Israel archaeological site
A Neolithic period site in northern Israel where excavation uncovered fava seedsIsrael Antiquities Authority

Human beings in prehistoric times ate fava beans, lentils, various types of peas and chickpeas, a new study reveals. The study is based on examination of fava seeds recovered during archaeological excavations in recent years at various Neolithic sites in Galilee region in northern Israel.

The study by researchers of Israel's Weizmann Institute and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) sheds light on the nutritional habits of the people that lived in the area 10,000 years ago. The multitude of fava seeds found in the past few years date back to between 9,890 and 10,160 years ago from the present. According to archaeologists, these are the world's oldest domesticated fava seeds to be found.

The seeds found in the excavations were well-preserved and stored inside granaries after they had been husked. They appeared to have been methodically cultivated, and were harvested at the same period of time, when the legumes had ripened. The findings are also indicative of agricultural planning in prehistoric time.

"Keeping the seeds in storage pits is also reflective of long-term agricultural planning, whereby the stored seeds were intended not only for food, but also to ensure future crops in the coming years," IAA researchers said in a statement.

The researchers noted that legumes, which continue to be an integral part of human diet, were the first plant species to be domesticated. They said identification of the places legumes were domesticated was of great significance to research.

"Despite the importance of cereals in nutrition that continues to this day, it seems that in the region we examined (west of the Jordan River), it was the legumes, full of flavour and protein, which were actually the first species to be domesticated," they said. "The area that is today the Galilee was the main producer of legumes in prehistoric times."

The region saw an agricultural revolution during the period in which different species of animals and plants were domesticated. "To this day, most of the chickpeas grown in the country are cultivated in the Galilee region," the researchers said.