradition of cobble port. Simple craft could be made from a bunch of bamboo
tools such as choppers; cores and flakes; small cup holes on tied together, and the early making of canoes is evidenced in
cobbles; perforated cobbles; and bone, antler, and shell tools. Kuahuqiao.
This region produced the earliest evidence for pottery making, Rice exploitation predates the available evidence of phy-
which dates to ca. 18,00017,000 cal BP in Yuchanyan Cave toliths and carbonized plant remains obtained in Xianrendong
(Boaretto et al. 2009) and probably to an earlier time in Cave (Jiangxi: Zhao 1998), Bashidang (Hunan, ca. 81507600
Xianrendong and Diaotonghuan (MacNeish et al. 1998); the cal BP: Zhang 2002; H. Gu, personal communication, 2008),
pottery may have been used to make special liquids, to cook Kuahuqiao (ca. 79007300 cal BP) in the Lower Yangtze basin
bones for grease extraction, or for storage and undoubtedly (Zheng, Sun, and Chen 2007; Zong et al. 2007), and Tian-
had special social meaning (Pearson 2005). Rice phytoliths luoshan (by 6600/6400 cal BP; Fuller et al. 2009). Although
found in these Terminal Pleistocene cave deposits are now the plant evidence is missing, quite possibly the subsistence
considered evidence of gathering or of first experiments in system of Pengtoushan (Hunan, ca. 93008300 cal BP), an
cultivation (Zhao 2010). early village in the Dongting area, was partially based on rice
Open-air sites of Late Pleistocene foragers that may rep- gathering and perhaps cultivation. By ca. 80007000 cal BP,
resent early rice exploitation within the basin of the Yangtze at least half of the rice recorded in Kuahuqiao was already of
River and its small tributary valleys are rare and mostly buried the domesticated variety (Zheng, Sun, and Chen 2007). The
under the rapid Holocene alluviation. Therefore, caves are presence of rice in Jiahu and Yuezhuang in the Yellow River
regarded as the main sources of information. The most cited basin may indicate that there were long-distance interactions
are Yuchanyan Cave (Hunan), Xianrendong and Diaotong- by ca. 8000 cal BP (Zhang and Wang 1998). While the overall
huan (Jiangxi), and Miaoyan (Guangxi). impression may be of the simultaneous emergence of two
The recently studied deposits of Yuchanyan Cave (Boaretto farming systems, I believe that detailed scrutiny of the avail-
et al. 2009; Prendergast, Yuan, and Bar-Yosef 2009; Yuan 2002) able calibrated radiocarbon dates may still raise the interpre-
represent many events of building fires with wood during the tation that the middle and lower Yangtze River basin could
early Blling-Allerd period. Rice phytoliths identified in the have been a secondary core area influenced by the Yellow
first round of research (Zhang 2002) probably reflect gath- River primary core area (Zhang and Hung 2008; Zhao 2010,
ering in the natural wetlands during fall. Most revealing are 2011).
the animal bones, frequently of several deer species, with a
few macaque, hare, small carnivores, and large rodents, par-
ticularly bamboo rat (Prendergast, Yuan, and Bar-Yosef 2009;
Concluding Remarks
Yuan 2002). Identified birds such as heron, tern, crane, goose, When viewed from the perspective of a longue duree, subsis-
and others winter in the area, while the ducks were all wetland tence strategies adopted by foragers during the Terminal Pleis-
taxa. Fish included carp and catfish. In sum, it seems that the tocene in western and eastern Asia have much in common.
young age of the deer and the presence of wintering wetland In a land full of people, the winning option was to stay put
birds (whose breeding grounds are in North China, Mongolia, and intensify the exploitation of plant resourcesthis meant
or Siberia) indicate that Yuchanyan Cave was ephemerally starting to cultivate in suitable ecological niches. The strategy
occupied by a small group mainly during early fall and winter worked best within the natural habitats of the cereals in the
and possibly early spring. Levant and North China. None of the early farmers aban-
S188 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

doned the gathering of wild plants, hunting, trapping, fishing, as the decision to settle down. Other options were available,
or, particularly in China, collecting land snails, freshwater and the final choice was made within the social arena. The
mollusks, and water plants. The evidence from the Japanese viable option to move to other peoples territories in China
archipelago indicates that the mixed strategy of low-level food could have taken place in a vast region were waterways were
production with broad-spectrum exploitation of the sur- the prehistoric highways. Facing intergroup conflicts and min-
rounding natural environment also characterized the Jomon imizing mobility was a Levantine solution that would be fa-
people (Crawford 2008). We may label these foragers as in- vored where walking was the common means of crossing the
cipient farmers or affluent foragers who practiced culti- landscape.
vation, and we should be fully aware of their entire gamut of Thus, the processes in both China and the Levant were
subsistence resources. In the Levant and North and South reasonably similar, and sedentism was the common group
China, incipient cultivation resulted in the domestication strategy. The building of domestic dwellings followed the same
of the harvested species and the stable, steady provisioning pattern, starting with round pit houses and shifting gradually
of staple foods under favorable climatic conditions; this led to square and rectangular ground plans. Materials varied. In
to the rapid increase of local populations and the development China, wood and bricks became the standard building ma-
of full-fledged farming and herding economies. terials, while in the Levant, undressed and dressed stones
Over the first four millennia of the Holocene (ca. 11,700/ played a major role, joined by bricks. Earlier small-scale farm-
11,5008200 cal BP), the process of annual cultivation in the ing was additionally supplemented by gathering and hunting,
Levant ended in the domestication of several species of cereals a strategy that lasted longer in South China than in either
as well as a suite of other plants (e.g., legumes, flax). Corralling North China or the Levant. While rapid climatic change
of selected animals (goat, sheep, cattle, and pig) caused their served as a trigger during the closing centuries of the YD,
domestication, and together with the plants, these species such changes continue to punctuate the Holocene sequences
provided the foundations of the agropastoral societies of later of both regions, a subject beyond the scope of this paper (e.g.,
periods. The rapid population growth in Southwest Asia re- Berger and Guilaine 2009; Chen et al. 2008; Weninger et al.
sulted is what is known as the Neolithic demographic tran- 2009).
sition (e.g., Bocquet-Appel 2011; Bocquet-Appel and Bar-
Yosef 2008 and references therein). The same phenomenon
is observed across other regions during the Holocene, and it
makes clear that farming was a winning economic strategy Acknowledgments
and that its consequences were disastrous to hunting-and- This paper is based on several of my previous writings from
gathering groups. the past decade concerning the impact of climatic changes in
In light of the Late Pleistocene paleoclimatic and archae- Levantine prehistory. I have added to the current version
ological information from North and South China, it seems information gathered recently from Chinese Quaternary stud-
that the middle and lower Yellow River basin was prone to ies. I am grateful to Anna Belfer-Cohen, Nigel Goring-Morris,
droughts much more frequently than South China, and given and Leore Grosman (Institute of Archaeology, Hebrew Uni-
the reconstructed demography of mobile hunter-gatherers in versity) for numerous discussions in the past. Thanks to M.
this region, we should expect that the establishment of millet Bar-Matthews and A. Ayalon (Geological Survey of Israel,
cultivation preceded the earliest rice cultivation by a millen- Jerusalem) for the information in figure 2. I thank David
nium or two. There is clear evidence for the attenuated impact Cohen (Boston University) for discussions concerning Chi-
of the YD in South China on the local vegetation. However, nese archaeological issues. Thanks to David Meiggs (Univer-
Holocene conditions ranged from subtropical to tropical, with sity of Wisconsin) for his copyediting skills. I am, however,
high frequencies of rainfall brought by the monsoons, and solely responsible for any shortcomings of this paper.
therefore the impact of the YD is not easily detectable. In
both regions, there was probably a long time between the
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Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011 S195

Neolithization Processes in the Levant

The Outer Envelope

by A. Nigel Goring-Morris and Anna Belfer-Cohen

The Near East is one of those unique places where the transition(s) from hunter-gatherers to farmers
occurred locally, so it is possible to observe the whole sequence of these processes within the region
as a whole. We discuss the archaeological evidence pertaining to those transformations within the
Levant, presenting the particularistic local changes in settlement patterns and the character of the
different communities juxtaposed with the landscapes and environmental background. The asyn-
chronous developments clearly reflect the mosaic nature of the Levant in terms of specific local
environmental conditions that influenced the scope and pace of Neolithization processes.

Introduction Bar-Yosef and Belfer-Cohen 1989; Bellwood 2005; Binford

1968; Boserup 1981; Cauvin 2000; Flannery 1969; Grosman
2004; Hayden 1990; Redman 1978; Rindos 1984; Verhoeven
The Levant is a distinct and limited area of the Near East
2004; Watkins 2005). Yet many models suffer from a disregard
characterized by its unique geographic location and the pres-
of the basics, namely, that we are dealing with real people in
ence of a mosaic of different phytogeographic zones. There
real places and in real time. It is important to stress that
are few if any regions in the world where precipitation and
developments appear to have been directional only in ret-
vegetation zones vary so markedly over such small distances
rospect. The processes that took place were multifaceted, with
(Goring-Morris, Hovers, and Belfer-Cohen 2009 and refer-
various options available at the time; some of the choices,
ences therein). It was against this unusual backdrop that the
momentous changes from small groups of mobile foragers to ultimately, were significant to future developments, but others
large settled agricultural communities first occurred. These were sideshows or culs-de-sac in the evolutionary sense.
conditions need to be taken into account when considering Accordingly, within the archaeological record, we may stum-
Neolithization processes as a whole. Thus, in order to present ble on evidence for both categories.
as coherent a picture as possible, we here discuss and expand As we move through the chronological sequence, increas-
on the external issues pertinent to such developments. Belfer- ingly detailed information is available; of course, the question
Cohen and Goring-Morris (2011) explore the internal facets arises as to whether this evidence was present earlier and
of these phenomena. simply hidden by the foggy curtain of time. We are able to
The region is also one in which relatively intensive field identify and isolate more archaeological entitiesusing tra-
and laboratory research has been conducted, albeit still with ditional archaeological criteriaduring the earlier Epipaleo-
significant blank areas. It is fascinating to observe the lithic than previously during the Upper Paleolithic. Yet even
changes in the scientific approaches to Neolithization. These if the archaeological cultures differed in specific settlement
comprise early simplistic paradigms tracing the inevitable uni- patterns and cultural markers, the general nature of each such
directional progress (in a Marxist sense) from hunting-gath- entity was quite similar. This similarity most likely relates to
ering to agricultural practices by means of a specific trigger the obvious fact that all these groups were mobile hunter-
such as climate change (e.g., Childe 1934). At the other end gatherers exploiting their environments by similar means and
of the spectrum are complex multifactor approaches em- in similar modes (Bar-Yosef 1981; Byrd 1990; Goring-Morris
bracing demographic and social dynamics as well as quan- 1995; Henry 1989). Resources during the Late Glacial Max-
titative and simulation studies (to name but a few, see, e.g., imum (LGM) varied from one region to another, reflecting
local patchiness in availability and sometimes seasonality. Dia-
chronic changes did occur, but, in general, the overall picture
A. Nigel Goring-Morris and Anna Belfer-Cohen are Professors in
the Department of Prehistory, Institute of Archaeology, Hebrew
remained broadly stable. Within this frame of reference, grad-
University of Jerusalem (Jerusalem 91905, Israel [goring@ ual demographic increase during the Early and climatically]). This paper was submitted 13 XI 09, accepted 12 ameliorated Middle Epipaleolithic would have led to locally
XII 10, and electronically published 12 VII 11. increased packing in some areas following previous long-lived

2011 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. All rights reserved. 0011-3204/2011/52S4-0004$10.00. DOI: 10.1086/658860
S196 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

Table 1. Chronology of cultural entities in the southern Levant based on available radiometric date ranges

Sociocultural entities
Dates BP Cal Time stratigraphic units Mediterranean zone Steppe and desert zone
24,00021,750 Early Epipaleolithic Nebekian
24,20019,250 Masraqan (Late Ahmarian) Masraqan (Late Ahmarian)
21,25017,575 Kebaran Kebaran
20,20018,900 Nizzanan Nizzanan
18,00016,250 Middle Epipaleolithic Geometric Kebaran Geometric Kebaran
17,00015,500 Classic Mushabian
16,85014,400 Early Ramonian
14,90013,700 Late Epipaleolithic Early Natufian Terminal Ramonian Early Natufian
13,50012,750 Late Natufian Late Natufian
12,50011,750 Final Natufian Harifian
12,17511,800 Early Neolithic PPNA Khiamian
11,62511,000 Sultanian (Final Harifian)
10,95010,300 Early Neolithic PPNB Early PPNB Early PPNB
10,1509725 Middle PPNB Middle PPNB
94008900 Late PPNB Late PPNB
90508450 Final PPNB (PPNC) Final PPNB (PPNC)
84007700 Late Neolithic PNA Yarmukian Tuwailan
77507450 Jericho IX
75006500 Late Neolithic PNB Wadi Raba Qatifian Timnian
Note. There are slight discrepancies between this table and table 1 in Belfer-Cohen and Goring-Morris (2011). PNA p Pottery Neolithic
A; PNB p Pottery Neolithic B; PPNA p Pre-Pottery Neolithic A; PPNB p Pre-Pottery Neolithic B; PPNC p Pre-Pottery Neolithic

Upper Paleolithic patterns (Goring-Morris, Hovers, and Bel- and incipient processes of Neolithization in the Near East
fer-Cohen 2009). should be traced all the way back to the local Late Upper
While, superficially, the observed changes during the earlier Paleolithic/Early Epipaleolithic. This corresponds to a chro-
Epipaleolithic appear to have been incremental, gradually nological span of some 15,000 years (after calibration) until
speeding up so that the pace of change eventually became the end of the Neolithic, that is, the equivalent of some 500
logarithmic, common sense suggests that changes may more 600 generations (table 1).
likely have been quite random, isolated, and independent.
Obviously, we are limited by the very nature of the archae-
The Geographic Setting
ological record. The changes would have involved techno-
logical innovations, differential social interactions, and re- It is vital to define the geographic boundaries in which these
sponses to extraneous factors. Ultimately, it is the specific processes occurred. The Near (or Middle) East is an am-
articulations of these various factors, internal (intra- and in- biguous term that covers Southwest Asia between the Med-
tergroup) and/or external (climate, carrying capacities, etc.) iterranean and Iran. The region (Western Asia) encompasses
that are particularly relevant in terms of the nature and tempo Anatolia, the Levant, Cyprus, Mesopotamia, and Transcau-
of cultural change. This is one of the pitfalls of simulation casia. Here our primary focus of study is the Levant, its most
studies, because they are based on consideration of long distinctive feature being its ecological diversity. In addition,
stretches of time and averaging out the data available. Actually, where pertinent, we relate briefly to adjacent regions (e.g.,
there are indications that at least at certain points in time, Cyprus and central Anatolia). The Levant is a small region
the course of events is more apt to be described in the mode enclosed between the Taurus and Zagros mountains to the
of punctuated equilibrium, with periods of stasis inter- north, the Mediterranean coastline to the west, the Sinai Pen-
spersed by bursts of activity (and see below for specific ex- insula to the south, and the Syro-Arabian desert to the east,
amples). This pattern is reported from various parts of the ca. 1,000 km north to south by up to 400 km east to west
world in the articles in this issue. (fig. 1). The topography of the Levant is characterized by a
Another caveat concerns the very nature of the archaeo- north-south longitudinal series of alternating elevated and
logical data as well as research paradigms that influence in- low-lying regions: the coastal plain and western piedmont;
terpretations. The rule of thumb is that what is observed the central hill range reaching up to 2,000 m a.s.l.; the Dead
archaeologically more often than not reflects the end of the Sea Rift lying below sea level; and the Trans-Jordanian/Syrian
process (from invention to innovation to its wide acceptance), plateau (the central-south Levant), which rises steeply to el-
solid enough to be observed. evations between 800 and 2,000 m a.s.l., followed by a gradual
Considering all of the above, it transpires that the origins descent eastward into Saudi Arabia. Today there are relatively
Goring-Morris and Belfer-Cohen Neolithization Processes in the Levant S197

Figure 1. Phytogeographic regions of the Near East. The line between

Beirut and Damascus differentiates between southern and northern Le-
vant. Note that some relate the Upper Tigris as part of Mesopotamia
while others include the Middle Euphrates as southeast Anatolia.

few perennial rivers or streams in the region, the most notable regional levels. This is especially valid in comparisons between
being the Tigris and the Euphrates in the north and the Oron- the southern and northern Levant. For example, Terminal
tes and the Jordan farther south along the rift valley. Almost Pleistocene/Early Holocene geomorphological changes appear
all other drainages are seasonal and ephemeral. Changes in to have acted differently in the north and the south, with
evapotranspiration rates were major factors in the presence more extensive aggradation in the north that may have caused
and extent of Late Quaternary inland water bodies. Springs the burial of sites there (e.g., Ozdogan 1997).
are common in the Mediterranean zone but are widely dis- In this article, we use the term southern Levant to dif-
persed in more arid areas. Obviously, the specifics would have ferentiate between the area south of an east-west line from
changed at various times, depending on the particular climatic the coast across to the Damascus Basin, as opposed to the
conditions. It is important to stress that within the Levant, northern Levant, stretching from that line north to the
as indeed elsewhere, global climatic changes would have dif- Taurus and the western end of the Zagros Mountains, in-
ferentially affected environments at the micro- and macro- cluding the Middle Euphrates and the Upper Tigris region
S198 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

(sometimes called the Golden Triangle). Physical and cul- dividuals for minimal sustainable mating networks should be
tural interactions are documented between the south and the emphasized (e.g., Johnson 1982; Kosse 1994; Wobst 1976).
north during the relevant periods; developments were not Site numbers, site sizes, and their relative durations through
always synchronous, and centers of innovation appear to have most of the Upper Paleolithic indicate that demographic in-
shifted from the south to the north (but see Watkins 2008, creases were slow and incremental. Relative population den-
concerning the so-called primacy of the southern Levant). sities began to grow starting with the Early Epipaleolithic; this
Whereas in the past this geographic shift of the hub of Neo- rise in density was initially somewhat artificial, inflated by
lithization appeared to reflect more the history of research, local environmental deterioration with the onset of the LGM
it is less so the case today, notwithstanding ongoing lacunae that brought about declining carrying capacities in more mar-
in field investigations in certain areas. ginal areas. Accordingly, populations congregated in refugia,
so relative packing was greater within smaller areas while other
areas were, to all intents and purposes, abandoned. In regions
The Paleoenvironmental Background
such as the eastern Trans-Jordanian steppes, groups could
In order to begin to comprehend developments in human congregate seasonally in winter/spring because of the presence
adaptations, it is vital to know the physical circumstances of of large herds of the seasonally migratory subspecies of gazelle
the landscapes that populations occupied. This is especially Gazella subgutturosa subgutturosa (Martin 1994, 2000; Mu-
applicable for areas such as the Levant, which comprises a hesen and Wada 1995 and references therein). Later, during
particularistic mosaic in terms of environment and ecology. the Middle Epipaleolithic, significant climatic amelioration
Such conditions would dictate fine-tuned adaptation by local relaxed previous physical and ecological constraints, providing
populations to specific and frequently seasonal niches. Studies more and different stimuli to both local and overall popu-
have demonstrated that climatic changes during the Terminal lation increases (see Grosman 2004 for additional references;
Pleistocene and Early Holocene fluctuated markedly, and rap- fig. 2).
idly and were often of an intensity hardly encountered during It is important to stress that, indeed, general trends varied
much of the Quaternary. We have in mind the time span from from one geographical region to another throughout the Le-
the LGM through the Bolling/Allerd, the Younger Dryas, and vant, as reflected by the numbers of sites documented. We
then to the Preboreal and the end of the Early Holocene also need to take into account the sizes and the duration of
Optimum (e.g., Bar-Matthews and Ayalon 2003; Byrd 2005; sites in attempting to reconstruct actual demographic in-
Enzel et al. 2008; Robinson et al. 2006; Wick, Lemcke, and creases. There are likely to have been major jumps in relative
Sturm 2003 and references therein). Particularly relevant for population densities within communities that we believe cor-
human populations would have been short-term annual or relate with a combination of increasing sedentism (likely to
decadal climatic events, which are frequently lost in paleo- induce shorter birth spacing) on the one hand and techno-
climatic reconstructions that tend to average out data over logical innovations (enabling more efficient exploitation of
longer periods (Grosman and Belfer-Cohen 2002). These cli- the environment) on the other. Clearly, these tendencies are
matic shifts influenced vegetation and faunal distributions and apparent within the southern Levant from the Late Epipaleo-
densities throughout the region. The most marked influences, lithic Natufian onward.
for better or worse, would have been at the interfaces/ecotones With regard to developments in the northern Levant and
between the more mesic Mediterranean regions and the semi- adjacent areas, we remain in the dark for much of the Epi-
arid peripheries. In terms of human adaptations, these paleolithic (until the very end of that period). The few known
changes would have resulted in push-pull or concertina sites are located in or at the margins of the mountainous
effects, alternately bringing about retreats into refugia or en- zones, perhaps reflecting the geomorphological burial of sites
abling dispersals into newly opened-up areas. Reconstructions in this region (and see above). Most of these sites were ex-
of specific human adaptations and subsistence should take cavated 50 or more years ago, when stratigraphic control and
those dynamics into consideration. Additionally, late Qua- excavation techniques were much less rigorous than today.
ternary physical changes to the landscape were more marked Whether the apparent absence of pre-Pre-Pottery Neolithic
in some areas (e.g., lower sea level at the height of the LGM A sites in more open environments reflects reality or the
and its subsequent rise) as well as the extent of lakesthe relative lack of systematic archaeological exploration and pe-
Dead Sea Basin and inland shallow lakes farther to the east destrian survey remains unresolved.
(e.g., the Azraq, Damascus, el-Kowm, and el-Jafr basins).
Setting the Stage: The Natufian
Epipaleolithic Settlement Patterns
The Late Epipaleolithic Natufian complex lasted for some
In addressing the issues of the Early and Middle Epipaleolithic 3,000 years (ca. 100125 generations), with the Negev/Sinai
(ca. 2315,000 cal BP), consideration of the scale of social local variant of the Final Natufian, the Harifian (Goring-Mor-
networks is crucial. Here the magic numbers of ca. 25 in- ris 1991), lasting a mere 750 years (!2530 generations; Stutz
dividuals for many mobile-band societies and 250500 in- 2004). It is crucial to differentiate between the various chro-
Goring-Morris and Belfer-Cohen Neolithization Processes in the Levant S199

Figure 2. Changing site distribution densities in various areas of the Near

East. Note that the differing longevity of each period is taken into account
by presenting the relative number of sites per 1,000 years calibrated for
each period (table 1). EEPI p Early Epipaleolithic; EPPNB p Early Pre-
Pottery Neolithic B; FPPNB p Final Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (Pre-Pottery
Neolithic C); LEPI p Late Epipaleolithic; LN1 p Early Late (Pottery)
Neolithic; MEPI p Middle Epipaleolithic; MPPNB p Middle Pre-Pottery
Neolithic B; PPNA p Pre-Pottery Neolithic A; PPNB p Pre-Pottery
Neolithic B; UP p Upper Paleolithic.

nological phases within the Natufian while also acknowledg- and still others on the margins were even more mobile. In-
ing the high degree of variability in specific Natufian adap- deed, the Natufian is not just about the sedentary logistic
tations at the regional level (Bar-Yosef 2002; Goring-Morris collectors of the Mediterranean zone versus their (poorer)
and Belfer-Cohen 1997; Valla 1999). In general, during the foraging cousins in the periphery, because there are also in-
Late Epipaleolithic, a greater degree of differentiation between termediate situations and interactions. Accordingly, the geo-
archaeological entities/cultures can be identified, as some graphic scale of individual territorial ranges would have varied
groups became increasingly sedentary, incorporating tech- significantly, and a greater degree of packing of populations
nological developments on various levels (including those would have occurred within those areas settled by more sed-
connected with food procurement and processing). This led entary communities.
to the beginnings of the dichotomy between the desert and Natufian subsistence modes were based primarily on the
the sown; thus, human groups with different economic intensification of hunting and gathering and associated pro-
modes of existence interacted differently with their environ- cessing techniques. This is reflected in the exploitation of a
ments. particularly wide spectrum of faunal species coupled with the
When discussing the subsistence mode of the Natufian, we intense targeting of their preferred prey, the gazelle (see
have to acknowledge the ranges of specific Natufian adap- Munro 2004 and references therein). Although botanical re-
tations. While some groups were more or less sedentary in mains are rarely preserved, the large numbers of groundstone
favorable ecological settings (e.g., on the shores of lakes or utensils, especially mortars and pounding tools, clearly reflect
marshes), others likely practiced seasonal residential mobility, more intensive plant-food preparation than previously (Bel-
S200 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

fer-Cohen and Hovers 2005 and references therein). There is appear to result from external factors, especially the delete-
clear use of sickles for harvesting (whether wild cereals and/ rious effects of the rapid onset of the Younger Dryas (Grosman
or reeds) during the Natufian, which has been suggested to and Belfer-Cohen 2002). Indeed, this is reflected most ob-
imply more efficient methods of exploitation of smaller areas viously in more marginal regions, such as the Negev and Sinai,
(Hillman and Davies 1992). However, the automatic associ- with the finely tuned and short-lived Harifian entity. At the
ation of composite toolsblades inserted in bone handles end of the day, conditions in these peripheral settings dete-
with cereal harvesting requires caution, because few if any of riorated beyond a critical threshold, and continued occupa-
the inserts actually display evidence for sickle gloss ( Edwards tion of the area simply became untenable. There may have
1991; Garrod and Bate 1937). It appears that while the Na- been no choice but to abandon the region and retreat to join
tufian does exhibit intensification of plant collection, there is communities elsewherewhether in adjacent areas, in which
no overt evidence for intentional plant cultivation. The re- the Final Natufians themselves were experiencing precarious
liability of claims for Late Natufian domestication of cereals conditions, or even farther afield.
at Abu Hureyra remains dubious, given the taphonomy of In the northern Levant, broadly contemporary with the
that site (Hillman 2000; Weiss and Zohary 2011). Late Natufian, a series of occupations have been described
Without delving into the specifics of social and mating around the edges of the piedmont zone. This Round-House
networks operating during the Natufian here (see Belfer- Horizon continues in time through the equivalent of the
Cohen and Goring-Morris 2011), suffice it to note that in southern Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA; Peasnall 2000). Ad-
some areas community sizes increased significantly, although aptations in the north were based primarily on hunting and
the spacing between individual hamlets may have remained gathering of nuts and fruits. There have also been claims for
constant. The impact of the growth in community sizes and some degree of management of wild boar (Redding and Ro-
their observed territoriality is reflected in disparities between senberg 1998; Vigne et al. 2011). While there have been claims
various components of the profane and symbolic material for the initial occupation of Cyprus during the Late Epipa-
culture in the Natufian core area and more peripheral areas. leolithic, the available evidence for pre-Pre-Pottery Neolithic
Indeed, the quantum rise in the number of burials within occupation of the island to date remains equivocal and open
core area Natufian sites, in areas clearly designated as burial to debate (Ammerman et al. 2006, 2007; Simmons 2001, 2007
grounds, undoubtedly reflects the increasing individual sense and references therein).
of belonging to specific localities and communities. Com-
bined with this is the development of geographically wide-
Archaic Villages of the PPNA
ranging exchange networks for both mundane (e.g., ground-
stone utensils; Weinstein-Evron, Kaufman, and Bird-David The PPNA is a short-lived phenomenon with regard to both
2001) and exotic (e.g., marine mollusks, greenstone, and other what preceded it and what succeeded ita mere 1,000 ca-
minerals; Bar-Yosef Mayer 2005) items, exchange that was lendrical years (or 40 generations). However, the scale of
previously at best sporadic (Goring-Morris 1989). change for the PPNA in the southern Levant is of a lesser
There are also indications for technological developments order of magnitude compared with the northern Levant,
in other realms, including the beginnings of what can be where there was a rapid increase in population and in the
termed cottage industries. This includes circumstantial evi- accompanying elements of social organization. The arid mar-
dence from the increased abundance and scope of bone tool gins throughout the Levant were all but deserted during the
assemblages for basketry and matting (e.g., Campana 1991; course of the PPNA and were recolonized only during the
Le Dosseur 2008; Stordeur 1991; see also the isolated find, a Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB).
wood and flax comb from Wadi Murabbaat; Schick et al. The southern PPNA displays numerous elements of con-
1995). As for pyrotechnology, or playing with fire, in ad- tinuity from the Natufian. It likely represents the amalga-
dition to increased lime-plaster production, we also witness mation of Final Natufian populations in locally favorable set-
technological developments with regard to fired clay and tings. This includes the Harifian, which represents Final
ochre (Belfer-Cohen 1988; Perrot and Ladiray 1988; Valla Natufian refugees from the arid margins retreating into the
1999; Zackheim 1997). Mediterranean zone because of the cumulative effects of the
It is important to stress the documented diachronic changes dire events associated with the Younger Dryas (Goring-Morris
in Natufian lifeways with explicit evidence for greater com- 1991). During the PPNA, conditions improved but appear to
plexity during the early rather than the later phase. The Early have been marked by torrential episodes (e.g., at Netiv Hag-
Natufian displays a high degree of complexity and spatial dud and perhaps also at Jericho; Bar-Yosef 1986; Bar-Yosef,
organization, with large well-built structures that were surely Goring-Morris, and Gopher 2010).
occupied by units larger than nuclear families (Goring-Morris Major PPNA sites in the southern Levant display a pro-
and Belfer-Cohen 2003; Valla 2008). Subsequently, there ap- pensity for lowland settings in a north-south alignment, es-
pears to have been a return to domicile by smaller social units pecially along the edges of the rift valley (and also along the
in smaller structures. However, the bulk of the evidence for eastern edge of the coastal plain). Smaller seasonal exploita-
increasing mobility later on, during the Final Natufian, would tion sites are found in a gradient up the neighboring slopes
Goring-Morris and Belfer-Cohen Neolithization Processes in the Levant S201

to the west and to the east. A few sites, such as Jericho and from the area between the Middle Euphrates and the coast
Netiv Hagdud, are of a different order of magnitude, each (Abbes 2008; Mazurowski and Jamous 2001).
encompassing areas of 1.62.0 ha, which may have housed The northern intrasite pattern is one of dispersed small
up to a couple of hundred inhabitants. The scale of individ- household units together with associated semisubterranean
ually spaced oval semisubterranean residential units is indic- communal structures at sites such as Jerf el-Ahmar and Tell
ative of nuclear family residences and reflected by the presence Abr 3 (Stordeur 2007; Stordeur et al. 2001). The economy
of grinding and pounding installations within each domestic was presumably based on floodplain cultivation, but there is
unit (Rosenberg 2008; Wright 2000). Well-constructed exter- little if any solid evidence for domesticates until the end of
nal silos are found, although storage was probably also in the PPNA (Willcox 2005). Similarly, there is no unequivocal
baskets suspended from beams (e.g., Gilgal and Netiv Hagdud; confirmation for animal domestication (for an overview see
Bar-Yosef and Gopher 1997; Bar-Yosef, Goring-Morris, and Zeder 2009, 2011). Hunting often appears to have focused
Gopher 2010). At Dhra, a raised silo is documented (Kuijt on herd species such as Gazella subgutturosa subgutturosa and
and Finlayson 2009), and at Jericho, what have been inter- Equus hemionus, although in some sites wild boar Sus scrofa
preted as larger plastered silos around the tower may in- is also common and may have been managed and/or culled
dicate some form of community storage (Kenyon 1981). (e.g., Vigne 2008; Vigne et al. 2011).
Communal structures are few, with the exception of the These developments would have necessitated changes in
enigmatic tower and wall at Jericho. Numerous interpreta- the scale of mating networks, which can be tied in with the
tions have been proposed for their functions, ranging from foundation of various ritual-cum-aggregation sites in water-
the mundane (defenses against potential enemies or flooding) shed locations (e.g., the PPNAB hilltop ritual site of Gobekli
to the cultic (a ritual precinct and/or astronomical device; Tepe; Schmidt 2005, 2007 and references therein). Clearly, the
Barkai and Liran 2008; Bar-Yosef 1986; Crowfoot-Payne 1976; nature of the relationships between the various sites, as well
Naveh 2003; Ronen and Adler 2001). as between the northern and southern Levant and other areas,
Were these farming communities? While they probably underwent transformation. Exchange networks were wide-
practiced small-scale cultivation on the alluvial fans on which spread, as exemplified by the systematic acquisition and use
of Cappadocian and Bingol obsidian, although no PPNA sites
the settlements were located, the plant remains recovered were
are presently documented near those sources (Delerue 2007).
not always of species that were soon to be domesticated locally
Here, it is interesting to note the similarity of the southern
(e.g., oats Avena sterilis at Gilgal and Netiv Hagdud; Kislev
Harifian projectile points to the northern Nemrik projectile
1997; Weiss, Kislev, and Hartmann 2006). There is some de-
points; are we facing the beginnings of what will be the hall-
bate as to whether populations of medium-sized ungulates
mark of convergence (i.e., the development of a PPNA
had already been depleted during the Natufian (Cope 1991
koinea regional interaction sphere sharing focal cultural
and Davis 1983, 1987 vs. Bar-Oz 2004 and Sapir-Hen et al.
characteristicspreceding the better-known PPNB one) and/
2009), but there certainly appears to have been an increasing
or actual population movements? While the issue of the sys-
focus on smaller species, including birds (Horwitz et al. 2010;
tematic colonization of Cyprus during the Late Epipaleolithic
Tchernov 1994). The presence of silos may provide indirect
is open to some debate, it was clearly well under way during
evidence for surplus, which could have contributed to ex-
the PPNA (McCartney et al. 2007). Various lines of material
panding exchange networks of foodstuffs. In addition, some
evidence indicate that the origin of the colonists was probably
sites appear to have served as nodes for procurement and
from the north Levantine littoral to the Cilician plain. This
exchange networks of valued materials (e.g., obsidian, mal- likely reflects major demographic increases in that region.
achite, salt, bitumen, seashells, etc.), which may have influ- The demise of the PPNA in the southern Levant displays
enced their location and size. This may explain the otherwise little evidence for in situ continuity; most sites were aban-
anomalous location of the site of Wadi Faynan 16 in a mar- doned, whether from overexploitation, declining yields, cli-
ginal ecological setting at the edge of the rift valley (Finlayson mate shifts, changing geomorphology, shrinking water
and Mithen 2007) yet adjacent to abundant sources of mal- sources, or other causes. One should also add the possibility
achite. of contagious diseases causing havoc at the local level, because
Coevally, in the northern Levant there was a veritable pop- the geographical scale of local interactions was still quite lim-
ulation explosion. This trend can already be detected along ited. By contrast, in the north there is unequivocal evidence
the Upper Tigris (the Round-House Horizon) toward the for direct continuity from the PPNA to the PPNB, which
end of the local equivalent of the Late Natufian before the commonly (but not always) took place on-site (e.g., Mur-
onset of the Younger Dryas (Peasnall 2000). Farther west, a yebet; Ibanez 2008).
linear riparian settlement pattern of communities developed
at intervals of 2025 km along the Euphrates and its tribu-
taries. The settlement at Jerf el-Ahmar was initially very small
PPNB Village Society
but rapidly increased in size (D. Stordeur, personal com- With the emergence of PPNB village societies, the center of
munication). Recently, PPNA sites have also been reported innovation had already shifted to the northern Levant. In the
S202 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

southern Levant, the shift from PPNA to PPNB was quite way of life here was one of mobile foraging supplanted during
abrupt, with the Early PPNB representing but a short bridging the end of the period by pastoral nomadism, which seemingly
episode. So it is only with the Middle PPNB that we find the originated in the Syrian Desert and then diffused southward
emergence of the full-scale PPNB koine that developed and later westward (Bar-Yosef and Khazanov 1992; Betts 1998;
through the Late and Final PPNB. The koine stretched across Goring-Morris 1993).
the entire Levant and beyond, even incorporating central An- Specialized sites were located in boundary or neutral geo-
atolia and Cyprus (Bar-Yosef and Belfer-Cohen 1989; Cauvin graphic settings, serving most probably as cultic centers, ag-
2000; Esin and Harmankaya 1999; Hodder 2007; Ozdogan gregation sites, and/or mortuary sites, as, for example, Nahal
2011; Simmons 2007). It is important to note that this in- Hemar cave in the Judean Desert and Kfar HaHoresh in the
teraction sphere encompassed a wide spectrum of specific and Nazareth Hills of lower Galilee (Bar-Yosef and Alon 1988;
varied adaptations. These included large-scale permanent vil- Goring-Morris 2005). In the north, settlement patterns con-
lages based on farming and herding or hunting and farming tinued to be largely linear, with a focus on the Euphrates and
and fishing, as well as mobile foraging groups and, toward its tributaries (e.g., the Balikh) and sites usually located at
the end of the period, pastoral societies (fig. 3). Because of intervals of 2025 km from one another (about a days walk
the nature of local geographic zoning, these adaptations were away). The individual sites expanded significantly in size in
all in close proximity to one another. The PPNB coincides comparison with those of the PPNA. The demise of the PPNB
with the Early Holocene Climatic Optimum (Byrd 2005), a koine may reflect a combination of factors, including a rapid
time of plenty as conditions improved from one year to the climate deterioration (the so-called 8.2-kyr event), the effects
next. of some 2,000 years of farming without manuring (Bogaard
The southern Levant settlements were initially founded in 2005; Bogaard and Isaakidou 2010), local overexploitation of
a narrow corridor along a north-south axis on the western nonsustainable nearby resources (Rollefson and Kohler-Roll-
edge of the Trans-Jordanian Plateau (and to some extent the efson 1989; but see Campbell 2010), outbreaks of contagious
Jordan Valley) from Aswad to southern Edom along the later diseases, and increased tensions between neighboring com-
Kings Highway adjacent to major wadi systems. These sites munities (Goring-Morris and Belfer-Cohen 2010).
subsequently expanded to become the Late and Final PPNB
megasites, reaching up to 30 acres in extent (Bienert, Gebel,
and Neef 2004 and references therein). The megasites were
accompanied by complementary perpendicular settlement Although most of the above represents a synopsis of hard-
patterns along an east-west axis with much smaller sites. The core data, there are points of debate regarding their inter-
north-south axis formed the basis for the main long-range pretation and/or incorporation within the evolving matrix of
exchange (down-the-line) networks, the megasites serv- the Levantine Neolithization process. Pertinent among them
ing as nodes for subsidiary distribution to the east and west are the following.
(Goring-Morris, Hovers, and Belfer-Cohen 2009). Issues of continuity. Contrary to what was believed during
Still, there is little direct evidence as to the density of pack- earlier days of research, it transpires that there is no linear
ing of architectural units within PPNB sites at any given point development from the Epipaleolithic to the end of the PPNB
in time. This is obviously a crucial issue concerning esti- (e.g., Mellaart 1975; Perrot 1968). Each major period wit-
mations of village populations, which vary greatly. But, con- nesses a breakdown, being separated from the next by a short-
servatively, communities at the top end of the scale numbered term yet major rupture, or bottleneck, followed by realign-
at least several hundred individuals (Campbell 2010; Kuijt ment of the new system (i.e., the Early PPNA, the Early PPNB,
2000; Simmons 2007). and the Early Pottery Neolithic). However, it is important to
Economy displays considerable variability within the Med- stress that cultural complexes build on the past, sharing many
iterranean zone. Along the Kings Highway and down in the common traits with their predecessors. They accordingly rep-
rift valley, communities subsisted primarily on domestic ce- resent generational links within an extended family rather
reals. But farther west, in the Carmel and in the Galilee, the than a simple grandfather-son-grandson chain.
emphasis was on lentils (e.g., Garfinkel, Kislev, and Zohary People or ideas in motion. For many years there was debate
1988). So, too, there are differences in the animals exploited. as to whether it was people or ideas that moved and dispersed
At Middle PPNB Ain Ghazal, a full 50% of the fauna was from one area to the next. Currently, it is abundantly clear
still hunted, a situation that changed dramatically by the Late that both require consideration. Unequivocal examples of the
PPNB, with 75% domesticated goats and sheep (Driesch and former are the directed colonization of Cyprus and probably
Wodtke 1997; Wasse 1997). But west of the riftin the Gal- also of central Anatolia (e.g., Guilaine and Le Brun 2003;
ilee, Carmel, and Samariahunting continued to predomi- Ozdogan 2011; Peltenberg and Wasse 2004). The latter in-
nate throughout (Horwitz et al. 2000; Sapir-Hen et al. 2009). cludes the diffusion of the bidirectional (naviform) chipped-
With climatic amelioration, the desert margins of eastern stone technology from the Central Euphrates southward (Bar-
Trans-Jordan as well as in the Negev and Sinai either were zilai 2009; and see also Perles 2005). The situation with regard
recolonized or relict populations increased significantly. The to the diffusion of animal and plant domesticates within the
Goring-Morris and Belfer-Cohen Neolithization Processes in the Levant S203

Figure 3. Pre-Pottery Neolithic B koine in the Near East, showing the

wide range of economic adaptations throughout the region.

