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Archaeobotany and Domestication
Crop origins evidence from archaeology and botany
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Fluvial landscapes of the Harappan civilization

Fluvial landscapes of the Harappan civilization | Archaeobotany and Domestication | Scoop.it

The collapse of the Bronze Age Harappan, one of the earliest urban civilizations, remains an enigma. Urbanism flourished in the western region of the Indo-Gangetic Plain for approximately 600 y, but since approximately 3,900 y ago, the total settled area and settlement sizes declined, many sites were abandoned, and a significant shift in site numbers and density towards the east is recorded. We report morphologic and chronologic evidence indicating that fluvial landscapes in Harappan territory became remarkably stable during the late Holocene as aridification intensified in the region after approximately 5,000 BP. Upstream on the alluvial plain, the large Himalayan rivers in Punjab stopped incising, while downstream, sedimentation slowed on the distinctive mega-fluvial ridge, which the Indus built in Sindh. This fluvial quiescence suggests a gradual decrease in flood intensity that probably stimulated intensive agriculture initially and encouraged urbanization around 4,500 BP. However, further decline in monsoon precipitation led to conditions adverse to both inundation- and rain-based farming. Contrary to earlier assumptions that a large glacier-fed Himalayan river, identified by some with the mythical Sarasvati, watered the Harappan heartland on the interfluve between the Indus and Ganges basins, we show that only monsoonal-fed rivers were active there during the Holocene. As the monsoon weakened, monsoonal rivers gradually dried or became seasonal, affecting habitability along their courses. Hydroclimatic stress increased the vulnerability of agricultural production supporting Harappan urbanism, leading to settlement downsizing, diversification of crops, and a drastic increase in settlements in the moister monsoon regions of the upper Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh.

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Parallel domestication of the Shattering1 genes in cereals : Nature Genetics : Nature Publishing Group

Parallel domestication of the Shattering1 genes in cereals : Nature Genetics : Nature Publishing Group | Archaeobotany and Domestication | Scoop.it
A key step in domestication of cereals was loss of seed shattering. Jianming Yu and colleagues show that seed shattering is controlled by alleles at Sh1 in sorghum.
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Pitted cobbles from the north-western sub-Himalayas in India

Pitted cobbles from the north-western sub-Himalayas in India | Archaeobotany and Domestication | Scoop.it

Are these ancient Himalayan nut crackers?

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The differential survival of native starch during cooking and implications for archaeological analyses: a review

Cooking makes foods more palatable and digestible, less toxic and suitable for longer-term storage. Starch granules usually undergo gelatinisation during cooking, resulting in the loss of native structure and morphology. Once fully gelatinised, starch is very difficult to recognise microscopically and to classify taxonomically, impeding identification of cooked starch in archaeological food residues. Gelatinisation involves a complex interplay between temperature, moisture content and the presence of solutes, lipids and proteins, as well as species-specific starch physicochemical properties. Understanding the influence of these factors, particularly moisture, on the degree and extent of starch conversion during heat treatment enables predictive models of native starch survival in archaeological samples based on cooking method and food type. The findings of this review indicate that differential native starch survival may significantly influence archaeobotanical reconstructions and interpretations of artefact function.

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Dogs’ Genetic Roots Remain Obscure

Dogs’ Genetic Roots Remain Obscure | Archaeobotany and Domestication | Scoop.it

Little about the origins of dogs is agreed upon, beyond that they descended from wolves, and genetic research has provided little insight. There is a reason for this confusion, according to Greger Larson at the University of Durham in England. In a new research paper, he argues that the DNA of modern dogs is so mixed up that it is useless in figuring out when and where dogs originated. “With the amount of DNA we’ve sequenced so far,” Dr. Larson said, “we’re lucky to get back a hundred years, max.” He says that only with the analysis of DNA from fossil dogs, now being done, will answers along this line emerge.

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Modern Taurine Cattle Descended from Small Number of Near-Eastern Founders

Modern Taurine Cattle Descended from Small Number of Near-Eastern Founders | Archaeobotany and Domestication | Scoop.it

Archaeozoological and genetic data indicate that taurine cattle were first domesticated from local wild ox (aurochs) in the Near East some 10,500 years ago. However, while modern mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variation indicates early Holocene founding event(s), a lack of ancient DNA data from the region of origin, variation in mutation rate estimates, and limited application of appropriate inference methodologies have resulted in uncertainty on the number of animals first domesticated. A large number would be expected if cattle domestication was a technologically straightforward and unexacting region-wide phenomenon, while a smaller number would be consistent with a more complex and challenging process. We report mtDNA sequences from 15 Neolithic to Iron Age Iranian domestic cattle and, in conjunction with modern data, use serial coalescent simulation and approximate Bayesian computation to estimate that around 80 female aurochs were initially domesticated. Such a low number is consistent with archaeological data indicating that initial domestication took place in a restricted area and suggests the process was constrained by the difficulty of sustained managing and breeding of the wild progenitors of domestic cattle.

