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Do you wonder how long humans have raised grains?  RSS feed

 
Bryant RedHawk
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This is from an article in Haaretz, February 20, 2017.

Agriculture is believed to have dawned around 12,000 years ago, in the Levant or southern Turkey. Now remains of a 23,000-year-old camp, including flint sickle blades and extraordinarily preserved botanical remains, found on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (Israel) throws back the start of cereal cultivation by thousands of years.
     Analysis of the sheen on the flint blades and of the seeds proves that the Paleolithic inhabitants of the site called 'Ohalo II' lived a chiefly hunting-gathering-fishing lifestyle, but were indeed growing wheat and barley.
     "Most people feel that agriculture is much more complex, that it is central to the economy, that everybody was geared into it. Here we have evidence for small-scale auxiliary cereal growing," said Prof. Dani Nadel of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology. The Ohalo inhabitants clearly collected a lot from nature, both plants and animals, he elaborates. "These grains they grew would have augmented their hunter-gatherer diet, which consisted mainly of fish from the lake, animals they hunted or scavenged, birds,especially water fowl, and plants," says Nadel. "Cereal cultivation was just one of many strategies they had. Their eggs were not all in one basket. They would have tried all sorts of things."
     The prehistoric camp was discovered by archaeologists when the water level in the Sea of Galilee fell to a low point in modern times. Immersion in the lakewater and protection by silt preserved the oldest-known remains of brush huts and grass bedding known in the world, wooden tools, food remains, and beads made of shells from the Mediterranean Sea. The excavators also found a lot of stone tools, including sickle blades that were used to harvest grain. It is the carbon-14 dating of the charred grains and plant remains that led to the date of around 23,000 years.
     The five sickle blades found at Ohalo II have a sheen created by their use to cut grasses, and from the hands holding them, says Dr. Iris Groman-Yaroslavski of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa. Use-wear analysis of the veneer indicates that while they were used, they were not used much, she explains: That supports the thesis that cultivated, harvested grain was a supplement to their main diet of hunted and gathered foods and fish. We do know though that their cultivation of grain was not a one-off event.

This is significant because of the vast difference from what was previously believed rather universally about cultivation of foods.  We are indeed following an ancient tradition when we plant our gardens and raise grains for our bread and other uses.

Redhawk
 
Maureen Atsali
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Interesting article.  I wonder how the paleo folks will digest that bit of history?
 
John Weiland
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It would not surprise me at all that early hominids figured out how to best get food of all kinds into their diet in a way compatible with their mobility and lifestyle.  I could certainly imagine them figuring out quite early that if seeds were scattered into a fertile area and were abundant enough to be harvested that they would devise a tool to make that harvesting easier.  Not sure I'm comfortable with the use in the article of the word "cultivation".  Merriam-Webster:  Cultivation -- The act or art of cultivation or tilling. Cultivate-- to prepare or prepare and use for the raising of crops.  To say that use of special harvesting tools "proves that the Paleolithic inhabitants of the site called 'Ohalo II'..... were indeed growing wheat and barley." in a manner synonymous with how we now use the word 'cultivation' is for me a bit of a premature conclusion. (And I'm not saying they weren't cultivating by that time, it's just that this particular tool use is not conclusive.) But again, as an obvious supplementary food source, it would seem quite understandable that wheat and barley would not only be at least scattered for a return harvest, but even possibly selected for desirable traits early on.....independently on different continents and well before 10,000 years ago.  A "paleo-diet" that did not include some amount of small grains or maize just doesn't make sense to me from a resource availability perspective.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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While I agree with you John,  the fact that any tribe would make specialized tools for harvesting does indicate that they were Probably planting something to need that specialized tool for.
This is nothing more than a hypothesis at this time but they are doing further excavation and should they find containers for harvested grains, then the indications might be clearer.

To me, the most important thing is the pushing back of the time line for indications of the activity.
When I was in College I had a professor that insisted that the Egyptians were no older a civilization than the at the time known Pharaohs, I proposed that perhaps we were off on time line by around 300 years.
Two years later that same professor approached me and said that I had been right, it turned out some "box tombs", when excavated, contained Pharaoh like accoutrements, showing that the culture was at least 300 years older than previously thought.
This sort of time line error pops up once we go digging deeper and in new places a lot.
We do not know as much as we suppose when it comes to archeology or any science for that matter.
Many times what we imagine something was used for (as an example) might later be found to be totally off the wall. 
It reminds me of the 1979 TV show "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century", where a hair dryer was thought to be some sort of "ray gun". 

Grains, as we tend to use them today, are not such a great thing for the human body. When we process grains as much as we do now and when we start hybridizing for higher and higher gluten content, we get in trouble health wise.
I am growing Einkorn wheat and hope to get enough seed next year to start being able to harvest it for our grain needs. It has a far lower gluten content than any of the "modern" wheat varieties so it should help my wife be able to eat breads again.
Corn is another interesting grain to me. My people never ate non processed ( cooked, dried, ground or made into a hominy ) corn. This grain is one we used more for flour than for eating whole kernel. I have noticed that I feel better when I eat corn the way my ancestors did than when I try to eat it whole kernel.

