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Peaches Were Domesticated in China 7,500 Years Ago

Preserved peach pits reveal the origins of this sweet fruit

(Angela Drury/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

Where did peaches originally come from?  New research published in PLOS One suggests that they originated in China’s Yangtze valley 7,500 years ago. 

“Previously, no one knew where peaches were domesticated,” University of Toronto Professor Gary Crawford said in a press release. “None of the botanical literature suggested the Yangtze Valley, although many people thought that it happened somewhere in China.” 

By analyzing the size of peach pits found preserved in archaeological sites across the region, archaeologists were able to pinpoint when peaches became most like their modern counterparts, around 7,500 years ago. 

From the University of Toronto:

Crops such as domesticated peaches indicate that early people weren’t passive in dealing with the environment. Not only did they understand grain production, but the woodlands and certain trees were being manipulated early on.

“There is a general sense that people in the past were not as smart as we are,” said Crawford. “The reality is that they were modern humans with the brain capacity and talents that we have now.”

Of course, the shift from wild to cultivated peaches didn’t happen overnight. The ancient farmers cultivated peaches that were larger and had a longer growing season than their wild counterparts. The researchers estimate that it took about 3,000 years for peaches to get to their desired form. (And it was only another few thousand after that they made it onto municipal architecture.)

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