Three-dimensional X-ray-computed tomography of 3300- to 6000-year-old Citrullus seeds from Libya and Egypt compared to extant seeds throws doubts on species assignments

Author(s)
Katherine A. Wolcott, Guillaume Chomicki, Yannick M. Staedler, Krystyna Wasylikowa, Mark Nesbitt, Jürg Schönenberger, Susanne S. Renner
Abstract

The watermelon (Citrullus lanatus subsp. vulgaris) is among the world's most important fruit crops. We here use C-14 dating and morphometric analysis to test whether ancient seeds can be identified to species level, which would help document food expansion, innovation, and diversity in Northeastern Africa. We dated a Libyan seed to 6182–6001 calibrated years BP, making it the oldest Citrullus seed known. Morphometric analysis could not reliably assign ancient seeds to particular species, but several seeds showed breakage patterns characteristic of modern watermelon seeds cracked by human teeth. Our study contributes to the understanding of the early history of watermelon use by humans, who may have mostly snacked on the seeds, and cautions against the use of morphology alone to identify Citrullus archaeological samples.

Organisation(s)
Department of Botany and Biodiversity Research
External organisation(s)
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, University of Sheffield, Polish Academy of Sciences (PAS), Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Journal
Plants, People, Planet
Pages
1-9
No. of pages
9
ISSN
2572-2611
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1002/ppp3.10220
Publication date
2021
Peer reviewed
Yes
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
106042 Systematic botany, 106008 Botany, 106012 Evolutionary research
Keywords
Portal url
https://ucris.univie.ac.at/portal/en/publications/threedimensional-xraycomputed-tomography-of-3300-to-6000yearold-citrullus-seeds-from-libya-and-egypt-compared-to-extant-seeds-throws-doubts-on-species-assignments(c2898a56-415f-462b-b812-e919329aa525).html