Levant remains uncertain and debated (e.g., Bar-Yosef 1998; ward, diverse types of mating networks are likely to have
Horwitz et al. 2000; Nesbitt 2002; Weiss and Zohary 2011; operated. Variability is especially relevant as individual com-
and see the never-domesticated animal species introduced to munities became more sedentary and increased in size. Nu-
Cyprus in Vigne et al. 2011). Indeed, the apparent retardation merical thresholds were crossed, necessitating realignments in
in the diffusion of ideas across northern Sinai to the Nile social intercourse within and between communities because
Delta at a time of amelioration is an enigmatic example (Gor- previous social mechanisms were unable to cope with novel
ing-Morris 1993; Smith 1989). situations (and see Belfer-Cohen and Goring-Morris 2011).
Population increase and demographic transition. Population This makes it all the more difficult to predict or state when
increase and the Neolithic demographic transition (Bocquet- and where, precisely, the ADT occurred; should we start
Appel and Bar-Yosef 2008) or, more recently, the agricultural counting from the Natufian, the PPNA, or the PPNB?
demographic transition (ADT; Bocquet-Appel 2011) in the Differences between developments in the northern and south-
Near East are crucial in terms of the independence of the ern Levant. Was the southern Levant during the PPNB an
scale of mating networks. From the Early Epipaleolithic on- independent center of innovation? Do developments in this
S204 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

region simply reflect diffusion of novelties from the Euphrates taken for granted that present-day distributions of the wild
region? Or are we witnessing combinations of both? Certainly, precursors broadly correlate with Terminal Pleistocene/Early
various facets of the material culture derive from the north, Holocene patterns such that advances in DNA sourcing would
such as bidirectional naviform lithic technology. On the other enable the straightforward pinpointing of domestication lo-
hand, the evidence regarding the origins of domesticates is calities (e.g., Heun et al. 1997; Kilian et al. 2006, 2007; Naderi
more equivocal. et al. 2007). Others have argued for a single hearth of do-
The when, where, how, and why of plant and animal do- mestication for the whole package of founder crops (Lev-
mestication. Archaeological evidence clearly demonstrates that Yadun, Gopher, and Abbo 2000). Notwithstanding attempts
there were more than two variants of economic existence; it to reconstruct late Quaternary distributions (Hillman 2000),
was not just about farmers versus foragers. Fully fledged set- current distributions of wild plants and animals surely have
tled agriculturalists did coexist with hunter-gatherers during been affected by almost 10 millennia of agriculture and pas-
the Pre-Pottery Neolithic, but other groups, for a while at toralism. Furthermore, if domestication of plants and animals
least, filled intermediate roles as forager-farmers so that there was a gradual process, then there are likely to have been
was a wide spectrum of lifeways (with the geographic distances considerable genetic interactions between the predomesti-
involved being very small). Indeed, it is only toward the end cated but manipulated/cultivated species and wild popula-
of the Late Neolithic that subsistence throughout the region tions. These interactions probably continued, affecting the
became based mostly on domesticated plants and animals genetic fingerprints of both the wild progenitors and the early
(with the continuing dichotomy of agriculturists and pastor- domesticated forms.
alists, as between the desert and the sown). This complexity If we take into consideration all of the above, the concept
should be acknowledged when we try to interpret the ar- of Neolithization involved much more than plant and animal
chaeological record, just as in the case of the rise of a new domestication, for Neolithization processes also involved the
species. Even when we recognize the new species that will domestication of fire (pyrotechnological developments
eventually replace its parent species, both the parent species leading eventually to pottery production) and water (man-
and the offspring species coexist for some time, a simile to agement in the form of wells and irrigation). Additionally,
be aware of while deciphering the archaeological data at hand. and of paramount significance, is social domestication with
Plant and animal domestication processes. For how long was new means of molding community identity and interaction,
cultivation and animal herding practiced before their recog- whose very essence changed; these range from bonding
nizable signatures in DNA, morphological changes, or age through kinship, exchange networks, craft specialization,
composition? What was the duration of plant and animal feasting, and so on, to rivalry, political boundaries, and intra-
domestication processes? Domestication can be accomplished and intercommunity confrontational violence. Ultimately, the
quite rapidly, but it seems more likely that initial Neolithic Neolithic revolution, in the Near East at least, was a long-
domestication in the Levant was a prolonged and undirected term, incremental, and undirected process marked by signif-
process. Not all those species that were intensively harvested icant threshold events, the outcome of which was by no means
and/or cultivated during the Early Neolithic were then do- certain.
mesticated (e.g., Avena sterilis and Secale cereale; Weiss, Kislev, It is important to stress the novel nature of innovations
and Hartmann 2006; Willcox 2005). And perhaps the same associated with Neolithization processes. This is especially rel-
observations are valid with regard to the culling of wild an- evant when considering ethnographic analogies. Observed
imals (and see the situation in Cyprus with Dama mesopo- phenomena in the archaeological record mostly reflect oc-
tamica; Vigne et al. 2011; Zeder 2011). currences that had made it in the first cut if not later on
Prey stress, overhunting, and climatic changes with regard to in the sequence. But, surely, there is also evidence of phe-
animal domestication. Contrary to previous assertions that nomena and innovations that ultimately did not pass the trials
initial animal domestication focused on stocking the larder of time. We thus face amalgamations of both material culture
for meat, recently it has been claimed that the process was evidence of what was ultimately successful and what fell by
directed first at milk products (Vigne and Helmer 2007). the wayside, as we discuss in Belfer-Cohen and Goring-Morris
Should we be looking at the central areas or the margins (and (2011).
see Binford 1968, 2001; Flannery 1969)? Last but not least,
we should bear in mind that domestication processes, whether
of plants or animals, were intricately tied in with the non-
material realms of human existence. Those promoted and
encouraged the domestication venue, paced its tempo, or even We are grateful to the organizers (Doug Price and Ofer Bar-
arrested its progress. In short, one can be quite sure that the Yosef) and fellow participants of the Temozon Wenner-Gren
social realm controlled to a certain extent both the domes- workshop (Merida, Yucatan) in March 2009 for a most stim-
tication processes themselves and their tempo and extent (and ulating and intensive exchange of data and opinions con-
see Belfer-Cohen and Goring-Morris 2011). cerning agricultural beginnings around the world. Thanks are
Primary habitats and hearths of domestication. It has been due to the Wenner-Gren Foundation for the superb organi-
Goring-Morris and Belfer-Cohen Neolithization Processes in the Levant S205

zation of the event and especially to Leslie Aiello and Laurie as reflected through lithic studies: the bidirectional blade indus-
Obbink for their personal commitments to the success of the tries. PhD thesis, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Belfer-Cohen, A. 1988. The Natufian settlement at Hayonim cave: a
meeting. We also acknowledge the support of the Israel Sci- hunter-gatherer band on the threshold of agriculture. PhD thesis,
ence Foundation funded by the Israel Academy of Sciences Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
(A. N. Goring-Morris: grants 840/01, 558/04, and 755/07; A. Belfer-Cohen, A., and E. Hovers. 2005. The groundstone assemblages
Belfer-Cohen: grants 855/03 and 202/05). of the Natufian and Neolithic societies in the Levant: a brief review.
Journal of the Israel Prehistoric Society 35:299308.
Belfer-Cohen, A., and A. N. Goring-Morris. 2011. Becoming farmers:
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formation of culture in the eastern Mediterranean. J. Clark, ed. Pp. Zeder, M. A. 2009. The Neolithic macro-(r)evolution: macroevolu-
8488. Oxford: Oxbow. tionary theory and the study of culture change. Journal of Ar-
. 2008. Supra-regional networks in the Neolithic of Southwest chaeological Research 17:163.
Asia. Journal of World Prehistory 21:139171. . 2011. The origins of agriculture in the Near East. Current
Weinstein-Evron, M., D. Kaufman, and N. Bird-David. 2001. Rolling Anthropology 52(suppl. 4):S221S235.
Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011 S209

Becoming Farmers:
The Inside Story

by Anna Belfer-Cohen and A. Nigel Goring-Morris

Neolithization processes in the Levant differed from those in Europe. A major population growth
was already occurring in the former at the onset of the Late Glacial Maximum. Population growth
was not linear but rather reflected local circumstances, both external and internal. In addition to
changing environmental conditions, the social implications of growth in community sizes within
specific areas should be taken into account. The solutions and mechanisms that people devised during
the transition to agriculture in order to counter the stresses stemming from those developments
pertain to the tempo and scope of the changes as well as to endemic traditions.

Introduction lations as living fossils. Facing the problem of translating ma-

terial data into behavioral patterns, one should also remember
that human conduct is frequently unpredictable, and hence
This article focuses on the internal social issues associated
the application of common sense and optimized models
with the processes of Neolithization in the Near East, with
sometimes can be counterproductive. Nevertheless, some ba-
particular emphasis on the Levant. It is intended to be read
sic tenets of human behavior directly reflect the constraints
in conjunction with our other article in this volume, Neo-
of our inherent neurological wiring as Homo sapiens sapiens
lithization Processes in the Levant: The Outer Envelope (e.g., Dunbar 1996; Johnson 1983; Kosse 1994; Wobst 1974).
(Goring-Morris and Belfer-Cohen 2011). With the rapid accumulation of archaeological data in the
It is vital to emphasize the marked local geographic vari- Near East, it seems that we have to view Neolithization from
ability within the general region of the Levant, a point fre- the perspective of the longue duree (Braudel 1993). These
quently overlooked in sweeping treatments of Neolithization processes had already begun during the Early Epipaleolithic
phenomena. Change was not homogenous throughout the (ca. 23,000 years ago) and were heralded through seemingly
region, with regard to either intensity or pace. Developments minor but in retrospect significant changes in human behav-
were affected by circumstances pertaining to the shift from ior. Thus, we begin our overview almost 15,000 years before
mobile to increasingly sedentary lifeways, the scales of com- the emergence of the fully fledged Neolithic package of
munity sizes together with associated mating and social net- village farming communities.
works, the nature of interactions within and between com-
munities, and worldviews evolving in terms of ideology and
ritual. Setting the Stage
It is important to stress the first-time nature of these Epipaleolithic groups in the Levant were mobile-band soci-
processes all through the sequence of human prehistory, a eties, just as in the preceding Upper Paleolithic (table 1), but
case in point in the Near East. Moreover, the processes en- the scale of individual territories in some areas shrank as a
tailed the domestication of multiple elements; Neolithiza- result of increased packing, leading to relatively higher pop-
tion was not just about subsistence. We can also observe the ulation densities at local as opposed to pan-Levantine levels
domestication of landscape, fire, water, social institutions, and (e.g., Bar-Yosef 2001). Here, the magic numbers of ca. 25
even the gods (e.g., Cauvin 2000). individuals for small-scale mobile-band societies with mating
Ethnographic analogies are at best ambiguous even without networks encompassing some 250500 individuals are rele-
the problematics of considering recent and subrecent popu- vant (e.g., Wobst 1974). Virtually no data are available at this
time for the northern Levant (see Goring-Morris and Belfer-
Anna Belfer-Cohen and A. Nigel Goring-Morris are Professors in Cohen 2011), and accordingly, our discourse focuses on the
the Department of Prehistory, Institute of Archaeology, Hebrew south.
University of Jerusalem (Jerusalem 91905, Israel [belferac@ Shifts and realignments throughout the course of the Early]). This paper was submitted 13 XI 09, accepted 12 and Middle Epipaleolithic are documented, demonstrating
XII 10, and electronically published 27 VII 11. that the nature of diachronic and synchronic social interac-

2011 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. All rights reserved. 0011-3204/2011/52S4-0005$10.00. DOI: 10.1086/658861
S210 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

Table 1. Duration of the Epipaleolithic and Neolithic enti- quantities of ochre and especially lime plaster (probably for
ties in the Levant hafting) as well as increased variability in hearth types in
Mushabian sites provide evidence for increasing concerns with
Approximate range pyrotechnology, presaging future developments (e.g., Bar-
Period (cal BP) Duration (yr)
Yosef and Goring-Morris 1977; Goring-Morris 1988; Kingery,
Early Epipaleolithic 24,00018,000 6,000 Vandiver, and Pickett 1988).
Middle Epipaleolithic 18,00015,000 2,900
Late Epipaleolithic 15,00011,600 3,500
PPNAa 11,60010,500 1,100 The Natufian
Early PPNB 10,50010,100 400
Middle PPNB 10,1009500 600 With the beginnings of sedentism during the Late Epipaleo-
Late PPNB 95008750 750 lithic Natufian in the Mediterranean core area at least (Gor-
Final PPNB 87508400 350
ing-Morris and Belfer-Cohen 2011; fig. 1), there is clear evi-
Early Pottery Neolithic 84007600 800
dence for significant increases in community sizes, with
Note. Discrepancies between this table and table 1 of Goring-Morris and hamlets of up to 75100 individuals (?), and perhaps no less
Belfer-Cohen (2011) derive from uncertainties of 14C dating. PPNA p
Pre-Pottery Neolithic A; PPNB p Pre-Pottery Neolithic B.
important, for those communities lasting over extended pe-
The Round-House Horizon in the Upper Tigris region (in two riods of time. Calibration of 14C dates demonstrates that the
phases) is estimated at ca. 12,75011,75010,750 BP cal. duration of the Natufian was considerably longer than pre-
viously assumed, 13,500 calendrical years as opposed to 2,000
tions across the region as a whole would have been quite years before (see, e.g., Bar-Yosef 1983; Stutz 2004).
variable (fig. 1). Localized packing of groups west of the rift Social mechanisms were necessarily of great importance to
valley is reflected in the different stylistic elements displayed and had a great impact on enabling the Natufians in some
by the chipped-stone assemblages, indicating that specific Ke- areas to stay together in larger sedentary groups for the first
baran group encounters commonly occurred on a one-to-one time in the archaeological record. The increased community
basis. The excellent organic preservation at Early Epipaleo- sizes apparently crossed a critical threshold in terms of social
lithic Ohalo II (ca. 22,00024,000 cal BP, OxCal 4) on the interactions. The changes indeed represent a radical exper-
shores of Lake Lisan represents a rare window on palimpsest iment of long duration; thus, the Natufian phenomenon
short-term occupations in a refugium-type setting (Weiss et should not be viewed as simply intermediate between Pale-
al. 2008). In other not-so-distant areas east of the rift valley, olithic and Neolithic lifeways. It is important to consider the
networks differed in geographic scale, as portrayed by large- impact of the Natufian novelty in terms of the changes in
scale Early Epipaleolithic aggregation megasites (e.g., Khar- social organization that occurred along its sequence. These
aneh IV and Jilat 6; Garrard 1998; Muheisen and Wada 1995), clearly relate to a dramatic increase in the range and scope
where the intensity and scale of social interaction would have of the material culture remains (e.g., Bar-Yosef 2002). Overall,
been on a quite different level (i.e., multiple bands converging it is hardly surprising that from the very beginning of the
on a seasonal basis; see Goring-Morris and Belfer-Cohen Early Natufian there are indications of scalar stress (Johnson
2011). 1982), which is accompanied by a dramatic increase in artistic/
The later emergence during the Middle Epipaleolithic of a symbolic activities (e.g., Belfer-Cohen 1988a; Belfer-Cohen
distinct regional entity in the more arid margins of the Negev and Bar-Yosef 2000; Boyd 1995; Edwards 2009; Valla 1989).
and Sinaithe Mushabian, synchronous with the Geometric The degree of Natufian sedentism varies from one area to
Kebaranmay indicate the creation of local boundaries be- another. This is reflected by the combination of increased
tween specific mating networks (Goring-Morris 1995). Evi- idiosyncrasy at the individual community level and regional
dence for symbolic activities during the Early and Middle variability (e.g., Belfer-Cohen 1988a; Stordeur 1991; Wright
Epipaleolithic tends to be sporadic, but when found it is quite 1978). Social and mating networks would also likely have been
sophisticated (e.g., the engraved plaque from Urkan e-Rubb diverse. Some Natufian groups may have continued to be
II; Hovers 1990). It remains unclear to what extent the tiny organized along the lines of small-scale bands, the basic unit
Mediterranean marine mollusk assemblages recovered in being the nuclear family. But in more favorable settings, Early
south Sinai sites were directly procured or derived from small- Natufians probably adopted quite different patterns of dom-
scale exchange (Bar-Yosef and Killebrew 1984). icile, whether by extended family, moieties, or the like, as
The relative paucity of burials throughout the Earlier Epi- reflected by the dramatic shifts in the size of architectural
paleolithic indicates different means of relating to specific remains (e.g., at Wadi Hammeh 27 and el-Wad; Edwards 1991;
localities and the wider landscape than in the later periods. Goring-Morris 1996; Goring-Morris and Belfer-Cohen 2008
Still, some changes may be detected during the course of the and references therein). Another notable feature is the internal
Middle Epipaleolithic (e.g., in the Geometric Kebaran sites of and external organization of space, with areas or whole sites
Neve David, Uyyun el-Hammam, and Wadi Mataha stone designated for special activities (e.g., burial grounds and cem-
bowls sometimes accompanied burials; Kaufman and Ronen etery sites such as Nahal Oren, Hilazon Tachtit, and Raqefet;
1987; Maher 2005; Stock et al. 2005). The presence of small Grosman 2003; Grosman and Munro 2007; Lengyel and Boc-
Belfer-Cohen and Goring-Morris Becoming Farmers S211

Figure 1. Reconstructed ranges of some Early Epipaleolithic groups in

the southern Levant based on the technotypological and stylistic attributes
of lithic assemblages. Note different scales of ranges east and west of rift

quentin 2005; Stekelis and Yizraely 1963). One can refer also wide range of symbolic behaviors, including changes in at-
to the symbolic spatial arrangements within structures (e.g., titudes toward the dead and accompanying funerary practices.
the monoliths at Wadi Hammeh 27 and Rosh Zin; Edwards The overall numbers of Natufian burials within sites increase
2009; Goring-Morris and Belfer-Cohen 2003, 2008) or the dramatically. They now represent location markers within the
various pebble arrangements, including an anthropomorphic landscape, whether as burial grounds adjacent to living quar-
one at Eynan (Boyd 1995; Perrot 1966; Valla 1989). Indeed, ters, as foundation deposits (?), or as separate dedicated cem-
there is an exponential increase in elements pertaining to a eteries (e.g., Perrot and Ladiray 1988). Indeed, it appears that
S212 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

we can detect the beginnings of a dialogue with the dead Belfer-Cohen, Schepartz, and Arensburg 1991]). Although the
by members of the living community (and see Belfer-Cohen burials are seemingly orderly and in well-defined spaces, there
1995; Stekelis and Yisraely 1963). is great variability in the position of the interred individuals
Another indication of communal activities above the level as well as in who was buried in any specific grave (whether
of individual nuclear families concerns the sizes and distri- single burial, multiple burials, burials of mixed sexes, or buri-
butions of groundstone utensils. The presence of huge mor- als of young and old). Besides the individually decorated buri-
tars as well as off-site bedrock mortar arrays provides another als of the Early Natufian (making up ca. 10% of the total
indication of communal activities, perhaps simply the scaling burials), there are also unique burials of the kind exposed at
up of earlier egalitarian band principles (Belfer-Cohen and Late Natufian Hilazon Tachtit: the shaman burial (Gros-
Hovers 2005). The range and quantities of raw materials and man, Munro, and Belfer-Cohen 2008) or the gazelle-horned
types of jewelry and other symbolic items expand considerably individuals in Grave 10 at Eynan (Perrot and Ladiray 1988).
to include not only marine mollusks but also colored min- The joint human and dog burials observed at both Eynan
erals, clay, animal bones and teeth, and so forth (e.g., Bar- and Hayonim Terrace represent another unique mortuary
Yosef Mayer 2005; Bar-Yosef Mayer and Porat 2008; Belfer- practice presaging later developments (Davis and Valla 1978;
Cohen 1991; Marechal 1991; Weinstein-Evron and Ilani Tchernov and Valla 1997).
1994). While some items were produced locally on site, others How does all of the above tie in with what we know about
derive from considerable distances and obviously involved the nature of the Natufian entity? Most probably the Natufian
regional exchange networks, but usually these were internal, reflects aspects of emerging social identity in the face of shar-
within the Natufian world itself (e.g., basalt groundstone tools; ing space with distant and second-tier kin for extensive pe-
Weinstein-Evron, Kaufman, and Bird-David 2001); the spo- riods. At the same time, the increased packing of sites as well
radic appearance of obsidian toward the end of the period is as other indications of territoriality (and see Goring-Morris
an exception (Cauvin 1991; Delerue 2007; Valla 1999). Artistic and Belfer-Cohen 2011) brought about latent competition
manifestations include rare figurines of all kinds and raw both within and between sites. Given postulated community
materials (e.g., a female ochre figurine from Hayonim Terrace; sizes, some mating networks incorporated more than the in-
Valla 1999). dividual base camp. Thus, there must have been at least two
Another interesting phenomenon is the appearance of dec- points of public social reference for each individual besides
orated items that are rarely observed in earlier contexts: bone her/his private status regarding gender, age, or matrimony. It
tools and groundstone utensils. Why do people decorate seems that Natufian lifeways, at least in the core area,
seemingly mundane items? Are they used on special occa- brought forth community identity (on the level of the indi-
sions? Are they produced as goods to be exchanged or as vidual base camp), a concept that hardly existed previously;
poorer-quality imitations as grave goods (e.g., the bone tools this may explain the individual styles seen in various domains
deposited in grave XVII at Hayonim Cave), to be removed in any given base camp. We do not know how the individual
from circulation? Do the patterns denote signatures of own- defined her/himself within their community or within the
ership (Edwards 2007)? Concurrently, there is also a plethora Natufian as a whole because currently we lack the means to
of incised stone and bone plaques with abstract schematic isolate which attributes pertain to the personal, the com-
patterns reminiscent of those observed on items from con- munity, or the broader mating-network identity. Undoubtedly
temporary Paleolithic horizons in Europe (e.g., Bar-Yosef and there was a need for more markers of identity within these
Belfer-Cohen 1999; Belfer-Cohen and Bar-Yosef 2009; Svo- more socially complex contexts. Another factor to consider
boda 1997). relates to the issue of possible local surpluses, whether as-
Jewelry and symbolic/artistic motifs differ in intensity and sociated with subsistence (primarily but not only vegetal, on
type from one base campsite and region to another, most a seasonal basis) or of an artisan-related or symbolic nature.
probably denoting territories and group identities and affil- Such surpluses would have required regulationwhether at
iations as well as personal status (e.g., Belfer-Cohen 1991; the family, community, or some intermediate leveldesig-
Garrod 19361937; Stordeur 1981). Such items are found all nating new social agendas (i.e., those individuals/families/
through the Natufian sequence even though they largely dis- communities with more personal goods versus those with
appear from Late Natufian grave contexts. less).
Many Natufian burials reflect considerable investment of In this new world full of novelty and tension, the question
time and effort. While there is significant variability in mor- arises as to whether we can detect a rise in personal or in-
tuary practices, some general patterns can be discerned, sev- tercommunity violence? There is indeed sporadic evidence for
eral of which remain ambiguous. For example, there are more violence during the Natufian (Bocquentin and Bar-Yosef
primary individual burials in the Early Natufian as opposed 2004), but it should be emphasized that signs of trauma can
to more secondary burials in the Later Natufian, when post- also reflect mundane, everyday accidents. Here, as an aside,
mortem skull removal is documented, a precursor of sub- we note that although we are dealing with scientific endeavors
sequent Neolithic developments (Belfer-Cohen 1988b). There and hard-core data, one cannot escape the feeling of changing
are also instances of family burials (e.g., Hayonim Grave VII; research fashions. The mode changed from observing pre-
Belfer-Cohen and Goring-Morris Becoming Farmers S213

historic populations as brutish and violent in the early twen- are found (Hershman and Belfer-Cohen 2010) together with
tieth century to considering them in the later 1960s/early decorated stone plaques in abstract designs (Bar-Yosef and
1970s as flower children, not aware that they were on the Gopher 1997; Edwards 2007). At the same time, there may
verge of becoming us (i.e., violent, greedy, impatient, etc.). have been a greater dichotomy between private and public
Of late, the pendulum appears to have swung back, and now domains as reflected in communal edifices, such as the unique
research focuses on potential indications for violence that tie tower, walls, and silos of PPNA Jericho with a concentration
in with the changing ways of life (e.g., Bocquentin 2003; and of burials nearby (Kenyon 1957). Do these represent en-
further afield, Solecki, Solecki, and Agelarakis 2004). deavors to strengthen social cohesion? It seems plausible that
the larger PPNA communities correspond to aggregations of
residual local Natufian populations together with refugees
Pre-Pottery Neolithic A
from the periphery contracting back to refugia following the
The Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) is a short-lived phe- debilitating effects of the Younger Dryas.
nomenon both with regard to what preceded as well as what The hierarchy of PPNA site sizes, in addition to reflecting
succeeded ita mere 1,000 years (and see Goring-Morris and different subsistence modes, undoubtedly had significant so-
Belfer-Cohen 2011). However, the scale of change for the cial implications at the local and regional levels. This would
PPNA of the southern Levant is of a different order of mag- have included differentiated relationships between nuclear
nitude in comparison with that of the northern Levant, where and extended families and larger kinship lines at community
there was apparently a radical increase in population size and and intercommunity scales.
in the accompanying elements of social organization. In this In the north, too, domicile was apparently also organized
context, the systematic colonization of Cyprus already from by nuclear families clustered into extended family com-
the PPNA (if not earliera matter of some debate) represents pounds, each associated with a communal ritual semisubter-
an important contribution unequivocally demonstrating the ranean structure as at Jerf el-Ahmar, Tell Abr 3, and Mureybet
budding off of groups on the mainland to found settlements (Stordeur 2007). It is interesting to note that these socio-
in new territories (Guilaine and Le Brun 2003; McCartney et cultic structures were originally interpreted as typical resi-
al. 2007; Peltenburg et al. 2001). Undoubtedly, similar pro- dential ones (e.g., Mureybet: Stordeur et al. 2001; and Qermez
cesses occurred also around the Mediterranean core area on Dere: Watkins 1990).
the mainland itself (e.g., Abbes 2008). However, in the north there is an additional ritual phe-
In the south, certain sites became nodes of regional or even nomenon that emerged during the course of the PPNA and
panregional interactions as reflected in the exchange of ob- locally continued through the earlier part of the PPNB in the
sidian and its relative abundance in various sites. Such an form of massive supraregional cult sites (e.g., Gobekli Tepe
example is Jericho, which may have functioned as a center and possibly Karahan; Celik 2000; Hauptmann and Schmidt
for the distribution of various mineralsobsidian, malachite, 2007; Schmidt 2005, 2006). These huge monumental sites are
and salt, among others. Surpluses would have enabled the found in prominent watershed locations away from the linear
development of a protomarketforces of supply and de- riparian habitation settlements in the low-lying plains. They
mandand would have encouraged increasing social inter- would have required the mobilization and organization of
action. Nevertheless, social organization continued to be large groups (on a quite different scale from the tower of
based on the concept of families, and a certain tendency to- Jericho) because their construction would have involved long-
ward privatization at the individual family level is observed term investment to quarry and move massive pillars weighing
(e.g., groundstone tool furniture within each structure; Belfer- tens of tons. The abundance of rich and intricate artistic
Cohen and Hovers 2005; Rosenberg 2008). We suggest that manifestations portrays the intense investment of time and
individual domiciles would likely have been spatially orga- effort in the ritual sphere. The overall spiritual domain of the
nized along kinship lines, that is, as extended families within northern PPNA far surpasses that of the south in terms of
the wider community or as wards or the like (although the both scale and in the motifs depicted. In particular, the ico-
available data remain ambivalent on this issue). nography focuses on wild and frightening bestiary often hav-
In general the southern PPNA articulates more comfortably ing emphatically gendered phallocentric connotations (Hod-
with the Natufian than with the following Pre-Pottery Neo- der and Meskell, forthcoming). What remains elusive is the
lithic B (PPNB). An illustration of this is the nature of PPNA sociocultural background to such an explosion. It is of interest
burials, which often continue in the manner of the Late Na- to note that the larger structures/units are the oldest, similar
tufian. Could it be that the lack of burial ornamentation and to phenomena observed within the Natufian sequence (Gor-
grave goods reflects an improvement through time (observed ing-Morris 1996). Furthermore, at Gobekli as elsewhere in
already in the Late Natufian) of social mechanisms that re- the north, there is evidence for repeated intentional infilling
placed the simple beads and feathers system of social no- and burial of structures before the construction of new ones
menclature? However, for another approach invoking the pro- (Ozdogan 2006).
motion of egalitarian principles, see work by Kuijt (1996). Perhaps such sites fulfilled another function in that they
Quantities of figurines made of soft stone and burned clay portrayed the wealth and the merchandise of individual com-
S214 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

munities; they would thus become active centers of social icantly increased the complexity of social and other interac-
(competitive?) interaction sanctioned by cultic activities, tions at the intra- and intercommunity levels. Undoubtedly,
with the separate units in these ritual megasites representing the individual now faced considerable competition, both
individual groups within the regional framework. In this they within and between communities. On the other hand, the
may parallel the individual ritual features in the habitation individuality as reflected in the stone masks and plastered
sites, which are associated with clearly defined compounds of skulls with modeled faces can be interpreted as personalized
extended families (and see above). Currently we are unable representatives of the community rather than actual privati-
to decipher the association between particular social units and zation (other interpretations vary considerably, from trophies
their specific symbolic vocabulary, but there is clearly evidence to gods; see discussions in Kuijt 2008). Apparently, as com-
for the existence of such an association (e.g., some complexly munities burgeoned, not all members could take an active
incised designs at Jerf el-Ahmar approximate pictograms; part in all and every aspect of their existence, whether eco-
Stordeur 2004). nomic, social, and/or cultic. In consequence, the community
It is quite obvious that as social circles increased in scale as a whole was represented by individuals, perhaps person-
and scope, there was a need for more markers/symbols of ifying groups ancestors, who thus epitomized the group itself.
identity at all levels of social interaction. Accordingly, we wit- There is some evidence within settlements of the desig-
ness a phenomenon reminiscent of the concept of amphyc- nation of separate areas for communal and cultic purposes
tyoniesleagues of neighboring communities associated with (e.g., Beidha, Ain Ghazal, and Atlit Yam; Byrd 1994; Galili
sacred locales (Belfer-Cohen and Goring-Morris 2002:144; 2004; Rollefson 2000). These installations display some con-
Schmidt 2005)known to exist in protohistoric and later tinuity from the Natufian as reflected by monoliths and paved
periods in the Eastern Mediterranean. Indeed, these Pre-Pot- areas (Goring-Morris and Belfer-Cohen 2003). Further ele-
tery Neolithic (PPN) phenomena could find parallels in the ments of continuity may also be reflected by the cult-cum-
Chaco phenomenon of Great Houses and associated kivas cemetery site of Kfar HaHoresh, which is located in a prom-
in the American Southwest (e.g., Cordell 1994; Kantner 2004; inent yet secluded neutral place (i.e., extraterritorial relative
and see articles in American Antiquity 66 [2001]). Both cor- to nearby low-lying village sites; Goring-Morris 2005). The
relates appear to provide avenues for further investigation in glimpses we gain of the rituals performed indicate that we
analyzing the scope and scale of the north Levantine PPN are facing primarily intensifications and embellishments of
reality. past customs more than elements of a new order (Belfer-
This complexity reflects the additional commitments of Cohen and Goring-Morris 2002, 2005).
societywhether at the level of the individual, the nuclear By contrast, in the northern Levantine PPNB, there is a
and extended family, or the communityin order to maintain greater degree of continuity from the local PPNA that is re-
and consolidate regional cohesion at the supracommunal flected in many elements as well as further innovations. The
level. In the south, these nodes may often have been the actual colonization of central Anatolia as well as the continued col-
settlements themselves, located in strategic settings. The dif- onization of Cyprus most probably represents the need for
ferences between the southern and northern Levant are clearly new territories as overall population densities increased within
perceptible; while in the south most of the ritual behaviors core areas on the mainland.
are more or less on a private level, in the north there are in From the beginning of the PPNB, impressive Houses of
addition large-scale interactions pertaining to the ritual do- the Dead make their appearance within habitation sites (e.g.,
main, indicating that we are facing a multitiered system (i.e., at Djade and at Cayonu; Coqueugniot 2006; Ozdogan 1999);
adding yet more rings to the social onion). whether these represent charnel houses of ancestors or of
enemies remains debatable (e.g., Testart 2008). Concurrently,
PPNA traditions of designated cult structures continued (e.g.,
Pre-Pottery Neolithic B
at Nevali Cori and at Cayonu; Hauptmann 1999; Ozdogan
The PPNB of the south emerges after a significant break with 1999; for detailed discussion of some of these issues see
the PPNA, albeit with various elements of continuity of earlier Croucher 2006; Verhoeven 2002a, 2002b, 2002c). Interestingly,
traditions. By contrast, the transformation in the northern the large-scale cult sites such as Gobekli Tepe ceased to func-
Levant is relatively seamless. tion sometime during the course of the PPNB; this may reflect
The primary trends in the south regarding social organi- a degree of social disintegration and a retreat back to the
zation include the later emergence, during the Late PPNB, of individual community.
the megasite village phenomenon (e.g., Ain Ghazal, es- The rise of surpluses within the PPNB koine also un-
Sifiya, and Basta; Gebel 2004; Goring-Morris, Hovers, and doubtedly influenced the social and ritual fabric. The whole
Belfer-Cohen 2009; Mahasneh 2004; Rollefson 2001). notion of organized exchange networks affected and brought
Whether one adopts a maximalist or minimalist approach in about nonkin social segmentation. In this context, one should
terms of estimating population sizes, these likely double or consider the emergence of incipient craft specialization in-
triple the size of the largest communities inferred for the volving artisans and associated merchants who would have
PPNA (Kuijt 2000; Simmons 2007). This would have signif- operated not just systematically within but also between com-
Belfer-Cohen and Goring-Morris Becoming Farmers S215

munities (e.g., Barzilai 2009; Quintero 1998 with regard to in the southern Levant during the shift from the Natufian to
lithics). Indeed, one may even speculate about the emergence PPNA by way of the short-lived Khiamian entity.
of protoguilds, because we witness high levels of artisan com- There are inherent uncertainties regarding the mode and
petence executed in particular raw materials and dispersed tempo of changes in subsistence that are assumed to go hand
over large geographic areas. It is not clear as to whether the in hand with social structures and systems and that accord-
products of such know-how were circulated by wandering ingly influence our perceptions. Moreover, it seems to us that
individual specialists or whether secrets of the trade were if during the course of Neolithization, changes occurred spo-
disseminated among a network of a chosen few who acted in radically and took a long time to gel and take root and that
unison. Whatever the case, all of the above would have fos- their courses of evolution differed from one region to the
tered further levels of communication between communities. next, we need to readjust the ways in which we review and
The end of the PPNB world likely relates to a wide array evaluate the social realm.
of interconnected factors, whether climatic changes, demo- Undoubtedly, human groups modified their attitudes to
graphic pressures including diseases, and declining yields (Co- the environment in accordance with the role it played within
hen and Crane-Kramer 2007; Goring-Morris and Belfer- the Neolithization process. Starting at least by the Natufian,
Cohen 2010; Rollefson and Kohler-Rollefson 1989). This was the first orderly burial grounds functioned as location markers
more marked in the southern Levant than the northern Le- in the landscape. These burial customs persisted through the
vant. Yet in terms of economy, the PPNB represents a point following Neolithic sequence, indicating the continuity and
of no return. Human subsistence in the Levant continued persistence of ancient traditions. Accordingly, Neolithic
thereafter to be based in one form or another on the suite groups looked back and took comfort in relying on the past
of domesticates (plants and animals) initiated during the and its institutions rather than inventing a complete package
PPNB (as well as the addition of pastoralism). Breakdowns of new order regulations. Changes took time and were ini-
in social interactionsbrought about, among other things, tially of marginal impact (e.g., skull removal and skull mod-
by the rise in contagious diseases and interpersonal violence ification). Still, it is of interest to note that there was a general
(as perhaps reflected in more multiple burials in the Late Pre- consistent trajectory throughout the Levant in terms of the
Pottery Neolithic B [LPPNB])heralded the demise of the persistence of local traditions.
PPNB koine. Vagaries in the history of research have led to Debates have arisen regarding possible population move-
an emphasis on the presence of a major break between the ments as opposed to the diffusion of ideas and local conti-
PPNB and Early Pottery Neolithic, but to the contrary, recent nuity. For example, PPNB skull plastering originated as a
research indicates numerous elements of continuity, albeit southern Levantine phenomenonthe foundations of which
with local trajectories rather than the previous pan-Levantine lie in Natufian skull removalbut persisted into the Late
scope of the PPNB (e.g., Garfinkel and Miller 2002). What Neolithic in the north (Ozbek 2009). It is of interest to note
is lost is the unique character of the PPNB as reflected in its that some ritual phenomena, though rare, persist through the
social interactions and networks and its material culture com- entire sequence, thousands of years apart, as exemplified by
ponents related to the sacred and ritual, in short, the attributes the pebble depiction at Natufian Eynan, which recalls the
considered as the hallmarks of what is traditionally referred human bone arrangement at PPNB Kfar HaHoresh and also
to as a particular culture. the stone drawings at Late Neolithic Khasm et-Tarif and Biqat
Uvda (Avner 2002; Goring-Morris 2005; Perrot 1966).
Changes observed in institutionalized behavior were gen-
Discussion erally of a minor magnitude; just as decorated burials in the
Early Natufian did not exceed ca. 10%, so too PPNB plastered
The role of climate change (and especially rapid climate skulls do not exceed 10% of total burials. There were changes,
change) in the Neolithization process is certainly a factor to from an emphasis on primary to multiple secondary burials
be considered at various specific points in time. Climate did during the course of the Natufian, a situation mirrored toward
change at a global scale, but the impact and effects of the the end of the PPNB. Perhaps these similarities reflect stress,
changes differed in various and varied environmental settings with differences stemming from specific circumstances. What
with diverse technological and social milieus, bringing about do the Early Natufian decorated burials represent and why
different, particularistic responses of the human populations did they disappear? Most of the otherwise unique burials were
exposed to those climatic changes. Overall, the climatic in the Late Natufian and thenceforth were not decorated. Still,
changes caused internal bottleneck situations in the passage animal themes were part and parcel of burial rituals from the
from the Natufian to PPNA, from PPNA to PPNB, and at Natufian through the PPNB, whether the Late Natufian Hil-
the end of the PPNB, all of which require more detailed azon shaman burial (Grosman, Munro, and Belfer-Cohen
investigations. Sometimes these bottlenecks may have acted 2008), the burial with a gazelle-horn headdress at Eynan (Per-
as tipping points or threshold events in the sense of providing rot and Ladiray 1988), turtle carapaces at el-Wad, Hayonim
catalysts for realignments of social systems. As an example, Terrace, and Eynan, and so forth (Garrod and Bate 1937;
one may cite the likely presence of a refugium at low elevations Valla 1999). By the PPNB they include complete or partial
S216 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

animal skeletons and pars pro toto (e.g., fox mandibles; Gor- that burgeoned as part of the growing complexity of the Early
ing-Morris and Horwitz 2007; Horwitz Kolska and Goring- Neolithic Levantine koine.
Morris 2004). These coassociations occur but sporadically. Do Was violence an integral element to the observed social
they represent professional personal achievements or some processes of Neolithization? Interpersonal violence is without
manner of status differentiation? What do animal bones as doubt a human constant. And certainly at Proto-Neolithic
grave goods denote? Are they talismans, totemic affiliation Zawi Chemi Shanidar there is evidence for extensive head
signs, and/or remnants of ritual feasting (e.g., Twiss 2008)? traumas that could correlate with violence on an intercom-
Furthermore, the concept of the House of the Dead in the munity scale (Solecki, Solecki, and Agelarakis 2004). During
northpresent in Djade, Cayonu, Aswad, Tell Hallula, and the Natufian, the evidence for intercommunity violence is
Catalhoyuk (During 2009; Guerrero et al. 2009; Stordeur and more equivocal, but later the presence of multiple burials in
Khawam 2009 and see references above)could represent the LPPNB could potentially be interpreted (in addition to
lineages or other social associations (and see Kuijt 2008 for the possibility of poor health) as yet another mechanism for
a discussion of societal consolidation and the creation of com- structured social intercourse. Indeed, it has even been sug-
munal memory). gested that slavery may have been a feature of PPNB lifeways
Scalar stress began to be significant from the Natufian on- (Bar-Yosef and Bar-Yosef Mayer 2002).
ward, the common explanation for the exponential rise in We believe the above represent significant issues that merit
artistic activities and representations and accompanying sty- further discussion with respect to Neolithization processes in
listic variability (Belfer-Cohen and Bar-Yosef 2000 and ref- the Near East and that ultimately were not just about the
erences therein). Without delving into a detailed discussion origins of agriculture per se. Thus, we encounter societies
of the social correlates of stylistic variation (e.g., Conkey and guided by combinations of both new and old principles that
Hastorf 1990; Jochim 1987; Stark 1998; Wiessner 1989; Wobst had undergone profound modifications. Human societies are,
1977, 1999 and references therein), there was a growing need by definition, conservative institutions that cling to the sym-
for additional markers of status/affiliation/kinship. For ex- bols that define them. It was the radical transformations in
ample, competition for potential partners would have in- interpersonal and especially intercommunity relations that
herald the real revolution.
creased both within the community as well as between com-
munities. From the beginning of the Natufian through the
entire Neolithization sequence, the thickness of the different
social layers varied; there were circles of family, kinsmen, the Acknowledgments
village, nearby communities, exchange partners, and the list
grew to encompass the whole PPNB koine. We are grateful to the organizers (Doug Price and Ofer Bar-
There were now in the PPNB levels of segmentation that Yosef) and fellow participants of the Temozon Wenner-Gren
were not necessarily always based on kinship (and see, e.g., workshop The Origins of Agriculture: New Data, New Ideas
During 2006; Hodder 2005; Hodder and Cessford 2004). (Merida, Yucatan) in March 2009 for a most stimulating and
intensive exchange of data and opinions concerning agricul-
Whereas in the Earlier Epipaleolithic, contacts between ex-
tural beginnings around the world. Thanks are due to the
ternal groups were more sporadic, by the PPNB the whole
Wenner-Gren Foundation for the superb organization of the
system involved much more intense interactions, especially
event and especially to Leslie Aiello and Laurie Obbink for
with regard to the outer ringsstrangers now became
their personal commitments to the success of the meeting.
permanent fixtures of the everyday world, and people had to
We also acknowledge the support of the Israel Science Foun-
devise new codes of behavior toward new strata of social
dation funded by the Israel Academy of Sciences (A. Belfer-
Cohen: grants 855/03 and 202/05; A. Nigel Goring-Morris:
Additionally, in many areas sedentary communities existed
grants 840/01, 558/04, and 755/07).
virtually cheek by jowl with mobile foraging communities,
and this differentiation by economic mode of existence called
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Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011 S221

The Origins of Agriculture in the Near East

by Melinda A. Zeder

The emerging picture of plant and animal domestication and agricultural origins in the Near East
is dramatically different from that drawn 16 years ago in a landmark article by Bar-Yosef and Meadow.
While in 1995 there appeared to have been at least a 1,500-year gap between plant and animal
domestication, it now seems that both occurred at roughly the same time, with initial management
of morphologically wild future plant and animal domesticates reaching back to at least 11,500 cal
BP, if not earlier. A focus on the southern Levant as the core area for crop domestication and diffusion
has been replaced by a more pluralistic view that sees domestication of various crops and livestock
occurring, sometimes multiple times in the same species, across the entire region. Morphological
change can no longer be held to be a leading-edge indicator of domestication. Instead, it appears
that a long period of increasingly intensive human management preceded the manifestation of
archaeologically detectable morphological change in managed crops and livestock. Agriculture in the
Near East arose in the context of broad-based systematic human efforts at modifying local environ-
ments and biotic communities to encourage plant and animal resources of economic interest. This
process took place across the entire Fertile Crescent during a period of dramatic post-Pleistocene
climate and environmental change with considerable regional variation in the scope and intensity
of these activities as well as in the range of resources being manipulated.

Introduction understanding of Near Eastern plant and animal domestication

and agricultural emergence in the years between the Santa Fe
and Merida conferences.
Eighteen years ago, a week-long seminar was held in Santa Fe,
New Mexico, that, much like the Wenner-Gren Merida con-
ference featured in this special issue of Current Anthropology,
Near Eastern Agricultural Origins: 1995
focused on the context, timing, and possible causes of the emer-
gence of agriculture in different world areas. Sponsored by the While comprehensive in its geographic scope, Bar-Yosef and
School of American Research, this seminar resulted in the pub- Meadow (1995) had a special emphasis on the Levant, es-
lication of an influential edited volume, Last Hunters, First Far- pecially on the southern Levant (figs. 1, 2). Decades of survey
mers: New Perspectives on the Prehistoric Transition to Agriculture and excavation, especially in the parts of the Levant that fell
(Price and Gebauer 1995), a comprehensive global overview of within the borders of modern Israel, had yielded a remarkably
agricultural origins. The contribution by Ofer Bar-Yosef and detailed and well-controlled archaeological record of the tran-
Richard Meadow, in particular, provided a richly detailed ac- sition from foraging to farming in this part of the Near East.
count of the transition from foraging to farming in the Near Similar coverage had not yet been accomplished in other parts
East (Bar-Yosef and Meadow 1995). The scope and breadth of of the Fertile Crescent. When the Bar-Yosef and Meadow
the Bar-Yosef and Meadow article likely explains why it has article was published, documenting domestication in plants
been the most authoritative and most widely cited synthesis of and animals required the detection of morphological modi-
Near Eastern agricultural origins. This work, then, serves as an fications caused by domestication. In cereals, the marker of
ideal benchmark against which to measure advances in our choice was the development of a tough rachis, a change in
the plants dispersal mechanism thought to arise when hu-
mans sowed harvested cereal grains. In pulses, the primary
Melinda A. Zeder is a Senior Research Scientist in the Program for
domestication marker was an increase in seed size, a response
Human Ecology and Archaeobiology, National Museum of Natural
History, Smithsonian Institution, Department of Anthropology to seedbed pressures that allowed sown seeds to germinate
(MRC 112, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian more quickly and shade out competing seedlings. In animals,
Institution, Washington, DC 20013-7012, U.S.A. []). archaeozoologists relied primarily on the demonstration of
This paper was submitted 13 XI 09, accepted 3 I 11, and electronically overall body-size reduction, held to be a rapid response to
published 23 VIII 11. herd management.

