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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.

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Cover Photo: This is a photo of the excavations in area A at Chogha Golan, Iran. Credit: [Image courtesy of TISARP/University of Tübingen]

Topic: Fertile Crescent

The birth of agriculture has long been thought by scholars and scientists to have first emerged in the Levant and Mesopotamia, in the westen regions of what is known as the ancient Fertile Crescent.

Research related to excavations at a site in the foothills of the Zagros Mountains in present-day Iran, however, challenges that view, and argues for a more widespread development of the earliest agriculture across the Fertile Crescent. Simone Riehl from the University of Tübingen in Germany, along with colleagues from the Tübingen Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Paleoecology, have analyzed plant remains at the pre-pottery Neolithic site of Chogha Golan in Iran, and their results show that people were growing and grinding cereal grains like wheat and barley at the same time as their counterparts to the west, as early as 9,800 to 12,000 years ago.

Excavated in 2009 and 2010, archaeologists from the University of Tübingen and the Iranian Center for Archaeological Research uncovered artifacts, structures and plant remains that show that Chogha Golan's early inhabitants cultivated wild barley, wheat, lentil and grass peas at the location, with the first evidence of such plant management going back as far as 12,000 years ago.

"During the last few decades, numerous archaeological excavations were conducted in the Near East that led researchers to consider the possibility that multiple regions in the Fertile Crescent began cultivating cereal grains roughly at the same time, rather than just a single core area," Riehl said. "Plentiful findings of chaff remains of the cereals indicate that people processed their harvest within the sites they were living in. Mortars and grinding stones may have been used for turning the grain into some kind of bulgur or flour, which may have been further processed either by cooking or roasting."

The Chogha Golan site represents the earliest record of long-term plant management in Iran, according to the researchers.

These findings suggest that essentially simultaneous processes led to the management of wild plants and the domestication of cereal grains across most of the Fertile Crescent.

"For some time, the emergence of agriculture in Iran was considered as part of a cultural transfer from the west," Riehl said. "This opinion was, however, mostly based on the lack of information from Iranian sites. We meanwhile assume that key areas for emerging domestication existed over the whole Fertile Crescent, and that there were several locations where domesticated species evolved as a result of cultivation by local human groups."

The authors note, however, that it may not have been as simple as simultaneous emergence at multiple locations and that interregional exchanges of ideas and cultigens may have played a role.

The study report is published in the July 5th issue of the journal Science.

Original article:
popular archaeology

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This photo shows the architecture and grinding equipment from excavation area A in Chogha Golan, Iran. Credit: [Image courtesy of TISARP/University of Tübingen]

