Ehud Weiss (Bar-Ilan University, Israel) | December 15, 2016 – 14h30 | CIBIO-InBIO’s Auditorium, Campus de Vairão




Barley was domesticated about 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent and became a founder crop of Neolithic agriculture in Europe and Western Asia. However, “proto-weeds” found in Ohalo II, a 23,000-year-old hunter-gatherers' sedentary camp on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Israel, shows small-scale trial cultivation was much earlier than originally anticipated. Ohalo II’s plant assemblage demonstrates extensive human gathering of over 140 plant species. Among these, 13 well-known current weeds were mixed with numerous seeds of wild emmer, barley, and oat. This provides the earliest evidence of a human-disturbed environment at least 11 millennia before the onset of agriculture that provided conditions ideal for "proto-weeds", a prerequisite for weed evolution. In addition, we will report the genome sequences of five 6,000-year-old barley grains, the oldest crop samples to be sequenced to date, from a cave in the Judean Desert, Israel. Comparison of the data to a diverse panel of present-day accessions of wild and domesticated barleys reveal the ancient barely to be most closely related to extant landraces from the Southern Levant and Egypt, consistent with a proposed origin of domesticated barley in the Upper Jordan Valley. Our findings suggest that barley landraces grown over the past six millennia in present-day Israel have not experienced a major lineage turnover, despite evidence for gene flow between cultivated and sympatric wild populations since prehistoric times. We show the utility of ancient genomes from the archaeobotanical remains in research into the origin, early domestication and subsequent migration of crop species.


Ehud Weiss is the Head of the archaeobotanical lab in Bar-Ilan University, author of the 4th edition of "Domestication of Plants in the Old World" and papers dealing with reconstruction of past diet, environment, trade and agricultural practices via plant remains in archaeology. Recently involve in two seminal projects: forming an international group of geneticists to analyze aDNA of 6,000 years-old desiccated plant remains, and reconstruction of our ancestors' wine – King David and Jesus wines.


[Host: João Tereso, Environmental Archaeology]


Image credits: Ehud Weiss