2011 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. All rights reserved. 0011-3204/2011/52S4-0006$10.00. DOI: 10.1086/659307
S222 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

Figure 1. Distribution of main Late Epipaleolithic and Neolithic sites in

the Near East. 1, Ohalo II; 2, Ein Gev IV; 3, Neve David; 4, Kharaheh
IV; 5, Beidha; 6, Hayonim; 7, Wadi al-Hammeh 27; 8, Ain Mallaha; 9,
Jericho; 10, Iraq ed Dubb; 11, Hatoula; 12, Dhra; 13, Netiv Hagdud; 14,
Gigal I; 15, Aswad; 16, Ghoraife; 17, Wadi el-Jilat 7; 18, Yiftahel; 19, Ain
Ghazal; 20, Basta; 21, Ramad; 22, Khirbet Hammam; 23, Abu Hureyra;
24, Mureybit; 25, Djade; 26, Jerf el Ahmar; 27, Kosak Shamali; 28, Halula;
29, Qaramel; 30, Tel el-Kerkh; 31, Ras Shamra; 32, Bouqras; 33, Hallan
Cemi; 34, Demirkoy; 35, Kortik; 36, Gobekli Tepe; 37, Nevali Cori; 38,
Cayonu; 39, Cafer Hoyuk; 40, Grittle; 41, Palegawra; 42, Shanidar cave;
43, Zawi Chemi Shanidar; 44, Qermez Dere; 45, Nemrik; 46, Mlefaat;
47, Asiab; 48, Ganj Dareh; 49, Ali Kosh; 50, Jarmo; 51, Guran; 52, Sarab;
53, Pinarbassi A; 54, Asikli Hoyuk; 55, Suberde; 56, Can Hasan III; 57,
Catal Hoyuk; 58, Erbaba; 59, Aetokremnos; 60, Mylouthikia; 61, Shil-

Based on these criteria, crop domestication was thought to domesticated in other parts of the Fertile Crescent, the south-
have originated in the southern Levant during the Pre-Pottery ern Levant was thought to be the home of initial cultivation
Neolithic A (PPNA) period, around 11,50011,000 cal BP (fig. from which domesticates and domestic technology spread
2). Animal domestication seemed to have been a delayed de- quickly into the rest of the Fertile Crescent through an un-
velopment, with different livestock species brought under do- even series of movements affecting different areas at different
mestication in different parts of the region (from the Levant times (Bar-Yosef and Meadow 1995:41). The coalescence of
to the Zagros), beginning with goats sometime during the disparate elements of this subsistence system into an agri-
Middle Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB), around 10,000 cal cultural economy was thought to have occurred over a 2,000-
BP, followed by sheep, with cattle and pigs domesticated later year period, from about 10,000 to 8000 cal BP, during which
still. While livestock and some crop plants may have been
Zeder Origins of Agriculture in the Near East S223

Figure 2. Time line of Near Eastern sites, Levantine chronology, and

climatic conditions compiled using information from Aurenche et al.
(2001); Bar-Yosef and Meadow (1995); Byrd (2005); Kuijt and Goring-
Morris (2002); Nesbitt (2002); and Willcox (2005). PPNA, PPNBp Pre-
Pottery Neolithic A and B, respectively.

time it gradually became the dominant subsistence economy thoroughly explored in 1995. A number of new archaeo-
throughout the region. biological approaches to documenting domestication have
been developed that are providing powerful new insights into
the initial phases of domestication in both plants and animals.
Also contributing to the emerging picture of Near Eastern
Near Eastern Agricultural Origins: 2010 agricultural origins are genetic analyses that have identified
In the 16 years since publication of Bar-Yosef and Meadow the progenitors of Near Eastern domestic crops and livestock
(1995), there has been an exponential increase in information species and defined the likely geographic regions of their do-
on this transition not only from the southern Levant but also mestication. More widespread use of small-sample accelerator
from other parts of the Fertile Crescent that had not been as mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dating has made it
S224 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

possible to directly and precisely date the remains of domestic assemblage before it can be considered domestic (Tanno and
plants and animals, greatly enhancing the temporal control Willcox 2006a; Weiss, Kislev, and Hartmann 2006). This
of our understanding of this transition. The result is a vastly means that the barley recovered from these early sites (where
changed picture of the origins of agriculture in the Near East. tough-rachis varieties constitute about 4% of the total barley
recovered) more likely represent intensively collected and pos-
sibly cultivated morphologically wild cereals (Kislev 1997;
New Archaeological Insights into Plant Domestication
Weiss, Kislev, and Hartmann 2006). The application of AMS
Cereals. When Bar-Yosef and Meadow (1995) was written, dating to carbonized material recovered from new excavations
the presence of a few large domestic grains of einkorn (Tri- at Tell Aswad has moved up the dates of the more securely
ticum monococcum cf. monococcum) and rye (Secale cf. cereale) identified domesticated emmer and barley from this site.
from Epipaleolithic levels at Abu Hureyra I had raised the Originally thought to date to the PPNA (ca. 11,500 cal BP),
possibility that initial cereal domestication occurred in the the levels that yielded these domestic cereals are now known
northern Levant during the Younger Dryas climatic downturn to date to the end of the Early and beginning of the Middle
(Hillman, Colledge, and Harris 1989). Subsequent AMS dat- PPNB (ca. 10,30010,000 cal BP; Stordeur 2003; Willcox
ing of these grains found that, as suspected, most were in- 2005).
trusive from Middle PPNB levels. However, three grains of Nesbitts comprehensive evaluation of the evidence for the
domestic-morphotype rye were found to date to between appearance of domesticated cereals in the Near East concludes
13,000 and 12,000 cal BP, and on the basis of this early date, that the evidence for morphologically altered cereal domes-
Hillman argued that these grains represented the earliest mor- ticates before about 10,500 cal BP is either too poorly doc-
phologically altered domestic cereals in the Near East (Hill- umented or too poorly dated to be accepted as marking the
man 2000; but see Nesbitt 2002:118119). Hillman acknowl- initial threshold of cereal domestication (Nesbitt 2002). The
edged that grains consistent in size with domestic varieties earliest securely identified and dated domestic emmer (Tri-
are known to occur in low numbers in wild cereals but argued ticum turgidum ssp. dicoccum) and einkorn (T. monococcum
that the probability of finding these rare mutant forms within ssp. monococcum) grains and chaff, according to Nesbitt, come
archaeological assemblages of collected wild rye was essentially from sites in the Upper Euphrates valley (Nevali Cori, Cafer
zero (Hillman 2000:382). If rye was domesticated at this early Hoyuk, and possibly Cayonu) that date to the Early PPNB,
date, however, it does not seem to have made much of a mark at about 10,50010,200 cal BP. Nesbitt contends that securely
on Near Eastern subsistence economies. With the onset of identified and dated domestic barley is not seen until the
warmer and wetter climatic conditions in the Early Holocene, Middle PPNB, when it is found throughout the Fertile Cres-
the utilization of this cool-climate cereal first declined and cent and Anatolian Plateau.
then ceased altogether in the Middle Euphrates (Willcox, For- Additional evidence for the late or at least delayed ap-
nite, and Herveux 2008). Domesticated rye is not seen again pearance of morphologically domestic cereals in the Near East
for another 2,000 years, when it is found in low numbers in is provided by Tanno and Willcox (2006a), who document
central Anatolia at Can Hasan III (ca. 9400 cal BP; Hillman the gradual increase in the proportion of tough-rachis do-
1978). Never a prominent component of Near Eastern cereal mestic morphotypes among wheat and barley recovered from
crops, modern domestic rye traces its heritage to European sites in the Middle and Upper Euphrates valley. Domestic
wild rye (Weiss, Kislev, and Hartmann 2006). morphotypes constitute only 10% of the single-grained ein-
Arguments advanced in 1995 for the appearance of mor- korn recovered from Nevali Cori (ca. 10,200 cal BP), barely
phologically altered domestic barley and emmer during the meeting the threshold for demonstrating the presence of do-
PPNA in the southern Levant have been largely overturned mestic cereals. Only 35% of the barley recovered from some-
in the intervening years (Weiss and Zohary 2011). When Bar- what later levels at Aswad (10,2009500 cal BP) and a little
Yosef and Meadow (1995) went to press, the handful of tough- over 50% of the barley recovered from Ramad (95008500
rachis barley Hordeum vulgare ssp. distictum found among cal BP) are nonshattering varieties. Even as late as 7500 cal
the thousands of brittle-rachis wild barley grains H. vulgare BP, domestic morphotypes constitute only around 60% of the
ssp. spontaneum recovered at Gigal and Netiv Hagdud in the two-grained einkorn recovered from Kosak Shamali, a variety
southern Levant seemed likely candidates for the earliest do- that Willcox postulates represents a second domestication of
mesticated cereal crop. Although this evidence was questioned diploid wheats (Willcox 2005:537).
at the time by Kislev (1989, 1992), who maintained that the
low proportion of tough-rachis barley in the Netiv Hagdud Pulses. Although substantial quantities of lentils had been
assemblage was consistent with the representation of this mor- recovered from PPNA sites in both the southern and the
photype in wild stands, others seemed more comfortable with northern Levant by 1995, the absence of clear morphological
the attribution of these cereal remains as domestic (i.e., Bar- markers of domestication (i.e., larger seed sizes) precluded
Yosef and Meadow 1995:6667; Hillman and Davies 1992; Bar-Yosef and Meadow from drawing any conclusions about
Zohary 1992). There is now a more general consensus that their domestic status. However, Weiss, Kislev, and Hartmann
tough-rachis grains must constitute at least 10% of a cereal (2006; also Weiss and Zohary 2011) and Tanno and Willcox
Zeder Origins of Agriculture in the Near East S225

(2006b; also Willcox, Buxo, and Herveux 2009; Willcox, For- represent this infertile variety. Domestication of this shrubby
nite, and Herveux 2008) have subsequently concluded that pioneer plant, they maintain, could be accomplished by re-
the hundreds of lentils found in storage bins at Netiv Hagdud planting cut branches of trees that naturally produce these
and Jerf el Ahmar are unlikely to represent wild, unmanaged sweeter fruits. Such an activity underscores the degree to
plants. Wild lentils, they argue, are not a common component which people were likely modifying local environments and
of Near Eastern plant communities, and the yield of seeds biotic communities as well as their willingness to invest in
per plant, at about 1020, is very low. Moreover, wild lentils nurturing resources, such as slowly maturing trees, with de-
have an exceptionally high rate of seed dormancy; only about layed rewards.
10% of wild lentil seeds germinate after sowing. Thus, the
quantity of lentils recovered from these of PPNA sites suggests Plant management. There is, in fact, increasing evidence
that lentils were likely being transplanted from wild patches, that humans were actively modifying local ecosystems and
aggregated in new environments, and tended by humans. manipulating biotic communities to increase the availability
Weiss, Kislev, and Hartmann (2006) also argue that these early of certain economically important plant resources for hun-
lentils had undergone a lowering in the rate of seed dormancy dreds of years before the manifestation of morphological in-
and an increase in the number of seeds per plant, initial steps dicators of plant domestication (Weiss, Kislev, and Hartmann
toward domestication that would not be archaeologically de- 2006; Willcox, Buxo, and Herveux 2009; Willcox, Fornite,
tectable. and Herveux 2008). First, the presence of distinctive com-
Similarly, Tanno and Willcox (2006b) maintain that the plexes of weedy species characteristic of fields under human
chickpeas (Cicer sp.) recovered from Tel el-Kerkh (ca. 10,200 cultivation suggests that humans were actively tilling and
cal BP) in northwestern Syria represent an early stage in the tending wild stands of einkorn and rye at both Abu Hureyra
cultivation of this well-known Near Eastern crop plant. While and nearby Mureybit during the Late Epipaleolithic (ca.
these are not definitively domestic morphotypes, the high 13,00012,000 cal BP; Colledge 1998, 2002; Hillman 2000:
degree of morphological variability of the chickpeas from this 378). Increases in this weed complex at Qaramel (ca. 11,500
site, together with the rarity and sparseness of wild chickpea cal BP) and Jerf el Ahmar (ca. 11,000 cal BP) signals an
stands (which do not grow in the region today), is again intensification of plant cultivation in the Middle Euphrates
suggestive of intentional transplanting and cultivation. A sim- during the ensuing PPNA period (Willcox, Fornite, and Her-
ilar case is made for the faba beans (Vicia faba) recovered veux 2008). Willcox, Fornite, and Herveux (2008; also Will-
from this site (Tanno and Willcox 2006b). Although not as cox, Buxo, and Herveux 2009) also interpret the increase in
large as modern faba beans, they are very similar to the faba the quantity of wild einkorn in Early Holocene assemblages
beans recovered in large numbers from the Late PPNB (ca. from the Middle Euphrates sites as additional evidence of
8800 cal BP) at Yiftahel (Garfinkel, Kislev, and Zohary 1988), human management of this plant. Wild einkorn T. monococ-
which are almost certainly cultivated varieties. In fact, the cum ssp. baeoticum is not well adapted to the chalky soils of
large-seeded modern variety of faba bean is not seen in the the Middle Euphrates, and it would not have responded well
Near East until about AD 1000 (Tanno and Willcox 2006b). to the rising temperatures of the Early Holocene. Today the
region is too hot and arid for wild einkorn, which can be
Figs. Recently, Kislev, Hartmann, and Bar-Yosef (2006a) found only on basalt lava flows 100 km north of Jerf el Ahmar.
have argued that the earliest morphologically altered plant The dramatic increase in the representation of wild einkorn
domesticate in the Near East was neither a cereal nor a pulse in Middle Euphrates assemblages over the course of the PPNA
but a tree crop. The presence of parthenocarpic figs at the to Early PPNB could happen, these authors argue, only if
PPNA site of Gigal in the southern Levant (ca. 11,40011,200 people were actively tending plants transplanted from pre-
cal BP) has been interpreted as a clear indication of human ferred habitats, altering local microhabitats, removing com-
selection for this mutant infertile fig variety that remains on petition, and artificially diverting water to tended plants (Will-
the tree longer and develops sweeter, softer fruit. Other re- cox, Fornite, and Herveux 2008:321). A subtle increase in the
searchers have noted, however, that parthenocarpy is known thickness and breadth of barley and einkorn grains from these
among wild female fig trees (Denham 2007; Lev-Yadun et al. sites without a corresponding increase in grain length is in-
2006) and therefore, as with the presence of tough-rachis terpreted as a plastic response to cultivation (Willcox 2004).
varieties or larger cereal grains in low quantities, their oc- The progressive decrease in indigenous plants of the Euphrates
currence in an archaeobotanical assemblage cannot be con- floodplain and the concurrent adoption of and increase in
sidered definitive proof of domestication. Kislev, Hartmann, morphologically wild representatives of founder crops such
and Bar-Yosef (2006b) have responded that if, as their critics as barley, emmer, lentils, chickpeas, and faba beans have also
contend, these figs represent the selective harvest of mutant been used to argue that humans were modifying local plant
figs from wild fig trees, at least some seeded varieties would communities and managing morphologically wild but culti-
be expected to have been collected along with these rare, vated cereals and pulses (Willcox, Buxo, and Herveux 2009;
naturally occurring parthenocarpic figs. Instead, all of the nine Willcox, Fornite, and Herveux 2008). In addition to the quan-
carbonized fruits and 313 single druplets recovered from Gigal tities of lentils recovered from PPNA sites such as Netiv Hag-
S226 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

dud and Gigal, the large number of morphologically wild harvesting cereals before they were fully ripe or even gleaning
barley and wild oats (Avena sterilis) recovered from these sites shattered heads of grain from the ground might have led to
(e.g., 260,000 grains of wild barley and 120,000 of wild oats the retention of the brittle rachis in cultivated cereals (Hart-
from a single granary at Gigal) suggests that people in the mann, Kislev, and Weiss 2006; Lev-Yadun, Gopher, and Abbo
southern Levant were also cultivating plants of economic in- 2006; Tanno and Willcox 2006a; Willcox and Tanno 2006).
terest (Weiss, Kislev, and Hartmann 2006). The appearance of morphological change in these founder
A study of plant assemblages from the northern Fertile crops is, then, most likely an artifact of a change in man-
Crescent by Savard, Nesbitt, and Jones (2006) demonstrates agement or harvesting practices of cultivated crops and not
that people in the more eastern parts of the Fertile Crescent a leading-edge indicator of plants being brought under human
were also intensively utilizing a wide variety of plant resources, control.
with considerable regional variation in the plant species ex-
ploited. Late Epipaleolithic residents of Hallan Cemi, for ex-
New Archaeological Insights into Animal Domestication
ample, utilized a diverse range of plant species with a special
focus on valley-bottom plants such as sea club-rush (Bolbo- Caprines. The utility of morphological markers as leading-
schoenus maritimus) as well as dock/knotgrass, large-seeded edge indicators of livestock domestication is even more prob-
legumes, and, to a lesser extent, almonds (Amygdalus sp.) and lematic. This is especially true of body-size reduction, the
pistachio (Pistacia sp.). A similar assemblage was found at primary marker used to document animal domestication for
Demirkoy, a nearby site occupied shortly after Hallan Cemi, the past 30 years. Recent analysis of modern and archaeo-
where a number of as yet unidentified small-seeded grasses, logical skeletal assemblages from the Zagros region has shown
small-seeded barleys (Hordeum murinum), and some wild that sex and, to a lesser extent, temperature are the most
barley (H. vulgare cf. spontaneum) were also recovered. The important factors affecting body size in both sheep (Ovis aries)
plant assemblages from roughly contemporary sites in steppic and goats (Capra hircus). Domestic status, on the other hand,
environments of northern Iraq (Qermez Dere and Mlefaat) has no effect on the size of female caprines and only a limited
are dominated by large-seeded legumes, followed by small- effect on males, manifested as a decrease in the degree of
seeded grasses, with small-seeded legumes and wild cereals sexual dimorphism (Zeder 2001, 2005). This work has also
(barleys and einkorn/rye) also represented. shown that apparent evidence of domestication-induced
The antiquity of this broad-spectrum plant-exploitation body-size reduction in Near Eastern archaeological assem-
strategy stretches back at least to the Late Glacial Maximum blages is not, as had been assumed, the result of a morpho-
(ca. 23,000 cal BP), as evidenced by the remarkably well- logical response to human management. Instead, the apparent
preserved plant assemblage recovered from the waterlogged shift toward smaller animals is an artifact of the different
Levantine site of Ohalo II, which contained a diverse array culling strategies employed by hunters, whose interest in max-
of large- and small-seeded grasses and legumes (Piperno et imizing the return of the hunt often results in an archaeo-
al. 2004; Weiss et al. 2004). There is some indication that the logical assemblage dominated by large prime-age males (Sti-
intensive exploitation of this complex of small- and large- ner 1990), and herders, who seek to maximize the long-term
seeded cereals, legumes, and other locally available plant re- growth of a herd by culling young males and delaying the
sources may reach as far back as the Middle Paleolithic (Albert slaughter of females until they have passed peak reproductive
et al. 2003; Lev, Kislev, and Bar-Yosef 2005). It is still an open years (Redding 1981). Because of various taphonomic factors
question when, over the course of this long period of in- and methodological practices, the herders harvest strategy
creasingly intense utilization of plant resources, humans began produces an archaeological assemblage dominated by smaller
to actively modify local ecosystems and biotic communities adult females (Zeder 2001, 2008). Comparing assemblages of
to encourage the availability of economically important hunted prey animals primarily made up of large adult males
plants. But it is clear that by at least 11,500 years ago, humans with those of harvested managed animals dominated by
had brought a number of plant species under cultivation and smaller females led to the erroneous conclusion that domes-
that except for the manifestation of certain morphological tication-induced body-size reduction had taken place.
traits seen in later-domesticated varieties, these plants might The consistent size difference between the skeletal elements
arguably be considered domesticated crops. of male and female caprines, however, makes it possible to
The delayed expression of domestication-induced mor- compute sex-specific harvest profiles for sheep and goats that
phological changes in managed plants (at 10,50010,000 cal are capable of distinguishing the herding harvest signature
BP in cereals and later still in pulses) may be attributable to from the hunters prey strategy. In the central Zagros, the
the frequent importation of new wild plants when cultivated herding signature of young-male harvest and delayed female
crops failed (Tanno and Willcox 2006a). It is also possible slaughter is first detected within the highland natural habitat
that early harvesting practices may not have encouraged the of wild goats among the goat remains from the site of Ganj
morphological changes to cereal dispersal mechanisms once Dareh, directly dated to 9900 cal BP (Zeder 1999, 2005). The
thought to be a first-line marker of cereal domestication. same signal was also detected in the goats from the site of
Beating ripened grain heads into baskets, for example, or Ali Kosh, located outside the natural habitat of wild goats on
Zeder Origins of Agriculture in the Near East S227

the lowland piedmont of southwestern Iran and first occupied at about 10,200 cal BP (Peters, von den Driesch, and Helmer
at about 9500 cal BP. Progressive changes in the size and shape 2005:111). Helmers (2008) recent reconsideration of the fau-
of goat horns has been noted over the 1,000-year occupation nal remains from Cafer Hoyuk, (ca. 10,3009500 cal BP),
of this site (Hole, Flannery, and Neely 1969). These changes which focuses on sex ratios and harvest profiles, leads him
were a direct response to human management that arose when to conclude that sheep (and likely goats) at this site, though
humans assumed control over breeding and eliminated the morphologically wild, were not hunted animals, as he had
selective pressure for large horns used in mate competition. originally thought (Helmer 1991). Instead, he maintains that
The unequivocal signatures of goat management documented these were agriomorphic herded animals, a new term he
in the central Zagros are not, however, the earliest evidence coins for domestic animals which are morphologically close
of caprine management in the Near East. As with plants, it to wild ones (Helmer 2008:169).
now seems that the leading edge of animal management At Asikli Hoyuk in central Anatolia (ca. 10,2009500 cal
stretches back at least 1,000 years before the manifestation of BP), Buitenhuis (1997; also Vigne, Buitenhuis, and Davis
archaeologically detectable morphological change in managed 1999) has detected demographic evidence for management of
animals. morphologically wild caprines, predominately sheep. Ar-
Perkins (1964) interpreted the younger age profile of the buckles (2008) analysis of faunal remains from Suberde, a
sheep from the site of Zawi Chemi Shanidar in the north- site roughly contemporaneous with the latest occupation
western Zagros as evidence of sheep domestication in the Late phases at Asikli Hoyuk and the initial occupation of Catal
Epipaleolithic (ca. 12,00011,500 cal BP). A new analysis of Hoyuk (ca. 95008900 cal BP), questions the original inter-
this assemblage finds a prey profile focused on 23-year-old pretation of this site as a hunters village (Perkins and Daly
male sheep that is, as Perkins noted, a departure from the 1968). Demographic patterns detected among the caprines at
prime-adult-male strategy detected for goats in Mousterian this site (again mostly sheep) are instead argued to represent
and Upper Paleolithic levels at nearby Shanidar cave (Zeder an early and perhaps transitional form of management of
2008). But this demographic profile is also not consistent with morphologically unaltered animals. Management of morpho-
the herd-management signature of young-male and delayed logically domesticated sheep and goats is found in central
female harvest detected for goats at Ganj Dareh and Ali Kosh. Anatolia by 9500 cal BP in basal occupation levels of Catal
A similar focus on 23-year-old males has been reported at Hoyuk (Russell and Martin 2005).
the roughly contemporary site of Hallan Cemi, 300 km to Moving farther south, the first appearance of goats in the
the northwest of Zawi Chemi and part of the same Taurus/ assemblage from Abu Hureyra (ca. 9600 cal BP) is accom-
Zagros round-house tradition (Redding 2005; Rosenberg et panied by demographic data that suggest culling strategies
al. 1998). Redding interprets this demographic pattern as a similar to those detected at Ganj Dareh (Legge 1996; Legge
prime-male hunting strategy practiced under conditions of and Rowley-Conwy 2000). Goats dominate the assemblage
intensive pressure on local wild herds. The eradication of local from the site after about 9300 cal BP, reversing a many-mil-
males by sedentary hunters, he argues, created a vacuum that lennia emphasis on hunted gazelle. A similar replacement of
attracted younger males with less-established home territories a once-dominant focus on gazelles by one on goats is seen
from outside regions. This male sink effectively assured a first in the Jordan Valley during the Middle PPNB (10,000
continuous supply of preferred prey while preserving a local 9200 cal BP), with an emphasis on gazelle still evident on the
population of females and young. Although this strategy does Mediterranean coastal plain until the Final PPNB/Pre-Pottery
not entail the same degree of intentional control over herd Neolithic C (ca. 8500 cal BP; Horwitz 2003; Horwitz et al.
demographics found in managed herds, it certainly signals an 1999; Sapir-Hen et al. 2009). Horwitz interprets demographic
attempt at increasing the availability of prey by setting a prec- patterns observed in morphologically wild goats from Middle
edent for the slaughter of young males and the preservation PPNB sites in the Jordan Valley (composed of immature males
of female breeding stock characteristic of herd management. and adult females) as evidence of an ongoing process of in-
The demographic profile of the sheep remains from Kortik dependent domestication (Horwitz 1993, 2003). Other re-
Tepe, a somewhat later (ca. 10,900 cal BP) site located 50 km searchers have argued that these managed goats were intro-
to the south of Hallan Cemi, has also been interpreted as a duced from outside the region (Bar-Yosef 2000; Peters et al.
transitional strategy between game management and herd 1999). Managed sheep were a late arrival in the Levant, ap-
management (Arbuckle and Ozkaya 2006). pearing sometime around 9200 cal BP (Horwitz and Ducos
The transition from hunting to herding appears to have 1998). The introduction of managed sheep was also delayed
been complete by about 10,500 cal BP at Nevali Cori, where, in the eastern arm of the Fertile Crescent, where a shift toward
using lower-resolution demographic profiling methods, Peters adult-female-dominated assemblages appears in both high-
and collaborators have detected changes in the age and sizes land and lowland sites in the Zagros at about 9000 cal BP
of caprines consistent with the harvest of herded caprines (Zeder 2008).
(Peters, von den Driesch, and Helmer 2005; Peters et al. 1999).
Sheep seem to have been the initial early focus of herd man- Cattle. The outlines of cattle (Bos taurus) domestication in
agement here, with managed goats introduced from elsewhere the Near East are still sketchy. Although cattle remains from
S228 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

Early and Middle PPNB (11,00010,000 cal BP) sites in the through time at the site and data on age and sex as indicative
upper and Middle Euphrates valley fall within the size range of a developing association between humans and wild boar
of wild aurochs (Bos primigenius), Helmer finds evidence for (Redding 2005; Rosenberg et al. 1998; Rosenberg and Redding
a reduction in the degree of sexual dimorphism at several 2000). The larger data set from nearby Cayonu clearly shows
sites (especially at Halula and Djade, but less so at Cafer gradual change in multiple indexes (tooth size, age structure,
Hoyuk and Aswad) that he links to an ongoing process of and biometry) thought to reflect a gradual process in which
domestication (Helmer 2008; Helmer and Gourichon 2008; pigs moved from a wild to a commensal to a fully domestic
Helmer et al. 2005). Cattle from contemporary sites in the status (Ervynck et al. 2001). Helmers (2008) recent reeval-
same region (i.e., Mureybit III, Jerf el Ahmar, and Gobekli) uation of the Cafer Hoyuk fauna leads him to conclude that
are still highly sexually dimorphic and are thus seen as rep- on the basis of demographic patterns, domestic pigs were
resenting wild, hunted cattle. Domestic cattle spread slowly present at the site by 10,300 cal BP.
out of this heartland of initial domestication, reaching the As with sheep and cattle, pigs seem to have spread slowly
southernmost reaches of the Levant only during the Late down the western and eastern arms of the Fertile Crescent.
PPNB (95009000) at the earliest (Horwitz et al. 1999) and Domestic pigs are thought to have been present in Middle
the southern Zagros around 8500 cal BP (Hole, Flannery, and PPNB levels at Aswad (Helmer and Gourichon 2008), but
Neely 1969:303). they did not reach the southernmost end of the Levantine
In the 1960s, Perkins argued for a center of cattle domes- corridor until about 90008500 cal BP (Horwitz et al. 1999).
tication in central Anatolia on the basis of an initial study of Domestic pigs have been identified at Jarmo in the north-
remains from Catal Hoyuk (Perkins 1969). The analysis of a western Zagros by 9000 cal BP (Flannery 1983), but they did
large sample of remains from the renewed excavations at the not reach lowland southwestern Iran until 6000 cal BP (Hole,
site, however, does not support this conclusion (Russell, Mar- Flannery, and Neely 1969). Swine are not evident in central
tin, and Buitenhuis 2005). Catal Hoyuk cattle show no evi- Anatolia until sometime after about 8500 cal BP (Martin,
dence of body-size reduction, as had been claimed by Perkins, Russell, and Carruthers 2002).
and are dominated by older male animals in earlier levels (ca.
94008500 cal BP). Final occupation levels at the site (ca.
New Genetic Insights into Plant and Animal Domestication
85008300 cal BP) see a shift toward a female-dominated
profile, although the continued emphasis on animals older Plants. Heun et al.s (1997) study of domestic einkorn, one
than 4 years of age raises doubts about the domestic status of the first multilocus genetic analyses of Near Eastern founder
of these animals. crops, concluded that this crop plant had a monophyletic
origin. This work traced the ancestry of all modern domestic
Pigs. In pigs (Sus scrofa), a reduction in the size of molars, einkorn to a single wild population growing on Karacadag
especially in the length of the M3, is thought to be an early volcano in southeastern Turkey, only a few kilometers from
marker of domestication (Flannery 1983). Changes in molar archaeological sites that have yielded the earliest evidence of
lengths in pigs have been linked to a neotonization of skull single-grained einkorn domestication. A monophyletic origin
morphology, which itself is believed to be an artifact of the of this domestic cereal is consistent with a highly localized
selection for reduced aggression in animals undergoing do- and relatively rapid domestication process (Brown et al. 2008).
mestication. A similar morphological response is also seen in A subsequent study by Kilian et al. (2007), however, contends
dogs, where juvenilization of skull morphology is thought to that the wild race named by Heun et al. (1997) as the ancestor
result in tooth crowding and size reduction. Like pigs, dogs of domestic einkorn is instead a closely related sister group.
are animals thought to have entered into domestication This more distant relationship and the high level of genetic
through a commensal route initiated when less wary individ- diversity evident in domestic einkorn, they maintain, argues
uals approached human habitations to scavenge for food against a monophyletic origin of this early cereal crop. Their
(Zeder, forthcoming). It is hard to know, then, whether the study does not find support for a polyphyletic model in which
initial changes in skull, jaw, and tooth morphology seen in multiple geographically and genetically distinct races were
these animals reflect the initiation of a true domestic part- separately brought under domestication (see Jones 2004). In-
nership with humans or simply an adaptation to anthropo- stead, they propose a dispersed specific model in which
genic environments required of commensal animals. The large multiple local populations of the originally more widely dis-
litter sizes of wild pigs and the demographic partitioning of tributed sister race of wild einkorn were taken under culti-
wild boar herds may result in prey profiles that mimic what vation and eventually domesticated multiple times by com-
might be expected with management, complicating the ap- munities across a broad area. This model is more in line with
plication of demographic modeling to distinguish between archaeological evidence indicating that multiple communities
hunting and herding of pigs. from southeastern Turkey to the Middle Euphrates were in-
Redding has reported that pigs at Hallan Cemi show some volved in a protracted process of cultivation of both local and
evidence of tooth-size reduction (Redding and Rosenberg imported wild progenitors of later crop plants (Willcox 2005).
1998). He also interprets an increase in the numbers of pigs Heun, Haldorsen, and Vollan (2008) have since defended their
Zeder Origins of Agriculture in the Near East S229

initial determination of a monophyletic origin of single- domestication into the southern Levant (Weiss, Kislev, and
grained einkorn in southeastern Turkey. They also suggest, Hartmann 2006). A separate southern Levantine domestica-
however, that the Middle Euphrates may have been the site tion of a variety of lentils no longer represented among mod-
of the domestication of a now extinct two-grained variety of ern domestic lentils cannot, however, be ruled out.
wheat from Triticum urartu, a more arid-adapted wheat that
commonly contains two-grained spikelets. Animals. While there are multiple genetically distinguish-
Similarly, earlier genetic analyses of domestic emmer had able lineages in all major livestock species (Bradley 2006), the
concluded that this crop plant had a monophyletic origin degree to which these different lineages represent spatially and
with the closest living wild population found in the same temporally discrete domestication events in which different
Karacadag region identified as the home of einkorn domes- populations were brought under domestication independently
tication (Ozkan et al. 2002). Subsequent studies now point of one another is not entirely clear (Dobney and Larson 2006).
to at least two separate domestications of emmer (Brown et In domestic goats, for example, there now appear to be as
al. 2008). The geographic distance and degree of cultural in- many as six highly divergent maternal lineages. These include
dependence between these events are unclear. In addition to the three lineages originally identified by Luikart et al. (2001,
a major domestication event at Karacadag, Ozkan et al. (2005) 2006)a dominant A lineage and smaller B and C lineages
now think that there may have been another secondary do- and three additional lineages (D, F, and G) identified in the
mestication of a population near the Kartal Mountains 300 past few years (Chen et al. 2005; Joshi et al. 2004; Naderi et
km to the west of Karacadag. They find no evidence that al. 2007; Sultana, Mannen, and Tsuji 2003). The divergence
populations from the southern Levant were involved in em- of these lineages has considerable time depth (ca. 100,000
mer domestication, although there is some indication that 500,000 years), suggesting that each represents a different seg-
populations in Iraq and Iran may have contributed to the ment of a larger wild goat population brought under do-
gene pool of domesticated emmer (Ozkan et al. 2005:1057). mestication (Naderi et al. 2007). A genetic analysis of a large
Luo et al. (2007) agree that emmer was most likely first do- sample of modern wild bezoar (Capra aegargrus) goats from
mesticated in southeastern Turkey, but they also propose that Iran, Iraq, and Turkey finds all six major domestic maternal
there was subsequent hybridization and introgression into lineages represented in present-day bezoar populations (Na-
domesticated emmer from wild emmer in the southern Le- deri et al. 2008), patterning that, as Naderi et al. (2008) argue,
vant. A less likely scenario for the results of their analysis is traces its roots to the Early Holocene. The weak phylogeo-
that a population of wild emmer was independently domes- graphic structure of the domestic lineages among these be-
ticated in the southern Levant and later absorbed into the zoars is seen as an artifact of human translocation of animals
gene pool of domesticated emmer from southeastern Turkey. during the initial phases of the domestication process, before
Initial indications of a single domestication of barley in the the morphological modifications that separate wild from do-
Jordan Valley (Badr et al. 2000) have also recently been revised mestic goats arose. Evidence of rapid population growth
to accommodate a second domestication of this crop. Morell among bezoars belonging to the C lineage resembles that
and Cleggs (2007) study of wild and traditional races of found in domestic goats in Iran and is not seen among bezoars
cultivated barley from the Levant to western China has found that do not belong to domestic lineages. This pattern is taken
evidence of the domestication of a variety of barley ancestral as a further sign of human-mitigated demographic control
to landraces grown in Central and East Asia. Thought to have and protection of bezoars before complete isolation of man-
occurred in the Zagros, this second, geographically quite dis- aged animals from wild ones. Bezoars belonging to the now-
tinct domestication corresponds well to archaeological evi- dominant A domestic matriline are concentrated in eastern
dence that finds domesticated barley in Zagros sites at about Turkey, conjectured to be the most likely region of initial
10,000 years ago (van Zeist et al. 1984). management of A-lineage goats. While C-lineage bezoars are
There is also a concordance between archaeological and most frequently found in southern and central Iran, the C-
phylogeographic evidence for pulse domestication. The wild lineage bezoars most closely related to C-lineage domestic
chickpea population genetically closest to domestic chickpeas goats were found in southeastern Anatolia. These bezoars are
was found growing at the far western end of the current thought to be the descendents of animals translocated from
distribution of this plant in southern Turkey (Sudupak, Ak- southern Iran that, along with A-lineage goats, were the first
kaya, and Kence 2004), the closest wild samples to Tel el- herded goats to leave the homeland of initial management,
Kerkh, which, as noted above, yielded early evidence for cul- animals whose remains are found at sites such as Nevali Cori
tivation of this important Near Eastern pulse crop. Genetic at 10,200 cal BP.
evidence also points to the initial domestication of lentils This study indicates, then, that all six modern maternal
somewhere in southeastern Turkey or northern Syria (Ladi- lineages of domestic goats were brought under initial human
zinsky 1989), where there is early evidence for the initial management in a region that stretches from the eastern Taurus
chickpea cultivation. The appearance of quantities of culti- to the southern Zagros and Iranian Plateau. Although this
vated lentils at contemporary sites such as Gigal suggests that process apparently involved individual communities taking
this pulse crop spread quickly out of the homeland of initial local populations of wild goats under control, the geographic
S230 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

proximity of these populations and the evident human-mit- that the southern Levant was the core area for initial do-
igated movement of animals across this region suggests that mestication, and a case could be made that all subsequent
these activities were part of a more broad-based, culturally crop and livestock domestication in other parts of the Fertile
connected set of economic strategies. Persistence of the ge- Crescent followed on the precedent of the crops, domestic
netic signature of these activities among modern bezoars adds technology, and the Neolithic way of life introduced from this
support to archaeological indications of a long period of active core region. Since then, the spotlight has shifted to the central
and intentional human management of animals before the Fertile Crescent, especially the upper reaches of the Tigris and
manifestation of archaeologically detectable morphological Euphrates rivers, which appears to be the homeland of the
change in managed animals. initial domestication of a number of founder crops (einkorn,
Sheep also show a polyphyletic signature, with three do- emmer, pulses) and three, if not four, livestock species (sheep,
mestic lineages all thought to be derived from different pop- pigs, cattle, and possibly goats). By the late 1990s, a compelling
ulations of wild mouflon Ovis orientalis, an animal with a case could be made that this region was a cradle of agri-
current range that extends from Anatolia to southeastern Iran culture in a true Vavlovian sense (Lev-Yadun, Gopher, and
(Bruford and Townsend 2006; Hiendleder et al. 2002; Pedrosa Abbo 2000). Genetic and archaeobiological evidence gener-
et al. 2005). As in goats, one lineage dominates and is pro- ated since then paints a much less focused, more diffuse pic-
posed to have originated among sheep whose descendents are ture of agricultural origins. The emergence of agriculture in
now found in eastern Turkey and western Iran. Another lin- the Near East now seems to have been a pluralistic process
eage is thought to have arisen from a more eastern population with initial domestication of various crops and livestock oc-
of O. orientalis (Hiendleder et al. 2002), while a third is also curring, sometimes multiple times in the same species, across
thought to have Turkish roots (Pedrosa et al. 2005). the entire region.
Three and perhaps four of the five maternal lineages of In 1995, morphological change in both plants and animals
domestic taurine cattle were also likely domesticated in the marked the threshold between wild and domestic. We now
Fertile Crescent (Bradley and Magee 2006). One lineage (T3) know that morphological change may have occurred quite
is the primary variety that spread throughout Europe (Troy late in the domestication process and can no longer be con-
et al. 2001). The T1 lineage, the dominant lineage in North sidered a leading-edge indicator of domestication. In cereals,
Africa, has been argued to represent an independent African the transition from brittle to tough rachises may actually have
domestication of local wild cattle (Bradley and Magee 2006: been the result of changes in harvest timing and technology
324). Subsequent analysis, however, suggests that like the T3 that took place well after people began sowing harvested seed
variety, the T1 lineage also likely arose in the Near East and stock. In pulses, seed-size change lagged behind changes in
subsequently spread to North Africa through trade and hu- seed dormancy and plant yield that cannot be detected in the
man migration (Achilli et al. 2008). archaeological record. In animals, the impact of human man-
While Near Eastern wild boar haplotypes are not repre- agement on body size is now known to have been restricted
sented among modern domestic swine (Larson et al. 2005), to a decrease in the degree of sexual dimorphism; alterations
ancient-DNA analysis points to at least four different lineages in skull morphology may have resulted from a developing
of Near Eastern domestic pigs, two of which were found commensal relationship rather than a two-way domestic part-
among Neolithic assemblages in western Europe (Larson et nership; and changes in horn size and form may, like changes
al. 2007). Near Eastern matrilines of domestic pigs are re- in rachis morphology, have reflected a change in management
placed by domestic swine with maternal origins from Euro- practice rather than the initiation of animal management. In
pean wild boar by about 6000 cal BP. fact, in both plants and animals, archaeologically detectable
morphological indicators of domestication may have occurred
A New Picture of Agricultural Origins in only once managed plants and animals were isolated from
free-living populations and the opportunity for introgression
the Near East or restocking managed populations with wild ones was elim-
The emerging picture of plant and animal domestication and inated. While some may prefer not to call a plant or an animal
agricultural origins in the Near East is dramatically different a domesticate until this separation has occurred, concentrat-
from that drawn 16 years ago in the landmark Bar-Yosef and ing solely on this late stage of the process will not help us
Meadow (1995) article. In 1995, there appeared to have been understand how it began.
at least a 1,500-year gap between initial crop domestication When Bar-Yosef and Meadow published their synthesis ar-
(ca. 11,400 cal BP) and livestock domestication (ca. 10,000 ticle, it seemed to have taken up to 2,000 years after initial
cal BP). It now seems that plant and animal domestication domestication of both plants and animals for fully developed
occurred at roughly the same time, with signs of initial man- agricultural economies to coalesce across the entire Fertile
agement of morphologically wild future plant and animal Crescent. With the removal of morphological change as a
domesticates reaching back to at least 11,500 cal BP, if not leading-edge indicator of domestication, this process seems
earlier. to have taken longer still. Stable and highly sustainable sub-
At the time this influential article was published, it appeared sistence economies based on a mix of free-living, managed,
Zeder Origins of Agriculture in the Near East S231

and fully domesticated resources now seem to have persisted This backward look at the mainland from Cyprus provides
for 4,000 years or more before the crystallization of agricul- us with new insight into the initial context of plant and animal
tural economies based primarily on domestic crops and live- domestication in the Near East. It suggests that domestication
stock in the Near East. and agriculture arose in the context of broad-based systematic
The exciting recent discoveries on Cyprus provide a special human efforts at modifying local environments and biotic
perspective on this long period of low-level food production communities to encourage plant and animal resources of eco-
(sensu Smith 2001) in the mainland Fertile Crescent. This nomic interest, a practice that has been characterized as hu-
work has produced solid evidence for the early importation man niche construction or ecosystem engineering (Smith
of morphologically domesticated cereals (einkorn, emmer, 2007a, 2007b, 2011). The data emerging over the past 15 years
and barley) and morphologically wild but managed animals clearly indicate that active human engagement in ecological
(goats and cattle) to Cyprus by 10,500 cal BP, with managed niche construction was taking place across the entire Fertile
pigs possibly brought to the island even earlier (Vigne, Car- Crescent during a period of dramatic post-Pleistocene climate
rere, and Guilaine 2003; Vigne et al. 2011; Willcox 2003). This and environmental change (Bar-Yosef 2011), with consider-
means that at the same time that the earliest morphologically able regional variation in the scope and intensity of these
domesticated einkorn and emmer is found in the Upper Eu- activities as well as in the range of resources being manipu-
phrates valley (and even earlier than there is solid evidence lated. In certain instances, this context of human niche con-
for morphologically altered domestic barley) and when we struction gave rise to coevolutionary relationships between
see the first indications of animal management in the main- humans and certain species that eventually resulted in a full-
land Fertile Crescent, people were loading these managed fledged domestic partnership, as it did with einkorn, emmer,
plants and animals into boats and carrying them, along with and pulses in southeastern Anatolia, with barley in both the
the knowledge of how to successfully care for them, to an southern Levant and the Zagros, and with the four major
island 160 km off the Levantine coast. The importation and livestock species in different parts of the broad territory be-
successful exploitation of these nascent domesticates on Cy- tween Anatolia to southern Iran. In others instances, the re-
prus, where none of these plants and animals occur naturally, lationship never developed beyond the first tentative steps
suggests that human control over these budding domesticates toward domestication. Failure to move beyond these initial
was more established than is apparent on the mainland, where stages of the domestication process may have been due to
the likely continued utilization of free-living populations of either behavioral or biological barriers on the part of the plant
these species makes it hard to determine the degree of human or animal species, as perhaps in the case of gazelle in the
investment in plant and animal management. southern Levant that are behaviorally unsuited to domesti-
What is perhaps even more interesting about the Cyprus cation or with rye that could not survive conditions of in-
data is that people also imported fallow deer and foxes to the creasing heat and aridity in the northern Levant. Or it might
island, as well as other elements of the mainland biotic com- simply be due to a lack of follow-through by humans, as may
munity that do not appear to have been subjected to the same have happened with wild oats that were likely cultivated in
degree of human control. People who colonized Cyprus in the southern Levant during the PPNA but were not domes-
the eleventh millennium did not selectively choose to import ticated until much later.
only those plants and animals with which they had a devel- This broad middle ground between wild and domestic,
oping domestic partnership. Instead, they seem to have trans- foraging and farming, hunting and herding makes it hard to
ported from the mainland their entire ecological niche, made draw clean lines of demarcation between any of these states.
up of a wide range of economically important species ex- Perhaps this is the greatest change in our understanding of
ploited with a diverse array of more and less intensive strat- agricultural origins since 1995. The finer-resolution picture
egies. It is unlikely that these early pioneers drew strict clas- we are now able to draw of this process in the Near East (and,
sificatory boundaries between resources collected from as seen in the other contributions to this volume, in other
free-living populations, resources that required a higher de- world areas) not only makes it impossible to identify any
gree of encouragement and protection from competition or threshold moments when wild became domestic or hunting
predation, and resources that had begun to show physiolog- and gathering became agriculture but also shows that drawing
ical, behavioral, or morphological responses to human man- such distinctions actually impedes rather than improves our
agement. They simply took with them the world that they understanding of this process. Instead of continuing to try to
knew. The apparent relaxation of management strategies over pigeonhole these concepts into tidy definitional categories, a
time that Vigne, Carrere, and Guilaine (2003) have proposed more productive approach would be to embrace the ambi-
for goats (perhaps because of the lack of major predators and guity of this middle ground and continue to develop tools
a reduced threat from human poaching on this sparsely in- that allow us to watch unfolding developments within this
habited island) underscores the fluidity of exploitation strat- neither-nor territory.
egies and the blurring of distinctions between degrees of en- In the Near East, this means looking more closely at the
gagement in the management of important resources that relationships between humans and plants and animals, es-
existed at that time. pecially within the natural habitats of future domesticates.
S232 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

