Science, Tech, Math › Social Sciences Plant Domestication Dates and Locations of Human Farming Advances Share Flipboard Email Print Is the Fig Tree the Earliest Domesticated Plant?. David Cayless / Getty Images Social Sciences Archaeology History of Animal and Plant Domestication Basics Ancient Civilizations Excavations Psychology Sociology Economics Environment Ergonomics Maritime by K. Kris Hirst K. Kris Hirst is an archaeologist with 30 years of field experience. She is the author of The Archaeologist's Book of Quotations and her work has appeared in Science and Archaeology. Updated November 13, 2019 The domestication of plants is one of the first and most crucial steps in the development of a full-fledged, reliable agricultural (Neolithic) economy. To successfully feed a society using plants, the first humans had to continually work to improve their yield in quality and quantity. Plant domestication arose as an approach to growing and harvesting more effectively. What Is a Domesticated Plant? The traditional definition of a domesticated plant is one that has been changed from its natural state until it is no longer able to grow and reproduce without human intervention. The purpose of plant domestication is to adapt plants to make them optimal for human use/consumption. Just as the earliest domesticated crops were groomed to meet human needs, farmers had to learn to meet the needs of their tamed plants so that they would produce high-quality, bountiful, and reliable crops. In a way, they were groomed too. Plant domestication is a slow and tiresome process that is only successful when both parties—humans and plants—benefit from each other through a mutualistic relationship. The result of thousands of years of this symbiosis came to be known as coevolution. Coevolution Coevolution describes the process of two species evolving to suit each other's needs. Plant domestication through artificial selection is one of the best examples of this. When a human tends a plant with favorable attributes, perhaps because it has the largest and sweetest fruits or most resilient husk, and saves the seeds to replant, they are essentially guaranteeing the continuation of that particular organism. In this way, a farmer can select for the properties they desire by giving special treatment only to the best and most successful plants. Their crop, in turn, starts to take on the desirable properties the farmer selected for and disadvantageous attributes are extinguished over time. Though plant domestication via artificial selection is not foolproof—complications include long-distance trading and uncontrolled seed dispersal, accidental cross-breeding of wild and domesticated plants, and unexpected disease wiping out genetically similar plants—it demonstrates that human and plant behavior can become intertwined. When plants do what is expected of them by humans, humans work to preserve them. Examples of Domesticated Plants The domestication histories of various plants show advancements in plant-taming practices. Organized by the earliest to the most recent domesticated plants, this table provides an overview of plant domestication with the plant, location, and date of domestication. Click through to learn more about each plant. Table of Domesticated Plants Plant Location Date Emmer wheat Near East 9000 BCE Fig trees Near East 9000 BCE Foxtail Millet East Asia 9000 BCE Flax Near East 9000 BCE Peas Near East 9000 BCE Einkorn wheat Near East 8500 BCE Barley Near East 8500 BCE Chickpea Anatolia 8500 BCE Bottle gourd Asia 8000 BCE Bottle gourd Central America 8000 BCE Rice Asia 8000 BCE Potatoes Andes Mountains 8000 BCE Beans South America 8000 BCE Squash Central America 8000 BCE Maize Central America 7000 BCE Water Chestnut Asia 7000 BCE Perilla Asia 7000 BCE Burdock Asia 7000 BCE Rye Southwest Asia 6600 BCE Broomcorn millet East Asia 6000 BCE Bread wheat Near East 6000 BCE Manioc/Cassava South America 6000 BCE Chenopodium South America 5500 BCE Date Palm Southwest Asia 5000 BCE Avocado Central America 5000 BCE Grapevine Southwest Asia 5000 BCE Cotton Southwest Asia 5000 BCE Bananas Island Southeast Asia 5000 BCE Beans Central America 5000 BCE Opium Poppy Europe 5000 BCE Chili peppers South America 4000 BCE Amaranth Central America 4000 BCE Watermelon Near East 4000 BCE Olives Near East 4000 BCE Cotton Peru 4000 BCE Apples Central Asia 3500 BCE Pomegranate Iran 3500 BCE Garlic Central Asia 3500 BCE Hemp East Asia 3500 BCE Cotton Mesoamerica 3000 BCE Soybean East Asia 3000 BCE Azuki Bean East Asia 3000 BCE Coca South America 3000 BCE Sago Palm Southeast Asia 3000 BCE Squash North America 3000 BCE Sunflower Central America 2600 BCE Rice India 2500 BCE Sweet Potato Peru 2500 BCE Pearl millet Africa 2500 BCE Sesame Indian subcontinent 2500 BCE Marsh elder (Iva annua) North America 2400 BCE Sorghum Africa 2000 BCE Sunflower North America 2000 BCE Bottle gourd Africa 2000 BCE Saffron Mediterranean 1900 BCE Chenopodium China 1900 BCE Chenopodium North America 1800 BCE Chocolate Mesoamerica 1600 BCE Coconut Southeast Asia 1500 BCE Rice Africa 1500 BCE Tobacco South America 1000 BCE Eggplant Asia 1st century BCE Maguey Mesoamerica 600 CE Edamame China 13th century CE Vanilla Central America 14th century CE Dates and locations of plant domestication Continue Reading Was the Squash Plant Domesticated for its Taste--or its Shape? 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