Submitted to: Complete Book
Publication Type: Monograph
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/14/2007
Publication Date: 2/27/2008
Citation: Dugan, F.M. Fungi in the Ancient World: How Mushrooms, Mildews, Molds and Yeast Shaped the Early Civilizations of Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Near East. APS Press, St. Paul, MN.. 2008. Complete Book. Interpretive Summary: This monograph comprises a survey of roles of fungi in ancient societies from the Neolithic up to the medieval period for the cultures of the ancient Near East (including the Fertile Crescent, Asia Minor and Egypt), the Mediterranean and Europe. The co-evolution of fungi with agriculture is placed in the context of i) archaeobotany, ii) plant landraces and other living crop germplasm of ancient origin, and iii) fossil fungi and living fungal germplasm. Special attention is paid to historical impacts of plant pathogenic and mycotoxigenic fungi, as well as to the roles of poisonous and edible fungi, plus the roles of filamentous fungi and yeasts producing intoxicating metabolites. A wide assortment of opinion is documented for several controversial topics, and sources include publications from the disciplines of history, folklore, linguistics, comparative mythology and religion in addition to the agricultural and biological sciences. Examples are presented of how plant science effectively uses knowledge of the ancient past, plus living representatives of ancient crops and their equally ancient microbial associates, to improve modern agriculture.
Technical Abstract: This monograph comprises a survey of roles of fungi in ancient societies of the western tradition or its predecessors in Egypt and western Asia. Topics include the use of yeasts in brewing and baking, poisonous and mycotoxigenic fungi, fungi used for medicinal purposes or for other technologies, plant pathogenic fungi, fungi as agents of deterioration, fungi as pathogens of humans and animals, environmental and ecological roles, ancient fungi preserved in glacial ice or permafrost, ancient images of fungi, fungi in folklore, and specific hypotheses regarding the impact of fungi on the evolution of ancient agriculture. The monograph is written in non-technical language, but introduces readers to the co-evolution of plant & microbial germplasm, co-evolution of agriculture with commerce, religion and ritual, and an assortment of investigative approaches (from historical or classicist to molecular-genetic). The reader is alerted to topics, approaches or conclusions that are inherently controversial, e.g., entheogenic fungi, the Nostratic language family, Old Europe, or the specific identity of plant diseases mentioned in Biblical or other ancient sources.