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Research pushes back history of crop development 10,000 years
Date:9/19/2008

Researchers led by Dr Robin Allaby of the University of Warwick's plant research arm Warwick HRI have found evidence that genetics supports the idea that the emergence of agriculture in prehistory took much longer than originally thought.

Until recently researchers say the story of the origin of agriculture was one of a relatively sudden appearance of plant cultivation in the Near East around 10,000 years ago spreading quickly into Europe and dovetailing conveniently with ideas about how quickly language and population genes spread from the Near East to Europe. Initially, genetics appeared to support this idea but now cracks are beginning to appear in the evidence underpinning that model

Now a team led by Dr Robin Allaby from the University of Warwick have developed a new mathematical model that shows how plant agriculture actually began much earlier than first thought, well before the Younger Dryas (the last "big freeze" with glacial conditions in the higher latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere). It also shows that useful gene types could have actually taken thousands of years to become stable.

Up till now researchers believed in a rapid establishment of efficient agriculture which came about as artificial selection was easily able to dominate natural plant selection, and, crucially, as a consequence they thought most crops came from a single location and single domestication event.

However recent archaeological evidence has already begun to undermine this model pushing back the date of the first appearance of plant agriculture. The best example of this being the archaeological site Ohalo II in Syria where more than 90,000 plant fragments from 23,000 years ago show that wild cereals were being gathered over 10,000 years earlier than previously thought, and before the last glacial maximum (18,000-15,000 years ago).

The field of Archaeobotany is also producing further evidence to undermine the quick development
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Contact: Dr. Robin Allaby
r.g.allaby@warwick.ac.uk
44-024-765-75059
University of Warwick
Source:Eurekalert

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