Over many millennia, farmers across the world have domesticated literally thousands of species and developed tens of thousands of varieties of these plants. Despite the astonishing agricultural
diversity that existed long ago, the world's current food base has narrowed to a dangerous level. By studying the long and dynamic history of farming in the ancient past, archaeology can play a part
in helping ensure the stability of the human food supply by identifying once-important crops and showing where and how such crops were grown in the past. Thanks to this work, extinct crops might even
be redomesticated from their wild progenitors.
This is the first time that a collection like this, with its unique focus on 'lost crops,' has been brought together in this format. I can't think of a better cast of experts to write on these plants.
—Catherine S. Fowler, co-compiler of Northern Paiute–Bannock Dictionary
I do not know of any book that does what New Lives for Ancient and Extinct Crops does. Each of the authors summarizes the ethnobotany and archaeology of each plant from the perspective of how it could contribute to solving or ameliorating problems created by contemporary agricultural practices in the Americas, Europe, and Asia.
—Patty Jo Watson, co-author of The Origins of Agriculture: An International Perspective
New Lives for Ancient and Extinct Crops profiles nine plant species that were important contributors to human diets and had medicinal uses
in antiquity: maygrass, chenopod, marshelder, agave, little barley, chia, arrowroot, little millet, and bitter vetch. Each chapter is written by a well-known scholar, who illustrates the global value
of the ancient crop record to inform the present. From eastern and western North America, Mesoamerica, South America, western Asia, and south-central Asia, the contributors provide examples of the
unexpected wealth of information available in the archaeological record about ancient and extinct crops.