Near Eastern Plant Domestication: A History of Thought

Shahal Abbo*, Avi Gopher

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


The Agricultural Revolution and plant domestication in the Near East (among its components) have fascinated generations of scholars. Here, we narrate the history of ideas underlying plant domestication research since the late 19th century. Biological and cultural perspectives are presented through two prevailing models: one views plant domestication as a protracted, unconscious evolutionary mutualistic (noncentric) process. The second advocates a punctuated, knowledge-based human initiative (centric). We scrutinize the research landscape while assessing the underlying evolutionary and cultural mechanisms. A parsimony measure indicates that the punctuated-centric view better accords with archaeological records, and the geobotany and biology of the species, and requires fewer assumptions. The protracted alternative requires many assumptions, does not account for legume biology, fails to distinguish domestication from postdomestication changes, and, therefore, is less parsimonious.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)491-511
Number of pages21
JournalTrends in Plant Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Ltd


  • circumstantial domestication
  • core area-one event domestication
  • crop evolution
  • evolutionary continuum
  • origin of agriculture in the Near East


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