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.
Beer/Meed was the foundation of civilization.
Man was a hunter / gatherer of seeds.
One day he ate some seed that had gotten wet and had fermented.
He LIKED the buzzz / way he felt.
It took awhile for him to connect the dots from the buzzz to the fermentation process.
Then he said to himself, instead of chasing the crops, if I stay in ONE PLACE and plant this stuff I can have all the wet grain I need to get drunk on.
Instant farmer / civilization.
I don't believe that either. (The evidence for earlier civilizations are underwater.)
I see goofy stuff in support of Atlantis or other prehistoric civilizations that might be underwater today, but nothing which even rises to the "hmmmm" level for me.
The lone exception to that is the theory about the Black Sea suddenly becoming inundated from the Mediterranean at some point, wiping out coastal communities and serving as the source of the legend of Gilgamesh and Noah's Flood. But the archeological evidence hasn't been found yet to truly support it.
The old shoreline more than 500ft underwater has been found as well as structures around the shoreline. (Ballard)
And I guess folks could argue about what defines "civilization."
I guess I'll "revise and extend my remarks." In my mind, I place the roots of modern civilization in Mesopotamia, where we have the earliest evidence of agriculture, which I consider the dawn of civilization. Everything else before that was hunter-gatherer even if the people lived in communities. Caves, huts, teepees, stone homes, I don't care. It wasn't civilization until agriculture, in my estimation.
Arguably, it can be considered to have occurred before then. Maybe it was when language was standardized within a large group of people. Not any good way to date that.
Dr Oppenheimer and Dr Schoch have changed my opinion. (Both have books on the subject). They both think the Sumerians were refugees from Sundaland that went underwater at the end of the Ice Age. (Sundaland is the area around present day Indonesia, etc.)
Did they suggest that Sundaland had mastered agriculture? I have always considered it a no-brainer that agriculture didn't begin in any serious manner until the end of the last Ice Age.
Excuse my bursting in. The Ice age would have been the ideal time, climate-wise, for Agriculture to have developed in the now underwater areas of Southeast Asia. DNA testing repoted by and Myth tracking by Dr. Oppenheimer would lead one to suspect that population density in the Sundaland areas my have been enough to drive people away from hunter-gatherer bliss. Current land based Archaeology indicates that (1) Rice cultivation was introduced to China from the area near Taiwan, which was linked to the mainland (and Sundaland). Also, rice cultivation in Southeast Asia, when found in Neolithic sites, is rather advanced and found in areas where the idealic hunter's life was then still much in evidence due to low populations and abundent game and wild produce.
It does go against much of what we have always thought, doesn't it. This is an incredible find in the Middle East. The two ideas taken together seem to argue for many cradles of civilization -- my pet obsession.
Eden In The East(Yes, there are tall red-headed, blue eyed people involved)
A book that completetly changes the established and conventional view of prehistory by relocating the Lost Eden - the world's 1st civilisation - to SouthEast Asia. At the end of the Ice Age, SouthEast Asia formed a continent twice the size of India, which included Indochina, Malaysia, Indonesia and Borneo. The South China Sea, the Gulf of Thailand and the Java sea, which were all dry, formed the connecting parts of the continent. Geologically, this half sunken continent is the Shunda shelf or Sundaland. In the Eden in the East Stephen Oppenheimer puts forward the astonishing argument that here in southeast Asia - rather than in Mesopotamia where it is usually placed - was the lost civilisation that fertilised the Great cultures of the Middle East 6 thousand years ago. He produces evidence from ethnography, archaeology, oceanography, from creation stories, myths and sagas and from linguistics and DNA analysis, to argue that this founder civilisation was destroyed by a catastrophic flood, caused by a rapid rise in the sea level at the end of the last ice age.
From the Author
'Eden in the East'overturns conventional ideas of the origins of western civilization in Mesopotamia. In this book I place Southeast Asia for the first time as the key to the first roots of civilisation. At the same time I provide scientific explanations for numerous, and previously unexplained, cultural links between early Eastern and Western cultures. Notable among these links are the hundreds of myths of a great flood which forced people into boats and left only a few survivors. I can now identify this flood as the dramatic rise in sea level at the end of the ice age that suddenly inundated vast areas of Eurasia. In other words the Biblical Flood really did occur. It had its most disastrous effects, however, in the continent of Southeast Asia - now a lost and half-sunken Eden.
