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Seeds of A New World: The Archaeology of Plant Domestication in The Near East and Thoughts On the Modern Condition of Man

For the researchers of AMMACHI Labs and CWEGE to be exposed to the high caliber of research and work that Avi Gopher has done, and to gain insights into the research process through his experiences. Additionally, any potential collaboration that comes out of these interactions is welcomed.

Participants: AL & CWEGE Research Staff & Scholars

Biography of Speaker

Avi Gopher (PhD 1985, Hebrew University, Jerusalem) is Professor of Archaeology in the Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv University. He is a highly influential archaeologist whose wide-ranging interests and research have been highly cited. One of his current major research interests is focused on the Neolithic Period, the Agricultural/Neolithic Revolution and the archaeology of plant domestication in the Near East. 

Discussion Points of Talk

He said this talk is devoted to the Neolithic revolution, it’s a term coined by Gordon child almost a century ago and the Neolithic revolution is a socio-economic move from an economy based on hunting and gathering to an economy based on food production and I like to call it is the agricultural revolution now plant domestication is an important component of this revolution and it has taken place independently. Plant domestication is part of the agricultural revolution. He talked about the plant domestication in the near east. 

The plant species domesticated include the plants like wheat, barley, lentil, pea, chickpea, bitter, vetch, flax (and faba bean) and the animals like sheep, goat, cattle and pig. The near is the only place in the world where animals were domesticated at the same time. In the other domestication centres in the world like in the near east the plant domesticated include legumes and Syrians for example rice and soybean in china or corn and beans in Mesoamerica. It is a well-Known and efficient dietary combination.

 

Revolution 

  • A revolution is a cultural transformation, a change in perception 
  • A revolution needs innovative people and society that can contain and apply change.

Some examples 

  •  Humans – the tool makers (3 million years ago) 
  •  Humans – the food producers (10500 years ago) 
  •  The industrial Revolution – mass production and growth 
  •  The communication revolution

 

Domestications 

  • Domestication is a change in relations between the domesticator and the domesticated –between humans and the world and between culture and nature
  • A new discourse- a discourse of domination and manipulation 

Explained about the book they published in Hebrew that appeared five years ago and it is to be published by Cambridge university press. In terms used by a young curator for an exhibition on domestication, the young girl defined domestication is a shattered communication arena. 

Domestication is a take-over of: 

  • Inanimate resources 
  • Selected species of plants and animals 
  • Energies and Knowledge to transform materials irreversibly 
  • Space 

Examples of domestication like 

  • A fireplace at Qesem Cave 300,000 years’ old 
  • A lime plastered floor, Beisamoun, the Hula valley, northern Israel (9500 years ago) Among all the revolutions and domestications, the “Agricultural Revolution” (was 10000 years ago) was the most dramatic in human history. It shaped our perceptions, culture and socio- economy in a way that stills leads our life here and now. 

The major protagonists in the story of Plant Domestication in the Near East include:

  •  Archaeologists- studying human behaviour, adaptation, socio-economics and perception – I.e. culture; 
  • Archaeobotanists – studying plant remains recovered in archaeological sites;
  • Biologists/geneticists – studying crop adaptation and husbandry 
  • And geo botanists – studying the environment and ecology of plants 

The script of this research play on based on 

Creating a trustful interrelationship between 3 major actors: Biology of plants, environment (of plants and humans) and culture(adaptation) hoping for a synergetic interplay creating a whole bigger the sum of its part. 

The major issue on stage of the Near Eastern Plant Domestication play is that: There are two models reconstructing the way Plant domestication was achieved and we need to decide which of the two shows higher parsimony. 

  • The two models are: the protracted –autonomous model and the core area-one event model. 

One additional relevant point –the spread of domesticates 

The core-area-one-event model predicts the spread (migration of domesticated plant populations) from a center of domestication that can be detected by temporal-spatial patterns found within archaeological and archaeobotanical assemblages and by genetic footprints of introgression (wild-domesticated gene flow) that can be detected by the pattern of DNA polymorphism among respective populations. The protracted-autonomous model is expected to leave no such spatial patterns, neither among the archaeological –archaeobotanical data nor among DNA polymorphism data.

Conclusion: all lines of evidence indicate that 

  • There was a core area – where a package of plants (and animals) was domesticated
  • It was I the northern Levant – on the Middle Euphrates and took place some 10500 years ago 
  • Domesticates have spread rapidly from this core area throughout the Near East and beyond –Europe, Western Asia to the Indus valley and to north Africa. 
  • The choice of species (and types within species) for domestication was an ingenuity of the human mind. 

Was plant domestication in the near east conscious and Knowledge based or a prehistoric accident? 

Some eminent scholars of the 20th century think it was not but many actors of the plant domestication research today in the 21st century do think it was an accidents and in lack of the results of this revolution and especially plant domestication, I would not think it was an accident but I would recommend a different view of our Neolithic forefathers granting them no less than admiration and I would also recommend some modesty. Modern sciences and agronomy throughout the world today are intensively engaged in improving the species that our Neolithic ancestors decided to domesticate like wheat, barley, rice, corn, pea, lentil, chickpea, soybeans and others. How is it that in so basic a component of our life here and now that is our food, we are still busy applying Neolithic choices uniquely wise choices that stand to this very day. 

Attendance –26

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