One of my current investigations is just exactly when did ancient men  begin to brew barley based beverages. We have evidences of this being over 8 thousand years ago, but it is still possible that we may not have found the truest beginning date yet.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Adding thumbnail photo for thread.
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Rye
 
John Weiland
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@RedHawk:  "One of my current investigations is just exactly when did ancient men  begin to brew barley based beverages. We have evidences of this being over 8 thousand years ago, but it is still possible that we may not have found the truest beginning date yet."

Yeah, I'm thinking that as soon as people started carrying around vessels for containing liquids, the brewing concept was born and offered many advantages in terms of food preservation and just "gettin' loopy".  It would have already been noticed that fruit will ferment right on the tree/vine and that any caloirie-containing liquid that sat around for any length of time would generate alcohol and other by products.  The rest would just be refinement through trial and error.  Again, not hard evidence but not an unreasonable speculation.

I too enjoy pondering the origins of different developments and the timelines of human migrations.  There are the interesting mythologies out of the Pacific Northwest (USA) indigenous cultures about, for instance, the Columbia River disappearing under ground or the Washington Cascades being on the western side of ocean water.  The dating of human habitation of this continent which might have witnessed this...as a 'model'....does not cohere with any geological theories for the time line of those conjectured situations which were supposed to have occurred much, much earlier.  (If I recall correctly, these latter discussion came out of a book by Vine Deloria Jr.) So lots of unanswered questions and when data emerges that challenges in a hard way those accepted models it's always a fun reworking of the models.
 
Peter Ingot
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Interesting. I've often wondered if agriculture really began when historians think it did, or if we are actually just seeing in the archaeological record the point where it started to go wrong - forests being cleared on a big scale, erosion, malnutrition, etc.
 
Devin Lavign
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:When I was in College I had a professor that insisted that the Egyptians were no older a civilization than the at the time known Pharaohs, I proposed that perhaps we were off on time line by around 300 years.
Two years later that same professor approached me and said that I had been right, it turned out some "box tombs", when excavated, contained Pharaoh like accoutrements, showing that the culture was at least 300 years older than previously thought.
This sort of time line error pops up once we go digging deeper and in new places a lot.
We do not know as much as we suppose when it comes to archeology or any science for that matter.


A lot of archeology is limited by the existing theories of the time. What I mean is digs will only go as deep or in locations that they assume is the extent of ancient culture. For example, the discovery of Clovis people in N America was actually done when someone finally decided to dig further down past the sediment dates of "accepted" N American habitation. After a ways of digging down suddenly they found a new layer of human activity that pushed the dates of N American habitation back and reveled an entirely new perspective. However how many sites before this were just not dug deep enough to find similar finds? Could further depths again push back dates for N American habitation? How may sites around the world just don't dig far enough to find the true extent of human habitation? They get down to a layer of accepted human habitation and once they get to the end of it just stop. Because why continue when "everybody knows there is nothing further". Similarly there is issue with locations, pre assumed ideas of where people might have congregated. While indeed there are some ways to make good guesses, there also seem to be plenty of outliers that break with the formula of being near rivers/lakes/ocean. Oddly humans have built and settled in some pretty weird places, on top of mountains, in deserts, in swamps, etc... Not to mention the whole issue of changing sea levels. A lot of interesting stuff could be hiding from archeology under water. We know for example there was settlements in between England and the mainland from when that area was actually land. Similarly there was settlement on a coastline further out around India as well as many other coastlines around the world. What amazing discoveries might we find if we could access these sites? Of course the problem is excavating under water is a huge hindrance, not to mention the problems of just finding the locations.

I think eventually we will find humanity did a lot of things much earlier than we expected, but this will take a breaking of the orthodoxy tendency of blinding of archeology with preconceived notions. An opening up to explore alternative ideas and theories without all the mockery and stonewalling. Instead with true curiosity and willingness to evaluate evidence to tell them what is true and not using opinion and theory to judge evidence.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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I agree with you Devin, we know that current sea levels are at least 300 feet higher now than in what is popularly known as Antiquity. The last Ice Age surely created a drop of sea level even lower, we just have not spent the time and money to investigate that enough so far.
As a scientist, I have always marveled at how narrow minded most of the "top" scientist seem to be, it is as if they don't want to know the real answers.

For many years I was told that I was "rocking the boat" because I didn't conform to standard belief or "knowledge".
I still don't, I suppose because I always want to find out things for myself over taking others word for it.
Most of the time my experiments either fail or they prove that "common belief" is right, but there are also times that I find complete opposite results and they usually are repeatable.
I used to follow the publish mode but over the last 20 years I stopped because it was to much hassle what with all the naysaying, since the "powers" didn't want to change their minds.
Now I do my thing, and if others want to give what I find a go, please do, just don't put me in the middle since I have come to know that most will act with idiocy as their norm. (speaking of the scientific community here)

Redhawk
 
Rebecca Norman
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I would like to  point out that a tool is not needed for harvesting barley. In half of Ladakh, people harvest barley and wheat with sickles, and later plough the residue into the field. In the other half of Ladakh, people harvest barley and wheat by pulling the whole plant up. This is explained as yielding more of the valuable straw used as animal fodder in winter. I suspect it might have to do with sandy soil easily giving up the plants, and clay soil holding on tighter. I've participated in the harvest both ways in different villages, and don't remember finding one much more difficult than the other.
 
