Agricultural Origins from the Ground Up

Langlie, BrieAnna S., Natalie G. Mueller, Robert N. Spengler, and Gayle J. Fritz
2014. Agricultural Origins from the Ground Up: Archaeological Perspectives on Plant Domestication. American Journal of Botany 101(10): 000–000. Peer-reviewed.

Special Issue: Speaking of Food: Connecting basic and applied science.

Available open access

The timing, geographical locations, causes, and consequences of crop domestication have long been major concerns of archaeologists, and agricultural origins and dispersals are currently more relevant than ever to scientists seeking solutions to elusive problems involving food insecurity and global health disparities. Perennial research issues that archaeologists continue to tackle include (1) thinking outside centers of origin that were based on limited and insufficient past knowledge; (2) distinguishing between single and multiple domestications of specific crops; (3) measuring the pace of domestication; and (4) decoupling domestication from agricultural economies. Paleoethnobotanists have expanded their toolkits to include analysis of ancient and modern DNA and have added increasingly sophisticated techniques in the field and the laboratory to derive precise chronological sequences to assess morphological changes in ancient and often fragmentary archaeobotanical remains and to correctly interpret taphonomy and context. Multiple lines of archaeological evidence are ideally brought together, and whenever possible, these are integrated with information from complementary sources. We discuss current perspectives and anthropological approaches to research that have as their goals the fuller and broader understanding of ancient farming societies, the plants that were domesticated, the landscapes that were created, and the culinary legacies that were passed on.


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