Continuing to develop archaeobiological and archaeological Publicaties 32. Groningen: Centre for Archaeological Research and
tools for examining these evolving relationships will be key, Consultancy.
. 2011. Climatic fluctuations and early farming in West and
as will the development of new genetic approaches, including, East Asia. Current Anthropology 52(suppl. 4):S175S193.
one hopes, the analysis of ancient DNA of plant and animal Bar-Yosef, Ofer, and Richard H. Meadow. 1995. The origins of ag-
remains from Near Eastern archaeological contexts. In 2011, riculture in the Near East. In Last hunters, first farmers: new per-
we are clearly on the cusp of a new understanding of agri- spectives on the prehistoric transition to agriculture. T. Douglas Price
cultural origins in the Near East and elsewhere. One can only and Anne-Birgitte Gebauer, eds. Pp. 3994. Santa Fe, NM: School
of American Research Press.
imagine what the picture will look like in 2025. Bradley, Daniel G. 2006. Documenting domestication: reading animal
genetic texts. In Documenting domestication: new genetic and ar-
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Acknowledgments versity of California Press.
Bradley, Daniel G., and David A. Magee. 2006. Genetics and origins
I am very grateful to Ofer Bar-Yosef and Doug Price for
of domestic cattle. In Documenting domestication: new genetic and
including me among the participants of the Merida confer- archaeological paradigms. Melinda A. Zeder, Daniel G. Bradley, Eve
ence and to the Wenner-Gren Foundation for sponsoring this Emshwiller, and Bruce D. Smith, eds. Pp. 317328. Berkeley: Uni-
wonderful meeting. Both the venue and the unique format versity of California Press.
of this meeting made it the single most enjoyable and pro- Brown, Terence A., Martin K. Jones, Wayne Powell, and Robin G.
Allaby. 2008. The complex origins of domesticated crops in the
ductive one I have ever attended. The opportunity to interact
Fertile Crescent. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 24(2):103109.
with the varied group of researchers brought together in Me- Bruford, Michael W., and Saffron J. Townsend. 2006. Mitochondrial
rida, both in formal sessions and in less-formal evening meet- DNA diversity in modern sheep: implications for domestication.
ings on the veranda of the Hacienda Temozon, had a trans- In Documenting domestication: new genetic and archaeological par-
formative impact on my understanding of agricultural adigms. Melinda A. Zeder, Daniel G. Bradley, Eve Emshwiller, and
originsas a general process and as it played out in the many Bruce D. Smith, eds. Pp. 306316. Berkeley: University of Cali-
fornia Press.
world areas where domestication arose and spread. This paper Buitenhuis, Hijlke. 1997. Asikli Hoyuk: a protodomestication site.
could not have been written without this intensive and most Anthropozoologica 2526:655662.
rewarding meeting. The manuscript also benefited from the Byrd, Brian F. 2005. Reassessing the emergence of village life in the
comments of two anonymous reviewers and the gentle (and Near East. Journal of Archaeological Research 13(3):231290.
sometimes not so gentle) suggestions and proddings of the Chen, Shan-Yuan, Yan-Hua Su, Shi-Fang Wu, Tao Sha, and Ya-Ping
Zhang. 2005. Mitochondrial diversity and phylogeographic struc-
conference organizers/volume editors. ture of Chinese domestic goats. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evo-
lution 37(3):804814.
Colledge, Susan M. 1998. Identifying pre-domestication cultivation
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supplement 43. Athens: Ecole francaise dAthenes. Vila, Lionel Gourichon, Alice M. Choyke, and Hijlke Buitenhuis,
Vigne, Jean-Denis, Isabelle Carrere, Francois Briois, and Jean Gui- eds. Pp. 243278. Travaux de la Maison de lOrient 49. Lyon:
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Near East: new evidence from the Pre-Neolithic and Pre-Pottery . forthcoming. Pathways to animal domestication. In Biodi-
Neolithic in Cyprus. Current Anthropology 52(suppl. 4):S255S271. versity in agriculture: domestication, evolution and sustainability.
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Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011 S237

The Neolithic Southwest Asian Founder Crops

Their Biology and Archaeobotany

by Ehud Weiss and Daniel Zohary

This article reviews the available information on the founder grain crops (einkorn wheat, emmer
wheat, barley, lentil, pea, chickpea, and flax) that started agriculture in Southwest Asia during the
Pre-Pottery Neolithic period, some 11,00010,000 years ago. It provides a critical assessment for
recognizing domestication traits by focusing on two fields of study: biology and archaeobotany. The
data in these fields have increased considerably during the past decade, and new research techniques
have added much to our knowledge of progenitor plants and their domesticated derivatives. This
article presents the current and accumulated knowledge regarding each plant and illustrates the new
picture that emerged on the origin of agriculture.

Introduction (einkorn wheat Triticum monococcum, emmer wheat Triticum

turgidum subsp. dicoccum, and barley Hordeum vulgare), four
pulses (lentil Lens culinaris, pea Pisum sativum, chickpea Cicer
The occasion of the Wenner-Gren conference The Origins
arietinum, and bitter vetch Vicia ervilia), and a single oil and
of Agriculture: New Data, New Ideas raised our awareness
fiber crop (flax Linum usitatissimum).
of the importance of critical, high-quality data. We suspected
From many aspects these eight plants belong to the same
that the newly obtained data sets from well-dated archaeo-
groupthe grain crops. All of them are annuals, self-polli-
logical contexts may generate new hypotheses concerning the
nated, diploid (except emmer wheat), native to the Fertile
first steps of the agricultural revolution in Southwest Asia.
Crescent belt, and interfertile within each crop and between
For this purpose we concentrated on two domains: the
the crop and its wild progenitor. Both the agronomic com-
newly obtained rich archaeobotanical assemblages and the
pensation and the dietary complementation between plants
molecular analysis of present-day accessions. Some of these
in this group have been appreciated since the early days of
new data are inconclusive for pinpointing the shift from wild
agriculture up until now.
to domesticated plants because of bad preservation of the
The aim of this article is to review the available information
archaeological samples and problematic field or lab proce-
on these founder crops that started agriculture in the Levant
dures. Following the fruitful discussions during the confer-
during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic (PPN) period some 11,000
ence, we critically reassessed the available archaeobotanical
10,000 years ago (table 2). We shall review the current knowl-
data in an attempt to separate the grain from the chaff. In
edge of these plants by focusing on two fields of study: (i)
the following pages we present the data sets, both old and
biology and (ii) archaeobotany. Biological data derived from
new, that we consider to be reliable enough to indicate the
the research on living plants can indicate what the wild pro-
first appearances of domesticated forms in the Fertile Cres-
genitors of the domesticated plants may have been and what
the selection pressures for domesticated types were. Archaeo-
Eight plants are considered to be the domesticated founder
botanical information identifies the plants used by hunting
crops in the Levant (i.e., the western arc of the Fertile
and gathering groups, which were the plants first domesti-
Crescent; table 1). This assemblage includes three cereals
cated, and when and where these processes took place.
Large amounts of critical new data, botanical and archae-
Ehud Weiss is Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Archaeology, Martin ological, have been gathered in the Fertile Crescent belt in
(Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology, Bar-
the past 40 years (fig. 1). These findings established the Levant
Ilan University (Ramat-Gan, 52900 Israel [])
as the critical area for understanding early domestication of
and Visiting Scientist, Kimmel Center for Archaeological Sciences,
Weizmann Institute of Science (Rehovot, 76100 Israel). Daniel
both plants and animals (and see additionally Zeder 2011).
Zohary is Professor in the Department of Evolution, Systematics, (Note that we use the terms Southwest Asia and Near East
and Ecology, Hebrew University Jerusalem (91904 Israel). This paper arc interchangeably in this article; we also use the term Le-
was submitted 13 XI 09, accepted 1 XII 10, and electronically vant to refer to the western horn of the Fertile Crescent in
published 13 V 11. the Near East.)

2011 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. All rights reserved. 0011-3204/2011/52S4-0007$10.00. DOI: 10.1086/658367
S238 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

Table 1. Eight founder grain (three grass [cereal], four legume [pulse], and one oil and fiber) crops and their wild
progenitors that started Neolithic agriculture in the Levant

Domesticated crop Wild progenitor

Common name Scientific name Common name Scientific name
Einkorn wheat Triticum monococcum subsp. monococcum Wild einkorn T. monococcum subsp. baeoticum
Emmer wheat Triticum turgidum subsp. dicoccum Wild emmer T. turgidum subsp. dicoccoides
Barley Hordeum vulgare subsp. distichum Wild barley H. vulgare subsp. spontaneum
Lentil Lens culinaris Wild lentil Lens orientalis
Pea Pisum sativum Wild pea Pisum humile
Chickpea Cicer arietinum Wild chickpea Cicer reticulatum
Bitter vetch Vicia ervilia Wild bitter vetch Vicia ervilia
Flax Linum usitatissimum Wild flax Linum bienne

In this article we will adopt a critical assessment intended earliest definite domesticates as well as molecular and other
to recognize domestication traits in Levantine archaeobotany biological data.
(Zohary, Hopf, and Weiss 2011). In some way this assessment From the eight founder crops, this article does not deal
is partially intended to follow and update Mark Nesbitts with bitter vetch Vicia ervilia. According to its large quantities
(2002) article. The basics of this assessment are twofold. in Neolithic contexts, this pulse might have been taken into
1. The most reliable trait for the identification of domes- domestication in Anatolia or the Levant (i.e., in the general
tication is ear shattering in the cereals, pod indehiscence in area in which it still grows wild today). However, because
the pulses, and capsule indehiscence in flax. In wild plants, currently there are no reliable diagnostic traits to morpho-
ears and pods/capsules disarticulate at maturation and shatter logically discriminate between its wild and domesticated
the seed-dispersal devices or the seeds; in contrast, ears and forms in archaeological remains, the early Turkish finds could
pods/capsules stay intact in the domestic plant. This trait is be either.
the best effective diagnostic indication for recognizing grain- The source of most dates is Radiocarbon CONTEXT da-
crop domestication (i.e., the shift from wild plants to do- tabase (Bohner and Schyle 20022006). Table 4 lists the un-
mesticated plants), which is controlled mostly by a single calibrated and calibrated radiocarbon dates. In an attempt to
major gene locus or two such loci (table 3). simplify understanding of the domestication process, all dates
2. The second diagnostic morphological trait is seed size. in the text are representative dates only and were rounded to
In the wild progenitors the seeds are relatively small, while the nearest 50 years (please refer to table 4 for range of dates).
in domesticated plants they are frequently larger. This trait Periods mentioned in this article, such as Pre-Pottery Neo-
takes longer to develop, it is variable within the plant com- lithic A (PPNA) or Early Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (EPPNB),
munity, it is apparently a later development under domesti-
do not necessarily imply cultural similarities but are used for
cation, and it is not as diagnostic as the first trait. This trait
the convenience of comparing among sites that belong to the
is controlled by various genes and other factors.
same approximate time period.
Additional markers for domesticated traits (e.g., Fuller
2007) are relevant mostly for differentiating between wild and
domesticated traits in living plants. This is apparently much
less so in the archaeobotanical assemblage. Table 2. Cultural-historical sequence for the
During the past decade or so, molecular studies became Southern Levantine Pre-Pottery Neolithic periods
central in research toward understanding the beginning of
Calibrated 14C
agriculture. Whether the mode of domestication was mono- Period and entity/phase years BP
phyletic or polyphyletic, these studies went in two lines
Late Epipaleolithic, Final Natufian 12,50011,700
(Brown et al. 2009). In the first half of this decade, molecular
PPNA 11,60010,500
studies were regarded as supporting monophyletic origin of PPNB:
a single localized event or at least very rare events (e.g., Badr Early 10,50010,100
et al. 2000; Heun et al. 1997; Ozkan et al. 2002). In the second Middle 10,1009500
half, however, such studies were interpreted as supporting Late 95008750
Final/PPNC 87508400
polyphyletic domestication of multiple events in more than Early Pottery Neolithic, Yarmukian 84007600
one location, such as of einkorn wheat (Kilian et al. 2007)
Sources. Goring-Morris and Belfer-Cohen 2011; Kuijt and
and barley (e.g., Molina-Cano et al. 2005; Morrell and Clegg Goring-Morris 2002.
2007). An attempt is made to evaluate the available knowl- Note. PPNA p Pre-Pottery Neolithic A; PPNB p Pre-
edge, crop by crop, for the above-mentioned signs of the Pottery Neolithic B; PPNC p Pre-Pottery Neolithic C.
Weiss and Zohary Founder Crops S239

Figure 1. Distribution of Epipaleolithic and Pre-Pottery Neolithic sites

mentioned in the text.

Cereals In domesticated forms, the kernels tend to be wider compared

with the wild forms.
Wild einkorn is widely distributed over Western Asia and
Einkorn Wheat Triticum monococcum penetrates also into the southern Balkans (Harlan and Zohary
1966; Zohary, Harlan, and Vardi 1969). Its distribution center
Biology. Einkorn is a small plant, rarely more than 70 cm
lies in the Fertile Crescent (i.e., northern Syria, southern Tur-
high, with a relatively low yield, but it survives on poor soils
key, northern Iraq, and adjacent Iran, as well as some parts
where other wheat types usually fail. It is a relatively uniform
of western Anatolia; fig. 2). In these regions, wild einkorn is
diploid (2np2xp14 chromosomes) wheat with characteristic
massively distributed as a component of oak park-forests and
hulled grains and delicate ears and spikelets. Most domesti-
steppelike formations.
cated einkorn varieties produce one grain per spikelet, hence
Heun and colleagues (Heun, Haldorsen, and Vollan 2008;
its name, but cultivars with two grains exist as well (Harlan
Heun et al. 1997) analyzed domesticated and wild einkorn
1981; Schiemann 1948).
from the Fertile Crescent and beyond for amplified fragment
The wild ancestry of domesticated einkorn wheat is well
length polymorphism (AFLP) DNA analysis. According to
established. Domesticated Triticum monococcum is closely re-
their research, wild einkorn wheat was domesticated in the
lated to a group of wild and weedy wheat forms spread over
Karacadag range in southeast Turkey. It also supports the
Southwest Asia and adjacent territories and traditionally re-
assumption of its monophyletic origin. These findings were
ferred to as wild einkorn or Triticum boeoticum. The most
recently supported by Kilian et al. (2007), who found, how-
distinguishing trait between wild einkorn and domesticated
ever, that several domesticate lines arose at the beginning of
einkorn is the mode of seed dispersal. Wild forms have brittle
einkorn cultivation (i.e., that einkorn went through a number
ears, and the individual spikelets disarticulate at maturity to
of independent domestication events). These lines are all part
disperse the seed. In domesticated einkorn the mature ear
of the einkorn gene pool that grows wild in southeastern
remains intact and breaks into individual spikelets only on
pressure (threshing). The shape of the grain is another di-
agnostic character indicating domestication (van Zeist 1976). Archaeobotany. The earliest definite domesticated einkorn
S240 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

Table 3. Recessive mutations that changed wild-type trait into domestic-type trait in the Near East founder crops

No. recessive
Crop Wild-type trait Domestication trait mutations Source
Einkorn wheat Shattering ears Nonshattering ears 1 Love and Craig 1924
Emmer wheat Shattering ears Nonshattering ears 2 Sharma and Waines 1980
Barley Shattering ears Nonshattering ears 2 Takahashi 1955; Zohary 1960:41
Lentil Dehiscent pod Dehiscent pod 1 Ladizinsky 1979
Pea Dehiscent pod Indehiscent pod 1 Waines 1975
Chickpea Dehiscent pod Indehiscent pod 1 Kazan et al. 1993
Bitter vetch Dehiscent pod Indehiscent pod Unknown
Flax Dehiscent capsule Indehiscent capsule 1 Diederichsen and Hammer
1995; Gill and Yermanos
Note. These mutations are responsible for the shift from wild-type seed dispersal to human-dependent crops. There is no conclusive information
yet regarding the situation in bitter vetch.

wheat appears in two EPPNB sites, namely ca. 10,6009900 review, see Feldman, Lupton, and Miller 1995; Zohary 1969)
cal BP Cayonu (van Zeist and de Roller 19911992, 2003) that the domesticated tetraploid turgidum wheats (both hulled
and Cafer Hoyuk (de Moulins 1997), southern Turkey (fig. dicoccum forms and free-threshing durum-type varieties) are
1). In these sites, situated within the present range of distri- closely related to wild wheat native to Southwest Asia and
bution of wild einkorn (fig. 2), numerous charred spikelet traditionally called Triticum dicoccoides (wild emmer wheat).
forks were found showing rough breakage scars. This is annual, predominantly self-pollinated wheat with char-
From these localities, einkorn spreads farther south to Mid- acteristic large and brittle ears and big elongated grains that
dle Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (MPPNB), ca. 10,2009550 cal show a striking similarity to some domesticated emmer and
BP, Tell Aswad near Damascus (van Zeist and Bakker-Heeres durum cultivars.
1982 [1985]) and Jericho (Hopf 1983), where its remains, In the tetraploid turgidum wheats, the most conspicuous
however, are relatively few. Generally, this wheat appears to diagnostic difference between wild and tame is the seed-
be less frequent than the emmer wheat and barley. dispersal mechanism (Zohary 1969; Zohary and Brick 1961).
Wild dicoccoides wheats have brittle ears that shatter on ma-
Emmer and Durum-Type Wheats Triticum turgidum turity into individual spikelets. Each spikelet operates as an
arrowlike device disseminating the seed by inserting them into
Biology. Triticum turgidum is a varied aggregate of domes-
the ground. The wild-type rachis disarticulation and the
ticated and wild tetraploid (2np4xp28 chromosomes)
spikelet morphology reflect specialization in seed dissemi-
wheats. According to their response to threshing, the domestic
turgidum wheats fall into two groups of cultivars that are nation that ensures the survival of the wild forms under wild
recognizable in archaeological remains. conditions. In the human-made system of reaping, threshing,
1. Hulled nonshattering emmer wheat, Triticum turgidum and sowing, this major adaptation broke down, and selection
subsp. dicoccum (traditionally called Triticum dicoccum), in resulted in the evolution of human-dependant nonbrittle
which the products of threshing are the individual spikelets. types. Significantly, the shift from a brittle spike (in wild
The grains remain invested by the glumes and pales. In do- dicoccoides wheats) to a nonbrittle spike (hulled type in
mestic emmer, as in einkorn, threshing results in breaking the domesticated dicoccum wheats) is governed by a single re-
rachis of the ear in its weakest points below each spikelet. cessive mutation in a major gene (table 3). In addition, wild
Emmer represents the primitive situation in domesticated tur- and domesticated forms differ from one another in kernel
gidum wheats. morphology (van Zeist 1976). In domesticated dicoccum and
2. The more advanced free-threshing emmer, which evolved durum forms, the grain tends to be wider and thicker as well
under domestication from hulled emmer. This is a group of as rounder in cross section compared with the wild dicoccoides
intraspecific taxa; its common representative today is durum counterpart.
wheat, T. turgidum conv. durum. The glumes in all these do- Wild emmer, T. turgidum subsp. dicoccoides, is more re-
mesticated tetraploid types are relatively thin. Threshing stricted in its distribution and more confined in its ecology
breaks the glumes at their bases and frees the naked grains. than wild einkorn. Its range covers Israel, Jordan, south-
The rachis is usually uniformly tough. Threshing breaks it western Syria, Lebanon, southeastern Turkey, northern Iraq,
into irregular fragments. and western Iran (fig. 3).
Hulled emmer (T. turgidum subsp. dicoccum) was the prin- At first, molecular studies placed a probable single origin
cipal wheat of Old World agriculture in the Neolithic and of emmer wheat in Turkey. Ozkan and colleagues (Ozkan et
early Bronze Age. al. 2002; Salamini et al. 2002) examined 204 AFLP loci of 99
Genetic and morphological evidence clearly indicates (for wild emmer lines from all over the Fertile Crescent belt and
Weiss and Zohary Founder Crops S241

Table 4. Representative radiocarbon dates

14 13
Site Lab no. C dates BP Cal BP (1j) C Dated material Period
Abu Hureyra OxA-881 8870 100 10,1809790 ... Bone/ovicaprine, burnt PPNB
Abu Hureyra BM-1724R 8020 100 90938710 ... Charcoal PPNB
Ali Kosh B-122721 8540 90 96009440 ... Organic material/carbon PPN
Ali Kosh B-108256 8000 50 90008770 ... Organic material/carbon PPN
Arpachiyah P-585 8064 78 90908770 ... Charcoal/ash Chalcolithic
Arpachiyah BM-1531 6930 60 78307680 ... Charcoal Chalcolithic
Beidha P-1380 9128 103 10,48010,200 ... Charcoal PPNB
Beidha P-1379 8546 100 96309440 ... Pistacia, nuts PPNB
Cafer Hoyuk Ly-4436 9560 190 11,20010,650 ... Charcoal EPPNB
Cafer Hoyuk Ly-4437 8950 80 10,2209920 ... Charcoal EPPNB
Can Hasan I AA-41170 7853 36 87008580 ... Charcoal/juniper Early Chalcolithic
Can Hasan I P-793 6254 78 72707020 ... Charcoal Early Chalcolithic
Can Hasan III HU-11 8584 65 96109490 ... Charcoal Aceramic Neolithic
Can Hasan III HU-9 7874 70 87808580 ... Charcoal Aceramic Neolithic
Cayonu GrN-6243 9320 55 10,59010,420 ... Charcoal EPPNB
Cayonu GrN-6244 8980 80 10,2409930 ... Charcoal EPPNB
Choga Mami BM-483 6846 182 79307560 ... Charcoal Neolithic/Samarra
Gilgal Pta-4588 9920 70 11,47011,230 ... Charcoal PPNA
Gilgal Pta-4585 9710 70 11,23011,080 ... Charcoal PPNA
Jericho P-382 8956 103 10,2309910 ... Charcoal PPNB
Jericho BM-1320 8539 64 95509480 ... Charcoal PPNB
Kissonerga-Mylouthkia OxA-7460 9315 60 10,65010,410 ... ND Cypro-EPPNB
Kissonerga-Mylouthkia AA-33129 9110 70 10,38010,200 ... ND Cypro-EPPNB
Mureybit P-1224 9492 122 10,88010,580 ... Charcoal PPNA
Mureybit Lv-607 10,590 140 12,80012,390 ... Charcoal PPNA
Netiv Hagdud Pta-4557 9780 90 11,32011,090 ... Charcoal PPNA
Netiv Hagdud Pta-4556 9660 70 11,20011,060 ... Charcoal PPNA
Ohalo II RT-1624 20,840 290 25,50024,600 20.60 Charcoal Masraqan
Ohalo II RT-1297 17,500 200 20,95020,350 22.70 Charcoal Masraqan
Parekklisha-Shillourokambos Ly-290 9310 80 10,66010,400 ... ND Cypro-EPPNB
Parekklisha-Shillourokambos Ly-930 8670 80 97409530 ... ND Cypro-EPPNB
Ramad GrN-4426 8210 50 92709030 ... Charcoal PPNB
Ramad GrN-4821 8090 50 91308980 ... Charcoal PPNB
Kastros MC-805 7775 125 87208410 ... ND Cypro-PPNB
Kastros MC-807 7450 120 83908160 . . . ND Cypro-PPNB
Tepe Sabz I-1501 7460 160 84208050 . . . Charcoal Obeid
Tepe Sabz I-1500 5410 160 64005990 . . . Charcoal Obeid
Yiftahel KN 3571 9100 80 10,39010,190 . . . Horsebean seeds MPPNB
Yiftahel RT 736A 8570 130 97409430 . . . Horsebean seeds MPPNB
Note. PPN p Pre-Pottery Neolithic; PPNA p Pre-Pottery Neolithic A; PPNB p Pre-Pottery Neolithic B; EPPNB p Early Pre-Pottery Neolithic
B; MPPNB p Middle Pre-Pottery Neolithic B; ND p unknown.

several dozen different cultivars. They concluded that the 9900 cal BP, Cayonu (van Zeist and de Roller 19911992,
most likely place of origin for emmer wheat is the Karacadag 2003). Here, hundreds of spikelet forks were discovered, all
Mountains in southeastern Turkey. There is, however, still a showing rough breakage scars characteristic of domestic em-
debate regarding the validity of these results and the number mer. Numerous spikelet forks, with similar telltale rough scars,
of possible domestication events as attested by recent molec- are also available from contemporary contexts at Cafer Hoyuk
ular studies (e.g., Brown et al. 2009; Feldman and Kislev (de Moulins 1997). These finds indicate that at EPPNB, em-
2007). As Feldman and Kislev (2007) pointed out recently, mer domestication must have been well under way in the
the data of Mori et al. (2003), Ozkan et al. (2002, 2005), and Fertile Crescent. We wish to have more data before being fully
Luo et al. (2007) may indicate a diphyletic or polyphyletic convinced about the domestication status of the EPPNB Cyp-
origin of domesticated emmer, possibly in the Karacadag area, riot find from Kissonerga-Mylouthkia and Shillourokambos
as well as in the southern Levant.
(Murray 2003; Willcox 2000).
Archaeobotany. Hulled emmer wheat. The earliest fully con- To date, the earliest conspicuous grain-size increase is re-
vincing sign to date of domesticated emmer comes from the ported from EPPNB Tell Aswad, near Damascus, Syria (van
numerous spikelet forks retrieved from EPPNB, ca. 10,600 Zeist and Bakker-Heeres 1982 [1985]). Here dicoccum-like
S242 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

Figure 2. Distribution of wild einkorn wheat Triticum monococcum subsp.

baeoticum (pTriticum baeoticum). The area in which wild einkorn is
massively spread is shaded. Dots represent additional sites outside the
main area harboring mainly weedy forms (Zohary, Hopf, and Weiss 2011).

plump kernels start to appear in the lowest habitation level, cereals, and it prevails quantitatively over domesticated barley
Ia (ca. 10,50010,200 cal BP; Willcox 2005), and also in and domesticated einkorn.
MPPNB phases II (ca. 10,2009550 cal BP). In these phases, Free-threshing emmer wheats. Free-threshing wheat forms,
however, no rachis segments have been retrieved. Significantly, identifiable by their rachis fragments, make their appearance
no wild dicoccoides-like narrow kernels were retrieved from in Southwest Asia soon after the firm establishment of emmer
Tell Aswad. As van Zeist and Bakker-Heeres emphasize, the wheat cultivation (for review, see Maier 1996). They are al-
continuous presence of morphologically discernible dicoccum ready present among the plant remains of Late Pre-Pottery
kernels, the total absence (from the very start) of dicoccoides- Neolithic B (LPPNB), ca. 96008600 cal BP, Can Hasan III,
like material, and the extreme dryness (less than 200 mm Turkey (Hillman 1972), and of MPPNB, ca. 10,2009550 cal
annual rainfall) suggest that emmer wheat was introduced BP, Tell Aswad (van Zeist and Bakker-Heeres 1982 [1985])
into the Damascus Basin as a domesticated cereal not later and LPPNB, ca. 94508600 cal BP, Tell Bouqras (van Zeist
than the second half of the eleventh millennium BP. From and Waterbolk-van Rooijen 1985), Syria. They also occur in
ca. 10,1008700 cal BP onward, charred grains that morpho- the MPPNB/LPPNB, ca. 93009000 cal BP, Catalhoyuk, Tur-
logically conform with dicoccum appear also at Tell Abu key (Fairbairn, Near, and Martinoli 2005; Fairbairn et al. 2002;
Hureyra, northeast Syria, again with no rachis segments (Hill- Helbaek 1964), and Tell Ramad, Syria (van Zeist and Bakker-
man 1975, 2000; Hillman, Colledge, and Harris 1989), and Heeres 1982 [1985]).
in contemporary PPNB Can Hasan III and Catalhoyuk East,
Konya plain, Turkey (Fairbairn, Near, and Martinoli 2005;
Barley Hordeum vulgare
Fairbairn et al. 2002, 2007; Helbaek 1964, 1969; Hillman 1972,
1978), Ali Kosh, Deh Luran Plain, Khuzistan (Helbaek 1969), Biology. Domesticated barley Hordeum vulgare subsp. vul-
and Jericho, Israel (Hopf 1983). From the very beginnings of gare is one of the main cereals of the belt of Mediterranean
agriculture in Southwest Asia, emmer is one of the principal agriculture and a founder crop of Old World Neolithic food
Weiss and Zohary Founder Crops S243

Figure 3. Distribution of the wild tetraploid emmer wheat Triticum tur-

gidum subsp. dicoccoides (pTriticum dicoccoides) and Timopheevs wheat
Triticum timopheevi subsp. araraticum (pTriticum araraticum; Zohary,
Hopf, and Weiss 2011).

production. All over this area barley is a common companion lateral spikelets are reduced and are grainless and awnless.
of wheat, but in comparison with the latter, it is regarded as Each ear thus contains only two rows of fertile spikelets.
an inferior staple. Yet barley withstands drier and warmer 2. Six-rowed forms, traditionally called Hordeum hexasti-
environments, poorer soils, and some salinity. Because of these chum, in which the three spikelets in each triplet bear seed
qualities, it has been the principal grain produced in nu- and usually all are awned. Ears in these varieties therefore
merous areas and an important element of the human diet. have six rows of fertile spikelets.
Barley is also the main cereal used for beer fermentation in Wild barley is spread over the East Mediterranean Basin
the Old World. The crop was and still is a most important and the West Asiatic countries (fig. 4), penetrating as far as
feed supplement for domestic animals. Turkmenia, Afghanistan, Ladakh, and Tibet. Wild barley oc-
Barley is a diploid (2np2xp14 chromosomes) and pre- cupies both primary and segetal human-made habitats. Its
dominantly self-pollinated crop. All cultivars have nonbrittle distribution center lies in the Fertile Crescent. In this area,
ears, a sharp contrast with wild barleys, in which ears are wild barley is continuously and massively distributed. It con-
always brittle. Nonbrittleness in domesticated barley is gov- stitutes an important annual component of open herbaceous
erned by a recessive mutation in either one of two tightly formations, and it is particularly common in the summer-
linked brittle genes (table 3). dry deciduous oak park-forest belt east, north, and west of
Barley ears have a unique structure. They contain triplets the Syrian Desert and the Euphrates Basin and on the slopes
of spikelets arranged alternately on the rachis. According to facing the Jordan Rift Valley. From here, it spills over the drier
the morphology of the spikelets, domestic barley can be di- steppes and semideserts.
vided into two principal types. The origins of barley are still not fully understood. Early
1. Two-rowed forms, traditionally called Hordeum dis- crossing experiments and chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) typing
tichum, in which only the median spikelet in each triplet is have suggested that barley is of one, two, or at most a very
fertile and usually armed with a prominent awn. The two few major domestication events (Zohary 1999). Later, Badr
S244 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

Figure 4. Distribution of wild barley Hordeum vulgare subsp. spontaneum

(pHordeum spontaneum). The area in which wild barley is massively
spread is shaded. Dots represent additional sites mainly of weedy forms.
Wild barley extends eastward beyond the boundaries of this map as far
as Tibet (Zohary, Hopf, and Weiss 2011).

et al. (2000) examined 400 AFLP loci in wild and domesticated replaced by nonbrittle broad-seeded barley forms. Hulled bar-
lines and found that barley is probably of a monophyletic ley has been found in Cyprus from the EPPNB, ca. 10,650
origin in the Israel-Jordan area. However, in recent studies 9550 cal BP (Murray 2003; Willcox 2000).
that included sequencing of seven genetic loci, Morell and Domesticated barley continued to be a principal grain crop
Clegg (2007; as well as other molecular studies by Molina- in Southwest Asia throughout the Neolithic period. Its re-
Cano et al. [2005], [Saisho and Puruggana 2007], and Wang, mains have been recovered side by side with wheats in most
Yu, and Ding [2009]) suggested two origins: one within the Neolithic sites. Shortly afterward, we are faced with more
Fertile Crescent and a second farther east, possibly at the advanced forms (i.e., six-rowed hulled as well as naked cul-
eastern edge of the Iranian Plateau. Apparently, European and tivars of barley).
North African barley is largely connected to the Fertile Cres- In conclusion, the archaeological finds indicate that barley
cent, while much of Asian barley is connected to the eastern is a founder crop of the Levantine Neolithic agriculture and
center. a close companion of emmer and einkorn wheats. The ar-
chaeological remains make it also possible to trace the main
Archaeobotany. Unmistakable remains of nonbrittle barley
developments of barley under domestication: first the fixation
(i.e., forms that could survive only under domestication)
of nonbrittle mutations and subsequently the emergence of
came from phase II (ca. 10,2009550 cal BP) in Tell Aswad
six-rowed hulled and naked types.
(van Zeist and Bakker-Heeres 1982 [1985]) and from ca. 9450
to 9300 cal BP Jarmo, Iraq. In the latter site (Braidwood 1960;
Helbaek 1959a, 1960, 1966), Helbaek was the first to show Pulses
two-rowed barley remains still closely resembling wild spon-
taneum but also displaying a nonbrittle rachis. Similar finds
Lentil Lens culinaris
were reported and verified by Hopf (1983) in PPN Jericho.
Indicative clues come from ca. 96008750 cal BP Ali Kosh Biology. Lentil ranks among the oldest and the most-
(Helbaek 1969), where the brittle spontaneum-like material appreciated grain legumes of the Old World (Smartt 1990;
characterized the lower layers, and in the upper strata it was Zohary 1995). In Mediterranean agriculture it is a character-
Weiss and Zohary Founder Crops S245

Figure 5. Distribution of wild lentil Lens culinaris subsp. orientalis (pLens

orientalis; Zohary, Hopf, and Weiss 2011). Wild lentil extends eastward
beyond the boundaries of this map into north Afghanistan and adjacent
Central Asia.

istic companion of wheat and barley. Compared with the in seed size. The pods indehiscence is governed by a single
cereals, yields are relatively low, but lentil stands out as one mutation (table 3), the nondehiscent condition being recessive
of the most nutritious and tasty pulses. The protein content to the dehiscent one.
is about 25%, and lentil constitutes an important meat sub- The wild progenitor of the domesticated plant, subsp. cu-
stitute in peasant communities. linaris, shows close morphological, cytogenetic, and molecular
The domesticated crop Lens culinaris (psyn. L. culinaris affinities to wild subsp. orientalis, native to the East Medi-
subsp. culinaris; Lens esculenta) manifests a wide range of terranean Basin and Southwest and Central Asia (fig. 5; Fer-
morphological variation in both its vegetative parts and its guson et al. 1998, 2000; Ladizinsky 1993; van Oss, Aron, and
reproductive parts. Like many other annual grain crops, lentil Ladizinsky 1997; Zohary and Hopf 1973). In fact, subsp. ori-
is predominantly self-pollinated, diploid (2np2xp14), and entalis looks like a miniaturized subsp. culinaris but bears pods
interfertile, or largely so. that burst open immediately after maturation.
Conventionally, lentil cultivars are grouped in two inter- Lens orientalis grows primarily on shallow stony soils and
grading clusters of seed sizes: (a) small-seeded lentils (subsp. in gravelly hillsides in open or steppelike habitats. It also
microsperma), with small pods and small 36-mm seeds, and enters disturbed localities such as stony patches or stone heaps
(b) large-seeded lentils (subsp. macrosperma), with larger pods bordering orchards and cereal cultivation. In most parts of
and with seeds attaining 69 mm in diameter. Macrosperma its distribution, L. orientalis is rather inconspicuous or even
forms are to be regarded as more advanced; they start to rare. It usually forms small scattered colonies. However, on
appear rather late in archaeological sequences, only in the stony slopes of Mount Hermon, the Anti-Lebanon, the oak
third millennium BP. The occurrence of pods, or their frag- park-forest belt of southern Turkey, and the western escarp-
ments, is extremely rare. ments of the Zagros range, L. orientalis is occasionally locally
As we described in the introduction to this article, the first common at 1,2001,600 m altitude (Ladizinsky and Abbo
sign of domestication is the retention of the seed in the pod 1993). Frequently it grows side by side with bitter vetch (Vicia
(pods indehiscence) and the second is the gradual increase ervilia).
S246 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

As argued by Zohary (1999), the rich chromosomal poly- over, it is doubtful whether comparative morphology will pro-
morphism found in the wild progenitor compared with the vide us with such clues in the future. Yet once Neolithic
chromosomal uniformity in the cultivars suggests that this agriculture is soundly established, cultivation of lentil is part
pulse crop was taken into domestication only once or very of it. The available archaeological information on early re-
few times. mains of lentil comes from the Levant, the very territory over
Ladizinsky (1999) examined cpDNA restriction patterns. which wild L. orientalis is distributed.
Using those results and additional information from cross-
ability and chromosomal architecture led him to conclude
Pea Pisum sativum
that Lens originated from the territories around southern Tur-
key and north Syria. The same areas were also mentioned in Biology. The pea ranks among the oldest grain legumes of
later recombinant DNA studies conducted by Sonnante and the Old World. From its early beginnings, this crop has been
coworkers (Sonnante, Galasso, and Pignone 2003; Sonnante, a close companion of wheat and barley domestication (Zohary
Hammer, and Pignone 2009). and Hopf 1973). Pea Pisum sativum is well adapted to both
warm Mediterranean-type and cool temperate conditions. In
Archaeobotany. Lentils seem to be closely associated with peasant communities in Southwest Asia, the Mediterranean
the start of wheat and barley domestication in the Levant. Basin, temperate Europe, Ethiopia, and northwestern India,
Very possibly this legume was introduced into domestication it constitutes an important source of protein for human con-
in this region together with emmer, einkorn, and barley; that sumption. The protein content of the seed is about 22%.
is, it should be regarded as a founder crop of Old World Today, pea ranks among the worlds most important pulses
Neolithic agriculture (Zohary and Hopf 1973). (Davies 1995; Smartt 1990).
At the end of the tenth and in the ninth millennia BP, Pea is a diploid (2np2xp14 chromosomes) and predom-
charred seeds of lentil appear in most of the PPNB early inantly self-pollinated crop. As a consequence of the self-
farming villages in Southwest Asia. The seeds are still similar pollination system, variation in pea is molded in numerous
in size to those of wild forms (2.53.0 mm in diameter) and true breeding lines. Domesticated pea shows a wide range of
usually do not occur in quantities. Yet they are always asso- morphological variation. As we already described, the first
ciated with domesticated wheat and barley. Among the richest sign of domestication is the retention of the seed in the pod
sites are ca. 10,2009550 cal BP Tell Aswad (van Zeist and (pods indehiscence), and the second is the gradual increase
Bakker-Heeres 1982 [1985]), ca. 10,2008700 cal BP Tell Abu in seed size, from 34 to 68 mm in diameter. The pods
Hureyra (Hillman 1975, 2000, 2001; Hillman, Colledge, and indehiscence is governed by a single mutation (table 3), the
Harris 1989), ca. 10,2509500 cal BP Jericho (Hopf 1983), nondehiscent condition being recessive to the dehiscent one.
ca. 10,6009900 cal BP Cayonu (van Zeist 1972; van Zeist A third character here is the reduction of the relatively thick
and de Roller 19911992, 2003), and ca. 96008800 cal BP texture and rough surface of the seed coat, resulting in the
Ali Kosh, Iran (Helbaek 1969). breakdown of the germination inhibition of wild peas.
A large hoard of carbonized lentils was recovered from the The crop complex of P. sativum contains the variable col-
MPPNB, ca. 10,4009450 cal BP, Yiftahel, north Israel. The lection of pea cultivars and its closely related wild races. The
size of the hoard (ca. 1,400,000 seeds) and its contamination wild forms of P. sativum fall into two main morphological
by the fruits of the weed Galium tricornutum, a characteristic types (fig. 6): (i) Pisum sativum subsp. elatius, a tall maquis
weed in lentil cultivation, indicate that there and then lentil type that thrives as a sporadic climber in maquis formations
was already domesticated (Garfinkel, Kislev, and Zohary in the relatively mesic parts of the Mediterranean region and
1988). Large amounts of lentil seeds were discovered also in as a weed, and (ii) Pisum sativum var. pumilio (known for-
somewhat later phases of the Neolithic settlements in South- mally as Pisum humile), a shorter, more xeric steppe type
west Asia: in ca. 94509300 cal BP Jarmo, Iraq (Braidwood geographically restricted to southwest Asia. It occurs in the
1960; Helbaek 1959a, 1960, 1966); in ca. 92509000 cal BP deciduous oak park-forest belt and in open steppelike her-
Tell Ramad, Syria (van Zeist and Bakker-Heeres 1982 [1985]); baceous vegetation formations characteristic of the Fertile
in ca. 82007800 cal BP ceramic Hacilar (Helbaek 1970); and Crescent (i.e., in the same zone that harbors the wild pro-
in ca. 83507750 cal BP Tepe Sabz, Deh Luran Valley, Iran genitors of wheat, barley, lentil, and flax). From such primary
(Helbaek 1970). The Tepe Sabz lentils had already attained habitats humile peas spill over to secondary habitats and oc-
4.2 mm in diameter. This is an obvious development under casionally infest cereal cultivation.
domestication. Lentils are repeatedly encountered in the early The available evidence from the living plants implicates the
European and Southwest Asian Pottery Neolithic sites situated wild humile peas as the progenitor stock for pea domestica-
far outside the distribution area of L. orientalis, suggesting tion. Humile peas show closer morphological similarities than
that these lentils were already domesticated. elatius peas to the domesticated aggregate and grow in steppe-
In summary, archaeological remains do not provide us yet like habitats (i.e., under open conditions similar to the cul-
with direct diagnostic traits (such as indehiscent pod remains) tivated field). Within humile peas, the Turkish and the south
for a determination of the start of lentil domestication. More- Levant forms having chromosomes identical to those present
Weiss and Zohary Founder Crops S247

