In an interview with Haaretz, an Israeli professor suggests agriculture began in what is now Türkiye about 10,500 years ago.

Despite previous theories regarding the domestication of crops and animals and the advent of agriculture in Israel and the near east, professor Avi Gopher tells Haaretz that he believes the location was southeast Türkiye.

He places the emergence of the first farmers in southeast Türkiye and northern Syria – the northern Levant. He also considers the first animal husbandry to have taken place in that geography.

Gopher calls the northern Levant the location of the agricultural "big bang".

The Israeli newspaper, consulting with professor Necmi Karul, head of the Istanbul University archaeology department and leader of the excavations, reports that while southeast Türkiye is the location for ancient civilisations, such as those who resided in Gobekli Tepe, Karahan Tepe and several other monumental gathering sites, the people who lived there did not grow crops. 

Instead, they were hunter-gatherers who settled down, building residences out of stones first and mud bricks later.

Gopher says with the disappearance of that culture, domestication of crops and animals began. 

Yet the connection between the disappearance of the Gobekli Tepe culture and the emergence of a new economy featuring domesticated animals and plants is unclear.

According to Karul, domestication of the plants we eat today began in the ancient sites in Gobekli Tepe and the like, following settlement. He says the region was fertile during the Holocene, unlike today's hot and arid area.

Gopher, the professor, says Sanliurfa and Diyarbakir in southeast Türkiye is the only place "where all the ancestral plants of the crops grew: from wheat to barley, to chickpeas, lentils, peas and bitter vetch".

He points out that Neolithic people likely domesticated more than one species of plants to have alternatives. 

"Ninety percent of food research and 99 percent of agronomical research involves the species domesticated in the Neolithic," he explains.

Gopher believes that the agricultural revolution did not take generations but that hunter-gatherers who settled chose plants with high germination rates to cultivate. 

"Hunter-gatherers had hundreds of thousands of years of experience with the plants around them," Gopher says.

Early crops that existed throughout the Middle East and the Fertile Crescent (between Euphrates and Tigris rivers) are scattered, but in southeast Türkiye one can find all of them.

"Domestication has significant dietetic and agronomic logic – it created stability that brought us to where we are today. The thing that has been sustaining us for 10,500 years wasn't coincidence," he says.

He adds that genetic analysis seeking original populations also indicates the same geography.

"Take 100 populations of wheat, barley or pea, and look for the original population that was domesticated. We find it in the southeast [Türkiye]."

Source: TRTWorld and agencies