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Original article in National Geographic

BY SARAH GIBBENS

Waste left over from the coffee-making process can jolt destroyed forests back to life.

Just like us, forests move faster with a little coffee in their system.

A recent experiment tested whether coffee pulp, a leftover of the coffee growing process, could help bring Costa Rica’s rainforests back to life. Researchers from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa tested two plots to see how the coffee waste would affect deforested land, covering one parcel of grass with about 20 inches of the pulp and leaving the other untouched.

At each site, land had been exploited for years, either to grow coffee or raise cattle, and was eventually abandoned. It was dominated by invasive grasses, primarily an African species called palisade grass, used to feed grazing livestock. The grass can reach 16 feet tall when not trimmed by grazing animals, preventing native rainforests from easily regrowing.

After two years, the plot of land given a boost from coffee showed a dramatic improvement. Eighty percent of the plot was covered by young tree canopy, some trees already 15 feet—including tropical species that can grow as tall as 60 feet—versus just 20 percent in the untreated plot. In the coffee-fueled plot, trees were also four times taller on average, soil samples were more nutrient-rich, and invasive grasses had been eliminated.

The results were published in the journal Ecological Solutions and Evidence.

Not only does it give coffee producers a sustainable way to dispose of their waste, she says, but it also speeds up the timeline to bring back destroyed forests.

“It’s an amazing win-win situation,” says Rebecca Cole, a study author and ecologist from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. “It takes tropical forest hundreds of years to grow back. To have [such] tall trees in only two years is really spectacular.”

More research needs to be done, Cole acknowledges, to understand the long-term impacts of coffee pulp and whether it causes any unforeseen pollution.

Still, says Cole, “This really was like a forest on caffeine. I think it’s really promising.”

LOOKING FOR A WIN-WIN

Coffee beans are the seeds of a fruit called a coffee cherry that, when picked, looks like a bright red or yellow cherry. To get coffee beans, producers remove the fruit’s skin, pulp, and other filmy bits. They then dry and roast the remains to make the grounds that end up in your morning cup. Approximately half the weight of a coffee harvest will end up as waste.

In Costa Rica, says Rakan Zahawi, a study author and director of the Lyon Arboretum at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, coffee producers typically take all that leftover coffee residue to storage lots where it’s left to decompose.

In the early 2000s, Zahawi visited a similar restoration project using orange peels.

“The difference was night and day,” he says of forests treated with oranges and those left untouched, “There was a huge difference.”

The idea stuck with him when he began working in Costa Rica and took notice of the waste generated by the country’s large coffee industry. If the excess coffee pulp could be put to good use somehow, Cole and Zahawi thought, everyone involved—the coffee producers, land owners, and environmentalists—could benefit.

“Essentially it’s a major waste product that’s expensive to process, and they give it away for free,” says Cole. Rather than paying for the waste to be composted and stored, the only cost to the researchers was renting dump trucks to shuttle the pulp.

HOW AND WHY IT WORKS

The idea works like this: spread a foot and a half of the coffee pulp on an area covered in pasture grasses and the foliage underneath will smother and cook until it’s asphyxiated, dies, and decomposes.

“You essentially kill all the roots and rhizomes of the grasses,” says Zahawi.

Zahawi and Cole found that as the decomposed remains of the grasses mix with the coffee’s nutrient-rich layer, it creates a fertile soil. That, in turn, attracts insects, which attracts birds, who then drop seeds into the plot, as does the wind.

Then comes the rebirth.

“It looks like a mess for the first two or three years, and then there’s this explosion of new plants coming in,” says Zahawi. “It’s so nutrient rich they’re sort of growing on steroids.”

The key, they found, was to pile on the pulp—using a thick enough layer of pulp in an area flat enough for it not to wash away, and in a climate with a dry period that allowed the coffee to really bake. Essentially, it became like a very successful compost heap.

“If you stick your hand in this gook, it’s really hot—not scalding but hot enough to smother [the grass],” says Zahawi.

A plastic tarp spread across a field and pinned down by weights would also kill the grasses. But “then you have all this plastic waste,” says Zahawi. And new, fertile soil would still need  to be brought in to attract new plants.

Cole says the most common way to restore forests is to plant trees. But compared to just dumping coffee byproduct and letting nature do the planting, it’s labor intensive and expensive.