Figure 6. Distribution of the two main wild races of pea Pisum sativum:
(i) steppe-type humile forms and (ii) maquis-type elatius forms (Zo-
hary, Hopf, and Weiss 2011). In the West Mediterranean Basin, wild
elatius peas extend beyond the boundaries of the map and reach as far
as Spain.

in the cultivars should be regarded as the primary ancestral later Neolithic phases in the Levant. Large quantities of car-
stock. This is also supported by cpDNA comparisons. Yet it bonized seed accompany the domesticated wheats and barley
is very likely that the two subspecies contributed some genes in MPPNB/LPPNB Catalhoyuk (Fairbairn, Near, and Mar-
to the cultivated ensemble through occasional secondary hy- tinoli 2005; Fairbairn et al. 2002; Helbaek 1964) and Final
bridization (Ben Zeev and Zohary 1973; Palmer, Jorgensen, PPNB/PPNC Erbaba (van Zeist and Buitenhuis 1983).
and Thompson 1985). In contrast to those of the wheats and barley, the earliest
Nasiri and coworkers (Nasiri, Haghnazari, and Saba 2009) archaeological remains of pea do not provide us with simple
have examined SSR (microsatellite) markers of wild peas and traits for a foolproof recognition of domestication (Zohary
cultivars. They have found that these markers effectively dif- and Hopf 1973). In peas under domestication there is a gen-
ferentiate between the cultivars and the wild accessions. In eral trend toward an increase in the size of the seed and the
addition, Pisum sativum subsp. fulvum was found to be the length of the hilum, but such changes occurred gradually in
closest relative of the cultivars, but it should be noted that the course of domestication. In early finds there is a consid-
subsp. humile was not tested in this study. erable overlapping in the dimensions of wild and domesti-
Archaeobotany. Remains of peas are present in many of the cated forms. Perhaps the most reliable indication of domes-
PPNB farming villages that developed in the Fertile Crescent tication in peas is provided by the surface of the seed coat.
arc from 10,500 cal BP years onward. Some of the earliest Wild peas are characterized by a rough or granular surface,
finds were retrieved from ca. 10,2009550 cal BP Tell Aswad while domesticated varieties have smooth seed coats. How-
in south Syria (van Zeist and Bakker-Heeres 1982 [1985]), ever, seed coats survive only very rarely, and if they do not,
ca. 10,6009900 cal BP Cayonu in southeast Turkey (van Zeist it is impossible to ascertain whether the material retrieved
and de Roller 19911992, 2003), ca. 10,2509500 cal BP PPNB represents wild or domesticated forms. The lower levels (ca.
Jericho (Hopf 1983), and Ain Ghazal, Jordan (Rollefson et 10,6009900 cal BP) of Cayonu (van Zeist and de Roller 1991
al. 1985). Much richer remains were available from somewhat 1992) retained some fragments of rough-surface wild seed
S248 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

coats. Wild-type seed coats occur even much later in Pottery remains are the only material recovered to date in archaeo-
Neolithic Hacilar (Helbaek 1970). Significantly, the remains logical excavations.
from MPPNB/LPPNB Catalhoyuk (Helbaek 1964) and The domesticated chickpea C. arietinum is a member of a
Bouqras (van Zeist and Waterbolk-van Rooijen 1985) and leguminous genus comprising some 40 species centered in
those from LPPNB Cayonu and Can Hasan I (Renfrew 1968) Central and Western Asia (Cole, Maxted, and van der Maesen
include a single seed with smooth seed coat characteristic of 1998; van der Maesen 1972). The domesticated pulse shows
domesticated varieties. This smoothness suggests that do- close morphological affinities and an almost identical seed
mestication of peas in the Levant is as old, or almost as old, protein profile to two wild species of chickpea: Cicer echi-
as the domestication of wheat and barley. nospermum and Cicer reticulatum. These two wild chickpeas
Although it is currently less definite, the archaeological evi- are diploid self-pollinated annuals known only from south-
dence establishes pea as one of the founder crops of the Le- eastern Turkey. The available morphological and cytogenetic
vantine Neolithic agriculture. Since this early start, pea seems evidence implicates C. reticulatum as the wild ancestor of the
to be a consistent and common element of food production
domesticated plant (Ladizinsky and Adler 1976), and it is
and a common companion of wheats and barley. The evidence
therefore referred to as C. arietinum subsp. reticulatum. Be-
from the living plants complements the archaeological finds.
cause the distribution of the wild progenitor is restricted to
The wild humile forms, with chromosomes and cpDNA iden-
southeast Turkey (fig. 7), the area of origin of the domesti-
tical to those prevailing in the cultivated crop, should be
cated crop can be outlined there.
regarded as the closest wild relatives from which this pulse
crop evolved.
Archaeobotany. Like lentil and pea, chickpea seems to be
closely associated with the start of food production in the
Chickpea Cicer arietinum
Levant, but unlike them it is much rarer in Neolithic contexts.
Biology. Chickpea is a valued grain legume of the traditional Earlier chickpea seeds were found in EPPNB, ca. 10,600
agriculture in the Mediterranean Basin and Western Asia as 10,250 cal BP, Tell el-Kerkh, northwest Syria (Tanno and Will-
well as India and Ethiopia. It is a member of the grain en- cox 2006). A few of these seeds are somewhat larger and
semble found in Levantine Neolithic and Bronze Age remains. plumper than the wild progenitor, and the authors argue
Chickpea is adapted to a subtropical or Mediterranean-type (Tanno and Willcox 2006:200) that this might indicate that
climate; it grows almost exclusively in the postrainy season they are an intermediate stage between wild and domesti-
on moisture stored in the soil. Like lentil and pea, chickpea cated chickpeas. Some charred chickpea seeds were recovered
(with a seed protein content of some 20%) constitutes an from EPPNB, ca. 10,6009900 cal BP, Cayonu (van Zeist 1972;
important meat substitute in peasant communities. van Zeist and de Roller 19911992). A few more were found
Domesticated chickpea Cicer arietinum, like all other eight in the MPPNB level of Tell Abu Hureyra, northern Syria
founder crops, is a predominantly self-pollinated annual crop (Hillman 1975, 2000), and Askl Hoyuk (van Zeist and de
with pods containing one to two seeds. The cultivars show a Roller 1995) in Turkey. The seeds from these sites correspond
wide range of variation in size, color, and shape of the seed
in size to those of C. reticulatum. Because these sites are
and in the size and form of leaves and flowers. All domes-
situated within (or close to) the very restricted geographic
ticated varieties are diploid (2np2xp16 chromosomes) and
distribution area of the wild progenitor, it is difficult to be
interfertile. Chickpea landraces are grouped into two inter-
sure whether they represent wild or domestic plants. The seeds
connected clusters (Smartt 1990; Smithson, Thompson, and
retrieved from MPPNB Jericho (Hopf 1983) and Ain Ghazal
Summerfield 1985). Large-seeded varieties (known as Ka-
(Rollefson et al. 1985) and those from LPPNB Ramad near
buli type) with relatively smooth, rounded, light-colored seed
coats and pale cream flowers predominate in the Mediter- Damascus (van Zeist and Bakker-Heeres 1982 [1985]) very
ranean countries and Southwest Asia. Varieties producing probably represent domesticated forms. The latter sites lie far
small wrinkled seeds (Desi type) with dark-colored seed away from the territory of the wild progenitor, and the spec-
coats and usually purple flowers prevail in the eastern and imens from Jericho seem to have smooth seed coats.
southern parts of the distribution area of the crop (i.e., in The evidence from the living plants and the plant remains
India, Afghanistan, and Ethiopia). discovered in archaeological excavations indicate that C.
As in most other seed legumes, the conspicuous features arietinum belongs to the early Neolithic grain-crop assemblage
of evolution under domestication in chickpea are the reten- of the Levant. Archaeological data are still limited and less
tion of seeds in the pods (pods indehiscence) and the gradual definite, but in this legume, the delimitation of the place of
increase in seed size, from 3.5 to 6.0 mm and more. The pods origin is relatively simple: the wild progenitor of the domes-
indehiscence is governed by a single mutation (table 3). An- ticated chickpea is endemic to the central part of Fertile Cres-
other change under domestication is the development of a cent. Here, very likely, this pulse was first brought into do-
smooth seed coat and the reduction of its thickness. Seed mestication.
Weiss and Zohary Founder Crops S249

Figure 7. Distribution of wild chickpea Cicer arietinum subsp. reticulatum

(pCicer reticulatum; Zohary, Hopf, and Weiss 2011).

Fiber and Oil Plants Eurasia (Durrant 1976). In antiquity, flax fibers were the prin-
cipal vegetable fiber used for weaving textiles in Europe and
Western Asia. The seed contains about 40% oil, and in peasant
Flax Linum usitatissimum communities linseed was used as a source for edible oil and
Biology. Flax Linum usitatissimum is an annual crop with high-grade lighting oil.
characteristic slender strong stems and rounded capsules that The fibers for spinning are obtained from the tall stems,
in domesticated forms do not dehisce but retain the oval which are harvested before the maturation of the seed. Tra-
compressed shining seed. The crop is diploid (2np2xp30 ditionally, they were first dried and then immersed (wetted)
chromosomes) and predominantly self-pollinated. Conse- in water to allow the microbial decomposition (retting) of
quently, variation has been molded in the form of numerous the pectin connecting the fibers with other cells and tissues
true breeding lines and aggregates of landraces. Two special- of the stem. After retting, the stems were dried, and the fibers
izations are apparent: (i) oil varieties, which are relatively (averaging 4 cm in length) were separated by pounding
short (3070 cm) and branched and usually bear large seeds, (breaking) and combing.
and (ii) fiber varieties, which are taller and sparsely branched Domesticated flax L. usitatissimum is most closely related
and usually produce small seeds. Transitional forms, culti- to wild Linum bienne (syn. Linum angustifolium). These two
vated for both oil and fiber, occur as well. flaxes have the same chromosome number (see above), in-
Flax was a principal oil and fiber source in the Old World tercross readily, and are fully interfertile (Gill and Yermanos
and probably the earliest domesticated plant used for textiles. 1967). Linum biennewith its characteristic strong branches,
Until recently, flax was extensively cultivated in vast areas of blue flowers, and dehiscent capsulesis widely distributed
S250 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

over West Europe, the Mediterranean Basin, North Africa, 9900 cal BP Tell Mureybit (van Zeist and Casparie 1968).
Southwest Asia, Iran, and Caucasia (fig. 8). Some wild forms Soon after, seeds of flax were found in many of the PPNB
are annual, and others are biennial or perennial; all are pre- farming villages that appeared in the Fertile Crescent from
dominantly self-pollinated. Linum bienne grows mainly in wet 10,500 cal BP onward (fig. 1). Some of the earlier finds come
places such as moist grassy areas, springs, seepage areas on from ca. 10,6009900 cal BP Cayonu, Turkey (van Zeist 1972;
rocky slopes, moist clay soils, and marshy lands. On the basis van Zeist and de Roller 19911992, 2003); ca. 10,2009550
of its close morphological and cytogenetic affinities to the cal BP Tell Aswad, near Damascus, Syria (van Zeist and
domesticated crop, L. bienne is identified as the wild progen- Bakker-Heeres 1982 [1985]); Ali Kosh, Iran (Helbaek 1969);
itor of L. usitatissimum (Diederichsen and Hammer 1995). Jericho, Israel (Hopf 1983); and Ain Ghazal, Jordan (Rol-
The main changes under domestication are the shift to non- lefson et al. 1985). The seeds are still small, similar in size to
splitting capsules and the increase of seed size (like in many those of wild bienne forms, yet they are almost always asso-
grain crops) as well as the selection for higher oil yield or ciated with domesticated wheats and barley.
longer stems with a high amount of long fibers. Fragments of a capsule from ca. 10,2509500 cal BP
Phylogenetic evidence from modern accessions (Allaby et MPPNB Jericho (Hopf 1983) is probably the earliest indi-
al. 2005; Fu and Allaby 2010) gives indications that (i) there cation we have today of domesticated flax. Another indication
was a single domestication event for flax and (ii) the oil- of early flax domestication comes from linseed remains re-
producing variety was domesticated, suggesting that domes- covered from LPPNB, ca. 92509000 cal BP, levels of Tell
tication selected for the larger oil-rich seeds rather than its
Ramad, Syria. The calculated size of the seed from this site,
corrected for charring shrinkage, ranges from 3.2 to 4.1 mm
Archaeobotany. Flax was apparently used by humans already in length. This is already within the size class of the L. usi-
before its domestication. Recently, twisted and dyed flax fibers tatissimum seed, the lower limit of which lies at 3.0 mm. It
were reported in Upper Paleolithic Dzudzuana Cave, Georgia is therefore an attractive indication for flax domestication
(ca. 30,000 years old; Bergfjord et al. 2010; Kvavadze et al. under rain-dependent conditions before ca. 8600 cal BP (van
2009, 2010). The oldest wild linseed remains retrieved from Zeist and Bakker-Heeres 1975). Such domesticated linseeds
archaeological sites in Southwest Asia come from ca. 10,900 were found in Pottery Neolithic Nahal Zehora, Mount Car-

Figure 8. Distribution of wild flax Linum usitatissimum subsp. bienne

(pLinum bienne; Zohary, Hopf, and Weiss 2011).
Weiss and Zohary Founder Crops S251

mel, Israel, ca. 81507850 cal BP (Kislev and Hartmann, The earliest definite domestic forms of barley and lentil
forthcoming). In the Mesopotamian Basin, linseed sizes in ca. first appear during the MPPNB. In this period, domesticated
84006000 cal BP Tell Sabz, Iran (Helbaek 1969), and in barley is present in Aswad (van Zeist and Bakker-Heeres 1982
Halafian Arpachiya (Helbaek 1959b) are even bigger (4.74.8 [1985]) and later on (still in the MPPNB) in Jarmo (Helbaek
mm long). As argued by Helbaek, these large seeds indicate 1969). Domesticated lentil appears in MPPNB Yiftahel (Gar-
advanced domestication and demonstrate that flax was part finkel, Kislev, and Zohary 1988).
of the irrigated grain agriculture system that evolved in this The earliest domesticated flax was retrieved from MPPNB
region. In Choga Mami, Iraq, Helbaek (1972) reports a rare Jericho (Hopf 1983) and later in LPPNB Tell Ramad (van
find in the earlier, ca. 79507550 cal BP, stratum, which be- Zeist and Bakker-Heeres 1982 [1985]) and Nahal Hemar, Is-
came frequent during the following one, dated to the second rael (Schick 1988).
half of the eighth millennium BP. Linseed also appears in The evidence regarding the remaining three founder
several later Southwest Asian Neolithic and Bronze Age sites. cropschickpea, pea, and bitter vetchis as yet inconclusive.
Remains of flax textiles also make an early appearance. The The geographical boundaries of the first group of domesti-
best examples come from the drier parts of Southwest Asia, cated plants therefore focus on a rather restricted part of the
where because of low humidity, woven material survived with- Fertile Crescent (i.e., from southeastern Turkey in the north
out carbonization. Pieces of exquisitely woven linen were dis- to Israel in the south).
covered among PPNB (beginning of the ninth millennium We see now (and see Zeder 2011 for details and references)
BP) remains in Nahal Hemar cave near the south tip of the the first wave of animal domestication (all herbivores: goat,
Dead Sea, Israel (Schick 1988). A single piece of linen was sheep, cow, and pig) more or less at the same time as early
found in Neolithic (eighth millennium BP) Fayum, Egypt plant domestication. It is possible, therefore, that the remains
(Caton-Thompson and Gardner 1934). of food processing for human foodstalks and inflores-
The available archaeological evidence clearly suggests that cenceswere used for animal feed of the emerging Neolithic
flax belongs to the first group of grain crops that started culture.
agriculture in the Levant during the MPPNB. The gradual At present, no agreement prevails among researchers and
increase in seed size and the use of linen indicate that flax between research disciplines regarding the mode of origin of
domestication was very probably already practiced in the the first wave of the Southwest Asian grain crops (einkorn
PPNB Levant as attested first by MPPNB capsules and then wheat, emmer wheat, barley, lentil, pea, chickpea, bitter vetch,
by LPPNB seeds and linen textile. The evidence from the living and flax). Was it of monophyletic origin (derived from the
plants shows that wild bienne forms are widespread in the arc same ancestral taxon representing a single event of domes-
and fully supports a Fertile Crescent domestication. tication) or of polyphyletic derivation (resulting from several
ancestral taxa representing several independent events)?
The accumulated morphological, anatomical, and cytoge-
netic information seems to support monophyletic speciation
This article deals with current biological and archaeobotanical as the plausible mode of origin (Zohary 1996, 1999). Im-
information from Southwest Asia (fig. 1) in an attempt to portant in domestication is the interaction between annaulity,
identify the earliest finds of domesticated grain crops. If we reproductive biology, and self-pollination and selection; self-
adopt the criteria suggested in the beginning of this article, pollination is significant because it causes the plant com-
we can now separate the appearance of the eight founder munity to be built of almost only pure inbred lines. The
crops into several distinguishable groups and dates. combination of selfing and selection of inbred lines further
From the group of eight Southwest Asian founder crops, supports this notion because it causes the selection toward
two crops seem to appear earlier as cultivated wild plants. domestic types to be efficient and fast.
These pioneer crops are (i) wild barley, found in PPNA As far as the molecular research goes, however, there are
Gilgal, and (ii) wild lentil, found in PPNA Jerf el-Ahmar and currently two views based on analytical as well as methodo-
in PPNA Netiv Hagdud (Weiss, Kislev, and Hartmann 2006). logical perspectives. Some (e.g., Badr et al. 2000; Heun et al.
Some lines of evidence suggest that cultivation of wild ein- 1997; Ozkan et al. 2002) support a monophyletic origin, while
korn, wild emmer, wild barley, wild rye, and wild lentil might others (e.g., Kilian et al. 2007; Molina-Cano et al. 2005; Mor-
have been practiced at PPNA Jerf el Ahmar and Djade, north- rell and Clegg 2007) support a polyphyletic one. It seems that
ern Syria (Willcox, Fornite, and Herveux 2008). this major research question will get more attention in the
From the group of founder crops, the earliest definite do- near future. No doubt the research avenue of molecular anal-
mesticated plants are einkorn wheat and emmer wheat from ysis of domesticated crops and their origin is a fast-growing
two EPPNB sites in Turkey, Cafer Hoyuk (de Moulins 1997) field that has not yet reached its climax.
and Cayonu (van Zeist 1972; van Zeist and de Roller 1991 Although it is beyond the scope of this article, it is im-
1992, 2003). Unfortunately, study of the third possible site in portant to mention the relatively new data available from
this cluster, Nevali Cori (Pasternak 1998), was published only Cyprus (e.g., Peltenburg et al. 2000, 2001; Vigne 2011; Vigne
as a preliminary publication and therefore remains uncertain. et al. 2000; Willcox 2000). It is apparent that already during
S252 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

the EPPNB, human pioneers crossed the sea and settled the plant seed storage at Neolithic Catalhoyuk East, Turkey. Vegetation
island, bringing with them the Neolithic culture. These finds History and Archaeobotany 16:467479.
Fairbairn, A., J. Near, and D. Martinoli. 2005. Macrobotanical in-
hint that the beginning of agriculture on the mainland, as vestigations of the north, south and KOPAL areas at Catalhoyuk.
attested in this article, was transferred almost immediately In Inhabiting Catalhoyuk: reports from the 19951999 seasons. I.
(on an archaeological timescale) outside the core area. Cyprus, Hodder, ed. Pp. 137201. Cambridge/Ankara: McDonald Institute
as an isolated phenomenon, teaches us the pace of the bio- for Archaeological Research/British Institute of Archaeology at An-
logical and cultural shifts from wild to domesticated plants kara.
Feldman, M., and M. E. Kislev. 2007. Domestication of emmer wheat
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Feldman, M., F. G. H. Lupton, and T. E. Miller. 1995. Wheats. In
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Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011 S255

The Early Process of Mammal Domestication

in the Near East
New Evidence from the Pre-Neolithic and
Pre-Pottery Neolithic in Cyprus

by Jean-Denis Vigne, Isabelle Carrere, Francois Briois, and Jean Guilaine

Recent archaeological investigations on Cyprus have unveiled unsuspected Late Glacial and Early
Holocene (twelfthtenth millennia cal BP) pieces of the islands human history. Based on a review
of the archaeological data and of the final results of the archaeozoological analyses of Sector 1 of
the prepottery site at Shillourokambos, this paper examines how Cyprus improves our understanding
of the process of mammal domestication in the Near East. Early introduction of controlled wild
animals and then of early domestic lineages provides information about the modalities of the do-
mestication process on the mainland. This information emphasizes the importance of technical skills,
of local opportunities and adaptations, and of long-distance and increasing exchanges in the larger
Near East area. Cyprus was a recipient of wild or domestic taxa from the continent through recurrent
introductions, but it was fully part of the wider area of incipient farming, as seen in local innovations
such as the intensive hunting/control of wild deer and boar or local domestication of wild/feral goats.
The transition to farming during the tenth millennium appears to follow an unstable and oppor-
tunistic Early and Middle Pre-Pottery Neolithic B phase of low-level food production based on
rapidly changing combinations of hunting, control, and breeding.

Introduction recent field projects and archaeozoological studies have led

to a reconsideration of the general scenarios (cf., e.g., Bar-
Yosef and Meadow 1995; Ducos 1968; Helmer 1992; Legge
During recent decades, many new data have been accumulated
1996; Zeder 2005).
by archaeology, archaeozoology, and genetics on the begin-
Since the 1990s, Cyprus has provided startling new evidence
nings of mammal domestication in several regions of the
from archaeological discoveries dating to the late eleventh and
world. This includes the Near East, where the study of early
the tenth millennia cal BP (Guilaine and Le Brun 2003; Pel-
domestication began very early and has provided more evi-
tenburg and Wasse 2004),1 contemporaneous with the end of
dence and models than many other regions (e.g., Davis 2005;
the Early Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (EPPNB) and the Middle
Dobney and Larson 2006; Redding 2005; Zeder 2006, 2011;
Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (MPPNB) and Late Pre-Pottery Neo-
Zeder et al. 2006). However, even in the Near East, our knowl-
lithic B (LPPNB) of the mainland. Because islands are clearly
edge remains poor, as demonstrated by the fact that many
defined territories, because the Mediterranean islands were
massively colonized beginning only in the Neolithic (Cherry
Jean-Denis Vigne is a senior researcher at the Centre National de 1990), because their endemic native fauna lacked any of the
la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and Director of Unite Mixte de wild ancestors of domesticates (Vigne 1999), and because Cy-
Recherche 7209, Archeozoologie, Archeobotanique: Societes,
prus is the only large island in the Near East, it provides
Pratiques et Environnements, Museum National dHistoire
unique information. As Cyprus was necessarily dependent on
NaturelleCNRS (75005 Paris, France []). Isabelle
Carrere and Francois Briois are researchers at Unite Mixte de influences from the continent, at least at the beginning of the
Recherche 5608, Travaux et Recherches Archeologiques sur les Neolithic, it may be thought of as an observation post re-
Cultures, les Espaces et les Societes (TRACES), Ecole des Hautes cording what occurred on the nearby mainland.
Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Universite Le Mirail (31000 Toulouse, In this paper, we present a synthesis from the Cypriot Pre-
France). Jean Guilaine is Professor Emeritus at the College de France
(75005 Paris, France). This paper was submitted 13 XI 09, accepted 1. All the calibrated dates are given cal BP with 1j, using Calib Rev
28 XII 10, and electronically published 26 VIII 11. 5.0 (Reimer et al. 2004).

2011 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. All rights reserved. 0011-3204/2011/52S4-0008$10.00. DOI: 10.1086/659306
S256 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

Pottery Neolithic (PPN) perspective on early mammal do- Pleistocene terrestrial mammalian fauna was reduced to only
mestication in the Near East. This is based mainly on the four or five endemic species (Boekschoten and Sondaar 1972;
recent results of the final analyses of the first sector of Pa- Simmons 1999): mouse (Mus cypriacus; Cucchi et al. 2006),
rekklisha, Shillourokambos (Limassol district), the largest genet (Genetta plesictoides), dwarf elephant (Elephas cypriotes),
known Cypriot PPN site (10,4009000 BP; Guilaine 2003; dwarf hippopotamus (Phanourios minutus), and perhaps a
Guilaine and Briois 2007; Guilaine, Briois, and Vigne 2011). shrew.
Our approach to animal domestication lies within both the The upper layer of the rock shelter at Akrotiri Aetokremnos
technological (Mauss 1947 [1967]) and the structuralist con- provides the earliest known evidence of visits to the island
ceptual frameworks (Levi-Strauss 1958): technoeconomic and by humans, dated to 12,77612,461 cal BP (nine wood char-
symbolic uses of animals by human societies are part of their coal dates; Simmons 1999; Simmons and Mandel 2007), cor-
technical, social, and symbolic systems and thus a character- responding to the Late Natufian in the northern Levant. Sim-
istic part of their cultural systems (Vigne 1998). However, as mons (1988, 1999) has proposed that these human groups
part of the ecosystem (another structural entity), the rela- hunted elephants and hippos to extinction. This is, however,
tionships between animals and humans also involve ecological questioned by numerous authors (e.g., Ammerman and
approaches and should be considered within the structural Noller 2005; Binford 2000; Bunimovitz and Barkai 1996; Da-
framework of the anthroposystem, that is, a metasystem vis 2003; Olsen 1999; Vigne 1999; Wasse 2007), who argue
that groups together the cultural and ecological systems and that the two native large mammals disappeared before that
their interactions and dynamics through time (Muxart et al. time for climatic (Bromage et al. 2002) or anthropic reasons
2003; Pascal, Lorvelec, and Vigne 2006; Vigne 2011). (or both; Wasse 2007). The diet of the occupants of Aeto-
From this viewpoint, in addition to the different kinds of kremnos shelter seems to have consisted mainly of fish, shell-
ecological affinities of animals to the human-made or human- fish, and birds (Simmons 1999). Ammerman et al. (2006,
modified ecosystems, including commensalisms, domestica- 2008) recently found two other sites that may be more or less
tion appears as a process of intensification of animal-human contemporaneous with Aetokremnos, but no radiometric data
relationships (Pascal, Lorvelec, and Vigne 2006) boosted by have corroborated their interpretations until now.
human intentionality.2 Consequently, we consider that control In addition to thousands of hippo bones, 18 suid bones
in the wild and control/protection/use of commensals are were found at Aetokremnos, mainly in the upper layer (Sim-
initial stages of the domestication process, although they in- mons 1999). They have recently been directly dated to 11,746
volve animal populations that are still wild from a biological 11,396 cal BP (10,045 69 BP [AA79923; degraded bone
viewpoint. Such situations can be detected mostly as an in- collagen]; d13C, 25.1; Vigne et al. 2009). These suids were
crease in the frequency of the targeted species, as changes in 9%20% smaller than the Near Eastern Late Glacial and Ho-
age and sex proportions in the archaeological record (Zeder locene wild boars and were also significantly smaller than
2009, 2011), and/or as transport. We restrict the term do- those of the PPN and Early Pottery Neolithic of the Near
mestic mammals to animal populations that show pheno- East. The most probable scenario (already partly suggested
typic modifications due to human breeding/herding. As some by Wasse 2007) is that wild boars were artificially introduced
of these cannot be archaeologically detected, sometimes the to Cyprus sometime at the end of the Late Glacial (Natufian
domestic status cannot be determined. In the same way, we on the mainland), rapidly decreased in size because of the
restrict the term farming to technoeconomic systems based isolation effect, and then were hunted by people who fre-
mostly on animal (and plant) breeding, which appears to have quented Aetokremnos during the second quarter of the
started in the middle of the tenth millennium (transition twelfth millennium (Late Khiamian on the mainland; fig. 1).
between MPPNB and LPPNB) in large villages of the Near At least three recent discoveries indicate that whether per-
East (Vigne 2008, 2011). We distinguish farming from low manently or not, humans continued to frequent the island
level food production as defined by Smith (2001). in the twelfth millennium cal BP and during the first half of
the eleventh. At Ayios Tychonas Throumbovounos, Francois
Briois and collaborators (Briois, Petit-Aupert, and Pechoux
The Early Neolithization of Cyprus: 2005; Guilaine and Briois 2007) found an eroded site with
A Brief Updated Review large flint series similar to Mureybet II (Khiamian of the
Middle Euphrates valley, late Dryas). Unfortunately, there
The island of Cyprus emerged from the bottom of the Med- were no associated faunal remains (F. Briois and J.-D. Vigne
iterranean Sea during the Miocene and has never been con- Throumbovounos (Ayios Tychonas, Chypre), rapport de
nected to any continent (Held 1989). As a result, the Upper sondage, unpublished report for the Department of Antiq-
uities, Cyprus, 2003). At Agia Varvara Asprokremnos, painted
2. The conceptual frame summarized in this paragraph has been stone vessels, pendants, a shaft-straightener, and unidirec-
strengthened, clarified, and here and there modified by discussions during
the Merida meeting The Beginnings of Agriculture, mainly among the
tional flint debitage provide strong parallels to materials dated
archaeozoology working group: Fiona Marshall, Richard Meadow, Peter to the late Pre-Pottery Neolithic A [PPNA]/transitional
Rowley-Conwy, and Melinda Zeder. EPPNB in the northern Levant (McCartney 2010; McCartney
Figure 1. Evolution of large mammals on Cyprus during Neolithization,
with particular focus on the data from Shillourokambos. The chrono-
S258 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

et al. 2007, 2008, 2010). The associated fauna is dominated Khirokitia culture, contemporaneous with the pre-Halaf/
by suids (Sus scrofa). A series of six radiocarbon dates ranging Halaf phases of the northern Levant (fig. 1).
between 9525 49 BP and 9432 49 BP spans a likely cal-
endar age of 10,84610,675 cal BP (Manning et al. 2010). The
last site, Ayios Tychonas-Klimonas, is also characterized by a
The Main Archaeological and
PPN (EPPNB-type) industry (Guilaine and Briois 2007) as- Archaeozoological Characteristics
sociated with suids and dog bones (Vigne et al., forthcoming). of Shillourokambos
The subsistence of the occupants of the site should have been
Shillourokambos is an open-air site located on the southern
based on hunting of only one game species, the small au-
coastal plain of Cyprus, near Limassol (Guilaine 2003). From
tochthonous wild boar, with the help of dogs. Only one wood
1992 to 2004 it was excavated over more than 5,000 m2 under
charcoal (Prunus sp.) radiocarbon date indicates the first
the responsibility of Jean Guilaine. Because it is located on
quarter of the eleventh millennium cal BP (11,07010,741 cal
the top of a low hill near the confluence of two small rivers,
BP, 9544 53 BP [AA88551]; d13C, 27.3; Vigne et al.,
it has been strongly eroded. No building is preserved in the
forthcoming). upper part of the site (Sector 1, ca. 3,000 m2), which is mainly
The lithic debitage of these three sites and the radiocarbon composed of large sedimentary layers and numerous pits,
dates of two of them clearly postdate those of Aetokremnos narrow ditches, post holes, and wells. The bases of several
and predate the earliest phase (A) at Shillourokambos (Gui- buildings have, however, been preserved in the less eroded
laine 2003; Guilaine and Briois 2007; Guilaine et al. 2000) lower part of the site (Sector 3, ca. 2,500 m2).
and Kissonerga-Mylouthkia (Peltenburg 2003; Peltenburg et Four main phases of occupation of the site have been rec-
al. 2000, 2001a, 2001b), both of which are radiocarbon dated ognized (Early A, Early B, Middle, and Late), spanning the
(fig. 1). The Early A phase of Shillourokambos, where suids period from ca. 10,40010,300 cal BP to the end of the tenth
are still overwhelmingly dominant (Vigne, Carrere, and Gui- millennium (fig. 1; Guilaine 2003; Guilaine et al. 2000).
laine 2003), provided 12 dates (Guilaine, Briois, and Vigne Thirty-seven radiocarbon dates from Sector 1 suggest that at
2011) ranging from 10,696 to 10,297 cal BP (mean: 10,380 least this part of the site had been abandoned for several
cal BP). Well 116 at Mylouthkia is dated to 10,74010,290 decades or centuries between the Early phases A and B, at
cal BP (9315 60 BP [OxA7460]; 9235 70 BP [AA33128]; the end of the eleventh millennium (Guilaine, Briois, and
9110 70 BP [1133129]; Peltenburg 2003). At Shillourokam- Vigne 2011). However, it was occupied continuously during
bos, the blade technology of this late eleventh-millennium the tenth millennium.
phase is very well documented and shows clear relationships Preliminary analyses of the animal remains of Sector 1
with Early MPPNB in the Levant (Briois 2003). (Vigne et al. 2000) showed that dog (Canis familiaris), fox
From the beginning of the tenth millennium, prepottery (Vulpes vulpes), pig (Sus scrofa), the Mesopotamian fallow deer
Cypriot sites became more numerous (Guilaine and Briois (Dama mesopotamica), goat (Capra aegagrus/hircus), sheep
2007; Guilaine and Le Brun 2003; Peltenburg and Wasse 2004; (Ovis aries), and cattle (Bos primigenius/taurus) were already
Wasse 2007). They show a progressive shifting of all the ma- present before or at the very beginning of the tenth millen-
terial culture toward a local Cypriot model, which culminated nium. Cat (Felis silvestris lybica) was thought to have been
during the ninth and eighth millennia BP in the Aceramic introduced during the middle phases and partly controlled

cultural frame is that proposed by Hours et al. (1994). Radio-

carbon dates are given in cal BP and calibrated at 1j (Calib Rev
5.0; Reimer et al. 2004). For each chronological phase of Shil-
lourokambos, a box on the right-hand side contains the following
information: the total number of identified specimens (NISP),
the NISP of large mammals, the material dated (Ch p charcoal;
Cl p bone collagen), and a reference (1, Simmons 1999 [only
the nine charcoal dates]; 2, Vigne et al. 2009; 3, Vigne et al.,
forthcoming; 4, Manning et al. 2010; 5, Peltenburg 2003; Pel-
tenburg et al. 2001b; 6, Guilaine 2003; Guilaine, Briois, and
Vigne 2011; 7, Le Brun and Daune-Le Brun 2003 [Khirokitia,
earliest level, G]). The Middle A1 and A2 phases of Shillouro-
kambos are grouped together. Black arrows indicate the earliest
evidence for the arrival of new species of fauna on Cyprus. Gray
arrows indicate the probable introduction of new lineages of
domestic or commensal animals to Shillourokambos and Khi-
Vigne et al. Mammal Domestication in the Near East S259

Table 1. Final archaeozoological analyses of the large mammals from Sector 1 at Shillourokambos

Morphometrics Culling profiles

Animal species NISP No. measurements No. teeth MNI NISP epiphyseal
Vulpes vulpes 56 214
Canis familiaris 11 77
Felis silvestris lybica 3 11
Sus scrofa 1,001 2,917 472 113 1,124
Dama dama mesopotamica 1,361 4,017 785 173 2,374
Capra aegagrus/hircus 394 1,284
Ovis aries 378 1,318
Capra/Ovis 219 515
Total Caprini 991 3,117 321 108 754
Bos taurus 124 336 26
Total 3,547 10,689 1,578 394 4,278
Note. Number of measured specimens, measurements, and teeth, the minimum number of individuals (MNI) used for the culling profiles,
and the number of the bones used for epiphyseal profiles. NISP p number of identified specimens.

(tamed; Vigne et al. 2004). In the first preliminary study, The first important result of this final analysis is that the
all the ungulate species except the fallow deer were considered proportions of the different mammal species vary significantly
to have been introduced in the form of already-domesticated throughout the successive occupations of the site to such an
lineages, mainly because of their small size in comparison extent and in such a well-structured way that it was possible
with their wild counterparts on the mainland. This interpre- independently to find again the four phases based on the
tation has been questioned by Horwitz, Tchernov, and Hongo lithics only through faunal characteristics. Correspondence
(2004), who suggested, though without any direct analytical analysis of the faunal spectra even allows refinement of the
data, that they were introduced as wild animals for stocking chronology and identification of several subphases: Early A1
the island with meat sources. and A2 (the second being more or less the initial stage of the
Further investigation of the Early phase B at Shillouro- Early phase B), Early C, and Middle A1, A2, and B phases
kambos suggested a more complex situation (Vigne, Carrere, (the last more probably being the first stage of the late phase).
and Guilaine 2003; Vigne and Guilaine 2004): suids, sheep, This new chronological framework enables a more precise
and cattle were small in size and might therefore be considered approach to the succession of events on this site between
as resulting from early domestication; but morphological 10,400 and 9000 cal BP.
analyses and the slaughtering profiles suggest that (almost?) The final archaeozoological results presented in this paper
all the goats and approximately half of the suids were wild/ are based on 32,500 animal remains, of which 9,225 (the num-
feral and were obtained by hunting, while sheep and probably ber of identified specimens [NISP]) are taxonomically deter-
cattle were bred. These observations underlined the unstable mined (8,864 vertebrates and 361 invertebrates; Guilaine, Bri-
status of the domestic ungulates during several centuries after ois, and Vigne 2011). On the basis of cut marks (Vigne 2006),
the earliest domestication and suggested that the human so- fragmentation, and skeletal frequencies, reconstruction of the
cieties on the mainland could also have released domestic (or butchery and cooking processes and estimation of the distance
even a mixture of wild and transported domesticated) un- between the kill sites and the village for each species of ungulate
gulates into the wild and redomesticated them many times were possible. Nearly 11,000 bone and tooth measurements
during the 15 centuries of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (table 1) provided statistics and enabled multivariate analyses.
(PPNB), as well as later. For deer, goat, cattle, and to a much lesser extent sheep, mixture
At that time, the question of what happened on Cyprus analyses (Monchot and Lechelle 2002) provided reliable esti-
before the beginning of the tenth millennium (i.e., during the mates of the sex ratio of adults and the decrease in sexual
Early phase A) could not, however, be answered, because this dimorphism due to domestication (see Helmer 2008; Helmer
earliest phase had provided less than 100 specimens. The last et al. 2005). By this technique, the evolution of the size of the
season of excavation at Shillourokambos in 2004 produced different parts of the skeleton of the dimorphic ungulates could
many more animal bones and much more archaeological in- also be studied for each sex, providing reliable approaches to
formation for this phase (Guilaine et al. 2008). The final study morphological variations through time. The tooth and epi-
of all the animal bones of Sector 1 could be carried out physal mortality profiles were based on large series of teeth and
(Guilaine, Briois, and Vigne 2011). Jean-Denis Vigne and Is- long bones (table 1) and processed according to Vigne and
abelle Carrere were in charge of the archaeozoological analyses Helmer (2007). We did not use statistical comparisons (see
and were active participants in the excavation. Consequently, Marom and Bar-Oz 2009), which are not adapted to these
they were in a good position to select the most reliable faunal questions (Vigne 2000), but rather multivariate analyses (e.g.,
assemblages. Helmer, Gourichon, and Vila 2007).
S260 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