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Research on early food production

Research on early food production | Archaeobotany and Domestication | Scoop.it

Prehistoric hunter-gatherers who began to grow crops or tend animals faced serious decisions in how to rebalance their diets and work patterns. Changes in social organization also occurred as different kinds of labor come to be more important, or as surplus products could be stored and possibly accumulated by a subset of a social group, or used to support specialists.

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Origins and Genetic Legacy of Neolithic Farmers and Hunter-Gatherers in Europe

Origins and Genetic Legacy of Neolithic Farmers and Hunter-Gatherers in Europe | Archaeobotany and Domestication | Scoop.it

The farming way of life originated in the Near East some 11,000 years ago and had reached most of the European continent 5000 years later. However, the impact of the agricultural revolution on demography and patterns of genomic variation in Europe remains unknown. We obtained 249 million base pairs of genomic DNA from ~5000-year-old remains of three hunter-gatherers and one farmer excavated in Scandinavia and find that the farmer is genetically most similar to extant southern Europeans, contrasting sharply to the hunter-gatherers, whose distinct genetic signature is most similar to that of extant northern Europeans. Our results suggest that migration from southern Europe catalyzed the spread of agriculture and that admixture in the wake of this expansion eventually shaped the genomic landscape of modern-day Europe.

 

Balter provides a news commentary in Science: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/336/6080/400.summary

 

The LA times summary is here: http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-dna-europe-agriculture-20120427,0,6220304.story?track=rss&dlvrit=29637

 

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The genetics of domestication of yardlong bean, Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp. ssp. unguiculata cv.-gr. sesquipedalis

The genetics of domestication of yardlong bean, Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp. ssp. unguiculata cv.-gr. sesquipedalis | Archaeobotany and Domestication | Scoop.it

The genetics of domestication of yardlong bean [Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp. ssp. unguiculata cv.-gr. sesquipedalis] is of particular interest because the genome of this legume has experienced divergent domestication. Initially, cowpea was domesticated from wild cowpea in Africa; in Asia a vegetable form of cowpea, yardlong bean, subsequently evolved from cowpea. Information on the genetics of domestication-related traits would be useful for yardlong bean and cowpea breeding programmes, as well as comparative genome study among members of the genus Vigna. The objectives of this study were to identify quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for domestication-related traits in yardlong bean and compare them with previously reported QTLs in closely related Vigna. This is the first report of QTLs for domestication-related traits in yardlong bean. The results provide a foundation for marker-assisted selection of domestication-related QTLs in yardlong bean and enhance understanding of domestication in the genus Vigna.

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Vernacular Taxonomy, Classification and Varietal Diversity of fig (Ficus carica L.) Among Jbala cultivators in Northern Morocco

Human Ecology, Volume 40, Number 2 - SpringerLink

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Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, Volume 21, Number 3 - SpringerLink

Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, Volume 21, Number 3 - New archaeobotanical results from 15 Neolithic sites in northern Germany are presented in a review of the Neolithic plant economy in northern and north-western Europe. Available archaeobotanical data from north-western Europe are evaluated and compared with our new results. In the whole region, barley and emmer were the main crops. Regional and diachronic differences are observed in the cultivation of einkorn, spelt and naked wheat. For oil plants and pulses only rare information from macro remains is available, as we mainly deal with charred material. It is noticeable that gathered plants played an important role in the Funnel Beaker economy. Plant choice, especially the relevance of cultivated versus gathered plants is discussed, based on new and existing data. Based on a structural comparison of charred plant assemblages from domestic sites and tombs, we develop a research hypothesis that settlement finds provide insight into production and consumption of food from crops, while tombs mainly yield evidence of plants gathered in the wild or in semi-wild areas in the vicinity of former settlements. Therefore, we suggest a model of different purposes and meanings of plants, depending on whether primarily an economic or a social/ritual sphere is regarded. But, for all evaluations and interpretations, it is essential to consider the taphonomic processes and conditions. Therefore, further research is necessary to verify our hypothesis, which derives from first insights into new material.

