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The origin of crops

In 1924 Nikolai Vavilov, a Russian / Soviet scientist, identified the geographic regions where crops were first domesticated: the Vavilov Centres of Diversity.

Vavilov’s logic in developing this picture was as follows: the locations with the most wild variants of particular crops were probably the places where those crops were first domesticated. (This is why they’re called both Centres of Origin and Centres of Diversity.)

The number of such centres varies a bit, depending on which study you use. The Wikipedia article identifies eight:

Mexico and Central America
Corn, beans, pepper, sweet potato

South America
Potato, pumpkin, tomato, cocoa, peanut

Mediterranean
Cabbage, lettuce, celery, olive, peppermint

Middle East
Wheat, barley, rye, apple, pear, cherry

Ethiopia
Flax, sesame, coffee

Central Asiatic
Mustard, onion, garlic, carrot, grape

Indian
Cucumber, mango, sugarcane, bamboo, banana, clove

Chinese
Rice, soybean, walnut, peach, apricot

Some crops were domesticated in several of these regions, of course, but it’s an impressive picture of the distribution of early agrarian civilizations.

Categories: Food & agriculture History Prehistory Sciences

The Generalist

I live in Auckland, New Zealand, and am curious about most things.

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