Skip to main content

Assessing the economic role of the founder crops prior to the emergence of agriculture


Between 10.7 and 10.2 ka cal. BP a process culminated in southwest Asia that marked the path of human history: the domestication of plants. A group of eight species including wild cereals, pulses and flax become the “founder crops” of Neolithic agriculture, revolutionizing our economy and subsistence for the time to come. But why were these species domesticated and not others? It has often been assumed that these species were staples, and the increasing need to procure more of these daily foods eventually triggered their cultivation, and domestication. However, recent archaeobotanical evidence is starting to challenge this long-held view. Building on eight of the richest and most iconic Natufian hunter-gatherer and Pre-Pottery Neolithic farming sites in SWA (14.6-10.2 ka cal. BP), this project seeks to test the hypothesis that the Neolithic “founder crops” were also staples before the emergence of agriculture. Any deviation from this view will revolutionise our understanding of the factors that triggered the process of plant domestication in SWA. To provide fresh perspectives, the work will focus on one of the most innovative, yet understudied, frontiers of archaeological research: the analyses of charred food remains (CFR). The fellow will receive training on the analyses of CFR, and pioneer an inter-disciplinary approach based on state-of-the-art archaeobotanical and biomolecular techniques, ethnobotany and experimental archaeology. In turn, she will transfer her world-class expertise in hunter-gatherer plant subsistence and archaeobotany and expand the analyses of CFR to periods and regions not previously explored by the host, as well as to foster new collaborations with academic (secondments) and non-academic partners (gastronomic faculties and haute chefs). All together, this project guarantees the two-way transfer of knowledge and represents a solid investment of funds from which the fellow, the host institutions and the European society will largely benefit.

Field of science

  • /humanities/history and archaeology/archaeology
  • /agricultural sciences/agriculture, forestry, and fisheries
  • /agricultural sciences/agriculture, forestry, and fisheries/agriculture
  • /humanities/history and archaeology/history
  • /agricultural sciences/agriculture, forestry, and fisheries/agriculture/plant breeding/crops

Call for proposal

See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

MSCA-IF-EF-ST - Standard EF


Rue Cuvier 57
75005 Paris
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 196 707,84