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Topic Stone Age Wine

ELAZIG, Turkey — There are easier places to make wine than the spectacular, desolate landscapes of southeast Turkey, but DNA analysis suggests it is here that Stone Age farmers first domesticated the wine grape.
Today Turkey is home to archaeological sites as well as vineyards of ancient grape varieties like Bogazkere and Okuzgozu, which drew the curiosity of the Swiss botanist and grape DNA sleuth Jose Vouillamoz, for the clues they may offer to the origin of European wine.
Together with the biomolecular archaeologist Patrick McGovern, Vouillamoz has spent nearly a decade studying the world’s cultivated and wild vines.
“We wanted to collect samples from wild and cultivated grape vines from the Near East — that means southeastern Anatolia, Armenia and Georgia — to see in which place the wild grape was, genetically speaking, linked the closest to the cultivated variety.”
“It turned out to be southeastern Anatolia,” the Asian part of modern Turkey, said Vouillamoz, speaking at the EWBC wine conference in the Turkish city of Izmir this month. “We propose the hypothesis that it is most likely the first place of grape vine domestication.”
McGovern’s lab at the University of Pennsylvania Museum also provided archaeological evidence of wine’s Anatolian roots after analysing residues of liquid recovered from vessels thousands of years old.
Author of “Uncorking the Past” and “Ancient Wine”, McGovern used a sensitive chemical technique to look for significant amounts of tartaric acid — for which grapes are the only source in the Middle East.
While Georgia, Armenia and Iran all played a role in ancient winemaking, preliminary evidence from pottery and even older clay mineral containers, seems to place the very first domestication of the wild Eurasian grape Vitis vinifera in southeastern Anatolia sometime between 5,000 and 8,500 BC, McGovern said.
Southeast Anatolia is part of the Fertile Crescent, the name given to a vast area stretching through modern-day Iraq and Iran to the Nile Valley in the south, widely seen as the birthplace of the eight so-called “founder” crops — from chickpea to barley — that are the world’s first known domesticated plants.
Evidence found by the research duo suggests that for wine too, hundreds of today’s grapes find their roots in “founder” varieties descended from the wild grapes of the region.
Through DNA profiling, Vouillamoz says he has isolated 13 of these “founder” grapes by tracing the family trees of European fine wine grapes.
He believes farmers across southeast Anatolia or the Near East started domesticating the wild Vitis vinifera grape around the same time — giving rise to the 13 “founders”.
This, he says, debunks the long-held notion that most Western European grapes were introduced independently from the Middle East, Near East or Egypt, Turkey or Greece, at different times and in different places.
One of the “founders”, Gouais Blanc, is a good example.
“He gave birth to at least 80 varieties in western Europe, including Chardonnay, Gamay, Furmint, and Riesling,” said Vouillamoz, who recently co-authored, “Wine Grapes,” a monumental opus on 1,368 vine varieties. “I call it the Casanova of grapes.”
Standing in a gully between Elazig and Diyarbakir, Daniel O’Donnell, chief winemaker at the Turkish winery Kayra, gestured to the great expanse of mountains where wild grape vines still grow in gullies and washes.
“It is a wine-making pilgrimage to come back here and find, genetically, 8,000, 9,000-year old vines,” said O’Donnell, who arrived here from California in 2006.
“It’s mind-blowing to be a Napa guy paying attention to the fine details, the minutiae of wine making, and come here.”
But this heritage is now under threat.
In the Kurdish Diyarbakir region, where women on subsistence farms tend the vines and goats do the pruning, phylloxera is killing vineyards that have not been grafted onto disease-resistant rootstock.
“Unfortunately, phylloxera has arrived here. Every year we see the vines die,” said Murat Uner, wine production manager at Kayra.
Phylloxera annihilated vineyards in Europe in the late 19th century. Wild vines are somewhat protected by their eco-system, but cultivated vines are extremely vulnerable.
“We explain it to them, but they don’t want to listen,” says Uner.
The frustration is shared by winemakers who are trying to develop the Turkish wine industry, and experts who fear the loss of an irreplaceable genetic diversity within these ancient varieties.
“They are incredibly lucky to have this,” said Vouillamoz. “It has been lost in many places.”

Original article:
By Suzanne Mustacich
google.com/ hosted news

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Topic: Nomad to Farmer

Australian archaeologists are embarking on a study of one of the earliest ever records of a key transformation in human history: the end of the nomadic lifestyle.

The team, headed by Dr Andrew Fairbairn from the University of Queensland, will join with a British team next week to continue work on the excavation of a 10,000-year-old early village site in central Turkey.

The site, known as Boncuklu Höyük, is one of the earliest village sites found from the period when hunter-gatherer societies began to leave their nomadic lifestyle and take up farming.

Villagers lived in oval-shaped, mud brick houses and hunted, farmed and traded with other local communities on an area of wetlands which is now a dusty plain near the city of Konya.

“It’s come to be one of the key transformations in human history because, basically, the development of our civilisations is routed in a lot of these social and economic transformations that happened around about this time,” Dr Fairbairn told ABC News Online.

He says the site is one of the earliest found just outside the key Fertile Crescent area of eastern Turkey, Syria and Jordan where it is thought farming first originated.

The site is expected to help archaeologists understand how humans adapted to a sedentary lifestyle and how it spread across Europe.

“This farming lifestyle then spreads around the world – it goes across Europe and it goes across Asia,” Dr Fairbairn said.

“And so where Boncuklu is is that sort of first area where you have this spread of this new lifestyle.

