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Food Storing Came Before Farming

June 23, 2009

A new study shows that people were storing grain before they even learned to domesticate crops.

According to a report in Tuesday’s edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, people used a structure as a food granary that was discovered in recent excavations in Jordan.  The report said that the structure dates back to about 11,300 years ago.

The research team, which was led by anthropologist Ian Kuijt of the University of Notre Dame, said that it was used a thousand years before people in the Middle East domesticated grain.

There were remains of wild barley found in the structure, which indicates that the grain was collected and saved even though formal cultivation had not yet developed.

The granary was discovered between two other structures that were used for grain processing and residences.  It was round with stone and mud walls.  It also had a raised floor, the researchers said, which was used for air circulation and protection from rodents.

The report said that being able to store food is essential for the development of farming.

“The granaries represent a critical evolutionary shift in the relationship between people and plant foods, which precedes the emergence of domestication and large-scale sedentary communities by at least 1,000 years,” they reported.

The British Academy, the Council for British Research in the Levant, the U.S. National Science Foundation and the University of Notre Dame all funded the study. The excavations were done at Dhra’, near the Dead Sea.

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