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Humans Took 1000 Years To Tame Wild Plants
ABC.Net ^ | 4-13-2004 | Anna Salleh

Posted on 04/13/2004 4:39:44 PM PDT by blam

Humans took 1000 years to tame wild plants

Anna Salleh
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.

Part-time hunter-gatherers

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.

TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: 1000; agriculture; animalhusbandry; archaeobotany; crevolist; godsgravesglyphs; helixmakemineadouble; humans; plants; purplenutsedge; tame; took; wild; years
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To: CobaltBlue
There's also a lot of fascinating information about the origins of agriculture (as well as the origins of writing, animal domestication, shipbuilding, nationstates, etc.) in the great book "Guns, Germs, and Steel: The fates of human societies", by Jared Diamond. I received this book for Christmas and hugely enjoyed it. It won the Pulitzer Prize, and I can certainly understand why. It's more informative (and a hell of a lot more interesting) than most college courses.
41 posted on 04/13/2004 10:29:48 PM PDT by Ichneumon
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To: txflake
and I can pretty much prove that if you will give your dog one pound of 70/30 hamburger plus two raw eggs per day, you will produce a healthy, strong animal, compared to the IAMS diet stuff. At about 1/2 the price. Many folks think dog 'food' is an improvement, ignoring canine dietary evolution.

A few months ago we switched our dogs from standard bags of dry dog food to a diet formulated by a local breeder/kennel. From their recipe, we mix up a daily batch consisting of boiled ground chicken, shredded carrots, active yogurt, protein powder (mostly fish meal), powdered shark cartilage, sunflower oil, Grape Nuts(tm), hard boiled eggs, a couple scoops of high-quality kibble, and enough beef or chicken broth to make it suitably moist.

The dogs go nuts over it, it's cheaper than premium kibble, and just in the six weeks or so they've been on it, their coats are very noticeably more smooth, soft, and shiny.

The German Shepherds at the breeder, which have been fed this diet all their lives, are so sleek and shiny that they practically glow in the dark, and are very muscular and *huge*, like Arnold Schwarzeneggers of the dog world.

42 posted on 04/13/2004 10:43:27 PM PDT by Ichneumon
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To: lizma
"It's thought that papyrus is only 5000 years old, about the time of Moses and we know by then much of the area was arid. The moderate climate in the ME was 5000 years before that."

The oldest paper ever found was discovered in the Tarim Basin, with the Caucasian mummies in China. I don't remember how old it was/is but, it had the extinct Indo-European language 'Tocharian' written on it.

43 posted on 04/14/2004 6:16:10 AM PDT by blam
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To: Ichneumon
I've got that one on my bedside table, but it's so dense and chewy that I read it in little dribs and drabs. I've never had a good enough memory to just breeze through books like that.

44 posted on 04/14/2004 8:06:21 AM PDT by CobaltBlue (Never mind!)
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To: Shryke
Try the History of Salt. The Romans brewed a fish sauce that sounds like the equal of anything brewed in Asia in potency. The book never really explains why the practice died out in Europe and the Med during the Middle Ages.
45 posted on 04/14/2004 9:39:08 AM PDT by colorado tanker
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To: blam
I've read that it means your dog doesn't have enough protein in his diet.

My dog gets a serving of boiled chicken each day, in addition to her dry food. She'll eat cat sh** (or horse sh** if she gets the chance).

Dogs will just be dogs.

46 posted on 04/14/2004 9:42:05 AM PDT by dirtboy (John Kerry - Hillary without the fat ankles and the FBI files...)
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To: colorado tanker; All
My friend, here is the winner:

Ballut. Buried, fertilized duck egg that is only eaten after it turns rotten. Care to explain how ANYONE ON EARTH could possibly try THAT? AAAAAAAUUUUGGGGH.
47 posted on 04/14/2004 10:12:56 AM PDT by Shryke
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To: Shryke
48 posted on 04/14/2004 11:17:42 AM PDT by colorado tanker
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To: EggsAckley
...Maybe they were very, very hungry. LOL!

The hungriest person ever had to be the first one to try raw oysters!

49 posted on 06/10/2004 4:43:35 PM PDT by Lysander (Don't stand where I told you to stand. Stand where I told you to stand!)
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50 posted on 02/04/2006 3:20:19 PM PST by SunkenCiv (Islam is medieval fascism, and the Koran is a medieval Mein Kampf.)
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51 posted on 09/12/2010 3:49:57 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (Democratic Underground... matters are worse, as their latest fund drive has come up short...)
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