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Right: Photograph during excavation exhibiting excellent dry preservation of plant remains Left: A well-preserved, desiccated barley grain found at Yoram Cave Credit: Uri Davidovich

Right: Photograph during excavation exhibiting excellent dry preservation of plant remains Left: A well-preserved, desiccated barley grain found at Yoram Cave Credit: Uri Davidovich

 

Original Article:

popular-archaeology.com

 

BAR-ILAN UNIVERSITY—An international team of researchers has succeeded for the first time in sequencing the genome of Chalcolithic barley grains. This is the oldest plant genome to be reconstructed to date. The 6,000-year-old seeds were retrieved from Yoram Cave in the southern cliff of Masada fortress in the Judean Desert in Israel, close to the Dead Sea. Genetically, the prehistoric barley is very similar to present-day barley grown in the Southern Levant, supporting the existing hypothesis of barley domestication having occurred in the Upper Jordan Valley.

Members of the research team are from the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) in Gatersleben, Germany; Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel; Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel; the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany; and the University of Haifa, Israel; The James Hutton Institute, UK; University of California, Santa Cruz, USA; University of Minnesota St. Paul, USA; University of Tübingen, Germany.

The analyzed grains, together with tens of thousands of other plant remains, were retrieved during a systematic archaeological excavation headed by Uri Davidovich, from the Institute of Archaeology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Nimrod Marom, from Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, Israel. The archaeobotanical analysis was led by Ehud Weiss, of Bar-Ilan University. The cave is very difficult to access and was used only for a short time by humans, some 6,000 years ago, probably as ephemeral refuge.

Oldest plant genome reconstructed to date

Most examination of archaeobotanical findings has been limited to the comparison of ancient and present-day specimens based on their morphology. Up to now, only prehistoric corn has been genetically reconstructed. In this research, the team succeeded in sequencing the complete genome of the 6,000-year-old barley grains. The results are now published in the online version of the journal Nature Genetics.

“These archaeological remains provided a unique opportunity for us to finally sequence a Chalcolithic plant genome. The genetic material has been well-preserved for several millennia due to the extreme dryness of the region,” explains Ehud Weiss, of Bar-Ilan University. In order to determine the age of the ancient seeds, the researchers split the grains and subjected half of them to radiocarbon dating while the other half was used to extract the ancient DNA. “For us, ancient DNA works like a time capsule that allows us to travel back in history and look into the domestication of crop plants at distinct time points in the past,” explains Johannes Krause, Director of the Department of Archaeogenetics at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena. The genome of Chalcolithic barley grains is the oldest plant genome to be reconstructed to date.

Domestication of barley completed very early

Wheat and barley were already grown 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent, a sickle-shaped region stretching from present-day Iraq and Iran through Turkey and Syria into Lebanon, Jordan and Israel. Up to this day, the wild forms of these two crops persist in the region and are among the major model species studied at the Institute of Evolution in the University of Haifa. “It was from there that grain farming originated and later spread to Europe, Asia and North Africa,” explains Tzion Fahima, of the University of Haifa.

“Our analyses show that the seeds cultivated 6,000 years ago greatly differ genetically from the wild forms we find today in the region. However, they show considerable genetic overlap with present-day domesticated lines from the region,” explains Nils Stein, who directed the comparison of the ancient genome with modern genomes at the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK), Gatersleben, with the support of Robbie Waugh and colleagues at the James Hutton Institute, Dundee, Scotland, and Gary Muehlbauer, University of Minnesota, USA. “This demonstrates that the domestication of barley in the Fertile Crescent was already well advanced very early.”

The comparison of the ancient seeds with wild forms from the region and with so-called ‘landraces’ (i.e., local barley lines grown by farmers in the Near East) enabled to geographically suggest, according to Tzion Fahima and his colleagues at the University of Haifa and Israel’s Tel-Hai College, “the origin of the domestication of barley within the Upper Jordan Valley – a hypothesis that is also supported by two archaeological sites in the surrounding area where the hitherto earliest remains of barley cultivation have been found.