As the Ice Age ended, there were three catastrophic and rapid rises in sea level. The last of these, which finished shortly before the start of civilization in Mesopotamia, may have been the one that was remembered. These three floods drowned the coastal cultures and all the flat continental shelves of Southeast Asia. As the sea rolled in, there was a mass emigration from the sinking continent. These flood-driven refugees, carried their domestic animals with them in large ocean-going canoes in all directions. The networks of sea trade, created by their settlements around the Indian Ocean, fertilized the Neolithic cultures of China, India, Mesopotamia and Egypt.
The Southeast Asian contributions to the building of the first cities in Mesopotamia may not have been solely technological. While they may have brought the new ideas and skills of megalithic construction cereal domestication, sea-faring, astronomy, navigation, trade and commerce, they may also have introduced the tools to harness and control the labour of the farmers and artisans. These included magic, religion, and concepts of state, kingship and social hierarchy.
While most alternative prehistories are based more on speculation than fact, I have found some very solid evidence; and have built on the work of specialists in many fields in addition to my own research, to support a comprehensive new picture. The most solid facts come from oceanographic research of the last decade. It now appears that the great rise in sea level after the last ice age, known about for many years, was not gradual; three sudden ice-melts, the last of which was only 8000 years ago, had catastrophic effects on tropical coasts with flat continental shelves. Rapid land loss was compounded by superwaves, set off by cracks in the earth s crust as the weight of ice shifted to the seas.
Archaeology holds the most accurately dated clues to the past. I have devoted two chapters to archaeological evidence found on coasts and in caves throughout the Indo-Pacific region. All of the technological 'firsts' which signalled man's emergence from the long Palaeolithic era towards the end of the Ice Age come from the Pacific Rim islands. These include evidence of deliberate long-distance sailing and grinding of cereal flour in the Solomon islands from 30,000 years ago. The world's first pots, 12,500 years old, come from Japan. The first evidence that swamps were drained for agriculture comes from the New Guinea Highlands 9,000 years ago.
These snapshots hint at a much older history to the discovery of Neolithic skills in the East. The better archaeological preservation of the later stages of human development in Mesopotamia and Egypt, however, has given rise to the view that civilization started in the West.
I review the evidence of the spoken word in the two linguistic chapters. Experts in the history of language now recognise that Southeast Asia not Europe or West Asia was the centre of language dispersal at the end of the Ice Age. The ancestral language of the Micronesians and Polynesians did not come out of China, as has been recently assumed, but further south over 8000 years ago out of the drowning islands of Indonesia. As the Flood engulfed Indo- China and separated Sumatra from Malaysia the ancestral languages of the Khmers, whose descendants built Angkor Wat, moved west into India.
The most dramatic new findings in this book come out of my own research field. I have published more than 25 scientific papers on the genetic prehistory of the Indo-Pacific region over the past 15 years. Building on my initial work, in Eden in the East I have shown that genetic disorders can be used as people-markers revealing a new view of prehistoric migrations in the Indo-Pacific region. My latest finding, made in collaboration with the Oxford Institute of Molecular Medicine, was published in the American Journal of Human Genetics in October 1998. This paper arose directly out of my research for Eden in the East. It provides compelling evidence that Polynesians and other argonauts of the Indian and Pacific Oceans originated in eastern Indonesia back in the Ice Age rather than in China, as previously thought. This finding alone forces the realisation that the Polynesians' skills of sailing, navigation, astronomy and agriculture had their origins, back in Indonesia, during the Ice Age. Another objective tool that I use to explore ancient East-West cultural influence in the last part of the book is comparative mythology. Uniquely shared folklore shows that counterparts and originals for nearly every Middle Eastern and European mythological archetype, including the Flood, can be found in the islands of eastern Indonesia and the southwest Pacific. Southeast Asia is revealed as the original Garden of Eden and the Flood as the force which drove people from Paradise.
My multidisciplinary approach to prehistoric enquiry has been recognised in the academic fields of linguistics and comparative folklore. I have been invited to present papers on my work on prehistory at international linguistic meetings. This year I contributed a chapter to a book on Flood myths in the Moluccas published by the Department of Languages and Cultures of Southeast Asia and Oceania, Leiden University (Netherlands).
