White lupin (Lupinus albus) is a member of the legume family, cultivated worldwide for its nutritious beans. The colourful garden lupins in the beds here are closely related, but their seeds are poisonous.
The globalisation of crop plants
The plants underpinning present-day human diets originate in diverse corners of the globe. Maize, potatoes and tomatoes are native to the Americas, and were unknown in Europe before the late 15th century. More than 1,000 years earlier, the Romans promoted the spread of numerous food and spice plants across the Empire. Peaches, apricots, dates, melons, rice and black pepper were introduced to Roman Britain, while domesticated pears, plums, pine nuts, hazelnuts and white lupin were introduced to Roman Palestine.
The 1200-year-old white lupin seed (actual size: 7mm wide) found by Daniel in Israel. (Research in collaboration with Bar-Ilan University (Israel) & University of Haifa at Nessana.)
Lupin’s historical trajectory
Wild lupins have been found at prehistoric sites in northern Israel, suggesting humans have been eating them for tens of thousands of years. White lupin is native to Italy and the Balkans, but appears in Egyptian sites and texts from the Roman period on. Daniel recently discovered a white lupin seed in excavations in Israel, where it had never before been found. This unique find indicates white lupin’s presence in the Southern Levant by 800 CE, probably introduced in the Roman period several hundred years earlier.
Daniel Fuks (McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research)
Daniel is an archaeobotanist with a primary geographic focus on the Southern Levant. His fieldwork brings new understanding to the fields of plant domestication, diffusion and economy over the long term. He recently founded the Crop History Consortium, bringing together researchers interested in the histories of crops over the past 2,000 years.