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      Domestication and early agriculture in the Mediterranean Basin: Origins, diffusion, and impact

      Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

      Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

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          Abstract

          The past decade has witnessed a quantum leap in our understanding of the origins, diffusion, and impact of early agriculture in the Mediterranean Basin. In large measure these advances are attributable to new methods for documenting domestication in plants and animals. The initial steps toward plant and animal domestication in the Eastern Mediterranean can now be pushed back to the 12th millennium cal B.P. Evidence for herd management and crop cultivation appears at least 1,000 years earlier than the morphological changes traditionally used to document domestication. Different species seem to have been domesticated in different parts of the Fertile Crescent, with genetic analyses detecting multiple domestic lineages for each species. Recent evidence suggests that the expansion of domesticates and agricultural economies across the Mediterranean was accomplished by several waves of seafaring colonists who established coastal farming enclaves around the Mediterranean Basin. This process also involved the adoption of domesticates and domestic technologies by indigenous populations and the local domestication of some endemic species. Human environmental impacts are seen in the complete replacement of endemic island faunas by imported mainland fauna and in today's anthropogenic, but threatened, Mediterranean landscapes where sustainable agricultural practices have helped maintain high biodiversity since the Neolithic.

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          Most cited references 23

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          Ancient DNA, pig domestication, and the spread of the Neolithic into Europe.

          The Neolithic Revolution began 11,000 years ago in the Near East and preceded a westward migration into Europe of distinctive cultural groups and their agricultural economies, including domesticated animals and plants. Despite decades of research, no consensus has emerged about the extent of admixture between the indigenous and exotic populations or the degree to which the appearance of specific components of the "Neolithic cultural package" in Europe reflects truly independent development. Here, through the use of mitochondrial DNA from 323 modern and 221 ancient pig specimens sampled across western Eurasia, we demonstrate that domestic pigs of Near Eastern ancestry were definitely introduced into Europe during the Neolithic (potentially along two separate routes), reaching the Paris Basin by at least the early 4th millennium B.C. Local European wild boar were also domesticated by this time, possibly as a direct consequence of the introduction of Near Eastern domestic pigs. Once domesticated, European pigs rapidly replaced the introduced domestic pigs of Near Eastern origin throughout Europe. Domestic pigs formed a key component of the Neolithic Revolution, and this detailed genetic record of their origins reveals a complex set of interactions and processes during the spread of early farmers into Europe.
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            Anthropology. Autonomous cultivation before domestication.

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              The origin of European cattle: evidence from modern and ancient DNA.

              Cattle domestication from wild aurochsen was among the most important innovations during the Neolithic agricultural revolution. The available genetic and archaeological evidence points to at least two major sites of domestication in India and in the Near East, where zebu and the taurine breeds would have emerged independently. Under this hypothesis, all present-day European breeds would be descended from cattle domesticated in the Near East and subsequently spread during the diffusion of herding and farming lifestyles. We present here previously undescribed genetic evidence in contrast with this view, based on mtDNA sequences from five Italian aurochsen dated between 7,000 and 17,000 years B.P. and >1,000 modern cattle from 51 breeds. Our data are compatible with local domestication events in Europe and support at least some levels of introgression from the aurochs in Italy. The distribution of genetic variation in modern cattle suggest also that different south European breeds were affected by introductions from northern Africa. If so, the European cattle may represent a more variable and valuable genetic resource than previously realized, and previous simple hypotheses regarding the domestication process and the diffusion of selected breeds should be revised.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                0027-8424
                1091-6490
                August 19 2008
                August 19 2008
                August 12 2008
                August 19 2008
                : 105
                : 33
                : 11597-11604
                Article
                10.1073/pnas.0801317105
                2575338
                18697943
                8abdb3c0-5504-42db-8865-fd0e5a0b1906
                © 2008
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