When did people first start farming?
The origins of agriculture: the trail of the first farmers
Ramat-Gan For many thousands of years before the development of agriculture, people were experimenting with growing grain. This is what scientists conclude from an investigation of a 23,000 year old human settlement in what is now Israel.
They found not only remnants of wild grain there, but also of weeds, which prefer to settle in the vicinity of cultivated areas. Presumably, people stopped the farming experiment in the region for the time being, the researchers report in the journal "PLOS ONE".
Scientists place the beginning of agriculture in the Neolithic about 12,000 years ago. At that time, hunters and gatherers gradually settled in the area of the fertile crescent, which stretches in an arc from the eastern Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf, and began to grow crops.
As the researchers led by Ehud Weiss from Bar Ilan University in Ramat-Gan (Israel) report, people in the settlement of Ohalo II on the Sea of Galilee tried out the cultivation of grain around 11,000 years earlier.
Ohalo II was settled about 23,000 years ago, but was later flooded. The settlement was discovered in 1989 when the water level of the lake had dropped dramatically after massive water abstraction and several years of drought.
Several huts came to light with plant and animal remains, tools, beads and wooden objects. These remains were very well preserved as they were protected from external influences under the sediments of the lake.
Among the plants, the researchers found wild varieties of various types of grain, such as oats, barley and emmer. The plants were harvested and the grains processed, as evidenced by the marks on stone blades and a millstone. An above-average proportion of these cereal plants showed changes in the ear, which the researchers attribute to long-term cultivation.
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