Wheat was one of the first of the grains domesticated by humans (see grain). Its cultivation began in the Neolithic period. Bread wheat is known to have been grown in the Nile valley by 5000 B.C., and its apparently later cultivation in other regions (e.g., the Indus and Euphrates valleys by 4000 B.C., China by 2500 B.C., and England by 2000 B.C.) indicate that it spread from Mediterranean centers of domestication. The civilizations of W Asia and of the European peoples have been largely based on wheat, while rice has been more important in E Asia. Since agriculture began, wheat has been the chief source of bread for Europe and the Middle East. It was introduced into Mexico by the Spaniards c.1520 and into Virginia by English colonists early in the 17th cent.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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