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CORDIS

Eight millennia of changes in domestic plants and animals: understanding local adaptation under socio-economic and climatic fluctuations

Project description

A deeper look at plant and animal domestication in the past

Named after the Greek goddess of harvest, grain and fertility, the EU-funded DEMETER project will investigate crop and breed evolution from the Neolithic to the present. It will trace how societies influenced domestic crops and animals under different farming and environmental regimes and socio-economic contexts. Specifically, the project will find out how and why the diversity of domestic forms evolved and led to the large number of breeds and varieties that exist today. It will also determine how this diversity allowed societies to adapt to the environmental and socio-economic changes that occurred repeatedly since the onset of agriculture. The project’s findings will shed light on the regional synthesis of the links between domesticates and humans over the last eight millennia.

Objective

The domestication of plants and animals marks a major transition in human history and is a key element in the development of modern societies. Local and traditional domestic breeds and varieties are the result of millennia of selection of landraces by farmers. However, we are now experiencing a major crisis with a drastic loss in the diversity of food production systems and the progressive disappearance of traditional practices. The local knowledge and culture of farmers are under threat, as well as the diversity of harvested species, varieties and breeds. In this context, DEMETER’s objective is to trace how societies influenced crop and breed evolution under different farming and environmental regimes, and socio-economic contexts since the onset of agriculture. More specifically, DEMETER aims at identifying: 1) how and why the diversity of domestic forms evolved and led to the large number of breeds and varieties that exist today, and 2) how this diversity allowed societies to adapt to the environmental and socio-economic changes that occurred repeatedly since the onset of agriculture. DEMETER aims at studying the evolution, from the Neolithic until the present of a selection animal and plant models: pigs, sheep, goats and barley, in a given region, the Northwestern Occidental Mediterranean basin, i.e. outside their primary ‘domestication centre’. DEMETER will be based on an unprecedented and unconventional combination of approaches, including phenomics (through geometric morphometrics), databasing, zooarchaeology, archaeobotany, climate modelling, palaeoproteins (ZooMs) and statistical analyses, implemented to analyse 10,000 domestic specimens (i.e. mammal teeth and barley grains).
DEMETER will produce an unprecedented regional synthesis of the relationships between humans and domesticates over the last 8 millennia in a new way and at a fine-scale resolution never envisioned before.

Host institution

CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA RECHERCHE SCIENTIFIQUE CNRS
Net EU contribution
€ 1 447 800,00
Address
RUE MICHEL ANGE 3
75794 Paris
France

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Region
Ile-de-France Ile-de-France Paris
Activity type
Research Organisations
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Total cost
€ 1 447 800,00

Beneficiaries (1)