SEEDS OF DOMESTICATION
in Senegal use wind to winnow (separate) peanuts from chaff. Peanuts were
across the Atlantic Ocean, on Brazil's coast.
11,500 and 10,000 years BP, agriculture moved out from the Levant to the
rest of the Fertile Crescent.
Bar-Yosef calls himself a "climate determinist" and says he's long believed climate helped shape agriculture. (Let's define agriculture as the domestication and cultivation of plants or animals, encompassing growing fruits, vegetables and birds, mammals and fish. And let's note that not everybody agrees with Bar-Yosef's analysis.)
Bar-Yosef has focused on the Natufian culture, which was present in the Middle East between 15,000 and 11,000 years before present (BP). Among other distinctions, Natufians occupied the ancient city of Jericho. Bar-Yosef says the early Natufians, who lived between 15,000 and 13,000 BP, were sedentary.
No, they didn't watch the tube 24/7 -- they lived year-round in villages, indicating that they presumably didn't need to truck far for food. Archeologists recognize the villages of sedentary people not by the hulks of prehistoric televisions but by skeletons of free-loading animals like rats and mice, and by too-heavy-to-lug-around objects like food-grinding stones.
During the Younger Dryas, forests in the Natufian region retreated, leaving open woodlands. The cool, dry conditions made traditional foods, including wild relatives of wheat and barley, harder to find, forcing the Natufians to leave home and resume their semi-sedentary lifestyle. The "stable, sedentary structure collapsed, people begin moving around the Levant," says Bar-Yosef, who has excavated several Natufian villages.
The more accurate dates available from Greenland have, shall we say, plowed under the idea that agriculture arose throughout the Fertile Crescent, according to Bar-Yosef. He thinks domestication actually occurred in the Levant -- the western end of the Crescent -- because domesticable wild grains were absent from the rest of the area during the Younger Dryas. Carbonized plant remains show that the essential wild relatives were present only in modern Israel, Syria and Turkey.
Bar-Yosef says that at a small Natufian community like Netiv Hagdud, wheat and rye were first domesticated about 11,500 years ago, during the Younger Dryas: "The beginning of cultivation emerged from an environment of stress that forced people to rely more heavily on cultivated species. The Natufians, seeing the depletion of natural fields, came to the conclusion that they should start planting them instead of harvesting in the wild."
The archeological evidence for domestication includes remains of cereal grains found near cooking fires, stone sickles used to harvest grains, and pounding stones for removing the inedible chaff from the edible kernel.
How can you distinguish wild rice from Uncle Ben's?
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