Monday, April 3, 2017

Which Came First?

Which came first, domestication of grain growing, or grain storage?  Whenever I bothered to think about this issue at all, I assumed that homo sapiens ceased to be nomadic and settled down after inventing agriculture, because to get the maximum benefit from that discovery it was necessary to store grain in big buildings, called granaries.

Recently, I found a Science Daily article about a study published in 2009 which concludes that the opposite is true; namely, that the first granaries were built and used before agriculture was discovered.  The study is based upon discovery of archaeological evidence in Jordan of the existence of buildings, with elevated floors to deter vermin, that date to the New Stone Age (about 11,000 B.C.E., before agriculture was discovered).  The researchers' thought is that discovering how to save wild grains for food led to reduced nomadism, and thus paved the way for the development of agriculture and a mostly sedentary society.   I couldn't find a copy of the study itself, but this newsletter gives contact information for the study's co-author, in case any of my readers want or need to follow up further.

This study is another sobering reminder that it's the things one thinks one "knows", but are false, that tend to cause problems.  On the other hand, it's an exciting reminder that archaeology, hand in hand with better tools for analysis of artifacts that are thousands of years old, is changing our understanding of ancient history.

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