“I was kind of skeptical it was going to work. I thought we would just have a greener patch of grass,” she says. Instead, they got the beginnings of a new rainforest.

ROADBLOCKS AND NEEDED RESEARCH

While Cole and Zahawi’s experiment with coffee pulp successfully jump-started forest growth, there are downsides.

“Coffee pulp is really stinky,” says Cole, who was raised on a Costa Rican coffee farm. “I grew up with the smell but a lot of people find it pretty offensive.”

It also attracts a lot of flies and other insects that, despite attracting seed-dispersing birds, are pests for nearby humans.

“There’s also some concern that it will have negative effects on watersheds. There can be some contamination,” says Cole. Coffee pulp contains nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus that can negatively impact streams and lakes, causing excess algae growth, for example. The pulp may also contain traces of pesticides used during production.

While this experiment was carried out away from water sources, Cole says their future research will look at the potential impact on surrounding areas.

Previous work using orange peels to regrow forests in Costa Rica was met with some backlash. When orange juice maker Del Oro began a partnership with a local protected area to spread truckloads of peels on former cattle pasture, its local competitor, TicoFrut, alleged the program was simply a way to dump waste. The program was stopped by Costa Rican authorities, who sided with the competing juice company.

A PROMISING FUTURE FOR FORESTS?

Dan Janzen and Winnie Hallwachs, a married team of tropical ecologists at the University of Pennsylvania, weren’t surprised by the ecological success of Cole and Zahawi’s reforestation experiment; Janzen forged the relationship between Del Oro and the protected area in 1996 for the same purpose and introduced Zahawi to the concept.

Two decades ago, he saw similar success.

Six months after the orange peels were distributed, Janzen said the small one-hectare plot “looked and smelled horrible.”

“[One and a half] years later it was all gone, and in its place were no invasive African pasture grasses, but a marvelous species-rich patch of broadleaf plants growing from deep black loam soil. Basically, we had fertilized the place very intensively. We were sold,” Janzen writes over email.

He thinks coffee pulp may escape the same fate as the failed orange peel project, saying it’s “less tangled in thorny political issues,” and grown by more small producers rather than two large competing companies.

In addition to researching the long-term impacts, Cole is interested in testing other agricultural by-products. As long as the crop waste is nutrient-rich and not harmful to human health, she would expect similar results.

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Akrotiri Dig site photo credit Ministry of Culture of Greece

Greece.greekreporter.com

Significant new findings were recently revealed during ongoing excavation works at the archaeological site of Akrotiri, on the Greek island of Santorini (Thera), the Ministry of Culture of Greece announced in a statement on Thursday.

Most of the discoveries are related to the everyday life of the people who lived on the island before the volcanic explosion which destroyed most of the island and subsequently the Minoan civilization on Crete.

Ordinary objects used by the people of the island, even including clothing and burned fruit, were found, most likely believed to be the very last objects the people of Santorini were using in the moments before the devastating volcanic eruption.

Additionally, more than 130 micelle vessels were found, which archaeologists believe were most likely related to a burial place.

The archaeological dig on Santorini is taking place under the auspices of the Greek Archaeological Society and under the direction of Professor Christos Doumas.

The statement from the Ministry of Culture informs the public that among the new discoveries are ”four vessels, partially discovered in earlier excavations.”

Other findings include bronze objects, including two large double braids and miniature horn cores, as well as small fragments and beads from one or more necklaces.

Among dozens of other new findings, the Ministry of Culture noted that an inscription, consisting of Linear A syllables and an ideogram, was found written in ink on an object which is most likely related to the use of a building, also uncovered in the dig.

The Ministry of Culture concluded by saying that scientists expect many additional smaller and larger findings to be uncovered in the next phases of the works, which continue at the Akrotiri site.

Akrotiri, a Bronze Age settlement from Santorini’s Minoan culture, was destroyed in a massive volcanic eruption sometime in the 16th century BC.

The city was completely buried in volcanic ash, which preserved the remains of fine frescoes and many other artworks and objects, much like what occurred later in the city of Pompeii, near Italy’s Mt. Vesuvius.

 

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This date ten years ago…

via Ancient Figs

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A nearly edible Huntley & Palmers fruitcake has been discovered in a hut on Antarctica’s Cape Adare. It is thought to have been left behind in 1911 by members of a British expedition.

