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date: 25 April 2019

Abstract and Keywords

By intervening in the reproduction of wild plants procured for food and other purposes, hunter-gatherers began a process of morphogenetic domestication that led eventually to the emergence in many regions of the world of agricultural systems based on varied assemblages of crops. This profound transformation in human subsistence began some 12 000 years ago and resulted in cumulative losses of plant biodiversity as the human population became gradually more dependent for its food supply on fewer and fewer staple crops. In this essay four aspects of this phenomenon are examined: (1) how research on plant domestication and agricultural origins developed; (2) the archaeobotanical and genetic techniques currently used to investigate it; (3) hunter-gatherer management, cultivation and domestication of seed-reproduced and vegetatively reproduced food plants, particularly cereal grasses, herbaceous legumes (pulses) and root and tree crops; and (4) transitions to agriculture in several major world regions.

Keywords: agriculture, archaeobotany, biodiversity, cereals, cultivation, hunter-gatherers, plant domestication, pulses, root crops, tree crops

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