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Origins of agriculture

The origin of agriculture radically changed the course of human history.  In recent years, evidence from archaeology and molecular genetics has shed new light on this major evolutionary transition, and forced us to re-think fundamental questions about why and how agriculture originated. The answers to these questions are critical to understanding the co-dependence of modern humans and our crop species.

This project is an inter-disciplinary collaboration, and has been tackling these questions using an experimental approach.  Our focus has been primarily on the process of specialization on a limited range of food resources, which occurred during the transition from plant gathering to cultivation.  We have been particularly interested in the impacts of rising atmospheric CO2 immediately before the origin of agriculture, and the ecological traits of food plants that made them amenable (or not) to cultivation, and subsequently to domestication. This ecological selection process has been a hot topic ever since Darwin’s work on the subject.


Glynis Jones, Mike Charles (Department of Archaeology)