John Weiland
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:
As a scientist, I have always marveled at how narrow minded most of the "top" scientist seem to be, it is as if they don't want to know the real answers.
For many years I was told that I was "rocking the boat" because I didn't conform to standard belief or "knowledge".
Redhawk


Redhawk, I've wondered more lately if there is at all a place for 'wisdom' to impact science which tends to be more a discipline of 'knowledge' and yet not immune to the vagaries of arrogance,ego, and human error.  Considering the statement that "Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad", would you say that at this point in your life you approach scientific methods and purported results more out of 'wisdom' than earlier in your education and career?  I suspect when yet one more new study hits the headlines about a scientific breakthrough, the general public takes that view that a combination of 'knowledge" AND 'wisdom' has produced that result when so often it's just 'knowledge', typically driven as much by the desire to solve a problem as seek fame and fortune.  Perhaps like so many situations, the wise person knows the extent to which certain things can or cannot be 'known'.  And yet to develop this later in life is quite natural as when we are younger, we are inclined to accept on faith much of what we are told by our guides and mentors.....seems almost like knowledge X perspective = wisdom, even as that equation falls woefully short of what experience tells us to be true.

It is, additionally, observations like this one from Rebecca N.-- " In half of Ladakh, people harvest barley and wheat with sickles, and later plough the residue into the field. In the other half of Ladakh, people harvest barley and wheat by pulling the whole plant up. This is explained as yielding more of the valuable straw used as animal fodder in winter."---that should be driving a lot of the research.  Even if it turned out that an equal amount or less of the valuable straw was being retained by this method, might one find out that some aspect of having the roots partially intact provided a quality difference to the forage.  So many questions and so few resources to investigate them all....
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Rebecca; how did they get the soil out of the grain again?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Yes John, I am now more about using the knowledge wisely than just acquiring knowledge. I find it much more satisfying to put into proper use what I have found out. Much more so than in the past when just the gathering of knowledge was the purpose of study and experimentation.
Many of my friends that think like me are also more interested in "now that we know, how do we use this to heal the earth?" We are at the end of the line, if we don't do drastic things for correction now, we (humans) might not be here in 100 years or less. 

I also agree that for every "discovery" we might find several different scenarios that reach the same end through a different path.

Many years ago I was very focused on science and scientific methods, then I experienced my spirit walk while on a vision quest, it changed every part of me, my direction is now all about what is truly important rather than what I had perceived as important.
It was my awakening, I was shown the path I should walk, I try not to stray from it.

Redhawk
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Rebecca Norman wrote:I would like to  point out that a tool is not needed for harvesting barley. In half of Ladakh, people harvest barley and wheat with sickles, and later plough the residue into the field. In the other half of Ladakh, people harvest barley and wheat by pulling the whole plant up. This is explained as yielding more of the valuable straw used as animal fodder in winter. I suspect it might have to do with sandy soil easily giving up the plants, and clay soil holding on tighter. I've participated in the harvest both ways in different villages, and don't remember finding one much more difficult than the other.


Very cool information Rebecca, the straw with partial roots intact would mean more sugars and starches for the fodder. It would also be a minor disruption to the soil, bringing up minerals to the surface to be available for the next planting. Then you would have that other benefit, animal manure to spread where it would do the most good.  It would not surprise me to find that those that cut their barley instead of pulling it either had more clay in the soil (harder to pull the plants up) or perhaps they were not raising as many animals, or there could even have been a local taboo involved.  Then there is the other possibility, double cropping, I've seen barley cut for two harvests, it is all about getting the grain in the ground as early as possible so it ripens early then you cut that and there will be a second head out by the plants that can be cut (or pulled) far later in the season than a single crop planting.

Redhawk
 
Charles Freeman
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Man has gardened since there was man, I believe.
 
Rebecca Norman
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:Rebecca; how did they get the soil out of the grain again?

They lay the harvested grain out to dry with the roots exposed and the heads covered, I think so the heads don't dry too fast and shatter. Then carry it all to the threshing ground, and trudge in circles behind animals for several days. Then winnow in the wind. Wash and dry the grain before roasting (optional) and grinding. So the soil doesn't stay with the grain through all that, and in any case it all gets stomped on during threshing.

Bryant RedHawk wrote: Then there is the other possibility, double cropping, I've seen barley cut for two harvests, it is all about getting the grain in the ground as early as possible so it ripens early then you cut that and there will be a second head out by the plants that can be cut (or pulled) far later in the season than a single crop planting.

I don't think that's the case here, since the grain is ripe, golden and dry before being cut, and doesn't seem to regrow at that point.
barley-harvested-by-hand-in-ladakh.jpg
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Harvested grain laid out to dry in Ladakh, with roots attached
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Threshing with animals in Ladakh
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Threshing with horses in Ladakh
 
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