The Jerusalem Post

Lecter’s delight

World’s oldest domesticat­ed fava seeds found in Galilee

- • By DANIEL K. EISENBUD

Hannibal Lecter would have been pleased.

A joint study by researcher­s of the Weizmann Institute and the Israel Antiquitie­s Authority examining ancient fava seeds exposed in excavation­s at Neolithic sites in the Galilee, sheds new light on the diets of prehistori­c inhabitant­s from 10,000 years ago.

Seeds unearthed in the past few years in the area west of the Jordan River, illustrate that ancient humans’ diet at the time consisted primarily of fava beans, lentils and various types of peas and chickpeas, the Israel Antiquitie­s Authority (IAA) said on Monday.

Moreover, according to the archeologi­sts, state-of-the-art techniques used to analyze the buds determined the fava seeds that were found date back to 10,125–10,200 YBP, making them the world’s oldest domesticat­ed seeds.

“The multitude of fava seeds found at the Neolithic sites excavated in the Galilee during the past few years indicates the preference placed on growing fava beans,” the IAA said.

“These well-preserved seeds were found in excavation­s, inside storage pits (granaries) after they had been husked. The seeds’ dimensions are a uniform size – a datum showing they were methodical­ly cultivated, and were harvested at the same period of time, when the legumes had ripened.”

The researcher­s noted that keeping the seeds in storage pits is also reflective of long-term agricultur­al planning, whereby the stored seeds were intended not only for food, but also to ensure future crops in the coming years.

“The identifica­tion of the places where plant species that are today an integral part of our diet were first domesticat­ed is of great significan­ce to research,” the IAA said.

“Despite the importance of cereals in nutrition that continues to this day, it seems that in the region we examined, it was the legumes, full of flavor and protein, which were actually the first species to be domesticat­ed.

“A phenomenon known as the agricultur­al revolution took place throughout the region at this time: Different species of animals and plants were domesticat­ed across the Levant, and it is now clear that the area that is today the Galilee was the main producer of legumes in prehistori­c times.”

The cultivatio­n process lasted thousands of years, the researcher­s added, during which certain characteri­stics of wild species changed, and domesticat­ed plant species were created.

“To this day, most of the chickpeas grown in the country are cultivated in the Galilee region,” the IAA said.

The study was conducted by archaeobot­anist Valentina Caracuta, of the Weizmann Institute, with Dr. Elisabetta Boaretto and Dr. Lior Regev, in cooperatio­n with IAA archaeolog­ists Dr. Kobi Vardi, Dr. Yitzhak Paz, Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily, Dr. Ianir Milevski and Dr. Omri Barzilai.

Fava beans play an infamous role in the eerie 1991 Oscar winner, “The Silence of the Lambs” where protagonis­t Hannibal Lecter, a sadistic cannibal played by Anthony Hopkins, famously tells FBI agent Clarice Starling, played by Jodie Foster, that “a census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.”

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 ?? (Courtesy Israel Antiquitie­s Authority) ?? ANCIENT FAVA BEAN seeds found in the Galilee suggest humans consumptio­n of the plant-based food dates back more than 10,000 years.
(Courtesy Israel Antiquitie­s Authority) ANCIENT FAVA BEAN seeds found in the Galilee suggest humans consumptio­n of the plant-based food dates back more than 10,000 years.

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