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Ancient DNA from 8400 Year-Old Çatalhöyük Wheat: Implications for the Origin of Neolithic Agriculture

Bilgic, Hatice
Hakki, Erdogan E.
Pandey, Anamika
Khan, Mohd. Kamran
Akkaya, Mahinur S.
Human history was transformed with the advent of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent with wheat as one of the founding crops. Although the Fertile Crescent is renowned as the center of wheat domestication, archaeological studies have shown the crucial involvement of Catalhoyuk in this process. This site first gained attention during the 1961-65 excavations due to the recovery of primitive hexaploid wheat. However, despite the seeds being well preserved, a detailed archaeobotanical description of the samples is missing. In this article, we report on the DNA isolation, amplification and sequencing of ancient DNA of charred wheat grains from Catalhoyuk and other Turkish archaeological sites and the comparison of these wheat grains with contemporary wheat species including T. monococcum, T. dicoccum, T. dicoccoides, T. durum and T. aestivum at HMW glutenin protein loci. These ancient samples represent the oldest wheat sample sequenced to date and the first ancient wheat sample from the Middle East. Remarkably, the sequence analysis of the short DNA fragments preserved in seeds that are approximately 8400 years old showed that the Catalhoyuk wheat stock contained hexaploid wheat, which is similar to contemporary hexaploid wheat species including both naked (T. aestivum) and hulled (T. spelta) wheat. This suggests an early transitory state of hexaploid wheat agriculture from the Fertile Crescent towards Europe spanning present-day Turkey.