Archaeologists have some knowledge about domestication (adaptation to agricultural crops, enhancing preferred traits) of annual plants such as rice or wheat, but the role of trees in the beginnings of agriculture and how they were domesticated are issues involved largely a mystery. Recent research has unraveled some puzzles in the history of peach cultivation, to trace the geographic origin of the peach as domesticated fruit tree.
Unlike most trees, peach trees ripe very quickly, producing fruit in two or three years, so that the selection of desirable traits could get results relatively quickly. The challenge has been how to identify the selection process in the archaeological record. The team of Gary W. Crawford, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto at Mississauga, Canada and Xugao Yunfei Zheng and Chen, Institute of Relics and Archaeology of Zhejiang Province, in the Chinese city of Hangzhou, has come to the conclusion that you can trace the ancestry of peaches enjoy today until at least 7,500 years ago in the Yangtze River Valley, an area of south China city not far from Shanghai.
Previously, no one knew where they had domesticated peaches. Nothing in botanical literature suggested the Yangtze River Valley, although many people thought had happened somewhere in China. The radiocarbon dating of ancient bones discovered peach in that area of the Yangtze River Valley suggests that the peach diverged from their wild ancestors 7500 years ago.
The peach pits are well represented in archaeological sites in the Yangtze River Valley, so the study authors compared the size and structure of peach pits six sites spanning a period of 5,000 years. Comparing the size of the bones of each archaeological site, researchers were able to discern that peaches became significantly larger with the passage of time in the Yangtze River Valley, which shows that domestication occurred there. Crawford and his colleagues believe that it took about 3,000 years before domesticated peach fruit seems to know today. Since then, the peach has become a way of life for billions of people across the globe.