Dung is one of the most valuable resources in arid countries: traditional communities all over the world use it for heating, cooking, building and decorative purposes. It is commonly assumed that the same happened in the past, especially after the domestication of herbivores in the 11th millennium B.C. The presence and use of dung in archaeological contexts has been routinely studied through different techniques among which spherulites (calcium carbonates that form in animals guts) and small seeds assemblages’ analyses. However all the proxies considered so far to trace dung can be unreliable, especially when used singularly. After a review of the traditional methods used to trace dung in archaeological contexts, this paper presents the results of an ethnographic study on 11 modern dung cakes collected in northern India that were analysed for chemical, spherulite and phytolith content. Our results show that the lack of spherulites cannot be taken as absence of dung input and that the combination of phytolith and chemical signatures can be a reliable proxy for the inference of dung presence in archaeological contexts.
Jose Rey Maloles, Kevan Berg, Subramanyam Ragupathy, Balasubramaniam C. Nirmala, Kabeer A. Althaf, Vadaman C. Palanisamy, and Steven G. Newmaster (2011) The Fine Scale Ethnotaxa Classification of Millets in Southern India.
Now pictures of carrot varieties from mediaeval illuminated manuscripts have been brought together: Illustrations of Carrot, Daucus, Pastinaca and Staphylinos...Herbals are a particularly interesting group in the history of written communication in that they have always been in circulation since the antiquities and were not 'rediscovered' during the renaissance.
Despite the faithful transcription of the manuscript text by monastic scribes, distortions inevitably crept in as the work passed from one hand to the next. Greater variation exists among the illustrations which were often painted without reference to the living world.
Harry S. Paris, Marie-Christine Daunay and Jules Janick have had several beautifully illustrated papers in Annals of Botany over recent years with rigorous analysis of the cucumbers (Cucumis) and Solanaceae species : Occidental diffusion of cucumber (Cucumis sativus) 500-1300 CE: two routes to Europe. Ann Bot (2012) 109(1): 117-126 http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcr28 ;
Medieval herbal iconography and lexicography of Cucumis (cucumber and melon, Cucurbitaceae) in the Occident, 1300-1458. Ann Bot (2011) 108(3): 471-484 http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcr182 ;
The recovery of ancient DNA from archaeological wheat samples under different preservation conditions was assessed using a number of genetic markers. It was possible to amplify nuclear DNA from desiccated grains but not from charred. The desiccated grain was from a pre-Hispanic grain silo in Gran Canaria and showed excellent DNA preservation, enabling the amplification of the ribosomal DNA markers IGS and ITS, the upstream region of the HMW-glutenin locus and single-locus nuclear microsatellites. Our results demonstrated the presence of both durum and bread wheat in an assemblage of naked grain. We were also able to identify different genotypes in durum wheat and compare these with extant landraces, providing insights into the agrarian practices of the ancient Canarians and the origin of their crops
Use and management of wild and weedy species may involve artificial selection, which can determine morphological, physiological, reproductive, and genetic divergences between wild and managed populations, resulting in the initial or incipient phases of plant domestication. In this study we combined ethnobotanical, morphological, phytochemical and genetic information for analyzing differences between managed and unmanaged populations of the Mexican edible weed, Epazote (Chenopodium ambrosioides L.), in Santa María Tecomavaca, Oaxaca, a rural community within the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve, Mexico. Our hypothesis was that differences in morphology (e.g. leave dimensions and density of pubescence), phytochemistry (e.g. flavor, odor, and amount of strong scented and toxic compounds) and/or molecular genetic markers, between managed and wild populations of Epazote in Santa María Tecomavaca, would indicate that managed populations have been and/or are under a process of incipient domestication. Our results revealed the existence in the study area of morphological variants associated with a gradient of management intensity, which involved apparent improved palatability correlated with a lowering of chemical defense. Most remarkably, we found agreement in the groupings defined by the cluster analyses of morphological and genetic data. Although Epazote is considered a weed or, at best, a minor crop, the results from four lines of evidence (cultural differentiation patterns, gigantism, reduction in chemical defenses, toxic compounds and inheritance of adaptive traits) suggest the existence of an incipient domestication process in the study zone.
Report of the outcomes of an Expert Workshop held by FAO and the Platform on Agrobiodiversity Research in April 2010.
