Science, Tech, Math › Social Sciences Plant Domestication Table of Dates and Places 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 May 23, 2019 The domestication of plants is one of the first and most crucial steps in developing a full-fledged, reliable agricultural (Neolithic) economy. To successfully feed a society from a set of plants, you have to be able to control the growing seasons and continuously improve the harvest. The earliest experimentation with plant tending, called horticulture, is much older than the estimates for the domestication histories listed here, traced back into the Mesolithic and perhaps even the Upper Paleolithic of some 20,000 years ago. That is where the true origins of agriculture lie. What is a Domesticated Plant? The traditional definition of a domesticated plant is one that has been altered by humans from its wild nature so that it cannot grow and reproduce without human intervention. That process is by no means a one-directional movement. The domesticating humans must become domesticated themselves to tend the crops so that they reliably produce the best forms. Today, scientists recognize that domestication can be the result of an immensely slow process, hundreds or thousands of years, during which a symbiotic relationship between the plants and humans took place. This is called co-evolution because during domestication both plants and human behaviors evolved to suit one another. Co-Evolution In the simplest form of co-evolution, a human harvests a given plant selectively, by picking the largest or sweetest fruits, and then saving the seeds from those best fruits to plant the next year. By deliberating tending a plant, and replanting seeds from what she interprets as the best and most successful plants, the farmer is selecting what properties survive, and which are extinguished. But scholars have discovered that process is complicated by long-distance trade in seeds, by accidental or purposeful cross-breeding with wild forms, and by experimentation and selection over thousands of years, as both the plants and human behavior intertwine. Plant Domestication Table The following table contains links to articles on various domestication histories. Its contents are compiled from a variety of sources, and if you follow the links you will read the latest information about each plant and detailed descriptions of the domesticated plants will be added to as I get to them. Thanks again to Ron Hicks at Ball State University for his suggestions and information. See the Animal Domestication table for the latest on animals. Plant Where Domesticated Date Fig trees Near East 9000 BCE Emmer wheat 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 Continue Reading How did we ever manage to domesticate so many animals? 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