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Oldest fava beans in world discovered by Israeli archaeologists

Aerial photograph: the excavation site at Ahihud, where the world’s oldest domesticated fava seeds were found
Sky View Company, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Unearthing indicates prehistoric man living in Southern Near East 10,000 years ago preferred legumes in diet

In an important discovery that enables a deeper understanding of the agricultural revolution in the southern Near East, researchers in Israel have revealed that ancient man living in the Galilee area specialized in cultivating legumes in general and fava beans (ful) in particular. 

Researchers from the Weizmann Institute and Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) examined fava seeds exposed in archaeological excavations in recent years at Neolithic sites in the Galilee.

Their joint research sheds light on the nutritional habits of the people that lived in the area 10,000 years ago.

Kobi Vardi, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

According to the IAA, seeds found at the prehistoric sites show that the inhabitants’ diet at the time consisted mainly of fava beans, as well as lentils, various types of peas and chickpeas.

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

"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 researchers added. "This is a process that lasted thousands of years, 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”.

Yaron Bibas, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

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 in a statement. "The dating of the seeds, which was done at the Kimmel Center in the Weizmann Institute, indicated a range of dates between 9,890–10,160 YBP."

According to the archaeologists, among their finds were the world’s oldest domesticated fava seeds, dating to 10,125–10,200 according to advanced dating techniques.

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