Crop Biotech Update

Exploring the Origins of the Apple

June 5, 2019

The apple is, arguably, the most popular fruit in the world. It is also deeply intertwined with human history. Large red fruits were depicted in Classical art, showing that apples have been domesticated in southern Europe for over two millenia. Ancient seeds found in archeological sites attest to the fact that people have collected wild apples across Europe and West Asia for more than ten thousand years.

Despite such knowledge, the domestication process of this popular fruit remained unclear. A study conducted by Robert Spengler of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History traced the history of apple from its wild origins, noting that it was originally spread by ancient megafauna and later as a process of trade along the Silk Road.

In Spengler's book Fruit from the Sands, he wrote that apple holds a deep connection with the Silk Road, and much of the genetic material for the modern apple originated from the ancient trade routes in the Tien Shan Mountains of Kazakhstan. This process caused the hybridization events that gave rise to the large red sweet fruits in the market today.

For more details, read the press release from Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.