Unprecedented yet gradual nature of first millennium CE intercontinental crop plant dispersal revealed in ancient Negev desert refuse

Daniel Fuks*, Yoel Melamed, Dafna Langgut, Tali Erickson-Gini, Yotam Tepper, Guy Bar-Oz, Ehud Weiss

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Global agro-biodiversity has resulted from processes of plant migration and agricultural adoption. Although critically affecting current diversity, crop diffusion from Classical antiquity to the Middle Ages is poorly researched, overshadowed by studies on that of prehistoric periods. A new archaeobotanical dataset from three Negev Highland desert sites demonstrates the first millennium CE’s significance for long-term agricultural change in southwest Asia. This enables evaluation of the ‘Islamic Green Revolution’ (IGR) thesis compared to ‘Roman Agricultural Diffusion’ (RAD), and both versus crop diffusion during and since the Neolithic. Among the finds, some of the earliest aubergine (Solanum melongena) seeds in the Levant represent the proposed IGR. Several other identified economic plants, including two unprecedented in Levantine archaeobotany—jujube (Ziziphus jujuba/mauritiana) and white lupine (Lupinus albus)—implicate RAD as the greater force for crop migrations. Altogether the evidence supports a gradualist model for Holocene-wide crop diffusion, within which the first millennium CE contributed more to global agricultural diversity than any earlier period.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere85118
StatePublished - 2023


FundersFunder number
European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme
Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Laboratory of Bone Biomechanics
Israel Antiquities AuthorityG-4/2017, G-4/2016, G-69/2014, G-87/2015, G-10/2015, G-6/2017
Israel Nature and Parks Authority
RQ Research and Innovation Programme
Rottenstreich Fellowship of the Israel Council for Higher Education
Sapir Haad
Yaniv Sfez
Zinman Institute of Archaeology
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme648427
British AcademyNIF23/100633
European Research Council
Israel Science Foundation340-14
University of Haifa


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