These final analyses led to modification and clarification can result only from humans (Vigne 1999), these species
of several aspects of the preliminary interpretations. Figure 1 would have been introduced between the end of the Late
presents the frequencies of species according to the phases. Glacial and ca. 10,400 cal BP.
During the Early phase A1, suids, which are the same size as All the large true Mediterranean islands have undergone a
those at Aetokremnos, are dominant (90%). Cats, goats, and similar turnover of their mammal fauna. That on Cyprus is
cattle are clearly present in small numbers. The presence of the earliest, beginning during the Late Glacial, because do-
dog is probable, that of fox questionable. The statistical anal- mestication in the Eastern Mediterranean was early (Vigne
yses indicate that the absence of fallow deer and sheep is very 1999).
unlikely to be due to the size of the sample (NISP p 282).
It is confirmed by the absence of both species in well 116 at
Pre-Neolithic Wild Boar Management More than
Mylouthkia, which is contemporaneous with Early phase A
11,400 Years Ago
of Shillourokambos (Peltenburg et al. 2001b). Deer appeared
as the dominant species at the very beginning of Early phase The presence of small wild boar dated to 11,74611,396 cal
B. Sheep probably arrived slightly later. BP at Aetokremnos, the dominance of suids at Asprokremnos,
Early phase B is characterized by high frequencies of cattle Klimonas, and Shillourokambos Early A1, and the morpho-
(8%12% of the total NISP of the phase), which decrease to logical similarities of suids at Aetokremnos and Shillouro-
less than 1% in the middle and late phases. The Middle A kambos are convergent evidence that small island suids were
phases are characterized by an increase in suids and foxes. living on Cyprus and exploited by humans during the twelfth
Sheep and goats become dominant in the Middle B and late eleventh millennia. This would explain why people frequented
phases. (or inhabited) Cyprus during this period.
The introduction of wild boar during the Late Natufian or
Early Khiamian strengthens the hypothesis of control of wild
Transport and Control: The Beginnings
boar in the Final Late Glacial, as proposed by Redding and
of Mammal Domestication before Rosenberg (1998), Rosenberg and Redding (1998), and Rosen-
10,300 Cal BP berg et al. (1998; see also Redding 2005; Starkovitch and Stiner
2009; Wasse 2007) on the basis of the Hallan Cemi site in the
upper Tigris basin. The evidence from Cyprus makes a strong
Faunal Turnover on the Island
contribution to the picture of a long span of increasingly in-
Although Mus cypriacus is attested to at Mylouthkia and is tensive and skilled control of wild boars. This took place over
present today on the island (Cucchi et al. 2006), animal bones a very large area, at least in eastern Anatolia (and rapidly ex-
at Asprokremnos, Klimonas, Mylouthkia, and Shillourokambos panded to Cyprus), but it would have extended to western
confirm that the Pleistocene endemic hippo fauna did not sur- Anatolia and the Aegean, as suggested by evidence of small
vive the Late GlacialHolocene transition. According to Bu- Mesolithic wild boar on the islands of Youra and Kythnos
nimovitz and Barkai (1996) and Ammerman and Noller (2005), during the eleventhtenth millennia (Trantalidou 2008). Here
this fauna would have been extinct before the human occu- and there, it developed into true pig breeding in the middle of
pation of layer 2 at Aetokremnos in the first centuries of the the eleventh millennium, as observed in the Upper Euphrates
twelfth millennium (see also Wasse 2007). The introduction of valley at Neval Cori and Gurcutepe (Peters, von den Driesch,
wild boar before the occupation of Aetokremnos renders it and Helmer 2005) and at Cafer Hoyuk (Helmer 2008). At the
possible that people frequented the island before 12,000 BP and same time, control in the wild would have continued during
then caused the extinction of the hippos. a large part of the tenth millennium, as suggested at Cayonu
The endemic Cyprus genet (Genetta plesictoides) is present (Ervynck et al. 2001) and in the Aegean.
in the Aetokremnos deposits without any direct dating (Sim-
mons 1999). It is absent from the small-mammal fauna of
Transport of Wild or Early Domestic Goats?
Mylouthkia. It is unlikely that it became extinct at the same
time as hippos because its presumed main prey, M. cypriacus, In our present state of knowledge, the earliest evidence of
did survive. The introduction of dogs (before 11,000 cal BP) goats on Cyprus is about 40 bone specimens at Shillouro-
or cats (mid-eleventh millennium at the latest) may have kambos Early A. The final analyses for Shillourokambos con-
caused the extinction of the genet sometime in the twelfth firmed that the morphology of the horn cores of the early
eleventh millennia. phases was similar to that of the wild bezoar goat. But separate
Suids, cats, goats, cattle, and dogs were living on Cyprus morphometric analyses of males and females has shown that
before or starting from the earliest phase at Shillourokambos contrary to our preliminary conclusions (Vigne, Carrere, and
(fig. 1). In addition, data from Mylouthkia provide evidence Guilaine 2003; Vigne et al. 2000), these animals were signif-
for the presence of the house mouse (Mus musculus domes- icantly smaller than the early domestic goat, as measured by
ticus; Cucchi et al. 2002). Because they have no Cypriot Pleis- Helmer (2008) at Cafer Hoyuk (Early MPPNB). Peters, von
tocene ancestor and because such a high rate of immigration den Driesch, and Helmer (2005), Helmer (2008), and Hongo
Vigne et al. Mammal Domestication in the Near East S261

et al. (2009) presented convincing evidence of domestic goat for cat at Shillourokambos is a complete fifth right metacarpus
in the Upper Euphrates and Tigris valleys in the middle of found in the bottom of the earliest stratigraphic unit, dated
the eleventh millennium (late EPPNB), and Helmer and to 10,32210,288 cal BP (Guilaine, Briois, and Vigne 2011).
Gourichon (2008) did the same for the beginning of the Although there are only two cat remains in Sector 1 of Shil-
MPPNB of the Damascus plain (Tell Aswad), ca. 10,300 lourokambos (fig. 1), the species is frequently present on tenth
10,200 BP. It is thus likely that the earliest goats of Cyprus to eighth millennium Cypriot sites (review in Vigne and Gui-
were introduced as already modified domesticates. laine 2004). The house mouse and the cat were introduced
However, on the basis of convincing theoretical inferences, to Cyprus in the middle of the eleventh millennium at the
Redding (2005) argued for wild-goat control before the PPNB latest, and the probably unintentional transport of the former
(see also Hole 1996). Genetic investigations of the Near and possibly led to the introduction of its predator.
Middle Eastern modern bezoar goats (Capra aegagrus) have Auffray, Tchernov, and Nevo (1988) showed that house
shown that the wild lineages that mothered modern domestic mice were already commensal in the Natufian layers at Hay-
goats in the Zagros were subjected to a drastic demographic onim, but nothing was known about early domestication of
increase ca. 10,000 BP, whereas the other lineages showed no cats in the Near East. The presence of both house mice and
similar genetic signature (Naderi et al. 2008). They also sug- cats in Cyprus during the second half of the eleventh millen-
gest that wild goats might have been transferred out of the nium not only confirms that the house mouse spread as a
original area of the species, though still in mountain areas. pest to all the territories of the PPN complex (Cucchi and
Like that of wild boar, the domestication of goats seems to Vigne 2006), including islands, but is also evidence that cat
have begun as control in the wild in a very large area stretching domestication had already begun. It also supports the idea,
from the central Iranian plateau to southeastern Anatolia. Like suggested by Malek (1993) in relation to Egypt, that the most
the pig, morphologically domestic goat would have appeared likely reason for cat domestication was use of this predator
here and there, as seen in the data from Neval Cori, ca. 10,500 against the commensal rodents and their consumption of ag-
cal BP (Peters, von den Driesch, and Helmer 2005), and later ricultural products. Cat domestication would have followed
(10,0009500 cal BP) in the Zagros (Zeder 2005, 2011; Zeder two steps. First, commensalization would have occurred,
and Hesse 2000). that is, cats being attracted to the villages by high concen-
The final analyses at Shilloroukambos confirmed that (all?) trations of mice, whose presence was due to an increase in
goats were hunted not only during the Early phase B (Vigne, stocked foodstuffs. Second, the villagers would merely have
Carrere, and Guilaine 2003) but also during the Early phase provided protection or simply impunity to some individuals
C and the beginning of the middle phases. The bone sample for the commensalism to evolve toward domestication (Pas-
for the Early phase A is too small for characterizing the mode cal, Lorvelec, and Vigne 2006). This would have been all the
of exploitation, but the low frequency in comparison with more true if the cat had a symbolic significance for those
the middle phases (fig. 1) makes hunting more likely. It is Neolithic societies, as suggested by the numerous represen-
therefore difficult to determine whether the introduction of tations of felids in the PPN (Helmer, Gourichon, and Stordeur
goats to Cyprus in the course of the eleventh millennium 2004), including in Shillourokambos Early A (Guilaine et al.
resulted from the transport of controlled bezoar goats (as 1999).
suggested by Horwitz, Tchernov, and Hongo 2004), which Should we expect future evidence for domestic cats in the
would have decreased in size because of insularity, or was a Natufian on the mainland? This is not certain, because the
consequence of a rapid spread of early domestic goats. The proposal of Auffray, Tchernov, and Nevo (1988) has to be
ecology of the bezoar goat (which excludes its presence in the reevaluated with modern morphometric techniques and be-
coastal plains, from which the visitors to Cyprus necessarily cause, although it began during the Natufian, food storage
came), its introduction much later than the wild boar, and does not seem to have developed on a large scale before the
the absence of any evidence of goat control in the nearby PPNAEPPNB (Kuijt 2008; Kuijt and Finlayson 2009). In
mainland areas, however, make the latter scenario more likely. addition, the abundance of foxes in the PPNA at sites such
In any case, Cyprus provides strong evidence that the process as Jericho (Clutton-Brock 1979) and their introduction to
of goat domestication in the Near East was well advanced in Cyprus at the beginning of the tenth millennium (fig. 1)
the middle of the eleventh millennium. indicate that other species of small carnivores could also have
played the same role as cats throughout the PPN.
As domestic dogs are in evidence on the mainland since
From Commensalism to Domestication: Mice, Cats, and
the Natufian (Helmer 2008; Tchernov and Valla 1997) and
Other Carnivores
on Cyprus as early as the beginning of the eleventh millen-
Cucchi et al. (2002) demonstrated that the house mouse (M. nium (Vigne et al., forthcoming), it would not be surprising
musculus domesticus), absent from Aetokremnos (Simmons to find them on Cyprus during the twelfth millennium. They
1999), was well represented in well 116 of Mylouthkia, dated probably played a role in autochthonous-wild-boar hunting
to 10,74010,290 cal BP, together with the less commensal or control at Klimonas during the first half of the eleventh
endemic Cypriot mouse, M. cypriacus. The earliest evidence millennium. At Shillourokambos, the scarceness of their re-
S262 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

mains and the total absence of any gnawing mark on the The Mesopotamian Fallow Deer
other mammal bones suggest, however, that they lived away
The final archaeozoological analyses provide evidence that
from the village, at least from the beginning in the Early phase
deer were never domesticated at Shillourokambos. In all
B (Vigne and Guilaine 2004).
phases, age classes were slaughtered in proportion to their
natural abundance without any distinction between sexes. The
Introduction of Early Domestic Cattle during the EPPNB morphological distance between males and females remained
constant, and the body size not only did not decrease but
Although absent at Mylouthkia, cattle were present during slightly and constantly increased from the tenth to the eighth
the Early phase A1 of Shillourokambos, represented by a com- millennium (Khirokitia), perhaps as a result of constant hunt-
plete right pelvis found at a depth of 4 m in the Early A1 ing pressure.
fills of well 431. Cattle were introduced to Cyprus ca. 10,300 The late introduction of the Mesopotamian fallow deer to
cal BP or shortly before (fig. 1), at a time when domestic Cyprus (fig. 1) probably illustrates the persistence, several
cattle had begun to appear on the mainland (Helmer et al. centuries after the beginning of mammal domestication, of
2005; Hongo et al. 2009). wild-ungulate control similar to that which we have shown
Cattle bones are, however, too rare in the earliest phase at for wild boars during the twelftheleventh millennia. Even if
Shillourokambos to provide any information on their mor- the economic importance of the fallow deer in Cyprus appears
phology and status. Their size does not seem to differ sig- to be unique in all the PPN and therefore specifically Cypriot,
nificantly from that of Early phase B cattle bones. The latter it does suggest that somewhere in the Near East, human
are significantly smaller than those of the aurochs of the Na- groups were already controlling fallow deer either as a do-
tufian and PPNA layers at Mureybet (Gourichon and Helmer mestication experiment or as a common subsistence practice.
2008). They are very similar to those of Djade (L. Gourichon Who were these pioneers of deer control? The Cypriot
and D. Helmer, unpublished data), which are mainly com- fallow deer were noticeably smaller than their northern-Le-
posed of early domestic bovids (Helmer et al. 2005). Estimated vant PPNA counterparts at Mureybet (according to Gouri-
through mixture analyses of log size index, the sexual di- chon and Helmer 2008). The highest density of archaeological
morphism of the bovid from the early phases of Shillouro- evidence for the Mesopotamian fallow deer is located in the
kambos appears also to be significantly less than that of the southern Levant (Davis 2003). The PPNB complex of cultures
aurochs of Mureybet IIIIA and similar to that of Djade. In reached the southern Levant only at the end of the eleventh
addition, the presence on the site of all the skeletal elements millennium BP (Khalaily, Marder, and Barzilai 2007), several
centuries later than in the northern Levant. Mammal do-
of the limb extremities and all the vertebrae suggests that the
mestication was then in a more experimental phase in the
animals were killed very near or in the village. The epiphysal
south than in the north (Conolly et al. 2011). All this may
age profile and sex ratio of the early phases indicate a well-
suggest that the fallow deer was introduced from the southern
managed breeding strategy focused on the exploitation of the
meat from the young adult males.
The early Cyprus cattle bred during the Early phases at
Shillourokambos thus probably resulted from the introduc- Sheep and Goats: Complementary Stories
tion of already-domestic lineages such as those at Djade or The large number of bone remains (table 1) of sheep and
at less distant Tell Aswad (Damascus), where Helmer and goats and morphometric, age, and sex-ratio analyses (Gui-
Gourichon (2008) found evidence that cattle were used for laine, Briois, and Vigne 2011; Vigne, Carrere, and Guilaine,
carrying heavy loads as early as the beginning of the MPPNB. forthcoming) enable reconstruction of the codevelopment of
sheep and goat exploitation at Shillourokambos (fig. 2). Goats
were hunted throughout the early phases. Beginning in the
Tenth Millennium: Cyprus Reflects middle phases, the villagers of Shillourokambos began to ex-
Continental Complexity and ploit them more intensively, strictly culling the young males,
Intensive Exchanges although no additional morphological modification appeared
at that time. However, they continued to hunt wild/feral goats.
Numerous archaeozoological data from the Early phase B to Size decrease and morphological modifications of the horn
the Late phase of Shillourokambos are summarized in figure cores become visible only in the late phases (i.e., 24 centuries
2 (after Guilaine, Briois, and Vigne 2011). This provides an later). The modification of the culling profiles through time
exceptional case study for the evolution of the status of un- indicates that at that time, the exploitation of goats had shifted
gulate species and of subsistence strategy through the tenth toward their milk (Vigne, Carrere, and Guilaine, forthcom-
millennium, a time of emergence and consolidation of farm- ing). Even though this concerns goat lineages that may have
ing on the mainland (Bar-Yosef and Meadow 1995; Vigne been domesticated long before on the mainland and then
2008, 2011). became feral on the island, this is the first evidence for a
Vigne et al. Mammal Domestication in the Near East S263

Figure 2. Summary of the technicoeconomic and sociosymbolic char-

acteristics of ungulates through the different chronological phases of Shil-
lourokambos, after Guilaine, Briois, and Vigne (2011). Shading indicates
the importance of hunting; darker shading indicates greater importance.

domestication process on a Mediterranean island. It resulted (Vigne, Carrere, and Guilaine 2003) similar to their contem-
in a new lineage of domestic goats ca. 94009000 BP, that poraneous counterparts of the MPPNB at Tell Aswad. As soon
is, more than a millennium later than in sites of the northern as Early phase B, they were herded in a sophisticated way for
Levant such as Neval Cori, Cayonu, Tell Halula, or Tell Aswad meat and milk production (milk B, as defined by Vigne
(Helmer and Gourichon 2008; Hongo et al. 2009; Peters, von and Helmer 2007). Just after an episode of rapid size decrease
den Driesch, and Helmer 2005; Sana Segui 1999). and stress increase (malnutrition marks on the horn cores)
Sheep were introduced up to 5 centuries later than goats that we interpreted as a breeding failure or collapse (Middle
(fig. 1), in the form of small, horn-modified domestic animals A1), new larger-sized lineages abruptly appeared, possibly in-
S264 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

troduced from the central or southern Levant. During the attested to several centuries earlier (Hongo et al. 2009; Peters,
late phases, herding concentrated on meat production and von den Driesch and, Helmer 2005).
possibly hair production. A second rapid morphological The cattle of the Early C, Middle, and Late phases of Shil-
change perhaps suggests another new lineage. Davis (1994) lourokambos were much larger than those of the Early phases
has demonstrated an event of very rapid and significant size A and B. They are approximately the same size as the domestic
change between the early and late levels at Khirokitia and cattle of the Middle and Late PPNB layers of Halula (see Sana
interprets it as the possible introduction of a new lineage. Segui 1999) and therefore significantly larger than the cattle
There is no evidence for feralization or sheep hunting at Shil- of Djade (L. Gourichon and D. Helmer, unpublished data).
lourokambos. The exploitation of sheep on this site was These data suggest the introduction of a new lineage of do-
strictly limited to breeding periodically strengthened by the mestic cattle between Early phases B and C.
introduction of new lineages that probably came from the The tooth morphometry of the modern Cypriot house
mainland. mouse M. musculus domesticus does not differ from that of
Basically, for the villagers of early Shillourokambos, goats the mainland mouse and has not varied since the PPN (Cucchi
were game animals, while sheep were the most domestic of et al. 2002). Taking into account that genetically isolated mice
all the ungulates. This probably implies quite different sym- diverge very rapidly from their ancestor (Pergams and Ashley
bolic values for each of them. Archaeozoology tends to mix 2001), this morphological stability is evidence of a constant
these two species only because their bones are difficult to and intensive genetic flow from the mainland to Cyprus from
discriminate from one another. The evidence from Shillouro- the Neolithic up to today. Mice would have been successfully
kambos demonstrates once again that they are really very introduced into Cyprus at least several times per year (Vigne
different animals from bioecological, technoeconomic, and and Cucchi 2005).
symbolic points of view (e.g., Balasse and Ambrose 2005). The arrows in figure 1 summarize the introductions of new
Because of these differences, the two species were able to play species (black) and new domestic (gray) lineages to Cyprus
complementary roles in the technoeconomic system. If the and more specifically to Shillourokambos during the twelfth
rapid Middle A1 size decrease of the sheep at Shillourokambos eighth millennia. Of course, introductions are possibly un-
derevaluated because lineages that did not morphologically
actually resulted from a herding failure, we could consider
differ from the autochthonous ones could not be detected.
that the domestication of goats in this village, which began
On the other hand, the appearance of new lineages at Shil-
at approximately that time, was developed to offset it. The
lourokambos did not necessarily result from introductions
complementarities between the two species are again illus-
from the mainland, as some of them may have resulted only
trated by the end of the story, when the goats take over milk
from transfers from other Cypriot sites. In any case, figure 1
production from the sheep, which are then used for meat and
clearly shows evidence of intensive movements of animals
hair production. This scenario provides a good illustration of
either from the mainland or from other Cypriot sites through-
both a process of domestication (goat) and the early tech-
out this period, a phenomenon that has until now been largely
noeconomic complementarities of sheep and goat during the
unrecognized in the PPN of the Near East. As evidenced by
tenth millennium.
several papers in this volume, mobility is observed in nu-
merous regions of the world at the time of the Neolithization.
Introduction of Mammals from the Mainland
In addition to the fallow deer and several waves of domestic Shillourokambos: A Case Study for
sheep, we also found evidence for the introduction of new Incipient Farming in the Near East
lineages of domestic pig and cattle in the course of the tenth
millennium (figs. 1, 2; Guilaine, Briois, and Vigne 2011). Be-
tween Early phases A and B of Shillourokambos, the size Development of Meat Production: From Low Level
variability of suids abruptly tends toward smaller values and to Farming
becomes organized into two peaks. Geometric-morphomet- We estimated meat production on the basis of bone weights
rics analyses of the outline of the molars also suggest the (Vigne 1992). For the species that were exploited through
presence of two distinct types of shape. During the Middle both hunting and breeding (suids, goats), we drew from the
and Late phases, the two different-sized peaks tend to fuse frequencies of age classes of the slaughtering profiles both
because of interbreeding between the two lineages, but the minimal and maximal estimates of production. The final re-
two tooth morphotypes persist. This suggests that another sults are therefore given with a large range of uncertainty, but
lineage of pig was introduced shortly before 10,000 BP and they show interesting tendencies (fig. 3). These estimates have
then mixed with the local lineage that had been introduced two other weaknesses: (1) although attested to for sheep and
beginning with the twelfth millennium. As the former was goats at Shillourokambos (Vigne and Helmer 2007), dairying
still smaller than the latter, we concluded that it was composed is not taken into account; and (2) the percentages of bone
of domestic types coming from the mainland, where they are weights do not represent an actual value of meat weight (i.e.,
Vigne et al. Mammal Domestication in the Near East S265

Evolution of the Technical System: Instabilities and

Opportunistic Strategies
Marine resources played only a small role in the animal supply
of the Shillourokambos villagers. Fishing was represented only
by some large groupers (Epinephelus sp.; Desse and Desse-
Berset 2003), and most of the seashells collected were battered,
worn, or naturally piercedthat is, already dead on the
beachfor ornaments and pendants (Serrand, Vigne, and
Guilaine 2005). Most of the protein and lipid supply came
from large terrestrial mammals. Botanical data are scarce
(Guilaine, Briois, and Vigne 2011; Willcox 2003).
During the Early phase A1, the meat supply came mainly
from hunting the small autochthonous Cypriot wild boar. The
kill-off profile is abnormally rich for the very old individuals,
indicating that the suid population was subjected to low pre-
dation pressures. As humans were indeed the only large pred-
Figure 3. Evolution of meat production through the chronolog- ator on the island, this suggests hunting of abundant and
ical phases of Shillourokambos. Bone weight percentages are not easy-to-catch populations or control, similar to that which
exact estimates of meat procurement. Only the relative variations
entailed the introduction of wild boar to the island approx-
between the different phases can be taken into consideration in
this diagram. This is why ordinates are not graduated. EPPNB p imately two millennia earlier. Accessibility to wild/feral goats
Early Pre-Pottery Neolithic B; MPPNB p Middle Pre-Pottery was probably lower because of their natural mountain be-
Neolithic B; LPPNB p Late Pre-Pottery Neolithic B. havior. Movement of humans between coastal and mountain
game cannot be excluded. The apparently extreme speciali-
zation of the meat supply of the Early phase A appears, there-
50% does not mean that hunting provided 50% of the meat). fore, as an opportunistic adaptation to both the island faunal
We can take into consideration only the relative value for each resources and the coastal-plain environments of the site. In
phase with reference to the others. The least unreliable ref- addition, cattle were actually bred on the site, and although
erence is the Late phase, where we can reasonably consider tenuous, the evidence suggests that people had already begun
that breeding produced all the meat for all mammal species to domesticate some suids. Thus, these (perhaps mobile) hu-
except deer, for which the rate of production was 60%, 70%, man groups appear as mostly opportunistic hunters profiting
or 76%, depending on the mode of estimation (weight of from a favorable island situation and practicing hunting/con-
meat and offal, according to Vigne [1992], NISP, or bone trol and breeding as well. Any attempt to classify them as
weight, respectively). strictly hunters or farmers would fail.
Figure 3 indicates that meat production increased slowly This image seems to agree with the data from the mainland
and irregularly but constantly over time, especially starting in (Goring-Morris and Belfer-Cohen 2011; Zeder 2011). There
the Middle phases. It always remained below 60%75% and is no indication of animal breeding in the southern Levant
was probably less than 50% during the Early phases. However, for the middle of the eleventh millennium, and data collected
it was probably significant as early as the earliest phases, then for southeastern Anatolia and the northern Levant indicate
represented by cattle and an unclear proportion of the suids that early domestic goats, sheep, pigs, and cattle actually first
(fig. 2). Even if milk production is added, this development appeared at that time (Helmer et al. 2005; Peters, von den
implies a long stage of low-level food production (see Smith Driesch, and Helmer 2005) but that well-controlled hunting
2001) with important variations that suggest frequent mod- of hemiones, gazelles, wild boar, aurochs, and wild sheep and
ifications of the technoeconomic strategies and then a slow goats still provided the major part of the meat supply (Vigne
transition to farming. The former took place during the main- and Helmer 2007). Only the absence of sheep at Shillouro-
land MPPNB, when numerous sites on the mainland also kambos Early A (and at Mylouthkia; Peltenburg et al. 2001b)
show a dominance of hunting/control in their meat pro- is surprising, and it indicates that the processes of domesti-
curement (Conolly et al. 2011; Hongo et al. 2009; Vigne and cation of sheep and goats in the Near East resulted from two
Helmer 2007). The latter closely corresponds to the end of very different processes, as already shown by Zeder (2005)
the MPPNB and the LPPNB. This evolution fits the macro- for the beginning of their domestication in Iran.
regional historical tendency rather well (see Vigne 2008). Shil- Early phase B differs highly from the previous one in terms
lourokambos can be taken as an example of the numerous of animal exploitation (fig. 2). The introduction of domestic
local scenarios that led to farming in the Near East (Bar-Yosef pigs and sheep, immediately bred with sophisticated tech-
and Meadow 1995) and in numerous regions, as evidenced niques, indicate that Cyprus then benefited from some of the
during the Merida conference. late-MPPNB technical innovations of the mainland. As the
S266 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

local goats were quite abundant, the absence of goat intro- supported by the increase in technical efforts that appear
duction and herding reveals a selection among the potential during the Early phase C. From the end of the Early phase
mainland inputs that depended on local availability. Meat B onward, the archaeozoological data indeed suggest an in-
procurement also became more eclectic (with reference to the tensification of henceforth well-controlled pig breeding fo-
low taxonomic diversity) than during the Early phase A: all cused on the production of fat and meat by winter slaugh-
the species presentsuids, goats, and cattle, but also newly tering of first- and second-year pigs. For the first time since
introduced fallow deer and sheepwere exploited, and they the beginning of the tenth millennium, the NISP of pigs,
contributed almost in the same proportion, complementing which mainly result from breeding, exceeds that of deer. The
the existing subsistence system. In parallel with the Middle presence of cattle clearly began to decline, perhaps only be-
PPNB evolution on the mainland, animal husbandry in- cause cattle breeding is more difficult and less immediately
creased in diversity and probably played an increasing buf- profitable than pig breeding.
fering role in the seasonal subsistence, with a higher propor- Until Middle phase A1, sheep herding continued at a high
tion of cattle; with the beginning of seasonal pig breeding, level. Then there was a strong and rapid decrease in the size
which very quickly mixed autochthonous and new alloch- of the sheep, together with increasing frequency of environ-
thonous lineages; and in general with sophisticated sheep mental stress marks on the horn cores and an extreme slen-
herding for milk and meat. The latter practice, in which lambs derness of the long bones. At the same time, pigs also de-
are kept alive but shared among the ewes for part of the time creased in size, and there was a significant increase in the rate
(Vigne and Helmer 2007), implies a high technical level for of linear enamel hypoplasia, which indicates an intensification
separate herding of young and adults, particular attention to of environmental stress. New innovations and important
lambs, and processing of milk and its derivatives. For the first changes in animal control seem to have emerged very rapidly
half of the tenth millennium, this has been attested to on the to compensate for this probable breeding failure. These were
mainland only for goats at Cafer Hoyuk, Tell Halula, and Tell based both on imports from mainland rear bases and on
Aswad (Gourichon and Helmer 2008; Helmer 2008; Vigne local improvements of the technical system. As mentioned
and Helmer 2007). above, a new, larger domestic sheep lineage arrived from the
However, hunting remained the main source of meat dur- central or southern Levant as well as a new cattle lineage
ing this Early phase B. Almost immediately after its intro- (which might be at the origin of the slight increase of cattle
duction, the Mesopotamian fallow deer became the major frequencies that we observed at that time). But the restoration
source of meat through a very efficient strategy of exploita- of the system was also based on local resources, not through
tion, which was probably collective hunting by beating of hunting, as the deer and then pig populations declined, but
mixed herds of males, females, and young (Vigne 2000), quick through the new domestication of the local wild goats (see
butchering of carcasses on the kill site, and selection of the above). Here again, these Cypriot populations appear to have
most profitable joints. Wild pigs and goats were also subject been involved in a macroregional system of exchanges and
to intensive hunting based on similar practices. Cooking tech- progress, but they were also able to provide local responses
niques indicate this intensive exploitation (bone breakage for to the ongoing consolidation of the new Neolithic way of life.
the consumption of marrow) with relatively standardized and During the Middle phase A2, there followed a complete
refined practices (different cutting patterns for suids and ru- remodeling of the utilization of animal resources: besides deer
minants, skilled cutting, roasting for some joints and boiling (and secondarily goat) hunting, which persisted, seasonal pig
for others). Evidence of seasonal exploitation suggests that breeding, which provided fat, is dominant; from then on,
deer were hunted in fall and winter, suids were slaughtered domestic goats progressively played the role of milk produc-
in winter, and spring and early summer were devoted to lambs ers, as they usually did on the mainland (Vigne and Helmer
and milk exploitation, together with plant cultivation. 2007). Complementarily, the restored sheep herding tends to
However, in that period, and again more clearly during the be devoted to meat production, then also to hair exploitation,
Early C and Middle phases, clear evidence of overexploitation a tendency that is also known from some pre-Halaf conti-
of game appears mainly in the form of a demographic erosion nental sites, such as Tell Sotto and El Kowm 2 (Helmer, Gou-
of deer populations. This reminds us that island resources richon, and Vila 2007). The increase of meat production at
were not as diversified and abundant as those on the main- that time is demonstrated by a 25-fold increase in the density
land, where MPPNB villages still practiced diversified hunting of animal food refuse (in relation to the volume of excavated
of wild equids, gazelles, and aurochs. In this context, the earth) in comparison with the early phases. This development
development of skilled breeding of cattle, pigs, and sheep in appears to be a parallel to the intensification of animal breed-
Cyprus appears not only as a counterpoint to the ongoing ing on the mainland at the transition between the MPPNB
evolution on the mainland but also as an answer to the local and LPPNB, which corresponds to the emergence of farming
necessity of dealing with both the limitation of island re- (Vigne 2008).
sources and the probably increasing population of these pi- On the other hand, this emphasizes the relatively low level
oneer human communities. of animal products in the diet of the early phases at Shil-
This vision of the dietary history of Shillourokambos is lourokambos. The decrease in grinding stones at the transition
Vigne et al. Mammal Domestication in the Near East S267

between the Early and Middle phases (Perrin 2011) suggests in each of the different regions or even in each site, different
that plant cultivation, which is well documented at Mylouth- scenarios and rates of intensification of exploitation existed,
kia (Peltenburg et al. 2000, 2001a), would have played a more from control of wild/feral populations to sophisticated breed-
important role in the diet of the early phases at Shillouro- ing that entailed the morphological changes that characterize
kambos than suggested by the relatively poor set of botanical domestic lineages; (4) the beginnings of domestication, that
remains (Willcox 2003). The strong development of animal is, control in a wide area extending from the Iranian Plateau
husbandry in the middle of the tenth millennium may be to the Mediterranean shores (though ancillary to the conti-
connected to a drastic change from a mostly vegetarian diet nent through the introduction of wild or domestic taxa, Cy-
to a more carnivorous one. It is also probably connected to prus was part of this area, with special Cypriot innovations
a population increase in the village, as seen in Sector 3 of the such as intensive hunting of fallow deer and local domesti-
site, the study of which is still ongoing. cation of the wild/feral goat); (5) intensive and long-distance
In summary, the history of meat supply at Shillourokambos exchanges of raw materials, including not only obsidian (Bri-
comes within the scope of the PPNB Near Eastern Neolithic ois, Gratuze, and Guilaine 1997) but also living animals across
transition. This is seen in the exploitation of local animals by large continental and marine areas (such interaction explains
hunting and control in local domestication as well as by breed- the relative homogeneity of the PPN cultural sphere); and (6)
ing, which led to the slow but constant intensification of food social organization and technical skills in the Near Eastern
production relative to predation, and in genetic inputs from Final Late Glacial and Early Holocene societies that were more
the mainland in the form of new lineages of domestic pigs, sophisticated than generally believed: in addition to rapid and
sheep, and perhaps cattle. In comparison with the earliest high-level improvements in lithic (Astruc, Binder, and Briois
known Anatolian sites with domestic animals, Shillouro- 2007) and construction (Schmidt 2003; Stordeur et al. 2000)
kambos differs in its slightly later manifestation of local do- technologies, these groups were able to regularly and more
mestication processes (pigs and goats), which are possibly and more intensively navigate to Cyprus (probably by sailing;
adaptations to the local conditions, because of a low and Vigne 2009) and to control animal populations using diver-
insular biological diversity. The emergence of Cypriot animal sified and sophisticated techniques (for meat, milk, hair, and
production appears to be a local version of that seen on the draft products). Illustrating a part of the socioeconomic and
mainland, driven by resource shortage and human demo- historical complexity involved in the beginning of the Neo-
graphic growth (Bocquet-Appel 2011). This interpretation of lithic in the Near East, Cyprus also emphasizes the multifac-
the subsistence strategy of Shillourokambos implies a knowl- torial causes of the transition, including, of course, climatic
edge of seafaring (Broodbank 2006; Vigne and Cucchi 2005), and environmental conditions (Bar-Yosef 2011) but also the
but this was not sufficient for sustainable development of dominant influence of demographic (Bocquet-Appel 2011),
island populations; it also required a high level of control of technical, and social threshold effects.
the sources of subsistence that could be attained only through
the Neolithic way of life and strong connections to continental
rear bases.
Conclusions We thank the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the organizers
of the Merida conference, who invited J.-D. Vigne. We also
Though still poorly documented for the thirteentheleventh thank all the archaeozoologists who provided us with often
millennia, the prepottery history of the relationships between unpublished data: Paul Croft, Simon Davis, Sheelagh Frame,
mammals and humans on Cyprus provides substantial new Lionel Gourichon, and Daniel Helmer. Elizabeth Willcox and
information about the beginnings of domestication in the Doug Price greatly improved our English-language writing.
Near East. In that context, the recent Cypriot data document We are grateful to all the scientists and excavators who con-
the following: (1) a transition to farming during the tenth tributed to the study of this site. The French School at Athens,
millennium, after an unstable and opportunistic late-EPPBN the Cyprus Department of Antiquities, and the French Min-
and MPPNB phase of low-level food production based on istry of Foreign Affairs supported our stays for fieldwork and
rapidly changing combinations of hunting, control, and analysis in Cyprus.
breeding; (2) initiation of this process during the Final Late
Glacial, evidenced in Cyprus by control and long-distance
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Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011 S273

The Beginnings of Agriculture in China

A Multiregional View

by David Joel Cohen

CA Online-Only Material: References Cited PDF with Chinese and Japanese Characters Included

By 9000 cal BP, the first sedentary villages, marking the Early Neolithic, are present in Northeast
China, North China, and the Middle and Lower Yangtze regions, but plant and animal domesticates
do not make a substantial contribution to subsistence until after several more millennia, when
domesticated millet or rice agricultural production is finally in place. While archaeobotanical ap-
proaches have been the primary focus of recent studies, this paper looks specifically at the cultural
developments in these four regions leading up to the emergence of agriculture in each. It is hy-
pothesized that agriculture does not emerge independently in each of these regions but rather in
interrelated steps through variable forms of interaction and information and social exchange within
and between these regions. Interaction is currently evidenced through shared forms of material culture
and by parallel and contemporaneous cultural developments.

Introduction systems that we witness the gradual and interrelated devel-

opment of millet (dry) and rice (wet) agriculture: there are
not multiple independent inventions of agriculture.
Our understanding of the origins of agriculture in China is
The processes of Neolithization are rooted in the Late Pa-
still of low resolution, particularly during a critical time period
leolithic (Cohen 2003). Because of a gap in archaeological
between 12,500 and 9000 cal BP when hunter-gatherers in
four distinct but interconnected geographical regions coverage for the last few millennia of the Pleistocene, available
Northeast China, the North China plains, and the Middle and data begin with the earliest-known villages already established
Lower Yangtze River regionsestablish the first sedentary vil- from ca. 9000 cal BP. These typically contain clusters of small
lages. Although reliance on the cereals rice and millet was round houses and storage pits, abundant and increasingly
once thought to be a major part of this fundamental behav- diversified pottery assemblages, edge-polished axes or adzes,
ioral change, in recent years it has become clear that this is bone tools, ritual features, and discreet cemetery areas, but
not the case. The advent of farming and the domestication subsistence still does not rely on domesticated plants. It is
of cereals was a slow process occurring over 4 millennia in a such sites that we here call Early Neolithic. What follows
number of small steps, region to region, after sedentism and is an overview of the archaeology of the Early Neolithic in
other social and ideological changes of Neolithization had these four regions.
begun. Recent debate has focused on the timing and pace of the
Most previous work for China has focused on the archaeo- domestication of cerealsrice or milletfound in the Early
botany of rice or millet or has looked at the archaeology only Neolithic and Middle Neolithic villages and how cereals are
of single regions. The view here is purposefully broader, look- incorporated into changing modes of subsistence over a
ing at parallel contemporaneous developments across both 3,000-year period (Crawford 2011; Fuller and Qin 2009; Fuller
northern and southern China, as it is within this broad con- et al. 2009, 2010 and references therein; Liu, Lee, and Jiang
text of continuous but variable contact between Neolithic 2007; Zhao 2011). We still do not know where cereal do-
mestication first occurred. South China, where rice produc-
tion begins, was assumed to have the earliest domestication
David Joel Cohen is Adjunct Assistant Professor, International
and agriculture, but new data have given rise to a counter-
Center for East Asian Archaeology and Cultural History, Department
of Archaeology, Boston University (650 Beacon Street, 5th Floor, argument for northern millet farming as having primacy or
Boston, Massachusetts 02215, U.S.A. []). This paper independent invention (Barton et al. 2009; Bar-Yosef 2011;
was submitted 13 XI 09, accepted 1 III 11, and electronically Bettinger et al. 2007; Lu 1999, 2006; Shelach 2000). The pau-
published 17 IX 11. city of securely dated sites leaves this an open question.

2011 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. All rights reserved. 0011-3204/2011/52S4-0009$10.00. DOI: 10.1086/659965
S274 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

Cross-regional interactions leading to farmings establish- climatic fluctuation in Neolithization require renewed at-
ment and spread were facilitated by the interlacing river sys- tention (Bar-Yosef 2011).
tems of eastern China. By 8900 cal BP, people in sedentary The north-south division of Early Neolithic cultures mir-
villages in northern and southern China lived in fundamen- rors that of their Upper Paleolithic predecessors (Cohen
tally different ways than their Late Pleistocene ancestors, and 2003). Terminal Pleistocene northern China features small
the socioeconomic and ideological changes of the Neolithic ephemeral sites with lithics reflecting a broad range of tech-
were well in place but still without agriculture (e.g., Cohen nological strategies, including microblade production, pol-
1998; Crawford 2006; Lu 1999, 2005; Shelach 2000; Underhill ished bone tools, grinding stones and chipped stone axes and
and Habu 2006; Yasuda 2002 and references therein; Zhang adzes, and body ornamentation, perhaps reflecting specialized
and Hung 2008). The organizational and ideological changes adaptations to the more extreme and unstable environments
of the Early Neolithic arise first and out of synchronization of the region during the late Terminal Pleistocene (Elston and
with the slower pathways leading from increasing exploitation Brantingham 2002). Microblade sites in northern China such
of wild plants to their management and cultivation, to the as Xiachuan (27,50018,200 cal BP) and Shizitan
fixing of morphological traits and domestication, and then to (20,30013,800 cal BP; Shanxi; fig. 1) are at the southernmost
the spread of the domesticates (e.g., Fuller and Qin 2009; margin of an extensive Northern Asian microblade sphere
Fuller et al. 2009; Jones and Liu 2009). (An 2000; Kuzmin, Keates, and Shen 2007; Lu 1999; Xia et
al. 2002; Zhang 2002a).
Upper Paleolithic South China features stability in its typ-
The Geographical and Environmental ical cobble-tool industries (cores, flakes, choppers), which
Setting and Upper Paleolithic Precursors persist into the Early Neolithic. This has been attributed to
greater environmental stability in this warmer, wetter, more
The vast landmass of China consists of three major topo- resource-abundant region. It is in hunter-gatherer contexts in
graphic steps (Ren, Yang, and Bao 1985). While Late Pa- South China that pottery vesselsthe earliest in the world
leolithic sites are found in many regions, it is in the river first appear, such as at Yuchanyan (Hunan) by 18,300
drainages of the lowest step (sea level to 1,000 m) that cal BP (Boaretto et al. 2009; Gu and Yuan 2006; Prendergast,
hunter-gatherers first became sedentary and later domesti- Yuan, and Bar-Yosef 2009; Yuan 2002) and Xianrendong
cated plants and animals. Between 10,000 and 8900 cal BP, and Diaotonghuan (Jiangxi; 21,00014,500 cal BP;
four Early Neolithic cultural clusters are recognized. Along MacNeish et al. 1998; Peng and Zhou 2006; Sun and Zhan
the Middle and Lower Yellow River, on the North China and 2004; Zhang 2002b; fig. 2). While it is not clear whether
Central plains, we find the large village and cemetery sites of sedentary villages and plant domestication emerge first in the
the Peiligang culture and closely related neighboring south or north, if environmental pressure is a causal factor
cultures. These feature the intensive exploitation of millet for either, the resource-rich Yangtze River land of plenty
(and some rice). The interdigitating tributaries of the Huai would require different modeling than the north.
River system tie the Peiligang cultures to two clusters in the In Chinese archaeology, the presence of pottery has been
Yangtze River system: the Pengtoushan culture of the taken as a marker for the Neolithic, but it is now apparent
Middle Yangtze region and Shangshan and related sites that these are seasonal sites of mobile hunter-gatherers with
in the Lower Yangtze. These feature early sedentary villages a small amount of coarse low-fired pottery. By 16,00014,000
and the exploitation of probably wild rice. A fourth cluster, cal BP, pottery is distributed as widely as South China, Japan,
in Northeast China along the Xiliaohe River in Inner and the Russian Far East (Cohen 1998, 2003; Kuzmin 2006;
Mongolia, features large hillside settlements of the Xing- Wu and Zhao 2003). We hypothesize that pottery making
longwa culture and possibly domesticated millet.1 spreads through these regions via social networks and is not
Through the Terminal Pleistocene, Younger Dryas (ca. reinvented in each. Pearson (2005) sees the pottery as invented
12,80011,600 cal BP), and onset of the Holocene (11,500 cal for feasting that reaffirmed group bonds and collective iden-
BP), marked variation in annual monsoon cycles and their tities (but see Hayden 2009). Even if so, pottery takes on new
intensities causes a shifting mosaic of localized environmental roles in the Early Neolithic as it diversifies in form and func-
changes in China (Cohen 1998, 2002; Morrill, Overpeck, and tions.
Cole 2003; Yasuda et al. 2004; Yi and Saito 2004; Yi et al. In North China, pottery appears at larger open-air sites
2003; Yuan et al. 2004). These would have been more severe featuring new adaptations by foragers. At Yujiagou (He-
and abrupt in the north and would have more greatly affected bei; TL 11,60011,100 BP), on the cold arid grasslands north-
people at the margins of major phytogeographic zones (e.g., west of the Taihang Mountains, pottery appears in a typical
Hong and Ricklefs 2001; Yang and Ding 2008). As there is microblade assemblage (Guo and Li 2000, 2002). Pottery sites
some correlation with cultural changes, the localized roles of on the eastern warmer and wetter side of the Taihang range
stand in ready contrast and can be seen as apparent precursors
1. Below, the lowercase terms the north and northern China are to the Early Neolithic. The lakeside Nanzhuangtou site
used to refer jointly to the North China and Northeast China regions. (Hebei; 12,50010,500 cal BP), dated to the Younger Dryas
Cohen Beginnings of Agriculture in China S275

Figure 1. Map of Early Neolithic cultures and sites in South China (Mid-
dle and Lower Yangtze regions), North China, and Northeast China men-
tioned in the text. 1, Yuchanyan; 2, Chengtoushan; 3, Pengtoushan; 4,
Bashidang; 5, Xianrendong and Diaotonghuan; 6, Shangshan; 7, Kuahu-
qiao; 8, Xiaohuangshan; 9, Hemudu and Tianluoshan; 10, Dadiwan; 11,
Shizitan; 12, Xiachuan; 13, Jiahu; 14, Peiligang; 15, Cishan; 16, Yuezhuang;
17, Xiaojingshan; 18, Houli; 19, Nanzhuangtou; 20, Yujiagou; 21, Zhuan-
nian; 22, Xinglonggou.

and Early Holocene, features flake tools (no microblades), cooking over fire and a new dependence on pottery in food
polished axes, bone and antler tools, and querns and rollers, processing (Zhu 2002:98). Decorative elaboration may indi-
indicating seed processing. Chiseled wooden rods give evi- cate increased social signaling using ceramics.
dence of woodworking. Nanzhuangtou has activity areas for Two other nearby sites, both with microblades, also show
fauna processing and cooking and two natural ditches filled important transitional elements. Zhuannian (Beijing;
with midden deposits; these become typical features of Neo- 11,30010,300 cal BP) features a larger site size (ca. 0.5 ha),
lithic sites. The earliest domesticated dog is identified at Nan- querns and rollers, small stone axes, and fragments of stone
zhuangtou (Yuan 2010). Small amounts of pig and chicken vessels (mortars?) as well as pottery (Zhao et al. 2006). Dong-
later Neolithic domesticatesare present, but deer are the hulin (Beijing; 11,0009300 cal BP) has small pit buri-
primary focus. Smoke blackening on pottery may indicate als. One (M2) contained a stone axe placed at the head of a
Figure 2. Dates for Early Pottery (Late Paleolithic and Pottery Pre-
Neolithic), Early Neolithic, and Middle Neolithic cultures and sites in
South China, North China, and Northeast China mentioned in the text.
Sources: A, Zhao et al. 2006; B, Cui and Zhou 2008; C, Zhejiang Shang-
shan 2007:16; D, Zhang 2007; E, Gansu Dadiwan 2006 and Liu 2006b;
F, Cai 2000; G, Beijing Donghulin 2006; H, Qu et al., forthcoming; I,
MacNeish et al. 1998; J, Shelach 2000, 2006; K, Yasuda et al. 2004; L,
Boaretto et al. 2009; M, Institute of Archaeology 1991; N, Zhejiang
Kuahuqiao 2004:226227; O, Henan Jiahu 1999:515; P, Yin 2006; Q,
Zhejiang Tianluoshan 2007; R, Hunan Pengtoushan 2006; S, Guo and Li
2002; T, Guo jia wen wu ju 2006 and Wang 2006; U, Lu et al. 2009.
Cohen Beginnings of Agriculture in China S277

Figure 2. (Continued)

flexed (perhaps bundled) individual with perforated shells exploitation included millet or whether or not these are sed-
placed about the rest of the body. Ten pit hearths, neatly lined entary sites.
with cobbles, show greater pyrotechnological controls (Beijing
Donghulin 2006:5).
Nanzhuangtou, Zhuannian, and Donghulin show impor-
The Early Neolithic
tant transitional steps toward the Early Neolithic. We find The appearance of Early Neolithic settlements sometime after
new technologies such as grinding stones, pottery, and mi- 10,100 cal BP marks increased sedentism, population agglom-
croblade knives as part of an adoption of broad-spectrum eration, and departures from Late Paleolithic behavioral pat-
subsistence strategies (Lu 2006), but it is still not clear if plant terns. Many sites are enclosed by ditches and have distinct
Figure 2. (Continued)
Cohen Beginnings of Agriculture in China S279

