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ANCIENT WAVES OF (WILD) GRAINS - Storage Began Before Agriculture

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Author Topic: ANCIENT WAVES OF (WILD) GRAINS - Storage Began Before Agriculture  (Read 257 times)
Bianca
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« on: June 24, 2009, 07:23:16 am »











                               A N C I E N T   W A V E S   O F   ( W I L D )   G R A I N






By Michael Balter
ScienceNOW
Daily News
22 June 2009

We should all give thanks to the first farmers. Had they not begun domesticating plants and animals more than 10,000 years ago, we might still be hunting and gathering and missing out on all the blessings and curses of civilization. Yet before the agricultural revolution could really take off, people had to find a way to store their produce in between harvests. Archaeologists working in Jordan now claim to have found the remains of several granaries possibly used to store wild barley, the oldest known, and dated nearly 1000 years before the first domesticated cereals.

The earliest definitive traces of domesticated grains, wheat, barley, and oats have been found in the Near East and date back about 10,500 years. Yet much recent research suggests that plant domestication was preceded by a long period--perhaps thousands of years--during which prehistoric peoples cultivated wild plants without visibly changing their appearance or altering their genetic makeup. At the site of Gilgal 1, for example, near Jericho in the West Bank, excavators have found nearly 300,000 grains of wild barley and 120,000 grains of wild oats in a stone building dated to 11,400 years ago; smaller amounts of wild cereals have also been found at early villages in Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Turkey.

New discoveries near Gilgal 1 suggest that early farmers did not let these wild crops go to waste. Since 2002, a team led by archaeologists Ian Kuijt of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and Bill Finlayson of the Council for British Research in the Levant in Amman, Jordan, has been excavating the site of Dhra', just east of the Dead Sea. Radiocarbon dating indicates that this village was occupied for a little more than 100 years beginning about 11,300 years ago. The excavators have uncovered at least 10 oval or circular buildings, with walls made of stone or mud bricks and mud floors, which appear to have been used both as houses and as food-processing centers. Interspersed between these units, the archaeologists have found at least four circular structures, about 3 meters in diameter, whose floors appear to have been suspended above the ground and which the team believes were granaries. Although analysis of plant remains found in these structures is still under way, they appear to have held wild barley, the team reports online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Inside the best preserved of these structures sits a series of notched stones set upright in the ground, which the archaeologists hypothesize supported wooden beams that were then covered with plants and mud to create a raised floor. This would have protected the grains from rodents and insects and also allowed for air circulation to keep them dry. The team argues that the storage of wild grains was essential to all of the key developments of the agricultural revolution: the emergence of domesticated cereals, the growth of large communities, and the rise of social hierarchies. Interestingly, the purported granaries at Dhra' were located outside of the village's residences and thus may have been shared by the entire community--a trend that didn't hold up over time, as cereals later came to be stored in individual houses.

Ehud Weiss, an archaeobotanist at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat-Gan, Israel, calls the new study "very interesting and persuasive" and concurs with the team's conclusion that the structures were probably granaries. Dorian Fuller, an archaeologist at University College London, agrees and adds that the timing of these earliest known granaries--which is at least contemporaneous with and possibly later than the earliest evidence for cultivation of wild plants--challenges the assumptions of some archaeologists that large-scale storage by hunter-gatherers was necessary before cultivation could begin.
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Bianca
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« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2009, 07:24:30 am »










                                          Food storage began well before farming
           





AP
Jun 22, 2009
WASHINGTON

People were storing grain long before they learned to domesticate crops, a new study indicates.
A structure used as a food granary discovered in recent excavations in Jordan dates to about 11,300 years ago, according to a report in Tuesday's edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

That's as much as a thousand years before people in the Middle East domesticated grain, the research team led by anthropologist Ian Kuijt of the University of Notre Dame said.

Remains of wild barley were found in the structure, indicating that the grain was collected and saved even though formal cultivation had not yet developed.

The granary was between two other structures used for grain processing and residences, discovered in excavations at Dhra', near the Dead Sea. The granary was round with walls of stone and mud. The researchers said it had a raised floor for air circulation and protection from rodents.

The ability to store food is essential for the development of farming, the researchers said.

"The granaries represent a critical evolutionary shift in the relationship between people and plant foods, which precedes the emergence of domestication and large-scale sedentary communities by at least 1,000 years," they reported.

The research was funded by the British Academy, the Council for British Research in the Levant, the U.S. National Science Foundation and the University of Notre Dame.

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