Wednesday 28 October 2009
A new study co-authored by Ian Kuijt, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, describes recent excavations in Jordan that reveal evidence of the world’s oldest know granaries. The appearance of the granaries represents a critical evolutionary shift in the relationship between people and plant foods.
Anthropologists consider food storage to be a vital component in the economic and social package that comprises the Neolithic period, contributing to plant domestication, increasingly sedentary lifestyles and new social organizations. It has traditionally been assumed that people only started to store significant amounts of food when plants were domesticated.
However, in a paper appearing in the June 23 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, Kuijt and Bill Finlayson, director, Council for British Research in the Levant, describe recent excavations at Dhra’ near the Dead Sea in Jordan that provide evidence of granaries that precede the emergence of fully domesticated plants and large-scale sedentary communities by at least 1,000 years.
«These granaries reflect new forms of risk reduction, intensification and low-level food production», Kuijt said. People in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic Age (11,500 to 10,550 BC) were not using new food sources, but rather, by developing new storage methods, they altered their relationship with traditionally utilized food resources and created the technological context for later development of domesticated plants and an agro-pastoralist economy.
An early temple area in south-eastern Turkey at Göbekli Tepe dated to 10,000 BC may be regarded as the beginning of the Neolithic 1. This site was developed by nomadic hunter-gatherer tribes, evidenced by the lack of permanent housing in the vicinity. This temple site is the oldest known man-made place of worship. At least seven stone circles, covering 10 hectares (25 acres), contain limestone pillars carved with animals, insects and birds. Stone tools were used by perhaps as many as hundreds of people to create the pillars, which may have supported roofs.
The major advance of Neolithic 1 was true farming. In the proto-Neolithic Natufian cultures, wild cereals were harvested and perhaps early seed selection and re-seeding occurred. The grain was ground into flour. Emmer wheat was domesticated, and animals were herded and domesticated.