“We’ve been very interested to find out whether it was, as it’s always been suspected, due to farming people moving from this area of origin, the Fertile Crescent … or whether it was due to the people who already lived there, lay hunter-gatherer societies, actually starting to develop and take up new crops and new ways of life.

“So Boncuklu is one of those very rare sites that allows us to investigate that time period.”

Boncuklu Höyük, which means “beady mound”, was discovered about a decade ago by the head of the British excavation team, Dr Douglas Baird, who had worked on the nearby, famous village site of Çatalhöyük.

Dr Fairbairn says Dr Baird was trying to place the excavation of Çatalhöyük in its regional context and, in typical archaeological fashion, found Boncuklu, which is 1,000 years older, on the last day of a field survey.

Named after the high number of stone and clay notched beads found in the mound, Boncuklu first underwent excavation in 2006.

Dr Fairbairn says Boncuklu has some things in common with Çatalhöyük, but in other ways it is more “alien”.

“It’s an interesting story because Çatalhöyük in a lot of ways is sort of bizarre,” he said.

“It’s different, but there’s something tangible and you can kind of understand it because of these rectangular houses and rooms and you can see fireplaces and things.

“Boncuklu is just a little bit more way out. It’s these funny little huts. For me it’s just something slightly more distant and a little bit more alien.

“It feels quite different. A little bit like you’re on a slightly different world.”

The excavation project will enter its second phase this year, after earlier developing and stabilising the site which was part of the local Turkish village.

Dr Fairbairn says the site will be expanded over the next two-and-a-half months with the help of about 50 students and professional archaeologists, about 30 of which will come from Australia.

He says a ring of huts on the mound are in the process of being unearthed, and archaeologists have found ash and bones in the centre of the huts, potentially signalling either a rubbish dump or meeting area.

Over the past year the team has discovered the skulls of wild cattle embedded into the wall plaster of huts, a tradition also carried out at Çatalhöyük.

The remains of plants foreign to the area that were used as crops have also been found on land near the site, Dr Fairbairn says.

“There’s some kind of use of crops but it seems to be quite small – it seems to be almost quite marginal in a lot of ways,” he said.

“What we have is, basically, a hunter-gatherer society there that is settling down, using some crops – importing them or trading them with other settlements.”

Connected communities

Dr Fairbairn says work done on human remains from the site has helped add to the understanding of how the village functioned and how it fit into its region.

“We have a sense now from some of the stable isotope work on the bones that this is a small community that lives in contact with other people and there seems to be some kind of movement,” he said.

“You can look at what people eat and use that to hypothesise where they’re coming from.

“What we tend to find is, in a lot of ancient communities, people have the same type of diet in one community, and what that leaves is a similar carbon and nitrogen isotope signal in their bones.

“You can look at the mix you actually have on your site and sort of see whether everyone is the same or whether you’ve got one person who is different.

“And what you tend to find in Boncuklu is a picture that we’re finding all the way across Europe now for this period, which is that all the men are the same and all the women are actually different.”

Dr Fairbairn says it appears men may have inherited land or were fixed in one place while women moved to different settlements.

Archaeologists in training

One of the students who will spend two months living onsite in Turkey is the University of Queensland’s Jessica Heidrich.

She says she expects the trip will provide valuable fieldwork experience which is essential for anyone pursuing a career in archaeology.

“I would be kicking myself if I didn’t take this opportunity even though I have to postpone my study and I have to save up a lot of money. It’s a site that most archaeologists would kill to go to,” she said.

“The contacts, hopefully, and opportunity for more fieldwork that will come out of it is what I’m really going for.”

Fellow UQ undergraduate Anna Florin went to the excavation site last year and says digging up an ancient civilisation requires a lot of patience.

“I spent most of my time in a trench where they’d already found a neolithic house that was subterraneal and we were taking away plaster layers on it and just getting an idea of how the house was constructed.

“So it was a lot of intricate work, peeling off one layer at a time.”

Dr Fairbairn says part of the second phase of the dig will be to develop more information about the site for the local Turkish community, as well as for tourists.

OriginalArticle:

abc.net.au

By Daniel Miller July 18,2012

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