Archaeological excavations in northern Israel have unearthed the world’s oldest domesticated fava bean seeds.
According to the archaeologists, this finding indicates that prehistoric man living in the southern Middle East 10,000 years ago consumed legumes in his diet.
Researchers of the Weizmann Institute and Israel Antiquities Authority, say that ancient man living in the Galilee specialized in cultivating legumes in general and fava beans (‘ful’) in particular. “This is an important discovery, enabling a deeper understanding of the agricultural revolution in the southern Middle East,” stated the researchers.
The fava seeds were found in recent years at Neolithic sites in the Galilee region. This discovery shows that the inhabitants’ diet at the time consisted mainly of fava beans, as well as lentils, various types of peas and chickpeas.
The dating of the seeds, which was done at the Kimmel Center in the Weizmann Institute using advanced techniques, indicated a range of dates between 9,890 to 10,200 years ago, making them the world’s oldest domesticated fava seeds.
The well-preserved seeds were found in excavations, inside storage pits (granaries) after they had been husked. According to the researchers, this reflects long-term agricultural planning, whereby the stored seeds were intended not only for food, but also to ensure future crops in the coming years.
The seeds’ dimensions are a uniform size, showing that they were methodically cultivated, and were harvested at the same time period as when the legumes had ripened.
The researchers added in an official statement: “The identification of the places where plant species that are today an integral part of our diet were first domesticated is of great significance to research.”
“The agricultural revolution took place in this region at the time. Different species of animals and plants were domesticated across the Levant, and it is now clear that the region that is today the Galilee had been the main producer of legumes in prehistoric times.”
“This is a process that lasted thousands of years, during which certain characteristics of wild species changed, and domesticated plant species were created,” they concluded. “To this day, most of the chickpeas grown in the country are cultivated in the Galilee region.”