Skip to comments.Humans Took 1000 Years To Tame Wild Plants
Posted on 04/13/2004 4:39:44 PM PDT by blam
Humans took 1000 years to tame wild plants
ABC Science Online
Tuesday, 13 April 2004
The Dead Sea Plain dig in Jordan. The base of a curved stone wall can be seen in front of the researcher (Image: P Edwards)
Remnants of ancient barley, wheat, figs and pistachios nearly 10,000 years old are helping to solve the mystery about how and when nomadic hunter-gatherers became sedentary farmers.
A team led by Australian archaeologist Dr Phillip Edwards of Melbourne's La Trobe University said its findings in the Middle East suggested humans went through a 1000-year phase of cultivating wild plants before they began breeding plants in earnest.
Edwards told ABC Science Online the research had been accepted for publication in the French journal Paléorient.
The team has been investigating remnants at a site near the Dead Sea in Jordan that represents what archaeologists call the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) period, when humans began to establish settlements.
Scientists have dated the site to about 9600 to 9300 years old. Archaeologists refer to that as 9600 to 9300 years before present (BP), where 'present' is defined as 1950 AD.
Until relatively recently, the PPNA was also generally accepted as the time when humans began to domesticate plants.
But Edwards said the major flaw in this argument was that any archaeological evidence of plants from PPNA sites were not conclusive evidence of domesticated varieties.
"That left us with a puzzle," said Edwards. "Villages really intensified and grew in this period, and if it wasn't due to a new food base then everybody was left with the question of what caused it."
Archaeobotany to the rescue
The La Trobe team's archaeobotanist, PhD student John Meadows, studied ancient barley seeds from the Dead Sea site.
While they were larger than wild types, they were not as large as fully domesticated types found in the next archaeological period, the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB).
This was one piece of evidence, argued Edwards, that suggested there was a period before domestication called "pre-domestication cultivation".
"What we think now is that they were cultivating plants that were still morphologically wild, which is why we call it pre-domestication cultivation," Edwards said.
"They were still hunters, still collected plants but what we now think is that they had added part-time cultivation of wheat, barley and some legumes."
Other features of the site support this interpretation, said Edwards.
"It was a kind of natural laboratory that crystallised the issue."
He said the fact that the site was very flat and had an ancient spring suggested the grains of barley and wheat found there were grown there. Mortar and pestles and other grinding equipment were also found there.
Edwards said other research from a PPNA site in Syria had found weeds associated with cultivation.
Together with this evidence of a sedentary life, other evidence suggested the people at the Dead Sea site were also part hunter-gatherers.
Numerous figs and pistachios remnants found there were unlikely to have grown there because the site would have been very dry and saline at the time, said Edwards. Instead, he said, they would have been gathered from the hills in season.
The La Trobe team's research has also added to archaeologists' understanding of when exactly the PPNA ended.
The period is generally regarded as starting at 10,300 BP and ending at 9600 BP. But Edward's team suggested an ending of about 9300 to 9200 BP.
Research from a site in Israel presented at a recent conference in France suggested the next period, the PPNB, began at 9400 to 9300 BP.
Really? Well, nice to meet you.
(She gets it, she gets it!)
I'd guess it wasn't a human; chimps eat eggs. Chimp diet
My guess is that Israel looked liked the land of Milk and Honey only in comparison to where the Israelites really came from, Mesopotamia.
That's my hunch, and I'll be glad to explain why tomorrow, since this is my last post for tonight.
I've heard a similar theory: the end of the ice age resulted in an increase in the human population in the middle-east. Though these hunter-gatherers knew about plants and may have cultivated them as a sideline, the hunter-gatherer life was fairly easy (you needed to hunt/gather about 4 hours a day to feed your family), so they had no reason to become farmers. However, a long drought came along and there were too many humans around to be supported by hunting and gathering, so humans were gradually forced to turn to farming to survive.
Early farming was NOT an improvement in the quality of life for those involved- farming at that point took a lot more work and led to a less-varied diet, but humans were forced to farm out of necessity.
I've read that it means your dog doesn't have enough protein in his diet.
Forced because of a drought? After tens of thousands of years of simply moving on to another location when conditions changed all of a sudden we thought to grow food?
Ha! More than likely somebody was good a brewing the local ale and beer and found that when he spilled a little of the grain it grew where he had been working the season before. The next logical step would be to place it somewhere specific and THEN if there were a drought add a little water leading to irrigation.
Food was a by-product of getting sloshed. ;)
Many folks think dog 'food' is an improvement, ignoring canine dietary evolution.
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