Bioarchaeological insights into the process of domestication of grapevine (Vitis vinifera L.) during Roman times in Southern France.

Abstract : Grapevine (Vitis vinifera), one of the most important fruit species in the Classical Mediterranean world, is thought to have been domesticated first in South-Western Asia, during the Neolithic. However, the domestication process remains largely unknown. Crucial unanswered questions concern the duration of the process (rapid or slow?) and the related geographical area (single or multiple-origins?). Seeds from domesticated grapevine and from its wild ancestor are reported to differ according to shape. Our work aims, first, to confirm this difference and secondly to identify the extent of domestication in the grapes cultivated by Romans in Southern France during the period 50 BCE-500 CE. We had the opportunity to analyze uncharred waterlogged grape pips from 17 archaeological sites. Based on an extended reference sample of modern wild grapevines and cultivars our work shows that both subspecies can be discriminated using simple measurements. The elongation gradient of the pip's body and stalk may be regarded as an indicator of the strength of the selection pressures undergone by domesticated grapes. Grapevines cultivated during the Roman period included a mix of morphotypes comprising wild, intermediate and moderately selected domesticated forms. Our data point to a relative shift towards more selected types during the Roman period. Domestication of the grapevine appears to have been a slow process. This could result from the recurrent incorporation into cultivation of plants originating from sexual reproduction, when grape cultivation essentially relies on vegetative propagation.
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PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2013, 8 (5), 〈10.1371/journal.pone.0063195〉
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Laurent Bouby, Isabel Figueiral, Anne Bouchette, Nuria Rovira, Sarah Ivorra, et al.. Bioarchaeological insights into the process of domestication of grapevine (Vitis vinifera L.) during Roman times in Southern France.. PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2013, 8 (5), 〈10.1371/journal.pone.0063195〉. 〈hal-01190422〉

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