The Workshop explored the different challenges that confront agriculture and the options that exist or could be developed and that would be needed to feed the world, cope with climate change and capitalize on synergies between agriculture and the environment.
Red wild einkorn, Triticum urartu, is increasingly being recognized as a source of genetic material for the improvement of wheat grain quality and for conferring resistance to various diseases such as Powdery Mildew and Leaf Rust resistance including the virulent race Ug99. Two hundred and two samples of T. urartu collected throughout much of its distribution were investigated by amplified restriction length polymorphism, AFLP™ to estimate the genetic diversity within and among them. To infer the genetic structure of the populations the data were subjected to analyses of molecular variance, AMOVA. The analyses of the samples enabled us to assess the location(s) of the richest area(s) in genetic diversity of the species. This area is found in north-western Syria and the adjacent South Turkey. It was also found that the similarity among populations did not reflect on their geographic closeness.
More than 10,000 years ago, at the dawn of the Neolithic Period, the rise of agriculture changed the course of human history. There's evidence, however, that the first farmers' ancestors—members of the Natufian culture, which developed ...
Common wheat (Triticum aestivum) evolved through hybridization between cultivated tetraploid emmer wheat (T. turgidum), which has A and B genomes, and the wild diploid species, Aegilops tauschii, which has the D genome. Although the evolution of common wheat is generally understood, specific details remain unclear. For example, the phylogenetic relationships and origins of the six wheat subspecies (ssp. spelta, macha, vavilovi, aestivum, compactum, and sphaerococcum) have not yet been thoroughly resolved. To clarify the origin of ssp. sphaerococcum, we employed comparative sequence analysis of the D genome-specific sequence-tagged-site (STS) locus A1 in common wheat accessions, including sphaerococcum. Only the two known alleles, type A and type B were found among the accessions. Of the two sphaerococcum accessions, both possessed the type A allele. Four aestivum accessions also possessed the type A allele, while the remaining three accessions possessed the type B allele. Conversely, the accessions of the four remaining subspecies possessed the type B allele. Since sphaerococcum has morphological traits that differ from aestivum and which are pleiotropically regulated by a single recessive gene designated s, sphaerococcum most likely originated from aestivum, with the type A allele at the A1 locus arising through a spontaneous mutation at the s loc
Scientists studying 1,600-year-old cotton from the banks of the Nile have found what they believe is the first evidence that punctuated evolution has occurred in a major crop group within the relatively short history of plant domestication.
Charcoal and other forms of charred organic material – an important part of the archaeological record – consist of benzenoids. Such components are unstable in basic or alkaline conditions. Since ashes are alkaline, this means that archaeological charcoal may have been disintegrated and lost if they were buried together with ashes, e.g. as in fireplaces. Ash may also cause clay translocation in decalcified loess because of the disaggregating effect of K+ ions in the soil solutions. We investigated the interplay of these two processes, using micromorphological samples from the Early Neolithic site at the Joannes Riviusstraat in Elsloo. Evidence for charcoal disintegration was found in the form of cavities in charcoal fragments, most commonly filled in with thick reddish limpid clay coatings. The combination of cavities and clay coatings are evidence for the disintegration of charcoal under the influence of ash. Ash may also have been instrumental in preserving small bone fragments in these decalcified well-drained loess soils. The evidence of ash-induced charcoal disintegration implies that charcoal preservation in the archaeological record is dependent on (1) whether or not is was buried alongside with ashes, and (2) on various soil characteristics that determine that determine how quickly the ash-derived alkalinity and potassium ions are leached.