Guess again there is still a great deal of slavery in world. In the birth place of civilization and humanity no less. Slavery is rampant in North Africa and the Middle East.
" The two ideas taken together seem to argue for many cradles of civilization -- my pet obsession."
To many similarities...I think there has always been some 'cross-pollination' amongst all the continents over many thousands of years.
I'm always interested in this kind of stuff.Hunter gatherers and the agriculturealists who raised grain to feed larger populations.
That is interesting. Iraq seems to be one of the candidates for the earliest civilisation. This, coming so soon after the ice age would have to be in the tropical zone, so the options are a few -- the Mediterranean was a lake, and there are theories of there being really old Egyptian kings and really old Sumerian ones. The Indian cities off their western coast are also thousands of years old.
I was speaking of slavery in America. Edwin Drake drilled the first oil well in 1859.
Fascinating. I'm going to order that book.
They did go every where.
"Fascinating. I'm going to order that book."
You may consider Schoch's book also. He extends Opperhiemer's ideas and references his work in Voyages Of The Pyramid Builders. It's an easy read as compared to Eden In The East.
Voyages of the Pyramid Builders
Robert M. Schoch, Ph.D. discusses in this book, not only the geographic diversity and cultural of similarity of pyramids all around the world, but discusses how that technology would travel across oceans in the Ancient world. The pictures, bibliography, and read are worth the price of the book. This is a comprehensive study, the only book you will need on this subject. The links between ancient Hebrews, Old Testament Prophets, and the building of the pyramids, is precious a must have for those who are interested in pyramids around the world or in America before Columbus.
Is it a mere coincidence that pyramids are found across our globe? Did cultures ranging across vast spaces in geography and time, such as the ancient Egyptians; early Buddhists; the Maya, Inca, Toltec, and Aztec civilizations of the Americas; the Celts of the British Isles; and even the Mississippi Indians of pre-Columbian Illinois, simply dream the same dreams and envision the same structures?
Scientist and tenured university professor Robert M. Schoch-one of the world's preeminent geologists in recasting the date of the Great Sphinx-believes otherwise. In this dramatic and meticulously reasoned book, Schoch, like anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl in his classic Kon-Tiki, argues that ancient cultures traveled great distances by sea. Indeed, he believes that primeval sailors traveled from the Eastern continent, primarily Southeast Asia, and spread the idea of pyramids across the Earth, involving the human species in a far greater degree of contact and exchange than experts have previously thought possible.
Voyages of the Pyramid Builders features sixteen pages of color photos and a special appendix, "Redating the Great Sphinx of Giza," in which Schoch provides his most up-to-date evidence of the Sphinx's older origins.
Is there reason not to expect that all these folks were trading during the Ice Age?
The largest and oldest pyramid ever discovered is in this hemisphere, Peru I believe.
Here (click) is a map of the world with the water lowered by a little over 300ft. (some say it was 500ft). Some things to notice: The Mediterranean is in two, possibly, three sections, the Red Sea is land locked (and probably dried up) and the Persian Gulf is completely dry. If the people from SE Asia sailed into the Mediterranean, Persian Gulf or the Red Sea, they did it after most of the flooding was over. As the ice began to melt, the 'dams' in the Mediterranean would have broken, one-by-one...finally resulting in the Black Sea flood (Noah's Flood?) 7,600 years ago, not out of line with some accepted dates. Similar 'dam' breaking would have occured in the Persian Gulf, Red Sea and many other places around the globe.
I think one of the biggest thing most of us over look is the 'weight-shifting' that occurred as a consequence of the ice melting. There would have been massive catastrophies everywhere: Volcanoes, earthquakes, landslides (land and sea), tsunamis and very unpredictiable weather worldwide.
LOL, that's Robert Schoch's list...not mine. Interesting book, you ought to check it out. He does a pretty good job of tying all the pyramid builders of the world together.
I've never heard of any Peruvian pyramids. Say, a big thank you for all of your posts, I find them incredibly fascinating and very very informative. THANK YOU!!
The regular (non-U.K.) Amazon link for Eden in the East is here.
Privately, they admit that things must be older than they appear...
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.