Figure 2. (Continued)

areas for houses, for domestic activities, for storage facilities, well as through stable isotope studies (e.g., Barton et al. 2009;
and for the earliest planned multigenerational cemeteries, Hu, Ambrose, and Wang 2006; Hu et al. 2008; Pechenkina
sometimes with hundreds of burials. Early houses are typically et al. 2005), a more complex picture is emerging of the degree
small, round, and semisubterranean. Later they shift to a rect- of human manipulation of plants and their environment.
angular plan. Houses are frequently found in clusters of sev- Early Neolithic populations continued to base their subsis-
eral tens, and with a few exceptions, most houses in a village tence on hunting-gathering-fishing but with intensified ex-
are similar in size. Burials are uniform in size, and grave goods ploitation of the plants later cultivated in agricultural systems.
tend to be few. There is little evidence for functional differ- Pig domestication occurs perhaps at 9000 cal BP (Larson et
entiation between households or social status differences be- al. 2010; Yuan 2010). Other early domesticates are dog and
tween individuals. Within regions, there can be differences in chicken, with cattle, water buffalo, and sheep added later, but
site size. wild animals continue to be a major meat source throughout
A key issue, discussed in detail elsewhere (Crawford 2009, the Neolithic, although regional patterns of reliance on do-
2011; Fuller and Qin 2008, 2009; Fuller et al. 2009; Jones and mesticated animals versus wild animals vary (An 2004; Yuan
Liu 2009; Liu 2008; Liu, Lee, and Jiang 2007; Liu et al. 2007; 2003; Yuan, Flad, and Luo 2008).
Lu et al. 2009; Pan 2008; Zhao 2011), is the nature of plant
and animal exploitation and whether domestication occurs North China: Peiligang and Related
in this period. Since the 1970s, abundant cereal remains ex-
cavated from storage pits and also found in pottery tempering
were assumed to be from domesticates. In recent years, as The Early Neolithic cultures of North China date from at least
archaeobotanical remains become systematically recovered, as ca. 9000 cal BP (or possibly 10,000 cal BP for Cishan) through
S280 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

Figure 2. (Continued)

7400 cal BP. These cultures share many similarities in settle- iwan culture (Gansu and Shaanxi) in the western Middle
ment structure, houses, burials, pottery forms and decoration, Yellow River.
tools, grinding stones, and subsistence practices, and so we
cluster them into one group here. The individual archaeo-
The Peiligang Culture, Jiahu, and North-South Connections
logical cultures within this cluster include the Peiligang
(Henan) and Cishan (Hebei) cultures in the lowland plains Peiligang culture sites range in size from under 1 to 20 ha.
of the eastern Middle Yellow River, the Houli culture (Shan- Excavated sites (all in Henan) include the typesite Peiligang
dong) on the Lower Yellow River, and, dating later, the Dad- , Shawoli , Egou , Shigu , and Shuiquan
Cohen Beginnings of Agriculture in China S281

(see Li 2003), but the best understood is Jiahu (5.5 ha, are capable of four- and seven-tone scales like ours today
90008000 cal BP; Henan Jiahu 1999:515519). The Peiligang (Zhang, Xiao, and Lee 2004).
component at the largest settlement, Tanghu , is said to Jiahu is rich in animal and plant remains. Subsistence was
cover 20 ha (Zhang and Xin 2008). Both Tanghu and Jiahu based primarily on hunting-gathering-fishing. Domesticated
feature a ditch enclosing part of the settlement, with Jiahus dogs are present at Jiahu, as are pigs (Yuan 2010). Jiahu stor-
being the oldest. As discussed by Crawford (2011) for Jomon age pits contain many plant remains, including rice. Although
agriculture in Japan, human activities around these early vil- cereals have been the focus of discussions of subsistence sys-
lage sites such as ditch construction and clearing would have tems, other plant foods probably played a larger role in Early
a significant impact on plant populations and need further Neolithic subsistence and need more consideration. At Jiahu,
consideration. these include acorns (Quercus), trapa, and wild soybean.
Peiligang houses are semisubterranean and round in plan, Jiahus small-sized rice remains are at the center of the debate
ca. 2.5 m in diameter. Round houses are a common feature on plant domestication (Crawford 2011; Fuller and Qin 2008;
of the earliest sites across most regions. Interiors usually fea- Fuller, Qin, and Harvey 2008a, 2008b; Fuller et al. 2009; Liu,
ture a hearth and a narrow sloped entryway or steps. At Jiahu Lee, and Jiang 2007; Zhao 2011; Zhao and Zhang 2009).
(Henan Jiahu 1999), 42 of 45 structures are round and semi- Because cereal exploitation at other Peiligang and related cul-
subterranean; most are a single room. At Tanghu, more than ture sites shares a primary focus on millet, it is extremely
60 semisubterranean round houses, some with double rooms, interesting that rice is abundant but millet is absent at Jiahu
have been excavated along with 204 pits (Zhang and Xin even though Jiahu maintains many defining cultural traits of
2008). Peiligang-related sites can have hundreds of these ash- the Peiligang. The exploitation of rice rather than millet had
pits for refuse disposal, storage, and ritual use (such as dog no impact on material culture at Jiahu, differentiating it from
burials) found in both domestic and cemetery areas (Li 2003: other Peiligang sites, and so it was other factorsnot millet
4046). consumptionthat may have maintained cultural boundaries
Peiligang sites feature separate cemeteries within which can during this period.
be several spatial clusters of graves, and two or three cemetery The Peiligang sites demonstrate evolutionary leaps in sed-
entism and site structure, social organization and population
areas can be located at one site. Contemporaneous cemeteries
dynamics, technologies, and symbolic activities on first en-
may serve separate social groups. At Jiahu, the early period
trance into the Early Neolithic. Jiahu also supports the hy-
has two cemeteries, and the middle and late periods have six
pothesis that interregional contacts through social networks
(Yan 2006:112). Thus, we have evidence for new forms of
drive shared parallel development. For example, Jiahu mixes
social organization emerging with Neolithization, with indi-
Peiligang material culture related to subsistenceincluding
cations of both population agglomeration and social differ-
grinding stones, sickles, and potterywith foods from South
entiation (such as clan formation) over time. Jiahu burials
China cultures such as lotus, trapa, and rice (Zhao 2011).
show some differentiation by sex and by grave-good amounts,
Jiahus location ties it into the Huai River communication
but this differentiation in burial wealth occurs in a still egal-
channels that connect northward into the PeiligangYellow
itarian society with a continuum from poorest to richest,
River system and southward into the PengtoushanYangtze
without clustering, and with random spatial distribution of
River system. Shared pottery vessel forms with the Peng-
the richest graves (Smith and Lee 2008). Unique to Jiahu are
toushan culturesuch as the double-eared, round-bellied,
its numerous group primary burials and its many secondary
high-neck, small-mouth hu jugsdemonstrate this (fig. 3),
burials, both group and individual. as does the appearance of ding tripod vessels and three-leg
Peiligang assemblages contain large numbers of adzes and cooking stands in both regions (Wu 1997). It is unlikely that
the prototypical tongue-shaped spades, denticulate sickles, all of these identical forms developed independently. Also,
and four-footed large stone querns with rollers. Bone tools Pengtoushan and Jiahu (unlike other Peiligang sites) have
include elaborate barbed spears, points, and needles. The wide many secondary burials (and these burials in both areas con-
variety of pottery vessel types include mostly guan jars, hu tain the double-ear hu vessels; Henan Jiahu 1999:533). They
tall-neck small-mouth jars, and bo small bowls; second most each also have the earliest examples of settlement ditches.
common are ding tripod vessels and wan bowls, and there
are also pan platters, dou pedestal serving stands, and vessel
lids (Li 2003:2930; fig. 3). Cishan: Broomcorn Millet at 10,000 cal BP?
Jiahu provides evidence for special ritual practices such as The Cishan culture is centered in Hebei, north of the
dog pits and sets of tortoise shell rattles placed in some burials. Peiligang culture region (see Liu, Hunt, and Jones 2009).
Symbolic systems become more greatly manifested in pottery Excavated sites include the 8-ha Cishan typesite (Hebei Cishan
decoration as well as in individual characters found in- 1981) and Beifudi (Duan Beifudi 2007). Cishans ex-
scribed on tortoise shells (but not related to later writing as cavations in the 1970s revealed 474 storage pits containing
some suggest; Li et al. 2003). Jiahu inhabitants also had a an estimated 50,000 kg of ashy remains of cereals, originally
well-developed cognitive scheme of music: crane bone flutes identified as domesticated foxtail millet Setaria italica (Zhao
Figure 3. Comparison of artifact types found in the Early Neolithic North
China Peiligang and Cishan cultures and the South China Pengtoushan
culture. 1, 14, and 24 are footed grinding stones of the Peiligang culture
also found in Cishan later phases. 6 and 37 are cooking stands found in
both North and South China. 19, 21, 32, 33, 43, and 44 are double-eared
small-mouth hu jugs common at Pengtoushan and Peiligang sites. 7, 8,
17, 18, 27, and 28 are ding tripods. Objects are not to the same scale.
113 after Hebei Cishan 1981; 14, 15, 18, 19, 21, and 22 after Peiligang
A 1978; 16, 17, and 20 after Peiligang B 1982; 2334 after Henan Jiahu
1999; 3644 after Hunan Pengtoushan 2006.
Cohen Beginnings of Agriculture in China S283

2005:91; 2011). Recent phytolith and biomolecular analyses fu cauldrons are the common cooking vessels. There are leg
of new samples from exposed sections at the site instead iden- stands, as in South China and Peiligang (Tong 2006). Stable
tify these as domesticated broomcorn (common) millet Pan- isotope studies of human bone from Xiaojingshan show C4
icum miliaceum, with new radiocarbon dates ranging from plants (millet) contributing 25% of dietary protein at 8000
10,300 to 8700 cal BP, which would mean Cishan could have cal BP; this increases, becoming the most significant protein
the earliest domesticated cereals and dryland farming in China source a millennium later (Hu et al. 2008). Flotation at the
(Crawford 2009; Lu et al. 2009). But these radiocarbon dates, Yuezhuang site (ca. 7900 cal BP) recovered 40 broomcorn
taken on samples from exposed surfaces and not from ar- and one foxtail seed but also 26 rice grains, showing Oryzas
chaeological excavation, are more than a millennium earlier arrival in the Lower Yellow River by this time (Crawford,
than those from the earlier excavations and may be problem- Chen, and Wang 2006). Nuts, a significant component of
atic (Zhao 2011). Further verification is called for through Early Neolithic diets in South China, have been identified at
systematic stratigraphic sampling and micromorphological Houli sites but in smaller quantities (Crawford 2011).
study to assure secure contexts and associations for radio-
carbon samples. Foxtail millet appears after broomcorn, at
Dadiwan and the Highlands
8700 cal BP, and only in small quantities (which is the pattern
at other sites, as well). Domesticated pig is present at Cishan After the Peiligang-related cultures developed millet produc-
as well (Yuan 2010). Cishans occupation ends at 7500 cal BP. tion in the lower elevations, they probably expanded into
Cishans material culture shows close connections with the higher elevations and new ecological zones. The appearance
Peiligang regional phase. For example, grinding querns in- of the Dadiwan (or Laoguantai ) culture may
crease greatly through time. In its second phase, 52 four- result from the spread of farming populations into new
footed querns are founda unique form coming from Pei- regions, a pattern that was to continue and accelerate through
ligang. Evidence for participation in wider-ranging the Neolithic. The Dadiwan distribution area is centered on
interactions also is found. Vessel stands, ding tripods, and the Wei and Upper Hanshui Rivers and the loess plateau at
some ring-foot vessels are also present, and these vessel forms ca. 1,500-m elevation, a higher and more arid region than
are distributed widely, even into South China. Flat-based ce- the other Peiligang-related cultures. Sites include Dadiwan
ramic jars and bowls and straight-sided wide-mouth cups (yu) (Gansu), Lower Beishouling , Laoguantai, Yuanjunmiao
may indicate ties to the northeast (below; fig. 3). Beifudi is , and Beiliu (Bai and Zhang 2001:15). At Dadiwan,
notable for its ritual features, ceramic masks (earliest found 240 houses, 325 pits, 35 kilns, and 65 burials have been ex-
in China), and jades (Duan Beifudi 2007). Early jades are also cavated at 10 localities. Dadiwan dates later than other Pei-
found in the northeast and at Dadiwan to the west. ligang-related regions. The earliest occupation, ca. 79007200
cal BP, features round semisubterranean houses, pits, and
burials. Ceramics share common forms with Peiligang, in-
The Houli Culture
cluding tripod vessels and hu small-mouth jars, but one dif-
Thirteen Houli sites are found at the margins of the ference is the presence of painted potterybowls with a red
central hills and outer floodplains of the Shandong peninsula painted band at the rim. At 6500 cal BP, the Dadiwan settle-
skirting the northern edge of the highlands (Tong 2006:176). ment expands from the second to the third river terrace. At
Houli sites are larger than Peiligang sites, but their chronology this stage, a ditch is dug enclosing its 156 now rectangular
is poorly understood and may date later. Hu et al. (2008) semisubterranean houses positioned around a central plaza,
date the Xiaojingshan site to 82007500 cal BP. The and burial shifts to a separate cemetery zone. Ceramic forms
Houli typesite is 15 ha. The Xiaojingshan site features a three- increase, and fine wares and complex painted designs appear.
sided ditch 1,130 m in total length. The earliest houses and Jade chisels also are found (Gansu Dadiwan 2006).
two cemeteries are found within its bounds. Later houses and Bettinger et al. (2007, 2010) include Dadiwan in a scenario
a cemetery are added outside the ditch. There are also early for an independent center of millet agricultural origins created
pottery kilns and many ash pits. Although houses are semi- by low-level food producer forager groups from the desert
subterranean, they are square with rounded corners, 3550 margins north of the site. Intensively specializing on broom-
m2 in size, with one to three hearths in the center and fired corn millet, they were forced to migrate to the unpopulated
earthen walls. The rectangular shape may indicate a later date. plains of the loess plateau when in the Early Holocene the
Many have grinding querns installed in the floors near the region became more arid. In semipermanent settlements such
hearths. Unlike Peiligang, the querns are footless and used as Dadiwan, they domesticated broomcorn millet, which is
on both sides, and they are found in domestic contexts, while more tolerant to cold and drought than foxtail millet (Bet-
Peiligang querns primarily are found in burials. Many houses tinger et al. 2007:9193). In Barton et al.s (2009) stable iso-
also have large pottery cauldrons, sometimes half buried at tope study, they define this stage as a low-intensity domestic
the interior wall. relationship between millet, humans, and their hunting dogs.
Houli ceramics feature more than 12 forms, but unlike The proposal that Dadiwan is an independent center because
Peiligang, there are few ding tripods. Instead, round-bottom of its location 700 km from Peiligang, higher elevation, dif-
S284 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

ferent environment, and focus on broomcorn is hardly ac- baogou period, mortality profiles, but not morphology, of
ceptable. Dadiwan, established at 7900 cal BP, appears more pigs suggest domestication (Shelach 2000:283). In Xinglongwa
than a millennium after the early phase at Jiahu or Cishan. sites, early sacrificial usage of pigs and deer is found, too.
Dadiwan is not a closed cultural system, and this view does Such animal sacrifice becomes a mainstay of later Neolithic
not consider its evidence for interaction with other clusters and Bronze Age religious activities. In grave M118 at Xing-
in North and Northeast China, including broomcorn millet longwa, a 50-year-old male was interred with one male and
exploitation (found earlier at Xinglongwa and Cishan sites; one female pig. In house F5 at Xinglonggou, 12 pig crania
Lu et al. 2009), settlement layout, house forms, kiln tech- and 3 deer craniamost with a hole drilled through the fore-
nology, adzes, some burial practices, jades, and shared ceramic headwere placed into the house floor (Liu 2006b:9).
vessel forms such as tripods and hu vessels. These make it Xinglongwa lithics are more diverse than other regions,
difficult to account for Dadiwan as an independent center. retaining Late Paleolithic flake tools and microblades and
Furthermore, the late adoption of foxtail millet at Dadiwan blades while adding polished tools. Both microblades and
at 5900 cal BP (Barton 2009) mirrors foxtail millets later blades are also found at Beifudi in the Cishan culture to the
growth in usage in the lower elevations as well. Xinglongwa south. Because true blades are rare in the Chinese Late Pa-
produces jades, and the Beifudi Cishan site has jades. It is leolithic and Early Neolithic, this commonality may be sig-
unlikely that all such features would have been reinvented nificant. Tools include flaked and sometimes fully polished
independently at Dadiwan. Moreover, pottery production has or edge-polished rectangular stone spades (some with
not been found in the loess plateau or northern desert margins waists) and polished axes/adzes (suggesting forest clearing)
earlier than Dadiwan, and thus Dadiwans earliest but ad- and awls. The percentage of polished tools increases into the
vanced pottery would most likely be the product of com- Zhaobaogou period (Liu 2006b:89). Bone-handle composite
munication with or migration from farming cultures to the tools are inset with microblades. Use-wear analysis of stone
east. Therefore, Dadiwan can be seen as a secondary center plows, which are up to 30 cm long, suggests they were used
representing an early spread of farming populations into new to work soil. Stone querns and rollers are found in installa-
environmental zones. Interaction is also seen in the opposite tions near the walls inside Xinglongwa houses and may have
direction: when Dadiwan potters added painting to their rep- been used for grinding grains. Querns are relatively large, up
ertoire, it quickly worked its way into the northeast and down to 40 cm across and 1030 cm thick. These are sometimes
the Yellow River into the Yangshao -related cultures. found associated with large ceramic basins installed in the
house floors (Shelach 2000:384), and this is a domestic pattern
The Early Neolithic in Northeast China: shared with North China Houli culture sites.
Xinglongwa pottery is sand tempered, coarse, and low fired.
The Xinglongwa Culture Vessel forms are few and mostly jars and bowls. Flat-based
The occupations of the few dated settlements in Northeast vessels predominate, with straight vessel walls angling outward
Chinas Early Neolithic Xinglongwa culture begin 5 to form wide vessel mouths. Vessel surfaces can be covered
centuries later than the earliest in the Yellow River region. with rows of impressed or incised patterns, most notably the
These settlements, however, parallel what is seen in contem- Z-shaped motif and net patterns. Zhaobaogou culture pottery
poraneous settlements in the Yellow River region. Xinglongwa becomes elaborated with more complex decorative motifs,
sites, in eastern Inner Mongolia, include Xinglongwa, Baiyin- including geometric and net forms over the vessel surface.
changhan , Chahai , Nantaizi , Xinglonggou During the Zhaobaogou period the first fine clay pottery ap-
, and Beichengzi (Liu 2006a). Radiocarbon dates pears in the region. Decorative motifs combine intertwined
from Xinglongwa sites range from ca. 8300 to 7400 cal BP. elements from deer, birds, boar, and other animals (see Liu
The cultural sequence continues with the Fuhe culture 2000). The intricate designs, possibly produced by individuals
and then the Zhaobaogou culture ca. 71006700 cal with specialized skills, are early examples of iconographic or
BP (Liu 2006b; Shelach 2006). artistic motifs that blossom in the later Neolithic (Shelach
Subsistence in Xinglongwa may include domesticated mil- 2000:389393).
lets (Zhao 2011), but wild plants and animals make up the During the Xinglongwa period, early examples of carved
majority of the diet. Flotation at Xinglonggou recovered many jades are found in house floors and burials (Shelach 2000:
carbonized seeds, most of which are wild grasses but that also 394), establishing the roots of the ritual jade production that
include much broomcorn millet and a small amount of foxtail becomes a hallmark of this region by the Middle Neolithic
millet (Liu 2006b:9; Zhao 2005:9192)a pattern that is sim- Hongshan culture. Jades found in the Dadiwan culture
ilar to North China sites. These millets, dating ca. 7650 cal (above) date slightly later.
BP, are morphologically domesticated (Zhao 2011).
No domesticated animals are reported for Xinglongwa sites,
Xinglongwa Settlements
although domesticated pigs are already found in South and
North China by this time period, but the hunting of deer and Unlike other regions, Xinglongwa sites are located primarily
wild boar is an important part of the economy. By the Zhao- on hillsides, suggesting unique considerations for their place-
Cohen Beginnings of Agriculture in China S285

ment. Larger sites range 210 ha, some with shallow ditches rice agricultures demands for available level ground for man-
around them. Houses are numerous, closely spaced, and ar- aging water flow (Yan 2006:113).
ranged in rows, with one to three clusters at each site. At Houses at Pengtoushan are semisubterranean and com-
Beichengzi, there are 214 houses in 11 rows within the outer paratively small, with irregular round shapes and hearths of
ditches, while Xinglongwa has 94 houses in 11 rows (Liu piled fired earth and clay. A few are rectangular and built at
2006b:45; Wu 2002:109; Yan 2006:112). Public spaces and ground level on a low base of clay and sand. Among Bashi-
ceremonial installations are also found. Some sites have a dangs 24 houses there are fewer semisubterranean and more
small plaza at the center containing the largest structure at surface structures, including pile dwellings. Two houses built
the site. At Chahai, a 120-m2 structure is in the plaza and has on earthen platforms 3050 cm high have a large central post
an associated 19.7-m-long dragon-shaped stone piling with with animal bones deposited near it, perhaps ritually. A ritual
burials and a sacrificial pit (Liu 2006b:45). function may also hold for most of the 80 excavated pits at
Xinglongwa houses are semisubterranean and rectangular Bashidang. They are carefully dug, 3050 cm in diameter, with
with central hearths, and most range in size from 50 to 80 straight walls and a flat base. Fired earth, pottery sherds,
m2. A common and unique Xinglongwa practice is burial polished black stone ornamental rods, a few polished stone
individual male or female or child group internmentsunder objects, or cobbles are cached inside many. These are similar
house floors (Liu 2006a:11). Pits possibly used for storage are to the sacrificial pits found in the Middle Neolithic altar
features at the nearby Chengtoushan settlement (Yin
also found dispersed among the houses as well as inside. These
contain potsherds and animal bones, while one at Nantaizi
Funerary treatment in Pengtoushan is simpler than in
had more than 200 stone tools (Shelach 2000:401). The Xing-
North China. The 100 graves at Bashidang and 21 at Peng-
longwa rectangular houses date later than the round semi-
toushan are small shallow pits of rectangular, rounded, or
subterranean houses from the early phases in North China.
irregular shape. Most are secondary, but some are primary
Without formal reports being available for Xinglongwa sites,
and flexed. Grave goods include only one to four objects,
we still know little about their internal organization, their
usually a fu cauldron or a high-neck small-mouth jar or a
economic activities, their community integration, and the
stone tool (Bai and Zhang 2001:23). Bashidang burials are
structure of these early sedentary communities (for the sub-
placed at the perimeter of the residential area but are not
sequent Zhaobaogou period, see Shelach 2006). clustered together. Elaborate vertical pit graves with greater
numbers of grave goods in larger distinct cemetery areas do
The Early Neolithic in South China: not appear until the Middle Neolithic Daxi (64005500
cal BP) and Qujialing (55004500 cal BP) cultures, such
Pengtoushan and Shangshan (Middle as at Chengtoushan (Chen 2006:210).
Yangtze Region) Archaeobotanical remains at Bashidang include 67 species
of plants. Rice at Bashidang, probably a secondary food re-
The Pengtoushan culture represents the Early
source, has been described as a cultivated form that shows
Neolithic of the Middle Yangtze region. Sites are distributed
signs of human selective pressure (Hunan Pengtoushan 2006:
in the Liyang Plain of the Lishui River in northern Hunan
519; Zhang and Pei 1997), but Fuller, Harvey, and Qin (2007:
Province. Five sites have been excavated: Pengtoushan, Ba-
323), noting markedly thin rice at the site, interpret it as
shidang , Fenshanbao , Huangjiayuan , and
immature and morphologically wild. Other plants include
Tujiatai (Hunan Pengtoushan 2006; Yin 2006). The
wild soybeans, trapa, plum (Prunus mumu), peach (Prunus
Pengtoushan culture sites have radiocarbon dates ca. 10,000
persica), and wild grape. Fauna includes six species of fish,
8400 cal BP but probably continued for another several cen-
birds, Sus sp., Cervus sp., water deer, muntjac, and wild water
turies. Sites are probably permanent villages with subsistence buffalo (Bubalus sp.; Hunan Pengtoushan 2006:513).
still based on hunting-fishing-gathering but also with ex- Remarkably, although the Pengtoushan culture settlements
ploitation and perhaps manipulation of wild rice. Soundings are most likely permanent sedentary villages with a new and
at Bashidang and other sites show that an earlier but poorly increasingly intensive pattern of exploitation of rice and other
understood village phase exists before the Pengtoushan cul- plants that would also become domesticates, its lithic assem-
ture called the Lower Bashidang culture. blage still retains regional Paleolithic characteristics. Peng-
Positioned on a slight rise above the current fields and water toushan still features mostly cobble tools, small flaked-flint
channels of the plain, the Pengtoushan site is ca. 2 ha in size. tools (e.g., scrapers), and a few axes and adzes possibly used
The later Bashidang site is ca. 3 ha in size and better preserved for woodworking (Hunan Pengtoushan 2006:587); this is not
(Hunan Pengtoushan 2006). Bashidang is one of the largest like later specialized assemblages associated with rice agri-
Early Neolithic sites here, with others typically under 1 ha culture (He 1995).
(Yan 2006:113). Through time, South China settlements re- Pengtoushan pottery features uneven forming of vessels,
main smaller than northern ones, perhaps because of the but vessel walls are thinner than Pleistocene pottery, mea-
watery topography of the Yangtze basin or later because of suring 0.60.8 cm. Round-bottom vessel forms predominate,
S286 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

and there is much coarse cord marking (He 1995). Wares BP (Zhejiang Shangshan 2007), while Xiaohuangshans esti-
have fine sand or organic tempering, including rice husks and mated age is ca. 10,000/90008000/7000 cal BP (Guo jia wen
leaves (Pei 2002). Double-eared hu jars make up 12%15% wu ju 2006; Wang 2006). At Shangshan, associations and dates
of the assemblages and vessel stands 4%11% (Hunan Peng- of its earliest features are still preliminary, and some may
toushan 2006:586, 622628). As mentioned above, both are belong to the later Kuahuqiao and Hemudu culture phases.
also found at Jiahu and in other Peiligang-related cultures, Both Shangshan and Xiaohuangshan have been interpreted
perhaps reflecting contact between these regions (fig. 3). as permanent settlements with a hunter-gatherer economy
Bashidang, like Jiahu, is the earliest settlement found in the and early exploitation, perhaps cultivation, of rice (Guo jia
Yangtze region to feature a surrounding ditch, and it dates to wen wu ju 2006; Wang 2006; Zhao 2011). While the size and
the same time period, ca. 8800 cal BP. With sides of 170200 layout of Shangshan are not reported, within the 5-ha area
m in length, the ditch was ca. 4 m wide, with sloping edges of Xiaohuangshan are found three clusters of houses; it is also
to a depth of 0.52 m. It may have in part made use of a the largest Early Neolithic site in the south. Houses at both
diverted river channel, allowing drainage from the settlement sites are rectangular and up to 14 m long, with some built
into the river (Pei 2006 [2004]:280). Bashidangs ditch build- on U-shaped foundation trenches and others, perhaps later
ing establishes a pattern of intensive landscape modification in date, as pile dwellings (Jiang and Liu 2006). Like Peng-
that through the Neolithic becomes increasingly used to tie toushan, Xiaohuangshan burials are located about the edges
together settlements and surrounding fields by water channels. of the settlement but are not clustered. Grave goods include
As discussed by Crawford (2011), such engineering of site a few pottery vessels, usually small flat-bottom basins with
environments could also produce opportunities for the pre- flared rims, ring-foot jars, or high-neck small-mouth jars.
ferred growth of certain plant species such as wild rice. Water There are numerous pits within both settlements of various
control, too, is central to rice agriculture, and as the water- shapes but typically shallowsome with one or two pottery
management systems of these channels were developed fol- vessels or lithicsthat may have been for burials or other
lowing the Pengtoushan culture period, they may have been ritual purposes. At Xiaohuangshan, there are many 1-m-
critical in the domestication process for rice (see Fuller and diameter pits with straight walls and flat bottoms. The ex-
Qin 2009). Following Bashidang, Middle Yangtze settlements cavators believe they were used for stem tuber and nut storage
increase in size, and the ditches become moats permanently (acorns are a common resource at later sites).
filled with water. At 7400 cal BP, Chengtoushans moat is 15 Shangshan sites have large amounts of pottery. At Xiao-
m wide surrounding a circular 5-ha area. At 6850 cal BP, the huangshan, 1,000 pottery vessels could be reconstructed. The
Chengtoushan site expands again. A new embankment wall early-phase pottery can be grouped with Shangshans, where
10 m wide by 2 m high and a 2.2-m-deep moat are con- slab-molded or coil-made flat-bottom basins predominate
structed. Moats such as this connected the settlements to (ca. 85%). As with Pengtoushan pottery, rice chaff, stalks, and
extensive waterway networks, natural and man-made, leading leaves can be found in the sherd fabricthis tempering pro-
to fields and neighboring settlements. Oars and other wooden vides the rice evidence that is used in recent discussions of
boat parts are found. By the Late Neolithic, Chengtoushan the state of rice domestication at the site (e.g., Liu, Lee, and
reaches 8 ha in size (Pei 2006 [2004]:281283). As the Cheng- Jiang 2007). However, the flat-bottom vessel forms at Shang-
toushan settlement is expanding, paddy-field rice agriculture shan sites are different from Early Neolithic sites in other
is developing at the site as well. The earliest paddy-field sys- regions and from later cultures in the Lower Yangtze, such
tems, with long rows of raised bunding demarcating fields of as the Kuahuqiao and Hemudu, that instead feature round-
2.7 m by 20 m, belong to the Tangjiagang culture, bottom cauldrons and vessel stands (as does the Pengtoushan
with radiocarbon dates ca. 63006000 cal. BP (Fuller and Qin culture). No tripod vessels are found, either. Later-phase
2009:97; Hunan Chengtoushan 2007:164167; Zhao 2010). Shangshan pottery has more vessel forms and greater deco-
By this period, the mode of subsistence can be called agri- rative elaboration, with everted-rim bowls, double-belly ped-
cultural, here defined as having domesticated plants being estal dishes, cordmarked egg-shaped cauldrons, and platters
grown in human-prepared fields. with a tall open-work ring foot (a new technique) all found.
This formal differentiation continues into the later cultures
in the region.
The Lower Yangtze Early Neolithic Shangshan and Xiaohuangshan, like Pengtoushan, retain
the South China Late Paleolithic lithic assemblage, featuring
mainly flakes with some retouch and cobble tools, stone balls,
Shangshan and Xiaohuangshan
digging stick weights, and shallow cupholes: all are
The Shangshan (Mao et al. 2008; Zhejiang Shangshan formed by percussion. Only a few adzes and chisels and a few
2007) and Xiaohuangshan (Guo jia wen wu ju 2006) grinding stones (up to 3050 cm long) are found (Ren 2005;
sites (Zhejiang) represent the earliest Early Neolithic culture Sheng, Zheng, and Jiang 2006; Zhejiang Shangshan 2007).
found in the Lower Yangtze River region. A few radiocarbon Early Neolithic behavioral patterns are established in both
determinations date the Shangshan site to 10,0008500 cal the Pengtoushan and the Shangshan cultures, including ag-
Cohen Beginnings of Agriculture in China S287

glomerated permanent settlements, house construction, heavy Qin (2007) and Fuller, Qin, and Harvey (2008a) observe that
use of underground storage facilities, active human manip- Kuahuqiao rice, as well as later rice at Hemudu, has significant
ulation of the site environment, more highly developed pot- proportions of immature harvested spikelets (as does Bashi-
tery production and functional differentiation of forms, in- dang rice). A harvesting pattern involving such high numbers
cipient use of axes and grinding stones, and increasingly of immature spikelets along with the split numbers between
intensive exploitation of the cereal rice (and other select wild and japonica implies that the rice plants at Kuahuqiao
plants, including future domesticates and acorns). In both were under cultivation. Furthermore, the low relative amounts
cultures, these early village residents maintain a primarily of rice present at the site as a percentage of all plants would
hunting-fishing-gathering subsistence system. Although rice, also indicate that this cultivated rice is still a supplementary
which is most likely wild but possibly managed, has entered resource behind collected wild nuts and acorns (Fuller et al.
the diet, it appears to play a secondary role in nutritional 2009). Other plant remains at Kuahuqiao include trapa (water
intake. Yet these earliest villages may already have crossed a chestnut), foxnuts, peach, and apricot.
certain threshold and were on a pathway toward rice culti- Microcharcoal and pollen studies at Kuahuqiao show hu-
vation, domestication, and agriculture. We still lack data for mans actively manipulating the coastal swamp environment
understanding seasonality and subsistence patterns at these around the site by clearing the wetland scrub through fire.
sites as well as models for how the Early Neolithic behavioral This could have been part of managing natural stands of rice.
patterns are established. When the South China hunter-gath- Kuahuqiao residents also faced regular flooding by slightly
erer annual subsistence cycle came to incorporate wild rice, brackish water, and the site may have been abandoned because
even in relatively small amounts, did this effect mobility pat- of Holocene marine transgression. If people were planting
terns or allow year-round sedentism in these early villages? rice or managing and protecting wild stands, the rice could
And how did the construction of villages affect the landscape have needed bunding and other forms of water management
and wild plant populations? (Zong et al. 2007), or inhabitants may have carefully selected
areas with advantageously fluctuating water levels to promote
rice plant growth and grain production (Fuller and Qin 2009).
While there is possibly stand management of rice and other
The Kuahuqiao site (Zhejiang), situated at the modern plants at Kuahuqiao, the amount of human dependence on
mouth of the Qiantang River, occupied 79007000 cal BP rice may still be limited. Fuller et al. (2009) suggest that do-
(Zhejiang Kuahuqiao 2004:225227), shows the next stage in mesticated rice (indicated by a higher percentage of fixed
the development of the Early Neolithic in the Lower Yangtze nonshattering phenotype rice present and increased repre-
region. The 3-ha settlement is heavily disturbed, but seven sentation of rice among all plant remains) appears after Ku-
partial structures with new construction and woodworking ahuqiao, during the Hemudu culture period, between
techniques were excavated, including an ovular platform 1.6 6900 and 6600 cal BP, as seen at the Tianluoshan site
m high and 10 m wide as well as rectangular foundations up (Zhejiang; Zhao 2010; Zhejiang Tianluoshan 2007; Zheng et
to 5.7 # 4.7 m (Zhejiang Kuahuqiao 2004:2638). As in other al. 2009).2 During this time period, in addition to an increas-
settlements, numerous pits surround the structures, and some ing percentage of nonshattering (domesticated) rice spikelets,
have their wooden covers preserved, indicating their use in rice consumption increases significantly as well, with rice re-
storage. No burials are reported. mains jumping from 8% to 24% of total plant remains. Zheng
Kuahuqiao sat near coastal swamp marsh, and the inhab- et al. (2009) identify land clearing and tilling for rice fields
itants exploited a wide range of resources from the diverse at Tianluoshan, with many associated weeds as well.
rich environments surrounding the site. Fauna include sika Preserved organic remains at Kuahuqiao show a high level
deer, wild water buffalo, serow (Capricornis sumatraensis), of development in woodworking, basketry, and other prac-
alligator, turtle, waterfowl, various fish species, and dolphin. tices. A 5.6-m long-(partial) dug-out pine canoe and wooden
Deer, however, dominate the assemblage, as is typical in Neo-
lithic cultures in the Yangtze and elsewhere (Yuan, Flad, and 2. Hemudu (Zhejiang Hemudu 2003)the Hemudu culture type-
Luo 2008). The inhabitants also were probably managing siteand Tianluoshan are both waterlogged sites with excellent preser-
plants and animals. Domesticated dog is present, and the vation. As a Middle Neolithic culture, the Hemudu culture features a
small numbers of pigs present show decreased mandible more highly diversified pottery assemblage with a rich iconography of
plant and animal decorative elements; lacquerware vessels; bone and stone
length, indicating domestication (Yuan 2010). tools associated with farming such as scapula spades; ivory objects, or-
The rice remains from Kuahuqiao are central in the current namental stone, and jade objects; large, raised-pile dwellings; and wood-
debate on rice domestication (e.g., Liu et al. 2007; Pan 2008). framed wells. Hemudu was excavated in the early 1970s, but the current
Kuahuqiao rice grains and phytoliths have been interpreted Tianluoshan excavations now incorporate systematic sampling, water-
as being in a primitive stage of domestication, with 41.7% screening, and flotation. As Zhao (2011) notes, preliminary results show
that although rice agriculture is taking place, hunting-gathering is still
of the spikelet bases identified as japonica type (domesticated) making a major contribution to subsistence. One focus at Tianluoshan
and the remaining 58.3% as wild (Zhejiang Kuahuqiao 2004: is acorns and nuts, as we have seen indications for at the earlier sites as
375376; Zheng, Sun, and Chen 2007). Fuller, Harvey, and well.
S288 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

oars give direct evidence of the importance of water transport Shixia site, Guangdong), over water to Taiwan and be-
in the Yangtze region. Bow and arrow are used, with a 121- yond in the Austronesian dispersal, and northward into the
cm-long mulberry bow preserved. Mortise and tenon joinery Middle and Lower Yellow River basin and possibly Korea, all
are in use to fashion timbers and to make ladders. There is by 5000 cal BP (see Bellwood 2006, 2011; Fuller and Qin
also woven matting. 2009:101 and references therein; Lee 2011; Ruddiman et al.
Pottery and lithics at Kuahuqiao show significant advance- 2008; Zhang and Hung 2010).
ments over Shangshans. Iron-containing slips are used to
produce red, gray, or black surfaces, and red and white pat-
terns and abstract motifs are painted over the slip. In the
Middle Yangtze, intricate geometric surface patterns occur Early Neolithic villages emerge shortly following the Younger
during the same period in the Tangjiagang culture (7400 Dryas period of climatic stress, and the role of climate change
7200 cal BP), and the Daxi culture (64005500 cal BP) has needs to be revisited (Bar-Yosef 2011). Unfortunately, we are
similar painted pottery. The number of vessel forms increases missing critical data for the period of the establishment of
over Shangshan, and the pottery is more finely made, with these villages, and future work should focus on this. The role
carefully formed rims, angled shoulders, and ring feet. There of pottery also needs further consideration. While pottery was
is also a considerable increase in serving vessels, such as ped- already in use for over 8 millennia, once sedentary villages
estal serving stands (dou). The new decorative motifs and appear, it immediately takes on prominent new roles in food
vessel forms represent not only technological improvements preparation, serving, storage, ritual, and social signaling. As
but also new roles for pottery in domestic activities (pro- outlined above, we have only recently come to understand
cessing, cooking, serving, and storage), ritual, and social sig- that these first sedentary villages are not synonymous with
naling. With Kuahuqiao, the majority of stone tools are now the presence of full-scale farming. Village settlements emerge
polished, including adzes, axes, chisels, arrow points, rollers, in China before cultivated plants make a significant contri-
and grinding stones. There are also jade ornaments. bution to diet and several millennia before agriculture systems
The Kuahuqiao cultural inventory signals the transition to with domesticated plants and prepared fields are in place.
the Middle Neolithic represented by the subsequent He- Instead, many of the earliest Early Neolithic villages still rely
mudu culture in the Lower Yangtze region. During the Middle primarily on hunting-fishing-gathering. Adaptations involv-
Neolithic, as seen at Tianluoshan after 6900 cal BP (Fuller et ing the exploitation of wild resources were able to trigger and
al. 2009), people are farming rice (i.e., they are growing do- support sedentism, population growth and agglomeration,
mesticated plants in prepared fields). This early rice farming and the other cultural changes that mark the Early Neolithic,
occurs within a broad-spectrum subsistence system based on including pottery elaboration, house construction, ditch
waterside and aquatic plants, as Hemudu culture sites are building, and new ritual activities (indicated by caches, plat-
found primarily in wetland catchments (Nakamura 2010; Qin, forms, cemeteries, etc.) that all can be related to new ideo-
Fuller, and Hai 2010). logical conceptions of social grouping and territoriality. In
The subsequent development of more highly productive China, the Neolithic did not require farming at its start.
rice farming by means of the paddy-field system marks a During the Early Neolithic across the four cultural areas
major turning point in Neolithic societies. Soon after the discussed above, we see the sharing of specific material culture
appearance of paddy fields, we find hierarchical settlement traits and parallel developments on the road to agriculture.
patterns, higher population densities, increasing specialization Information exchange is hinted at typologically in shared pot-
of labor, increasingly greater internal social status differenti- tery, lithics, house forms, spatial organization of settlements,
ation, and greater accumulation of wealth and disposal of burial practices, subsistence practices, and ritual activities. I
wealth in ritual (see Zhang 2003; Zhang and Hung 2008). posit here that Early Neolithic cultures emerged and devel-
The earliest paddy fields in the Lower Yangtze, found east of opedand the farming of millet and of rice was invented
Lake Taihu in the late Majiabang culture (63006000 and spreadwithin wide-ranging webs of information ex-
cal BP) sites of Caoxieshan and Chuodun , are change and broad social exchange networks whose roots are
contemporaneous with the earliest paddies in the Middle in the interactions of Late Paleolithic hunter-gatherer societies
Yangtze at Chengtoushan. The Majiabang paddy fields consist (Cohen 2003). None of these regions was geographically or
of small dug-out units connected by small water channels, culturally isolated from others. Because of this, it is unlikely
with water reservoir pits from which stored water could be that there could have been multiple independent inventions
fed into the system. This system of small paddies allows tight of major classes of material culture such as the shared pottery
control of the water level in all units, which is essential to vessel forms. Indeed, the long, complex developmental path-
raising the productivity of the rice plants (Fuller and Qin ways in each of these regions for millet and for rice farming,
2009). With the advent of paddy fields and the concomitant from cultivation through domestication and agriculture,
demographic and organizational changes in societies that fol- would have occurred with information exchange from other
low, rice farming gains legs and disperses quickly and regionsregions that contemporaneously were going through
widely. Rice farming reaches to southernmost China (the parallel processes. In other words, the advent of agriculture
Cohen Beginnings of Agriculture in China S289

did not result from independent isolated processes in each Early Neolithic period in the Yellow River valley). Hua xia kao gu
region. 2001(2):1428.
Barton, Loukas, Seth D. Newsome, Fa-Hu Chen, Hui Wang, Thomas
To accept this scenario, when looking at the origins of both P. Guilderson, and Robert L. Bettinger. 2009. Agricultural origins
millet and rice agriculture, we still need to consider how or and the isotopic identity of domestication in northern China. Pro-
even whether knowledge of a millet-centered dryland or a ceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 106(14):
rice-centered wetland system could drive the development of 55235528.
the other. Could the particular steps in the development of Bar-Yosef, Ofer. 2011. Climatic fluctuations and early farming in West
and East Asia. Current Anthropology 52(suppl. 4):S175S193.
agriculture centered on one species jump across to the other Beijing da xue kao gu wen bo xue yuan, Beijing da xue kao gu xue
species, when rice and millet have biological requirements yan jiu zhong xin, and Beijing shi wen wu yan jiu suo (Beijing
that are so different? This is a question for future consider- Donghulin). 2006. Beijing shi Mentougou qu Donghulin shi qian
ation. To answer it, we need a better appreciation of the many yi zhi (The prehistoric site of Donghulin in Mentougou, Beijing).
steps involved. At present, we do not have enough archaeo- Kao gu 2006(7):38, pls. 12.
Bellwood, Peter. 2006. Asian farming diasporas? agriculture, lan-
logical and paleoethnobotanical data to establish the basic guages, and genes in China and Southeast Asia. In Archaeology of
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of a 3-millennia process in each region, may be an admixture pology 52(suppl. 4):S363S378.
Bettinger, Robert L., Loukas Barton, Christopher Morgan, Fahu
of small steps coming from different regional sources over Chen, Hui Wang, Thomas P. Guilderson, Duxue Ji, and Dongju
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could be related to a previous development in another region Republic of China. Current Anthropology 51(5):703714.
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eration because we already have good evidence for the bound- Hui Wang, and Won Choi. 2007. The transition to agriculture in
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Vikki Chu, Yan Pan, Kexin Liu, et al. 2009. Radiocarbon dating
the millet-exploiting Peiligang cultural sphere but that has no
of charcoal and bone collagen associated with early pottery at
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patterns in the Neolithic Yangzi River valley, China. Antiquity luoshan). 2007. Zhejiang Yuyao Tianluoshan xin shi qi shi dai yi
82(316):351366. zhi 2004 nian fa jue jian bao 2004 (Short report on the 2004
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Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011 S295

New Archaeobotanic Data for the Study of the

Origins of Agriculture in China
by Zhijun Zhao

In the past 10 years, flotation techniques have been introduced and implemented in Chinese ar-
chaeology. As a result, a tremendous quantity of plant remains have been recovered from archaeo-
logical sites located all over China. These plant remains include crops that might have been do-
mesticated in Chinasuch as rice, foxtail millet, broomcorn millet, and soybeanas well as crops
that were introduced into China from other parts of worldsuch as wheat and barley. The new
archaeobotanic data provide direct archaeological evidence for the study of the origins and devel-
opment of agriculture in China. This paper attempts a synthesis of these new archaeobotanic data
while presenting some new ideas about the origins and development of ancient agriculture in China,
including the rice agriculture tradition that originated around the middle and lower Yangtze River
areas; the dry-land agriculture tradition, with millets as major crops, centered in North China; and
the ancient tropical agriculture tradition located in the tropical parts of China, where the major
crops seem to be roots and tubers, such as taro.

