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1703Re: Origins of Cultivation (was Re: [ANE-2] Old Figs)

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    Jun 3, 2006
      RE: Robert Whiting's comment:

      Perhaps there was a confusion between the terms domestication and cultivation. To cultivate implies "production of food by preparing the land to grow crops". This might mean planting a seed after scratching the ground with a stick and dropping seeds into the loosened soil.

      The article about figs indicated that the figs were evidence of human cultivation without providing details or proof of how the author determined the figs were planted by hand or gathered from fig trees growing wild. Whether the figs were thought to be hybrids from natural cross pollination or pollination by hand. The fig was usually pollinated by a wasp. When the fig was unpollinated it may have been scratched/dressed to enhance a ripening without pollination. This was a form of agricultural technology but not cultivation.

      James Mellaart studied the Neolithic of upper Syria and Anatolia. He cited a study where wild emmer not cultivated was gathered by hand in great quantities. Such seed may have been stored in unfired clay silos from early dates without any cultivation having occurred. Domestication of numerous plants and animals was thought to have occurred as early as the Neolithic.

      Years ago I read a study that put man's ability to start fires from sparks or friction to about 100,000 BP. A few years later I saw another study had moved that date back to 250,000 BP or earlier. It does not have much to do with cultivating figs or plowing ground.

      David Q. Hall

      Robert Whiting <whiting@...> wrote:
      On Fri, 2 Jun 2006, DAVID HALL wrote:

      > Having read that man made fire may have been sparked by 250,000 BP and
      > another study indicating men kindled fires about 100,000 BP,
      > http://fubini.swarthmore.edu/~ENVS2/S2003/tcoughl1/ENVS2/fire.html
      > one might presume we do not know when the first cultivation occurred.

      I fail to see what the connection is between the ability to make fire and
      the origin of cultivation. One might as well speculate on the connection
      between the making of stone tools and the origin of cultivation.

      > Wild wheat was gathered before people learned to produce the hybrid
      > grain that clings to the head after it is ripe. They may have been
      > scattering seeds on the ground as cultivation long before they learned
      > to select the best seeds to produce the hybrid (tame) grain that may
      > have been produced in the Neolithic if not earlier.

      While we may not know precisely when the first cultivation occured, we
      know more about it than this idle speculation might imply. For a recent
      summary of specialist knowledge on the origins of cultivation, see <i>The
      Origins of Agriculture and Crop Domestication</i>, Proceedings of the
      Harlan Symposium, 10-14 May 1997, Aleppo, Syria, Edited by, A.B. Damania,
      J. Valkoun, G. Willcox, and C.O. Qualset, available as an e-publication at


      One of the leaders in research on the origins of cultivation is the CNRS
      Institut de Préhistoire Orientale, Jalès, France, where experimentation
      with wild progenitors of cereals has taken place over a long period.
      See in particular WILLCOX, G. " Agrarian change and the beginnings of
      cultivation in the Near East: evidence from wild progenitors, experimental
      cultivation and archaeobotanical data." In: J. Hather (ed): <i>Change in
      subsistance systems: social theory and biological processes</i>. World
      Archaeological Conference, Routlege: London, 1999. 478-500.

      George Willcox and his colleagues from Jalès have also written a ton of
      other articles on the topic which can be found with a Google search.

      Bob Whiting

      Near Columbia university University of helsinki


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