Vegetation history and archaeobotany vol:18 issue:4 pages:341-349
We present an overview of archaeobotanical Carthamus spp. finds from Neolithic to medieval sites in the Near East and adjacent areas. A particular focus is put on the cultivated form of the genus. Safflower appears first in a number of early Bronze Age (3000 b.c.) sites in northern and central Syria. From there it apparently spread to Egypt, the Aegean and south-eastern Europe. The Near Eastern Bronze Age evidence shows a striking exclusiveness in the distribution patterns of safflower and flax, with flax being restricted to Levantine and Iranian sites. This may reflect the contrasting ecological requirements of the two crops, with safflower being well adapted to drought and salinity and thus to arid conditions. At the same time the geographically complementary evidence may indicate a similar use of the two crops and most probably suggests that the safflower was also used for oil almost from the beginning of its cultivation.