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J Exp Bot. 2012 Jul;63(12):4333-41. doi: 10.1093/jxb/ers162. Epub 2012 Jun 19.

A critical review of the protracted domestication model for Near-Eastern founder crops: linear regression, long-distance gene flow, archaeological, and archaeobotanical evidence.

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Natural Resource Management (INA), Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB) ├ůs, Norway.


The recent review by Fuller et al. (2012a) in this journal is part of a series of papers maintaining that plant domestication in the Near East was a slow process lasting circa 4000 years and occurring independently in different locations across the Fertile Crescent. Their protracted domestication scenario is based entirely on linear regression derived from the percentage of domesticated plant remains at specific archaeological sites and the age of these sites themselves. This paper discusses why estimates like haldanes and darwins cannot be applied to the seven founder crops in the Near East (einkorn and emmer wheat, barley, peas, chickpeas, lentils, and bitter vetch). All of these crops are self-fertilizing plants and for this reason they do not fulfil the requirements for performing calculations of this kind. In addition, the percentage of domesticates at any site may be the result of factors other than those that affect the selection for domesticates growing in the surrounding area. These factors are unlikely to have been similar across prehistoric sites of habitation, societies, and millennia. The conclusion here is that single crop analyses are necessary rather than general reviews drawing on regression analyses based on erroneous assumptions. The fact that all seven of these founder crops are self-fertilizers should be incorporated into a comprehensive domestication scenario for the Near East, as self-fertilization naturally isolates domesticates from their wild progenitors.

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