A Trace of Figs

A new discovery reveals the deep roots of the gardener's lineage.

Wendy Johnson

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© Simon Gurney/istockphoto.comNot so long ago I had just finished pruning a beloved Black Mission fig tree when breaking archaeobotanical news rocked my world. A handful of charred figs, carbonized and unearthed in the ruins of a burned village north of the ancient city of Jericho, pushed the known dawn of agriculture back a thousand years to 9400 B.C.E. Not just that, but these same Fertile Crescent figs proved to be a variety that grows only on sterile female trees. Prior to their discovery the first evidence of settled human history was believed to be the domestication of seed-bearing grains and legumes around 8400 B.C.E.

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