Immigrants “trust” in extant landraces

Also the genetic overlap with present-day domesticated lines from the region is revealing to the researchers. “This similarity is an amazing finding considering to what extent the climate, but also the local flora and fauna, as well as the agricultural methods, have changed over this long period of time,” says Martin Mascher, from the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research, the lead author of the study. The researchers therefore assume that conquerors and immigrants coming to the region did not bring their own crop seeds from their former homelands, but continued cultivating the locally adapted extant landraces.

New insights into the origins of our crop plants

Combining archaeology, archaeobotany, genetics and computational genomics in an interdisciplinary study has produced novel insights into the origins of our crop plants. “This is just the beginning of a new and exciting line of research,” predicts Verena Schuenemann, from Tuebingen University, the second lead author of the study. “DNA-analysis of archaeological remains of prehistoric plants will provide us with novel insights into the origin, domestication and spread of crop plants.”

Source: Bar-Ilan University news release.

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FOUNDING FARMERS  A bone fragment from a 7,000-year-old farmer was discovered in this cave in the Zagros region of Iran. His DNA and the DNA of three other individuals from a second Iranian site revealed that two different groups were involved in early farming.

FOUNDING FARMERS A bone fragment from a 7,000-year-old farmer was discovered in this cave in the Zagros region of Iran. His DNA and the DNA of three other individuals from a second Iranian site revealed that two different groups were involved in early farming.

Original Article:

sciencenews.org

BY AMY MCDERMOTT, JULY 14, 2016

Fertile Crescent cultures diverged to take farming east and west

The cradle of agricultural civilization was culturally diverse.

Two societies lived side-by-side 10,000 years ago in the rich Near Eastern valleys of the Fertile Crescent, where humans first learned to farm, a new study finds. Over time, one group expanded west, carrying agriculture into Europe. The other spread east, taking their traditions into South Asia, researchers report online July 14 in Science.

“We thought the people of the Fertile Crescent were one group genetically and culturally, but in fact they were probably two or more,” says paleogeneticist Joachim Burger of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in Germany, who led the new study. It’s time to rethink the textbook idea that modern Europeans and South Asians descend from a single Stone Age people, he says.

Earlier this year, Burger’s team reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that the first European farmers came from western Anatolia near the present site of Istanbul. Scientists suspected that the Anatolians had started out even further east, at older sites in Iran, Iraq, Syria and southeastern Turkey where farming began about 10,000 years ago.

But DNA from 7,000- to 10,000-year-old remains, found at two ancient Iranian settlements, told a different story. Carbon and nitrogen ratios in bones showed that the people there ate more cultivated cereals than meat. While they were farmers and had lived several thousand years before the Anatolians, genetic analysis showed that the two blood lines were not closely related.

In fact, the two groups had probably separated more than 45,000 years earlier, just after humans left Africa, says statistical geneticist Garrett Hellenthal of University College London, a coauthor of the new study. Even 10,000 years ago, the ancestors of Iranians and Anatolians had already been isolated for 36,000 to 67,000 years.

Evidence of the Anatolian farmers is a few thousand years younger than the Iranian remains, but both cultures “must have known each other to some extent,” Burger says.

People in the two groups probably looked different and spoke separate languages, Burger says. They didn’t intermarry, but undoubtedly shared the ideas of early agriculture. It would have taken centuries to convert from hunting and gathering to an agrarian way of life.

“Domestication of wild beasts is nothing you do over the weekend,” Burger says. And “you don’t invent something crazy and complicated like farming coincidently at the same time.”

Not everyone agrees with that conclusion. “The change from hunting to farming happened probably several times,” says archaeologist Roger Matthews of the University of Reading in England, who was not involved in the new work. While both the Anatolians and Iranians were farmers, “it’s not actually the same idea they’re coming up with,” he says. In the east, early agrarians focused on goats as well as barley and wheat, while in the west, shepherds raised sheep and other foods. Both communities probably took initial but separate steps toward farming, Matthews says.

Sometime after farming was developed, the two cultures began to move apart. Why they spread so differently is still a mystery. More DNA samples from ancient people east of the Fertile Crescent are necessary to confirm that people spread from Iran eastward, says anthropologist Christina Papageorgopoulou of the Democritus University of Thrace in Greece. She coauthored the Anatolian study but was not involved in the new work.

