Experimental harvesting of wild peas in Israel: implications for the origins of Near East farming

Shahal Abbo, Inbar Zezak, Efrat Schwartz, Simcha Lev-Yadun, Avi Gopher*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Previous evaluations of the potential advantage of farming over foraging have been based on experimental harvesting of wild cereals in Near Eastern ecosystems. The highly successful combination of cereals and legumes, "the Near Eastern crops assemblage", is considered a natural choice due to the complementary nutritional value of the two crop types. Yet, legumes were rarely referred to in models describing early farming and the transition from foraging to farming. Wild legumes differ from wild cereals in several attributes pertaining to domestication, including population density (patchy vs. dense), growth habit (indeterminate vs. determinate), dispersal units (camouflaged seeds vs. awned spikelets), seed dormancy (90-80% vs. 50%), and year to year establishment (erratic vs. regular). We have analyzed the yield potential of three wild pea species (Pisum elatius, P. humile, and P. fulvum) in several ecosystems in Israel. All three pea species have patchy distribution patterns and the yield potential of the wild populations is highly variable. A harvest rate of 0.6-610 grams (calculated per collector) of clean dry grain per hour of harvest time was estimated. Among the three species studied the one adopted for domestication appears to be the least productive. This suggests that the potential productivity of wild peas was not the only or even the major consideration for domestication.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)922-929
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2008


  • Israel
  • Neolithic Revolution
  • Pea domestication
  • Wild pea harvest


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