Chickpea domestication in the Neolithic Levant through the nutritional perspective

Zohar Kerem*, Simcha Lev-Yadun, Avi Gopher, Pnina Weinberg, Shahal Abbo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


An alternative approach to the process of selection and domestication of grain crops in early history based on nutritional value is proposed. Selection by a long trial and error process among a number of wild large seeded legumes gave rise to a nutritionally superior domesticated chickpea among the selected "founder crops" of the Neolithic Near Eastern agriculture. We found considerably higher free tryptophan levels in cultivated stocks (44 desi and 29 kabuli types from 25 countries; 1.10 mg/g seed dry weight), compared with the wild progenitor Cicer reticulatum (15 accessions; 0.33 mg/g seed dry weight). Dietary tryptophan determines brain serotonin synthesis, which in turn affects certain brain functions and human behaviour. We suggest that these nutritive facts may explain the decision of prehistoric farmers to choose this rare species and struggle to keep such an agronomically complicated crop under domestication.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1289-1293
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2007


  • Chickpea
  • Domestication
  • Legumes
  • Neolithic
  • Nutritional


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