Introduction pathway of early Chinese agricultural development in a pre-

historic context. There remain many unsolved questions in
the study of the origins of agriculture in China that are partly
China is one of the major centers for the origins of agriculture.
due to the lack of reliable archaeological evidence.
In the past, intensive study of early Chinese agriculture made
Ancient agriculture is generally considered to be composed
it clear that there were primarily two independent subcenters
of two major elements: crop farming and animal husbandry,
of origin within China (An 1989; Cohen 2011; Crawford 1992;
which relied on crops or by-products of farming for fodder.
Ho 1977; Jones and Liu 2009; Yan 1992; Zhao 2005c): one in
Thus, plant remains, especially crop remains, are the most
the middle and lower Yangtze River areas, where rice agri-
important evidence in the study of origins of agriculture.
culture was first developed, with rice (Oryza sativa) the major
However, plant remains are more often than not poorly pre-
cultivar; and the other in North China along the Yellow River,
served, fairly small in size, and consequently difficult to iden-
where the origin of dry-land agriculture is centered, with
tify with the naked eye in the field. Thus, without special
foxtail millet (Setaria italica) and broomcorn millet (Panicum
attention to their recovery, plant remains from the past may
miliaceum) the most representative crops. However, the origin
be easily underrepresented in archaeological excavations.
of domesticated rice and the beginning of rice farming in
Well-preserved plant remains more frequently survive at
China remain uncertain and highly controversial, while the
archaeological sites where fire was used by the residents.
study of the origin of dry-land agriculture has lagged even
Charred plant remains are chemically stable and relatively
farther behind. Apart from these two major areas central to
resistant to soil and water erosion, and they can be preserved
the origin of agriculture, a third important area that deserves
for a long time in the sediments of archaeological sites.
thorough investigation is the southernmost part of China,
Charred plant remains are usually lighter in specific gravity
centered along the Zhujiang River, where the major crops of
than soil particles and water. This makes it possible to separate
early farming seem to have been roots and tubers, probably
the plant remains from the soil matrix, as the charred remains
including taro (Colocasia sp.; Zhao 2006). This investigation
will separate from sediment and float on the surface of water.
should be of great importance because it may reveal a third
Such is the widely used and recognized flotation technique,
which has been commonly accepted as an effective way of
Zhijun Zhao is Professor at the Institute of Archaeology, Chinese extracting plant remains from soil samples.
Academy of Social Sciences (27 Wangfujing Street, Beijing, 100710, In recent years, flotation work has been carried out at more
Peoples Republic of China []). This than 80 archaeological sites throughout China. About 7,000
paper was submitted 13 XI 09, accepted 3 I 11, and electronically soil samples have been processed, and a tremendous quantity
published 5 VIII 11. of charred plant remains have been recovered (Zhao 2005a).

2011 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. All rights reserved. 0011-3204/2011/52S4-0010$10.00. DOI: 10.1086/659308
S296 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

The charred plant material, especially the crop remains, ob- 82007000 cal BP (Zhejiang Institute of Archaeology and
tained from the sites by flotation provide important new data Xiaoshan Museum 2004:228).
for the study of the origins of agriculture. Identifiable do- Flotation work was conducted during the excavation in the
mesticated taxa include rice, foxtail millet, broomcorn millet, Shangshan site in 2005. A diagnostic sampling strategy was
wheat (Triticum aestivum), barley (Hordeum vulgare), soybean employed by which soil samples were collected from each
(Glycine max), adzuki bean (Vigna angularis), oats (Avena unambiguous archaeological feature found in every layer. A
sativa), buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum), and so on. froth-flotation device with a 0.2-mm mesh screen was used.
The plant remains recovered by flotation in China, con- A total of 459 soil samples were collected and processed. Yet
sidered together with plant remains from previous investi- only a very small number of charred plant seeds were obtained
gations, allow us to gain a number of new insights into the from the samples. The most important result of the flotation
origins of agriculture in China. This paper presents a brief work was the rice remains. A total of 33 charred rice grains
outline of this new scenario based mainly on quantitative (fig. 2) and 7 charred rice spikelet bases were found in the
analysis of the crop data derived from flotation samples col- soil samples. However, most of these rice remains were re-
lected at several major archaeological sites. covered from the Kuahuqiao culture layers and only a few
from the Shangshan culture layers.
The Origin of Rice Agriculture in the Apart from flotation, other methods were also employed
Yangtze River Areas for obtaining rice remains. For example, heaps of rice husks
were found in burnt soil blocks from the early-period layers
Before we go into the details of the new flotation evidence of the site (Jiang and Li 2006, fig. 6). More significant evidence
of rice agriculture, it is necessary to clearly distinguish two of rice used by humans was found in the temper of pottery.
terms for the study of the origin of rice agriculture: do- A large number of pottery sherds were excavated from the
mestication and cultivation. Benefiting from the discussion Shangshan site. It is possible to identify with the naked eye
during the Wenner-Gren Temozon conference, I believe that plant remains such as stems and leaves at the edge of these
there is no inevitable relationship between rice domestication low-fired ceramic materials (Jiang and Li 2006, fig. 6). It is
and the beginning of rice cultivation. fairly interesting that in the two ash pits of the Shangshan
Rice domestication was primarily an evolutionary process
culture period we examined, more than 80% of the pottery
influenced by human activities that were by no means a de-
sherds were tempered with plant remains and that some rice
liberate effort aimed at changing the genetic or biological
husks were also observed in the temper. All this evidence
characteristics of plants but were simply intended to increase
indicates that the Shangshan people had a close relationship
the yield of wild rice. People may have been unaware of the
with rice and that rice, whether domesticated or wild, might
characteristics of a new species when it first appeared, and
have been one of the foods consumed by the Shangshan res-
the plants were therefore not viewed as domestic at all. It
is possible for domesticated rice to occur in a typical hunting-
Some sort of rice cultivation activity might have taken place
gathering adaptation, and the occurrence of domesticated rice
at the Shangshan site during the Shangshan period whether
might not immediately result in rice farming, which was char-
or not such rice remains belong to the domesticated species.
acterized by intentional production and utilization of do-
Therefore, a complete study of the Shangshan site may pos-
mesticated rice for food.
sibly be used as a good case for the study of the beginning
Also, the cultivation of rice might not be directly related
to the domestication of rice. Cultivation is a series of inten- of rice cultivation in China. Future studies should take into
tional human activitiessuch as planting, protecting, and account all factors, including the environmental setting of the
harvestingfor increasing the yield of plants that could be site, the settlement pattern, pottery types, stone tools, and so
morphologically and genetically either wild or domesticated. forth.
Therefore, it is possible for early rice cultivation to be prac- As discussed at the Wenner-Gren Temozon conference, ag-
ticed without domesticated rice. riculture can be defined as a subsistence economy character-
The flotation work at the Shangshan site has provided some ized by farming, although hunting and gathering continue.
clues for the study of early rice cultivation in China. The Therefore, the earliest archaeological site to date that clearly
Shangshan site is an early Neolithic settlement located in the exhibits the characteristics of rice agriculture in China is the
center of Zhejiang Province, which geologically belongs to the Jiahu site, which is located in the upper Huai River region
lower Yangtze River region (fig. 1). The cultural assemblage in the center of China (fig. 1) and is dated to a period between
at the site can be clearly divided into two periods. The early 9000 and 7800 cal BP by 19 radiocarbon dates (Henan In-
period is named the Shangshan culture and is dated to around stitute of Archaeology 1999:515). The Jiahu site covers an area
10,000 cal BP by a number of radiocarbon dates, some of of 50,000 m2, within which the living areas, manufacturing
which have been published (Jiang and Li 2006:356). The later areas, and cemeteries were organized in an orderly fashion.
period belongs to the Kuahuqiao culture, which was distrib- The clear layout of the site documents a permanent village
uted around Hangzhou Bay and is radiocarbon-dated to (Henan Institute of Archaeology 1999). The excavations in
Zhao Origins of Agriculture in China S297

Figure 1. Locations of the sites with early rice remains in the Yangtze
River areas: 1, Xianrendong/Diaotonghuan; 2, Shangshan; 3, Kuahuqiao;
4, Hemudu/Tianluoshan; 5, Liangzhu; 6, Jiahu; 7, Chengtoushan.

the 1980s unearthed many charred grains that have been iden- the majority of food resources while domesticated rice might
tified as domesticated rice (Zhang and Wang 1998). have played only a minor role in the subsistence of the Jiahu
Flotation work at the Jiahu site began in 2001. A diagnostic people.
sampling strategy was employed. A simple bucket-flotation A number of animal bones were unearthed during the ex-
device was used, and plant remains were caught in a 0.2-mm cavation, and about 20 species were identified, among which
mesh screen. A total of 125 soil samples were collected and dog is the only clearly domesticated animal. The identification
processed. A large number of charred plant remains have been of domestic pig from Jiahu has been controversial (Yuan
counted and identified, including about 4,100 seeds of 16 taxa 2001). A recent study suggests that the Jiahu pig was fully
(Zhao and Zhang 2009). They can be divided into two groups: domesticated but was not significant for the meat supply (Luo
edible plants and weedy grasses. The former embraces tubers and Zhang 2008). Nevertheless, zooarchaeological studies sug-
(e.g., lotus roots Nelumbo nucifera), nuts (e.g., acorn and gest that provisioning of animal feed was not an important
trapa), grains (e.g., rice and wild soybean Glycine soja), and part of Jiahu subsistence practices.
so on. The latter includes such taxa as Digitaria and Echino- The abundance of fish bones and shells at the site is based
chloa, among others. not only on the absolute count but also on the fact that almost
More than 400 charred rice grains were found in the flo- all trash pits contained fish bones. This is a strong indication
tation samples (fig. 2). From analysis of the shape and size that fishing played a very important role in the subsistence
of the grains and the morphological characteristics of the economy. Considering that water plants such as lotus and
embryos, and considering the fact that the Jiahu site is located trapa are also abundant in the plant assemblage, aquatic spe-
far from the traditionally known distribution area of wild rice, cies, both animal and plant, were a dominant food resource
we believe that the rice remains recovered at the Jiahu site for the Jiahu residents.
are domesticated. Various quantitative measurementssuch We might conclude from the above analyses that the overall
as absolute counts, total weight, and ubiquitywere em- subsistence economy of the Jiahu people mainly relied on
ployed to compare the plant remains recovered from the Jiahu fishing, hunting, and gathering and that agricultural products
site (Zhao and Zhang 2009). These data make it clear that produced by rice farming and animal husbandry were only
wild plants derived from gathering practices accounted for supplements to their diet. Therefore, the Jiahu site is a good
Figure 2. Charred crops recovered by flotation: A, Shangshan rice; B,
Jiahu rice; C, Tianluoshan rice; D, Xinglonggou broomcorn millets; E,
Yuhuazhai broomcorn millets; F, Yuhuazhai foxtail millets. A color ver-
sion of this figure is available in the online edition of Current Anthro-
Zhao Origins of Agriculture in China S299

example for the study of an early stage in the transition to the Hemudu culture, as seen at both the Tianluoshan site and
rice agriculture, and it thus shows that the transition from the Hemudu site.
hunting and gathering to rice farming was a gradual evolu- Thus, the above sites show that the transition to rice ag-
tionary process rather than a revolutionary replacement. riculture from hunting and gathering was not a clear-cut rev-
The discovery of the Hemudu site in the 1970s resounded olutionary change but a slow evolutionary process. During
throughout the world. The site is located on the south bank this long-term process, hunting and gathering gradually
of Hangzhou Bay, about 20 km from the present sea coast waned while rice agriculture slowly achieved a dominant po-
(fig. 1). Cultural assemblages have been divided into four sition and finally became the major subsistence practice. On
phases dated to a period between 7000 and 5800 cal BP by the basis of preliminary analysis of the flotation materials from
27 radiocarbon dates (Zhejiang Institute of Archaeology 2003: the Tianluoshan site, the subsistence pattern of the Hemudu
411). Because of the waterlogged environment of the site, culture seems to be still in the transition to rice agriculture.
organic materials have been well preserved. Large numbers When was a hunting-and-gathering scenario completely re-
of plant remains have been recovered and identified, including placed by rice-agriculture subsistence in the Yangtze River
rice, trapa, acorns, and other edible plants (Liu 2006). The areas of China? We have no answer yet. More flotation work
most important result of the excavation was the discovery of should be done in the future, especially at those sites im-
large numbers of rice grains. Some scholars accordingly sug- portant in the key stages of early agriculture. This is the only
gested that the Hemudu people might have had a very mature way that reliable evidence can be obtained.
agricultural economy based on rice farming (Zhou 2002). Yet However, on the basis of previous archaeological discov-
no quantitative analysis was carried out at that time, and it eries and studies, we believe that the overall subsistence econ-
is therefore impossible to make comparisons between differ- omy of the Liangzhu culture, dated to a period between 5200
ent plant taxa. For this reason, the importance of rice culti- and 4300 cal BP in the lower Yangtze River region, already
vation in the subsistence economy of the Hemudu society relied heavily on rice agriculture. Rice remains were occa-
remained a question. However, the recent excavation of the sionally found at some archaeological sites of the Liangzhu
Tianluoshan site, only 7 km from the Hemudu site, provides period in the past, but they cannot be used for a quantitative
an opportunity to reexamine the unsolved questions about analysis because of the lack of systemic sampling strategies.
the Hemudu site. In recent years, the flotation technique has been introduced,
The Hemudu and Tianluoshan sites are similar in size, and new data has begun to emerge, but the results are not
environmental context, and the nature of the cultural deposits. yet published. Nevertheless, some indirect evidence suggests
Unlike at Hemudu, a systematic sampling strategy (i.e., a the establishment of full rice agriculture in the Liangzhu pe-
composite sampling strategy) was applied during the exca- riod.
vation of the Tianluoshan site. Both water screening and flo- For example, a large walled town of the Liangzhu culture
tation techniques were employed to recover plant remains. A was unearthed near Hangzhou City recently (fig. 1), and it
total of 222 soil samples were collected and processed, and a measures about 1,900 m in length and about 1,700 m in width,
tremendous quantity of plant remains have been found by a total area of 3.23 km2. The foundation of the wall is about
flotation as well as by water screening. 50 m in width and was consolidated by a layer of large pebbles
The identification and counting of plant remains are still (Liu 2007). It is difficult to imagine that this vast construction
in process because of the enormous quantities recovered by could be undertaken without the food support of fully de-
flotation. Nevertheless, abundant rice remains, including veloped rice agriculture.
charred rice grains and rice spikelet bases, have been found Also, archaeological surveys indicate that the Liangzhu cul-
in the treated samples (fig. 2). A detailed study of rice spikelet ture sites sharply increased in number in the lower Yangtze
bases shows that the Tianluoshan rice consisted of a high River region, especially in the Hangzhou Bay area, where the
proportion of the shattering wild type, which suggests that distribution of Liangzhu sites is even denser than that of
the process of rice domestication had not yet culminated in modern villages. This clearly indicates a significant increase
the Hemudu period, sometime about 6500 cal BP (Fuller et in human population, which is likely to have been correlated
al. 2009). with a rapid development of rice agriculture. In other words,
Besides rice, plant remains recovered and identified from as late as about 5,000 years ago, rice agriculture had become
the processed samples of the Tianluoshan site include acorns, the dominant food source in the lower Yangtze River region.
Trapa sp., Diospyros sp., Gordon euryale, Ziziphus jujuba, Chi- The development of rice agriculture in the middle Yangtze
nese gooseberry seeds, bottle-gourd seeds, and seeds of var- River region may have followed a pattern different from that
ious weedy grasses. The preliminary results of quantitative in the lower Yangtze River region: full rice agriculture may
analysis suggest that rice farming, though important, was only have been established earlier. This hypothesis can be partly
part of more general subsistence activities of the Tianluoshan supported by studies of the Chengtoushan site, located in
residents. The products of hunting and gathering, especially Lixian County of Hunan Province (fig. 1) in the middle Yang-
acorns, also made great contributions to the diet. Therefore, tze River region (Hunan Institute of Archaeology 1999). Water
the importance of rice farming should not be overstated for sieving was carried out during the excavation, and rice re-
S300 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

mains were recovered. Also, a possible rice field was identified middle Yellow River region (fig. 3) and is radiocarbon-dated
by survey as well as by the phytolith technique, The site, dated to 6856 100 BP (charcoal), 7141 100 BP (charcoal), and
to ca. 6000 cal BP by 14 radiocarbon dates (Hunan Institute 7024 105 BP (charcoal). (These dates were corrected from
of Archaeology and International Research Center of Japan a 5,730- to a 5,568-year half-life by dividing by 1.03.) The
Culture 2007:186), is one of the earliest walled towns in China calibrated age is ca. 76008100 cal BP (Institute of Archae-
and was possibly constructed and used as a central settlement ology CASS 1991:21). A large number of millet remains, iden-
in response to rapid population growth. Therefore, it is likely tified as foxtail millet, were recovered during the excavations
that the subsistence of the Chengtoushan society already relied in the 1970s (Tong 1984). However, the taxonomic identifi-
on rice agriculture. cation of the remains was problematic because all the so-
called millet remains had already decayed to ash when they
The Origin of Dry-Land Agriculture in were discovered (CPAM, Hebei Province, and Handan Relics
Preservation Station 1981). The identification had to rely on
North China the spodogrammic technique, which is the same as the pres-
In the past, studies on the origin of dry-land agriculture in ent-day phytolith technique. The work was based on a direct
North China have focused on the middle Yellow River region comparison between the morphological characteristics of phy-
of North China because this region is believed to be the toliths extracted from modern foxtail millet and the ash re-
motherland of ancient Chinese civilizations, where ancient mains recovered from the Cishan site, and a conclusion was
millet farming was centered, and abundant prehistoric cul- drawn when similarities were identified (Huang 1982). How-
tural remains have been recovered there (Lu 2002). However, ever, it is noteworthy that using phytoliths to identify plant
new archaeological data suggest that the whole Yellow River species is not straightforward because of the redundancy of
area in North China had the potential to have been the place phytolith production; that is, similar phytolith types may be
of origin of dry-land agriculture. produced in widely divergent plant groups (Piperno 1988).
Millet remains have been reported in several early Neolithic Recently, a new study was carried out on the Cishan millet
sites distributed along the Yellow River. Those from the Cishan by a research team, and the results indicate that the millet
site draw the most attention. The Cishan site is located in the remains consist of both foxtail and broomcorn millet, but the

Figure 3. Locations of the sites with early millet remains in North China:
1, Cishan; 2, Xinglonggou; 3, Shawoli; 4, Peiligang; 5, Yuezhuang; 6,
Dadiwan; 7, Yuhuazhai.
Zhao Origins of Agriculture in China S301

latter is more abundant (Lu et al. 2009a). The identification localities that were fully investigated and excavated from 2001
was done with the same technique (i.e., phytolith analysis), to 2003 (Liu 2004). Locality 1 is a large village settlement site
but this time it was based on a systemic comparative study radiocarbon-dated to 80007500 cal BP. More than 150 house
with modern millets (Lu et al. 2009b), which makes the iden- foundations were recovered from the site. The artifacts in-
tification much more precise and believable. clude pottery, stone tools, and bone and jade artifacts. Large-
New radiocarbon dates also have been obtained from Ci- scale flotation work with a composite sampling strategy was
shan, and some of them are much older than the original carried out during the excavations. A froth-flotation device
dates (Lu et al. 2009a). However, these new dates are highly with a 0.2-mm mesh screen was used. More than 1,200 soil
suspect because of the ambiguous context of the materials samples were collected and processed. Abundant charred
used for the dating. For example, the term newly excavated plant remains were recovered. The most important result of
storage pits in the report is misleading, because no excavation the flotation work was the recovery of domesticated millets
has been conducted at the Cishan site since the 1990s because identified morphologically as broomcorn and foxtail millet.
of the stringent policy of the Chinese National Administration The broomcorn millet is more abundant, with about 1,400
of Cultural Relics for its protection. Therefore, the samples charred grains found. Only about 60 grains of foxtail millet
likely had been collected from pits naturally exposed by ero- were recovered. Other plant remains recovered by flotation
sion on the cliff. This is suggested from a photo shown in include Astragalus, Chenopodium, Vitis, and so forth. Nut
the report (Lu et al. 2009a, fig. 1C). The mention of materials fragments of acorns were also identified.
of millet grain crop in the report is also confusing because Morphologically different from the wild grasses, the millet
the Cishan millet remains were already decayed to ashes mixed grains recovered here exhibit the distinctive characteristics of
with soil when they were unearthed, according to the 1970s domesticated species, being more spherical in shape and larger
and 1980s reports and the materials now exhibited in the in size (fig. 2). As crops, the millet grains are generally not
Cishan Museum. Note that it would not be necessary to use as compacted inside as is usually seen in other wild grass
the complicated phytolith technique for the identification if seeds, and therefore they are more readily expanded in the
actual millet grains had really been found, because it is quite embryo portion when burned, exhibiting a popcornlike ap-
straightforward and easy to identify and distinguish foxtail pearance. Such morphological characteristics have been found
and broomcorn millet simply on the basis of morphological in the millet remains recovered from the Xinglonggou site.
characteristics of the grains (Liu and Kong 2004). Therefore, The millet remains are directly dated by accelerator mass
the material used for dating likely consisted of the bulk sam- spectrometry to ca. 76707610 cal BP in three independent
ples rather than actual millet grains. It is interesting that one radiocarbon laboratories (Z. Zhao, L. Zhou, G. W. Crawford,
of the new dates came from sample CS-BWG, which had G. Liu, Y. Li, K. Liu, X. Wu, and T. Nishimoto, unpublished
actually been collected during the 1970s excavation and stored manuscript). Therefore, the Xinglonggou millet remains re-
in the Cishan Museum. Its date is 76717596 cal BP (Lu et covered by flotation, with their precise dating and clear iden-
al. 2009a; their fig. 3), which perfectly matches the original tification, are some of the earliest domesticated millets yet
dates from the site. found in China.
An archaeological chronology relies not only on chrono- Domesticated millets account for nearly 50% of the charred
metric dating techniques but also on the classification and seeds recovered at the Xinglonggou site. However, the ubiq-
seriation of the cultural assemblages. A number of archaeo- uity of millet remains was as low as only 5% in the soil samples
logical sites located in North China have been classified in processed. A number of pig skulls were unearthed, and most
the same cultural phase as the Cishan site (i.e., the early of them were identified as wild, while a few exceptions show
Neolithic period, 90007000 cal BP) on the basis of com- some characteristics of domesticated pig. Combining the re-
parison of their cultural assemblages, including settlement sults of studies of the plant remains, animal bones, and stone-
patterns, burial traditions, pottery types, stone tools, and so tool use and wear, the subsistence of the Xinglonggou site
forth (Zhao 2008). Millet remains were reported from some still seems to have been dominated by hunting and gathering,
of these sites, for example, the Shawoli site (Wang 1984) and although millet farming was already practiced and the pig was
the Peiligang site (Institute of Archaeology CASS 1984) in the probably in the process of domestication. Therefore, the Xing-
middle Yellow River region, the Yuezhuang site (Crawford, longgou site should be regarded as in an early stage of the
Chen, and Wang 2006) in the lower Yellow River region, the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture; that is,
Dadiwan site (Gansu Museum 1982) in northwestern China, the Xinglonggou residents still relied on hunting and gath-
and the Xinglonggou site (Zhao 2005b) in northeastern China ering for food, and agricultural products produced by millet
(fig. 3). Among these, the most important new data for millets farming and animal husbandry only supplemented their diet.
come from the systematic flotation work at the Xinglonggou On the basis of flotation results from the Xinglonggou site
site. and new data from other sites, we have found several signif-
The Xinglonggou site is located in the upper Liao River icant characteristics of the early stage of the transition to millet
region in northeastern China, along the eastern edge of the agriculture in North China. First, morphologically, millets at
Mongolian Grassland. The site consists of three independent this stage were already fully domesticated species. In other
S302 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

words, the emergence of millet domestication should be dated sica, Papaver, Vitis, and, of course, crops that included foxtail
as earlier than the early Neolithic period. Second, millet grains millet, broomcorn millet, and rice.
recovered by flotation from these early Neolithic sites include The plant remains recovered from the Yuhuazhai site are
both broomcorn and foxtail millet, but the former is always obviously dominated by the millets (fig. 2), which account
more abundant than the latter in this time period. Third, for nearly 90% of the total number of unearthed plant seeds.
besides the middle Yellow River region, where ancient Chinese Only four charred rice grains were found. In absolute num-
civilization and early dry-land agriculture were centered, new bers, foxtail millet (about 36,000 grains) is much more abun-
data on early millet remains are widely found farther north, dant than broomcorn millet (about 14,000 grains), while in
along the Great Wall in North China, an economic area that terms of ubiquity, the percentage of broomcorn millet (67%)
combines farming and herding today. is higher than that of foxtail millet (63%). The results of
The middle Neolithic period (70005000 cal BP) is a very flotation at the Yuhuazhai site clearly indicate that millet farm-
important stage of cultural development in North China. This ing was dominant in the food production of the Yangshao
period is represented by the well-known Yangshao culture people. In other words, the overall subsistence of the Yangshao
distributed all over North China. Thousands of archaeological culture, including the Yuhuazhai, Banpo, and other related
sites of the Yangshao culture have been found in this broad sites, mainly relied on millet farming and animal husbandry.
area, especially along several important branches of the Yellow Hunting and gathering might still play a role in economic
River, such as the Wei, Fen, Yi, and Luo rivers. Among these practices but only a secondary one in subsistence. Therefore,
sites, the best known is the Banpo site in Xian City. the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture
The Banpo site is a large village settlement enclosed by a seems to have been faster in North China than in the Yangtze
moat inside of which house foundations, kilns, and ash pits River areas. As early as the Banpo phase of the Yangshao
were found arranged in an orderly fashion. Outside the set- culture (i.e., 70006000 cal BP), full dry-land agriculture char-
tlement, a complete lineage cemetery was discovered. Exca- acterized by millet farming was already established in North
vations during the 1950s found large quantities of pottery and China.
stone tools, among which stone hoes, spades, knives, and
pestles and mortars are most likely to have been used as The Origin of Ancient Tropical
agricultural tools in relation to farming practices such as har-
vesting and grinding (Institute of Archaeology CASS and
Agriculture in South China
Banpo Museum 1963). Pigs and dogs are both identified as South China here refers to the region south of the Nanling
domesticated. Furthermore, a few charred millet remains were Mountains, particularly in the Zhujiang (Pearl) River areas.
found inside a pottery jar. All this evidence suggests that The study of the origin of agriculture in these areas has mainly
agriculture was a compulsory element in the subsistence prac- focused on the Zengpiyan site in the last century.
tice of the Yangshao culture. Unfortunately, flotation work Zengpiyan is a cave site located in Guilin City, Guangxi
was not practiced at the time of excavation, and we therefore Province (fig. 4). Cultural deposits at the Zengpiyan site can
have no reliable data for quantitative analysis regarding sub- be divided into five phases, with the first phase dated to
sistence in the Yangshao culture. 12,00011,000 cal BP and the last to 80007000 cal BP. Since
However, the recent excavation of the Yuhuazhai site, only its excavation in the 1970s, the site has attracted much aca-
a couple of kilometers from the Banpo site, provided an op- demic attention throughout the world. Because the pig bones
portunity to do more-detailed analysis about subsistence in found there have been identified as possibly from domesti-
the Yangshao culture. The Yuhuazhai site is also located in cated pigs, the site was believed by some scholars to be the
Xian City (fig. 3) and was excavated in 2002. It is almost a earliest archaeological site with rice farming, and therefore it
copy of the Banpo site. Both sites are large village settlements has been cited as evidence for a hypothesis stating that South
enclosed by moats and dated to 70006000 cal BP. The cul- China was the center for the origin of rice agriculture. How-
tural remains are identical in these two sites, including features ever, no plant remains were ever reported from the site to
such as house foundations, kilns, pits, and artifacts such as support this idea. Therefore, the question of the nature of
pottery and stone tools. subsistence at the Zengpiyan site has been vigorously debated.
During the 2002 excavation season, we carried out a flo- In order to solve this problem, the Zengpiyan site was
tation project at the Yuhuazhai site. A diagnostic sampling reexcavated in 2001 with a multidisciplinary approach, in-
strategy was employed, and a froth-flotation device with a cluding archaeobotanic methods such as flotation and phy-
0.2-mm mesh screen was used. A total of 106 soil samples tolith analysis (Institute of Archaeology CASS et al. 2003).
were collected and processed. Very abundant plant remains The new excavation was limited to the reserved areas between
were recovered, including about 55,000 seeds. On the basis the excavated squares of the 1970s. Therefore, a complete
of taxonomic identification, the seeds belong to the families sampling strategy was used for collecting flotation soil sam-
of Poaceae, Leguminosae, Cruciferae, Chenopodiaceae, Po- ples: all cultural sediments from the excavation were floated
lygonaceae, and Compositae, among others. Also, some eco- to recover plant remains. More than 8,000 L of soil samples
nomically important plant remains were found, such as Bras- was processed by a froth-flotation device with a 0.2-mm mesh
Zhao Origins of Agriculture in China S303

Figure 4. Locations of the sites related to the ancient tropical agriculture

in South China: 1, Zengpiyan; 2, Xiaojing; 3, Dingsishan; 4, Guye.

screen. The charred plant remains obtained included wood, another place. This was further corroborated by the excava-
seeds, nuts, roots, and tubers. The seeds were identified as tions at the Dingsishan site.
belonging to more than 16 plant species, but no rice was The Dingsishan site is located in Yongning County, Guangxi
found. Soil samples were also collected from each layer for Province (fig. 4). The site is a well-preserved shell midden,
phytolith analysis, but no phytolith type of the Oryza genus, and the cultural deposits can be divided into four phases.
such as the double-peaked glume type or rice leaf types, was Phase I (early Neolithic) was dated to 10,000 cal BP. The
observed in the samples. Therefore, both flotation results and major part of the cultural deposits of the site is in phases II
phytolith analysis clearly indicate that the Zengpiyan site had and III (80007000 cal BP). Phase IV was dated to 6000 cal
nothing to do with the origin of rice agriculture. BP. No systematic flotation work was conducted during the
Information about local subsistence after 7000 cal BP can
excavations in 1997, but soil samples were collected for phy-
be obtained from the Xiaojing site. The Xiaojing site is located
tolith study at that time.
in Ziyuan County, Guangxi Province, about 100 km north of
The results of phytolith analysis of the Dingsishan site in-
Zengpiyan (fig. 4). Cultural deposits of the Xiaojing site can
dicate that no rice phytoliths are present from phase I through
be classified into three phases based on cultural remains and
phase III but that large numbers of rice phytoliths are found
radiocarbon dates. Phase I was dated to 65006000 cal BP,
phase II to 60004000 cal BP, and phase III to 40003000 cal in phase IV (Zhao, Lu, and Fu 2005). Regarding the pro-
BP (Guangxi Archaeological Team and Ziyuan Administration duction of phytoliths, the Poaceae is the most productive
of Culture Relics 2004). Water sieving was applied to recover family in the plant kingdom, while Oryza is one of the most
plant remains during the excavation at the Xiaojing site. A productive genera in the grass family. Rice phytoliths are sig-
large number of charred rice grains, numbering in the tens nificant not only for their abundance but also because the
of thousands, were recovered from phases II and III, but not large size of the phytoliths enables a more definitive mor-
a single rice grain was found in phase I. This stark contrast phological identification. From our experience, once rice has
suggests that a rapid change to rice farming occurred at the appeared in an archaeological site, it is relatively easy to dis-
Xiaojing site around 6,000 years ago. This rapid change can cover rice phytoliths in the cultural deposits. For these rea-
be interpreted only as the introduction of rice farming from sons, the surprising abundance of rice phytoliths in phase IV
S304 Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011

indicates that rice was possibly introduced into this area about and 6500 cal BP was a transitional period from hunting and
6,000 years ago. gathering to rice agriculture. This transition features a rather
According to the above archaeobotanic studies, South slow evolutionary process. The early stage of the transition is
China would have had nothing to do with the origin of rice characterized by a mixed subsistence economy in which peo-
agriculture. Rice agriculture was introduced into this area, ple still relied on hunting and gathering for their major food
probably from the middle Yangtze River region, later than sources but began to practice rice farming and animal hus-
6,000 years ago, and then it rapidly became the major sub- bandry as a supplement. (3) During the time from 6500 to
sistence resource in South China. Therefore, the question be- 4500 cal BP, rice agriculturebased subsistence was gradually
comes, what kind of subsistence pattern was present in South established; that is, people began to rely on rice agriculture
China before 6000 BP? more and more as their major food source. Full rice agri-
Abundant charred remains of roots and tubers recovered culture was first established in the middle Yangtze River region
by flotation from the Zengpiyan site have attracted our at- about 64005300 BP, a period known as the Daxi culture,
tention. Most plants with edible roots or tubers feature veg- and then in the lower Yangtze River region about 52004300
etative propagation, and they should be easier to domesticate BP, during the Liangzhu culture period.
than seed-bearing plants. As early as the 1950s, Carl Sauer The history of the origin of dry-land agriculture in North
(1952) suggested that vegetative propagation should precede China can also be divided into three periods. (1) Cultivation
seed agriculture. He believed that the first domesticated plants of millet and millet domestication might have begun as early
in agricultural history were not seed plants such as wheat, as 10,000 years ago, but this initial stage of dry-land agri-
rice, or corn but plants that lived in Southeast Asia, had edible culture is still vague. It is urgent to carry out thorough in-
tubers and roots, and reproduced asexually. Note that South vestigations and get more solid and reliable archaeobotanic
China occupies the same climatic and environmental setting data in future work. (2) From 9000 to 7000 cal BP, there was
as, as well as sharing a similar Neolithic cultural tradition a transitional period from hunting and gathering to dry-land
with, the northern part of Southeast Asia. Therefore, the flo- agriculture, evidenced by new data from several early Neo-
tation results of the Zengpiyan site remind us to reconsider lithic sites. The subsistence pattern in this time period relied
Sauers model of the origins of agriculture. At least we know on hunting and gathering, with millet farming as a supple-
that in the tropical area of Asia, there should be a type of ment. (3) During the time from 7000 to 6000 cal BP, millet
subsistence pattern primarily based on vegetative propagation farmingbased subsistence (i.e., full dry-land agriculture) was
before rice agriculture was introduced. established in North China, represented by the Yangshao cul-
ture. However, it seems that the dry-land agriculture in North
China developed faster than the rice agriculture in the Yangtze
River areas. The data obtained by flotation indicate that ag-
From studying new archaeobotanic data obtained by flotation riculture accounted for a higher proportion of the subsistence
over the past 10 years or so, we now have greater insight into at the Xinglonggou site in the north than at the contempo-
the origins of agriculture in China. These can be summarized raneous Jiahu site in the south at ca. 8000 cal BP. Analysis of
as follows. the plant remains recovered from the Yuhuazhai site also
Three independent agricultures have centers of origin revealed that dry-land agriculture was already established in
within China: (1) dry-land agriculture, represented by the North China by 70006000 cal BP, earlier than the time when
major crops of foxtail and broomcorn millet, with a center rice agriculture was fully adopted in the middle and lower
located in a wide area of loess along the Yellow River between Yangtze River areas.
the southern border of the Mongolian steppe to the north Compared with the above two subcenters, the origins and
and the Huai River to the south; (2) rice agriculture, with a early development of ancient agriculture based on vegetative
center located in an area of wetland along the middle and propagation in South China are not yet clear. Further inves-
lower Yangtze River between the Huai River to the north and tigations are needed to deepen our understanding of this pro-
the Nanling Mountains to the south; and (3) ancient tropical cess.
agriculture, characterized by crops that propagate vegetatively, From the discussion during the Wenner-Gren Temozon
often roots and tubers and with a center located in the area conference, it is clear that, from a worldwide perspective, there
along the Zhujiang River south of the Nanling Mountains. are many similarities between China and the other major
The history of the origin of rice agriculture can be divided centers for agricultural origins regarding the questions of
into three periods. (1) About 10,000 cal BP, rice cultivation when and how agriculture emerged in these centers. For ex-
began in the Yangtze River areas. Although we need more ample, new studies from the Near East suggest that the be-
research to clarify whether the rice cultivated at this period ginning of agriculture was indicated by the cultivation of wild
belongs to a domesticated species in morphological and ge- plants such as wild barley and wild lentil. The archaeological
netic terms, we believe that the purpose of the beginning of evidence for the early cultivation has been dated to the Pre-
rice cultivation was only to increase the production of wild Pottery Neolithic A sometime around 11,000 cal BP. The ear-
rice, not for plant domestication. (2) The time between 9000 liest domesticated plants, such as einkorn wheat and emmer
Zhao Origins of Agriculture in China S305

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B, dated to about 10,000 cal BP (Weiss and Zohary 2011). County, Guangxi. Kaogu [Archaeology] 2004(3):730. [In Chinese.]
Henan Institute of Archaeology. 1999. Wuyang Jiahu. Beijing: Science.
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be 1,000 years or so later in China than in the Near East.
Hunan Institute of Archaeology. 1999. Brief report of 19971998
This might be due to inadequate archaeobotanic data in China excavation seasons at Chengtoushang site in Lixian. Wenwu [Cul-
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Studies in other major centers, such as the Near East, also
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in the domestication process not only for legumes but also 1984. Excavation at Peiligang site in 1979. Kaogu Xuebao [Acta
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and domestic species. Also, it raises some new issues for the Chinese.]
Jiang, Leping, and Liu Li. 2006. New evidence for the origins of
study of the origins of agriculture. For example, how long
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Are there different rates in the domestication processes be- Jones, Martin K., and Xinyi Liu. 2009. Origins of agriculture in East
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Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011 S307

The Transition from Foraging to Farming in

Prehistoric Korea
by Gyoung-Ah Lee

As a secondary setting of agricultural origins, prehistoric Korea may offer insights into the social
interactions involved in crop acquisition and the human modification of local landscapes to accom-
modate a new agrarian way of life. Recent data may point to Korea as one of several areas where
the local domestication of two crops, azuki and soybean, may have taken place. This paper explores
various economic adaptations and transitions to resource production in several ecological and social
settings, including the central west and southeast coasts, islands on the west coast, and the floodplains
in central and southeastern Korea during the Chulmun period (75003400 BP). The paper reviews
two popular explanations of the transition to food production, environmental impulse and migration,
in the context of Korean archaeology and beyond.

Introduction in northeastern China and the maritime region of the Russian

Far East. Two types of milletfoxtail (Setaria italica ssp. ital-
ica) and broomcorn (Panicum miliaceum)were the first
Prehistoric Korea1 is situated in a context of agricultural tran-
crops to appear in Korea. Shortly after their initial domes-
sition in which introduced crops became important in sub-
tication in the Huanghe Basin (Crawford 2009; Lu et al. 2009),
sistence and indigenous plants may have undergone domes-
millets seem to have spread to the northeast, as suggested by
tication. The origins of agriculture in primary regions have
the findings at the Xinglonggou (80007500 BP) and Xinle
received more scholarly attention than that in secondary
sites in Liaoning Province (Cohen 2011; Zhao 2011). Millets
regions, where domesticated species spread later, but it was
had dispersed farther east to the Zaisanovka Neolithic culture
the spread of farming that had the major impact on human
in the Primorie Province of maritime Russia by 6000 BP
society (Price 2000b:316). For example, case studies in Europe
(Kang 2009). Some materials at Zaisanovka also indicate in-
have produced in-depth understanding of how the spread of
teractions with the Xinle culture and the Chulmun2 culture
agriculture shaped tremendous changes in social organiza-
in northeastern Korea. Crops were probably one of the shared
tions, technologies, and ideologies (e.g., Ammerman and Biagi
items in this interaction sphere.
2003; Hodder 1990; Price 2000a; Rowley-Conwy 2004). This
Considering its proximity to early farming communities in
supplement to Current Anthropology is also dedicated to il-
northeastern China and Primorie, northeastern Korea may
luminating the agricultural dispersal worldwide, including the
have begun millet farming earlier than current data from
Pacific region (Bellwood 2011), Japan (Crawford 2011), At-
southern Korea suggest.3 In southern Korea, the earliest ap-
lantic Europe (Rowley-Conwy 2011), and the Aegean and
pearance of domesticated foxtail and broomcorn millet is
Balkans (Ozdogan 2011). These papers not only cover the
dated to the Middle Chulmun period, around 5500 cal BP
new regional data but also provide insights into the issues of
(table 1).
population changes, social interactions, and ecological views
Not long after the initial adoption of millet cultivation, the
on the transition. As a part of these efforts, this paper attempts
to explore the mechanisms of agricultural spreads and the 1. Korea is used to indicate the geography (the Korean Peninsula)
social consequences with a regional example. rather than the term for political and ethnic distinction in this paper.
The initial appearance of domesticated crops in Korea can 2. Chulmun and Neolithic are the terms that refer to the same
be understood in terms of interactions with Neolithic entities time span, from the onset of pottery production and before the beginning
of metallurgy. According to the new romanization of Korean issued in
2000, Chulmun now reads Jeulmun. This paper follows the new
system except for commonly cited terms in previous publications (e.g.,
Gyoung-Ah Lee is Assistant Professor in the Department of Chulmun, Tongsamdong).
Anthropology, University of Oregon (308 Condon Hall, 1321 Kincaid 3. The separation of North and South Korea has hampered our un-
Street, Eugene, Oregon 97403-1218, U.S.A. []). derstanding of early agriculture in Korea. Neither systematic archaeo-
This paper was submitted 13 XI 09, accepted 9 XII 10, and botanical study nor direct dates on domesticated crops are available in
electronically published 28 VI 11. North Korea.

2011 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. All rights reserved. 0011-3204/2011/52S4-0011$10.00. DOI: 10.1086/658488
Table 1. Accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) dates

Age (BP)
Period, province, site Material Lab ID Provenience Uncalibrated Calibrated
Early Chulmun:
Amsadonga Charred wood AERIK-189 House 75-2 5000 70 5760 100
Charred wood AERIK House 75-4 4730 200 5390 260
Charred wood AERIK House 75-5 4950 200