Buchanania lanzan Spreng. (Chironji) is a socio-economically important underutilized fruit and life support species of tribal populations of north, west and central India. A survey and germplasm collection programme undertaken in the Indian states of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh observed that B. lanzan is found as natural wild in the forest, marginal lands and occasionally in farmer’s fields. A total of 72 diverse accessions of this important tree species were collected from the diversity–rich areas of India having wide range of variation in agro-morphological traits among the accessions. This species has high socio-economic value providing livelihood to tribal population of these areas and has high potential as commercial horticulture species. Fresh ripen fruits and extracted seed kernels have several nutritional and medicinal properties. Seed kernel and extracted kernel oil is used for the preparation of several Indian dishes. Traditional indigenous knowledge revealed immense importance of almost all parts of plant like roots, leaves, fruits, seeds and gum for various medicinal applications like cure for blood disorder, fever, ulcers, burning sensation of body, diarrhoea, dysentery, asthma, snakebite, etc. Due to direct harvesting of economically important parts of tree from natural habitat, genetic resources of B. lanzan
Weedy rice has been becoming a notorious weed in the paddy field of China in recent decades due to its increasing damage to rice yield and rice quality. In this study, a microsatellite technique with 21 pairs of SSR markers was utilized to estimate the genetic structure of two biotypes of weedy rice with Japonica and Indica rice characteristics, collected from Liaoning and Guangdong provinces, respectively. The genetic diversity of the weedy rice in the two provinces was relatively low (Liaoning h = 0.086; Guangdong h = 0.160), and distinctly large genetic differences existed between these two provinces (Gcs = 0.623). The genetic diversity was found primarily within populations, and genetic differentiation was relatively low within the same province. Both cluster analysis (UPGMA) and principle component analysis (PCA) showed that weedy rice had a closer relationship with the cultivated rice collected from the sample field than with other cultivated rice and common wild rice varieties in China. Thus, the results of this study on samples from the Liaoning and Guangdong provinces in China support the de-domestication hypothesis that weedy rice most probably originated from local cultivated rice.
Next generation Sequencing (NGS) provides a powerful tool for discovery of domestication genes in crop plants and their wild relatives. The accelerated domestication of new plant species as crops may be facilitated by this knowledge. Re-sequencing of domesticated genotypes can identify regions of low diversity associated with domestication. Species-specific data can be obtained from related wild species by whole-genome shot-gun sequencing. This sequence data can be used to design species specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR) primers. Sequencing of the products of PCR amplification of target genes can be used to explore genetic variation in large numbers of genes and gene families. Novel allelic variation in close or distant relatives can be characterized by NGS. Examples of recent applications of NGS to capture of genetic diversity for crop improvement include rice, sugarcane and Eucalypts. Populations of large numbers of individuals can be screened rapidly. NGS supports the rapid domestication of new plant species and the efficient identification and capture of novel genetic variation from related species.
It is generally understood that foxtail millet and broomcorn millet were initially domesticated in Northern China where they eventually became the dominant plant food crops. The rarity of older archaeological sites and archaeobotanical work in the region, however, renders both the origins of these plants and their processes of domestication poorly understood. Here we present ancient starch grain assemblages recovered from cultural deposits, including carbonized residues adhering to an early pottery sherd as well as grinding stone tools excavated from the sites of Nanzhuangtou (11.5–11.0 cal kyBP) and Donghulin (11.0–9.5 cal kyBP) in the North China Plain. Our data extend the record of millet use in China by nearly 1,000 y, and the record of foxtail millet in the region by at least two millennia. The patterning of starch residues within the samples allow for the formulation of the hypothesis that foxtail millets were cultivated for an extended period of two millennia, during which this crop plant appears to have been undergoing domestication. Future research in the region will help clarify the processes in place.
Centuries of co-evolution between Castanea spp. biodiversity and human populations has resulted in the spread of rich and varied chestnut genetic diversity throughout most of the world, especially in mountainous and forested regions. Its plasticity and adaptability to different pedoclimates and the wide genetic variability of the species determined the spread of many different ecotypes and varieties in the wild. Throughout the centuries, man has used, selected and preserved these different genotypes, vegetatively propagating them by grafting, for many applications: fresh consumption, production of flour, animal nutrition, timber production, thereby actively contributing to the maintenance of the natural biodiversity of the species, and providing an excellent example of conservation horticulture. Nonetheless, currently the genetic variability of the species is critically endangered and hundreds of ecotypes and varieties are at risk of being lost due to a number of phytosanitary problems (canker blight, Chryphonectria parasitica; ink disease, Phytophthora spp.; gall wasp, Dryocosmus kuriphilus), and because of the many years of decline and abandonment of chestnut cultivation, which resulted in the loss of the binomial male chestnut. Recently, several research and experimentation programmes have attempted to develop strategies for the conservation of chestnut biodiversity. The purpose of this paper is to give an overview of the status of biodiversity conservation of the species and to present the results of a 7 year project aimed at the individuation and study of genetic diversity and conservation of Castanea spp. germplasm.
The Kuk Early Agricultural World Heritage Site is Papua New Guinea’s first World Heritage Site, and as such there are added challenges around management, and increased pressure to establish a good process for future heritage sites in the country.