More DNA from within the Fertile Crescent could also reveal a border or boundary between ancient Anatolians and Iranians. “I cannot imagine there was a connection,” she says. If there had been, scientists would see have seen it in the DNA. “I think there is some kind of barrier there.”

At this point, scientists can speak broadly about the blood relationships between these early farmers, but more high-quality DNA samples would let researchers zoom in to the village or household scale, to “come closer to ancient humans and how they lived,” Burger says. His vision is to analyze whole Stone Age villages, to reconstruct ancient family trees, understand who migrated where and move “from a global to a village view.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated July 15, 2016, to correct two country labels on the map.

I have finally gotten a Facebook page, well for it’s under my name Joanna Linsley-Poe. Please visit me there. I haven’t worked out all the bells and whistles yet just give me time.

 

Original article:

BBC.com
Britain’s Pompeii” was just a few months old when it burnt down, it has emerged.
Analysis of wood used to build the settlement suggests it was only lived in for a short time before it was destroyed.
Despite this, archaeologists said the site gives an “exquisitely detailed” insight into everyday Bronze Age life.
Evidence of fine fabric-making, varied diets and vast trading networks has been found during the 10-month dig.

in Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire, has been compared to that seen at Pompeii, a Roman city buried by ash when Vesuvius erupted in AD 79.

At least five circular houses raised on stilts above the East Anglian fens have been found.
David Gibson, of the Cambridge Archaeological Unit, University of Cambridge, said the site allowed researchers to “visit in exquisite detail everyday life in the Bronze Age”.
“Domestic activity within structures is demonstrated from clothing to household objects, to furniture and diet,” he said.
“These dwellings have it all, the complete set, it’s a ‘full house’.


‘Pompeii of the Fens’
What the excavation reveals:
The people living here made their own high quality textiles, like linen. Some of the woven linen fabrics are made with threads as thin as the diameter of a coarse human hair and are among the finest Bronze Age examples found in Europe

Other fabrics and fibres found include balls of thread, twining, bundles of plant fibres and loom weights which were used to weave threads together. Textiles were common in the Bronze Age but it is very rare for them to survive today

Animal remains suggest they ate a diet of wild boar, red deer, calves, lambs and freshwater fish such as pike. The charred remains of porridge type foods, emmer wheat and barley grains have been found preserved in amazing detail, sometimes still inside the bowls they were served in

There were areas in each home for storing meat and a separate area for cooking

Even 3,000 years ago people seemed to have a lot of stuff. Each of the houses was fully equipped with pots of different sizes, wooden buckets and platters, metal tools, saddle querns (stone tools for grinding grains), weapons, textiles, loom weights and glass beads.

After the fire, the buildings sank into a river which has helped preserve them.

the oak structures, has suggested the circular houses were still new and had only been lived in for a few months.

The homes were, however, well equipped with pots of different sizes, wooden buckets and platters, metal tools, saddle querns (stone tools for grinding grains), weapons, textiles, loom weights and glass beads.

Archaeologists say beads found at the site originally came from the Mediterranean or Middle East.

chief executive of Historic England, said: “This has transformed our knowledge of Bronze Age Britain.

“Over the past 10 months, Must Farm has given us an extraordinary window into how people lived 3,000 years ago.

“Now we know what this small but wealthy Bronze Age community ate, how they made their homes and where they traded.

“Archaeologists and scientists around the world are learning from Must Farm and it’s already challenged a number of longstanding perceptions.”

Must Farm was named best discovery at the 2016 British Archaeological Awards.

Image caption

The charred remains of porridge type foods, emmer wheat and barley grains have been found preserved in amazing detail, sometimes still inside the bowls they were served in.

Blogging Milestone

I can’t quite believe it but it’s been 7 wears since I first signed up with WordPress and started this blog.

Soon I’ll have a link set up and post to my Facebook page as well.

Thanks to all my followers and anyone and everyone who has found something interesting and useful on my site.

Joanna Linsley-Poe

August 28, 2016

Anniversary was actually yesterday the 27 th.