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Searching for ancient plants… and making progress with the bigger picture

Searching for ancient plants… and making progress with the bigger picture | Archaeobotany and Domestication | Scoop.it
Sam Nixon reports. We have been making good progress with the analysis of the material brought back from the recent fieldseason. The archaeobotanical finds (see previous postings on this) have been...
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Humans implicated in Africa's deforestation

Humans implicated in Africa's deforestation | Archaeobotany and Domestication | Scoop.it

Climate change alone cannot explain abrupt loss of rainforest 3,000 years ago, study suggests. Bantu-speaking migrants may have had a bigger hand in the destruction of Africa's rainforests than was previously thought.

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Earliest evidence for Cypriot villagers, dogs, and cats found

Earliest evidence for Cypriot villagers, dogs, and cats found | Archaeobotany and Domestication | Scoop.it

Archaeological evidence suggests that humans began frequenting the island of Cyprus by about 12,500 years ago, but little is known about the early Cypriots’ way
of life. Jean- Denis Vigne et al. excavated the Pre-Pottery Neolithic site Klimonas, radiocarbon-dated to 10,600–11,100 years old. Inhabitants of Klimonas had a complex society, demonstrated by the discovery of large structures that were probably used for collective storage, meetings, and rituals. Wheat chaff was detected in some building materials, suggesting the cereal was available in large quantities and that wheat was likely cultivated rather than imported. Numerous stone tools, including some that may have been used to harvest cereals, were also unearthed at the site. According to the researchers, remains of cats provide long-sought evidence for historical interactions between felines and humans. The authors also recovered mouse remains, suggesting that the cats might have helped protect crop stores from rodent pests. Remains of small domestic dogs, brought from the mainland, and a small indigenous Cypriot wild boar were also found, suggesting to the authors that canines were possibly employed in hunting boar. Collectively, the findings suggest that humans established villages in Cyprus shortly after the beginning of agriculture, and that frequent, successful sea crossings were made over long distances—a demonstration of advanced maritime skills, according to the authors. — J.V

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Reconstructing the origin and spread of horse domestication in the Eurasian steppe

Reconstructing the origin and spread of horse domestication in the Eurasian steppe | Archaeobotany and Domestication | Scoop.it

Despite decades of research across multiple disciplines, the early history of horse domestication remains poorly understood. On the basis of current evidence from archaeology, mitochondrial DNA, and Y-chromosomal sequencing, a number of different domestication scenarios have been proposed, ranging from the spread of domestic horses out of a restricted primary area of domestication to the domestication of numerous distinct wild horse populations. In this paper, we reconstruct both the population genetic structure of the extinct wild progenitor of domestic horses, Equus ferus, and the origin and spread of horse domestication in the Eurasian steppes by fitting a spatially explicit stepping-stone model to genotype data from >300 horses sampled across northern Eurasia. We find strong evidence for an expansion of E. ferus out of eastern Eurasia about 160 kya, likely reflecting the colonization of Eurasia by this species. Our best-fitting scenario further suggests that horse domestication originated in the western part of the Eurasian steppe and that domestic herds were repeatedly restocked with local wild horses as they spread out of this area. By showing that horse domestication was initiated in the western Eurasian steppe and that the spread of domestic herds across Eurasia involved extensive introgression from the wild, the scenario of horse domestication proposed here unites evidence from archaeology, mitochondrial DNA, and Y-chromosomal DNA.

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An antler sickle from the Neolithic site of Costamar at Cabanes (Castellón) on the Mediterranean Spanish coast

An antler sickle from the Neolithic site of Costamar at Cabanes (Castellón) on the Mediterranean Spanish coast | Archaeobotany and Domestication | Scoop.it

An antler sickle found in a pit of the first Neolithic phase, an exceptional find as few examples are known from Europe (Flors 2010), forms the subject of this short note. [5000-4700 BC]

The sickle would have been used by holding it at the proximal end, gathering up the stalks with the transversal antler point and holding them in the other hand. At this stage, the sickle would have been turned 90°, so that the stalks could be cut with the blade hafted in the sickle. The analysis of use-wear marks on the Costamar sickle has revealed that the internal face of the distal antler point is intensely polished by friction, presumably when the stalks were gathered up.

