Humans grew fig trees approximately 11,400 years B.P. (Before Present) at Gilgal I, a village site in the Jordan Valley north of ancient Jericho. This predates the earliest evidence of domestication of wheat, barley, and legumes by about 1,000 years and indicates that figs may have been the earliest domesticated crop.
Paleobotanists Ofer Bar-Yosef of Harvard University and Mordechai E. Kislev and Anat Hartmann of Israels Bar-Ilan University reported their findings from Gilgal I in the 2 June 2006 issue of Science.
Their team found fig remains that had been dried for human consumption. The type of figs were a mutant variety that does not produce seeds and has to be propagated by plnating sprouts. The trees are very easy to propagate, a freshly cut branch pushed into the ground will grow roots. This variety of figs stay on the tree rather than dropping to the groudn, and therefore become soft and sweet.
Other food found at the site included wild acorns and wild oats, but no signs of any other domesticated crops. The Gilgal I village site was abandoned more than 11,000 years ago.
Paleobotanists Ofer Bar-Yosef said Humans must have recognized that the resulting fruits do not produce new trees, and fig tree cultivation became a common practice. In this intentional act of planting a specific variant of fig tree, we can see the beginnings of agriculture.
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