 

The area surveyed included Lamb Lea scheduled monument, the land within the red line between Hampshire and the Arun river valley

The area surveyed included Lamb Lea scheduled monument, the land within the red line between Hampshire and the Arun river valley

 

Original Article:

bbc.com

July 12, 2016

 

Evidence of a prehistoric “farming collective” has been discovered after aerial laser scanning was carried out in the South Downs National Park.
Large-scale farming from before the Roman invasion suggests a high level of civilisation, archaeologists said.
The survey also revealed the route of a long-suspected Roman road between Chichester and Brighton.
It covered an area between the Arun river valley in West Sussex and Queen Elizabeth Country Park in Hampshire.

The “Lidar” survey technique uses an aircraft-mounted laser beam to scan the ground and produce a 3D model of features that survive as earthworks or structures in open land or woodland.
Images of land between Lamb Lea Woods and Charlton Forest showed that a field system already protected as a scheduled monument was just a small part of a vast swathe of later pre-historic cultivation extending under a now wooded area.
James Kenny, archaeological officer at Chichester District Council, said it suggested a civilisation closer to ancient Greece, Egypt or Rome than what is known of prehistoric Britain.
‘Organised farming’
“One of our biggest findings is the discovery of a vast area farmed by pre-historic people on an astonishing scale,” said Trevor Beattie, chief executive of the South Downs National Park Authority,
Mr Kenny added that the evidence raised questions about who was growing the crops, who was eating the food and where they were living.
“The scale is so large that it must have been managed, suggesting that this part of the country was being organised as a farming collective,” he said.
The route of the road suggests the Romans would have headed out from their settlement at Chichester on Stane Street, the road to London, before branching east towards Arundel.

“The recognition of the ‘missing link’ in the Roman road west of Arundel was a highlight in a project full of exciting results,” said Helen Winton, aerial investigation manager at Historic England.

 

zagrosmountains

 

Original Article:

cbsnews.com

 

BERLIN – Scientists say a previously unknown group of Stone Age farmers may have introduced agriculture to South Asia, challenging earlier theories that attributed the spread of farming to a different population.

Previous research held that a single group of hunter-gatherers developed agriculture in the Middle East some 10,000 years ago and then migrated to Europe, Asia and Africa, where they gradually replaced or mixed with the local population.

But scientists who analyzed ancient human remains found in the Zagros mountains of present-day Iran say they belonged to a completely separate people who appear to have taken up farming around the same time as their cousins further west in Anatolia, now Turkey.

“There was this idea that there’d been one group of genius inventors who developed agriculture,” said Joachim Burger, one of the authors of the study published online Thursday in the journal Science. “Now we can see there were genetically diverse groups.”

Scientists from Europe, the United States and Iran who examined the DNA of 9,000 to 10,000-year-old bone fragments discovered in a cave near Eslamabad, 600 kilometers (370 miles) southwest of the Iranian capital of Tehran, found they belonged to a man with black hair, brown eyes and dark skin.

Intriguingly, the man’s diet included cereals, a sign that he had learned how to cultivate crops, said Fereidoun Biglari of National Museum of Iran, who was also involved in the study.

Along with three other ancient genomes from the Zagros mountains, researchers were able to piece together a picture of a population whose closest modern relatives can be found in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and among members of Iran’s Zoroastrian religious community, said Biglari.

The Zagros people had very different genes than modern Europeans or their crop-planting ancestors in western Anatolia and Greece, said Burger, an anthropologist and population geneticist at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany.

He said the study’s authors calculated that the two populations likely split at least 50,000 years ago, shortly after humans first ventured out of Africa.

Burger said even though the two ancient farming populations didn’t mix, it’s probable that they knew of – and even learned from – each other, given that the development of agriculture is highly complex and therefore unlikely to have spontaneously occurred twice around the same time.

“You have to build houses, clear forests, cultivate several plants and ensure a plentiful supply of water. You also have to domesticate several animals, be able to grind flour, bake bread,” said Burger. “This is a huge process that takes several thousand years.”

Burger said the findings could help shed light on important developments in human history that have been neglected due to researchers’ long habit of focusing on ancient migratory movements into Europe.

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