July 1, 2009

World’s oldest known granaries discovered

U.S. anthropologists say recent excavations in Jordan have provided evidence of the world's oldest known granaries.

University of Notre Dame Associate Professor Ian Kuijt said the appearance of the granaries represents a critical evolutionary shift in the relationship between people and plant foods.

Kuijt and Bill Finlayson, director of the 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 B.C. to 10,550 B.C.) 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.

Building granaries may, at the same time, have been the single most important feature in increasing sedentism (the transition from nomadic to permanent settlement) that required active community participation in new life-ways.

The research appeared in the June 24 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.