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Ethiopian cereal and chilli mills: making flour in the market from corn, tef, wheat and chilli

Flour milling in the west happens out of view! Here we can see three different grains being milled in two larger stone-mills, each with two pairs of electrically driven stones, and some grinding machines (probably cone pulverizers) are used for smaller quantities of less fine flour and also chillies. We see the traditional Ethiopian grain tef (Teff, Eragrostis tef, with tiny grains 1mm x 0.7 mm), wheat and white maize coming to the mills in 50kg sacks, and then the women sieve and winnow it in the air. It is then put into the grinder. For chilies in the final third of the video, women were buying them in the 5kg quantities in the market and thanking them to be ground at the mill - a quick search suggests that an Indian machine from http://www.brindustries.in/chilly-grinding-plants.htm was being used! The chillies were mostly very hot and the dust caught your throat. There didn't seem to be much protection from explosion in the flour mills.

 

Unlike the video of the Indian flour mills I posted earlier, http://youtu.be/1tPWqpj4680 , there was no sieving process to separate flour and bran. These mills are in Axum (Aksum), Ethiopia.


Via Annals of Botany: Plant Science Research
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PLoS ONE: Identification of Milk Component in Ancient Food Residue by Proteomics

PLoS ONE: Identification of Milk Component in Ancient Food Residue by Proteomics | Archaeobotany and Domestication | Scoop.it

In this paper, an ancient visible food remain from Subeixi Cemeteries (cal. 500 to 300 years BC) of the Turpan Basin in Xinjiang, China, preliminarily determined containing 0.432 mg/kg cattle casein with ELISA, was analyzed by using an improved method based on liquid chromatography (LC) coupled with MALDI-TOF/TOF-MS to further identify protein origin. The specific sequence of bovine casein and the homology sequence of goat/sheep casein were identified. The existence of milk component in ancient food implies goat/sheep and cattle milking in ancient Subeixi region, the furthest eastern location of prehistoric milking in the Old World up to date. It is envisioned that this work provides a new approach for ancient residue analysis and other archaeometry field.

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Agricultural expansion and settlement economy in Tell Halula (Mid-Euphrates valley): A diachronic study from early Neolithic to present

Agricultural expansion and settlement economy in Tell Halula (Mid-Euphrates valley): A diachronic study from early Neolithic to present | Archaeobotany and Domestication | Scoop.it

Journal of Arid Environments -We use ethnoarchaeology to study agricultural intensification in a region of NE Syria. ► We compare economy and demography in Neolithic and modern populations. ► We found an extensification trend in the past, leading to lower crop and weed diversity. ► We also found a decline in population, once the capacity of the system was exceeded. ► Trends in present populations in the area were similar to those in ancient times.

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Do the Eyes Have It? » American Scientist

Do the Eyes Have It? » American Scientist | Archaeobotany and Domestication | Scoop.it

Dog domestication may have helped humans thrive while Neandertals declined... 

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Research | Research news | Pod corn develops leaves in the inflorescences

Research | Research news | Pod corn develops leaves in the inflorescences | Archaeobotany and Domestication | Scoop.it
A leaf gene active in the maize cob causes leaves to grow in the male and female inflorescences...
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A calorie is not necessarily a calorie: Technical choice, nutrient bioaccessibility, and interspecies differences of edible plants

We read with interest the article by Carmody et al., “Energetic consequences of thermal and nonthermal food processing,” an important study of the significance of food processing in hominin nutrition and the evolution of human diet and physiology (1). Although we agree that thermal processing is a key variable in the human evolutionary trajectory, we disagree on several points raised in their article, beginning with the “either/or” implications with regard to the effectiveness of pounding vs. thermal processing. Neither thermal processing nor the various nonthermal processing techniques necessarily break open plant cell walls sufficiently to release cell contents.

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IWGP 2013

IWGP 2013 | Archaeobotany and Domestication | Scoop.it

16th CONFERENCE OF THE INTERNATIONAL WORKGROUP FOR PALAEOETHNOBOTANY
Thessaloniki, 17- 22 June 2013. Website

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Tribal knowledge of millets proves superior

Tribal knowledge of millets proves superior | Archaeobotany and Domestication | Scoop.it
Tribal people in the hills of Tamil Nadu have better knowledge of millet varieties than taxonomists, a study shows.

Via Bioversity Library, Luigi Guarino
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Evolutionary Aspects of Domestication

Special issue planned for the International Journal of Evolutionary Biology,  a peer-reviewed, open access journal that publishes original research articles as well as review articles in all areas of evolutionary biology.

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