Skip to comments.Farming Origins Gain 10,000 Years
Posted on 06/23/2004 4:42:34 PM PDT by blam
Farming origins gain 10,000 years
Wild types of emmer wheat like those found at Ohalo were forerunners of today's varieties
Humans made their first tentative steps towards farming 23,000 years ago, much earlier than previously thought. Stone Age people in Israel collected the seeds of wild grasses some 10,000 years earlier than previously recognised, experts say.
These grasses included wild emmer wheat and barley, which were forerunners of the varieties grown today.
A US-Israeli team report their findings in the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The evidence comes from a collection of 90,000 prehistoric plant remains dug up at Ohalo in the north of the country.
The Ohalo site was submerged in prehistoric times and left undisturbed until recent excavations by Ehud Weiss of Harvard University and his colleagues.
This low-oxygen environment beautifully preserved the charred plant remains deposited there in Stone Age times.
Archaeologists have also found huts, camp fires, a human grave and stone tools at the site.
Most of the evidence points to the Near East as the cradle of farming. Indeed, the principal plant foods eaten by the people at Ohalo appear to have been grasses, including the wild cereals emmer wheat and barley.
Grass remains also included a huge amount of small-grained wild grasses at Ohalo such as brome, foxtail and alkali grass. However, these small-grained wild grasses were to disappear from the human diet by about 13,000 ago.
Anthropologists think farming may have started when hunter-gatherer groups in South-West Asia were put under pressure by expanding human populations and a reduction in hunting territories.
This forced them to rely less heavily on hunting large hoofed animals like gazelle, fallow deer and wild cattle and broaden their diets to include small mammals, birds, fish and small grass seeds; the latter regarded as an essential first step towards agriculture.
These low-ranking foods are so-called because of the greater amount of work involved in catching them than the return from the food itself.
Investigations at Ohalo also show that the human diet was much broader during these Stone Age times than previously thought.
"We can say that such dietary breadth was never seen again in the Levant," the researchers write in their Proceedings paper.
So, although humans had been ritualistically buring their dead for well over 50,000 years we are to believe they couldn't figure out the deliberating planting of seed for food until only 23,000 years ago?
Some people believe that. I don't!
This would be the oldest farm found so far.
Nomadic hunter-gatherers can bury their dead easily enough and then resume roaming, but have to completely change their way of life in order to settle in one spot and take up agriculture.
For an informative and fascinating look at the issues of how, why, when, and where mankind took up agriculture (as well as writing, animal domestication, nationstates, etc.), see Jared Diamond's Pulitzer-prize winning book, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies .
What this really tells me is human progress is not automatic. Without the disciplined methods of thinking that we now take for granted, humanity had to fumble around in darkness for 1000s of years.
Some is deliberate and some is accidental. All of it requires individual participation. Regress is highly likely now and then in spite of the best intent.
This moves back the earliest date for beer on the planet.
Very funny, you cannot believe I was equating planting people with planting seeds to grow food. I was demonstrating humans were intelligent enough to ritualistically bury their dead and much more but they could go for thousands of years without figuring plants out? Doesn't matter, I believe humans have always been humans and humans have always been farmers and herders and hunters and fishers. From "In the begining".
I've always thought that agriculture brought about the first harnessed source of energy--raiding your neighbor to capture slaves to work the fields.
And isn't it interesting that slavery ended when fossil fuels were discovered...
Farming was the essential start of a whole complex of further developments. Property rights, writing (deeds, harvest records, etc.), markets to exchange goods, money, simple math and simple geometry (for surveys) for starters. And warfare over territory. Then leisure, and it goes from there. Except for warfare, none of these are required, or even useful, to hunter-gatherers. Without farming, there would be no civilization at all.
That's right, and civilization is also necessary to protect the beer.
Why bother with the misery of farming--unless population growth exceeds what nature supplies on its own.
I am sure that is it.
The earth became overpopulated when mankind was forced either to war or to farm.
Unfortunately, our own natures haven't completely adapted to an agricultural economy--leave alone to the industrial revolution.
People pay to vacation camping, hunting, fishing--people pay for the pleasure of experiencing hunting and gathering.
How many would pay to push a plow around a field all day?
It's not a matter of "figuring plants out". It's a matter of establishing a self-sustaining agricultural community, which is *not* as simple as it may seem at first glance when starting from hunter-gatherer origins. *And* it's a matter of finding a reason to do so in the first place -- the first agricultural attempts would have been a poor replacement for the nomadic lifestyle, and I'm often surprised that anyone ever took the first plunge at all.
Again, you might want to read the book I recommended in my previous post. It covers a lot of these issues.
"Figuring out" that you could put seeds in the ground and have plants sprout from them was the easy part. But figuring out how to survive and succeed at subsistence farming with wild-type crops is far harder, and the benefits of making the effort hard to see at first.
Doesn't matter, I believe humans have always been humans and humans have always been farmers and herders and hunters and fishers. From "In the begining".
Mountains of evidence indicate otherwise. Again, check out the book I recommended.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.