World’s earliest domestication of fruit trees took place 7,000 years ago in Jordan: Study
A joint study by Tel Aviv University and Jerusalem’s Hebrew University has found the earliest domestication of fruit trees, suggesting that olive and fig horticulture was practised as early as 7000 years ago in the Central Jordan Valley, Israel.
The study based its conclusions on analysing the remnants of charcoal from the Charcolithic site of Tel Zaf in the Jordan Valley, proving they came from olive trees, which did not grow there naturally, according to the Tel Aviv University press release.
They were able to identify the trees by their anatomic structure despite being burned down to charcoal.
“Olive trees grow in the wild in the land of Israel, but they do not grow in the Jordan Valley,” Dr. Dafna Langgut, head of Tel Aviv’s Laboratory of Archaeobotany and Ancient Environments and who led the study, told Times of Israel newspaper.
“This means that someone brought them there intentionally — took the knowledge and the plant itself to a place that is outside of its natural habitat.”
“In archaeobotany, this is considered indisputable proof of domestication, which means that we have here the earliest evidence of the olive’s domestication anywhere in the world.”
Langgut also found remnants of branches belonging to the fig tree, which did grow naturally in the Jordan Valley.
As the fig tree had little value for firewood or working into tools or furniture, she concluded that the branches resulted from pruning, a method still used today to increase a fruit tree’s yield.
The researchers were not surprised to discover that the inhabitants of Tel Tsaf were the first in the world to intentionally grow olive and fig trees, since growing fruit trees is evidence of luxury, and this site is known to have been exceptionally wealthy, the joint university press release said.