My aunt used to make fruitcake when I lived with her as a teenager. I wonder what she would think of this and the thought that her fruit cake could out live her.

jlp

Source: Super Fruitcake

The discovery of a 106-year-old fruitcake on Antarctica’s Cape Adare may help redeem the delicacy’s much-maligned reputation. The centenarian cake was found by a team from the Antarctic Heritage Trust in the continent’s oldest building, a hut erected in 1899, and is thought to have been left there in 1911 by members of the Northern Party, part of British explorer Robert Falcon Scott’s Terra Nova expedition. The tin holding the Huntley & Palmers fruitcake was somewhat rusty, but the cake itself was in fine shape—likely due to the cold, dry conditions. “It felt and looked like a new fruitcake,” says Lizzie Meek, the trust’s program manager. “It was only if you got quite close to it that you could smell that slightly off smell of butter that’s gone wrong.”

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20131014-122428.jpg

Topic: Ancient Seed

It was a bit like shades of Jurassic Park — but this was about plants, not animals. And it was real — nothing fictional about this.

During excavations by the late Ehud Netzer in 1973 at the site of Herod the Great’s fortified mountaintop palace at Masada in Israel, archeologists uncovered a cache of seeds stowed away in a clay jar about 2,000 years ago. For decades, the ancient seeds were stored in a drawer at Tel Aviv’s Bar-Ilan University. But in 2005, in collaboration with the Louis L. Borick Natural Medicine Center at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, botanical researcher Elaine Solowey received one of them for an experimental planting.

“When we asked if we could try and grow some of them, they said, ‘You’re mad,’ but they gave us three seeds,” she said. “Lotus seeds over 1,000 years old have been sprouted, and I realized that no one had done any similar work with dates, so why not give it our best shot — and we were rewarded.”*

Solowey planted a seed in a pot at Kibbutz Ketura in January, immediately after receiving them. Since then, it has sprouted into a seedling, produced its first blossom in 2011, and now flourishes as a young date palm. It has been nick-named “Methuselah”, after the oldest person who ever lived, according to the biblical account.

At first blush, it appears no different than thousands of other modern date palms growing throughout Israel and the Middle East. But looking a little closer, one sees a distinction. “The only difference between this date seedling and any other date seedlings I’ve seen come up is the length of the third leaf. This is very unusual,” Solowey said.*

The fruit of this ancient tree, the Judean date, has been recorded in ancient literature as having valuable properties. It is said to have been an aphrodisiac, a contraceptive, and a cure for diseases such as cancer, malaria and toothaches. For Christianity, the palm has been regarded as a symbol of peace, the ancient Hebrews referred to it as a “tree of life” for its food properties and shade, and Arabic populations have used it for a vast variety of purposes. Upon entering Judea, the Romans observed prolific forests or groves in the Jordan River valley, extending from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea. It was a major element of the area’s economy. Interestingly, they called the date palm “the date-bearing phoenix”, as it never seemed to die and was able to flourish in the desert where other plants could not survive.

Solowey and colleagues hope to be able to cross-breed the plant with other closley related date palm types.

Original article:

popular archaeology
October7, 2013

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Topic: Ancient fruit

Arctic squirrel

Scientists in Russia have grown plants from fruit stored away in permafrost by squirrels over 30,000 years ago.

The fruit was found in the banks of the Kolyma River in Siberia, a top site for people looking for mammoth bones.

The Institute of Cell Biophysics team raised plants of Silene stenophylla – of the campion family – from the fruit.

Writing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), they note this is the oldest plant material by far to have been brought to life.

Prior to this, the record lay with date palm seeds stored for 2,000 years at Masada in Israel.

The leader of the research team, Professor David Gilichinsky, died a few days before his paper was published.

In it, he and his colleagues describe finding about 70 squirrel hibernation burrows in the river bank.

“All burrows were found at depths of 20-40m from the present day surface and located in layers containing bones of large mammals such as mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, bison, horse, deer, and other representatives of fauna from the age of mammoths, as well as plant remains,” they write.

“The presence of vertical ice wedges demonstrates that it has been continuously frozen and never thawed.

“Accordingly, the fossil burrows and their content have never been defrosted since burial and simultaneous freezing.”

The squirrels appear to have stashed their store in the coldest part of their burrow, which subsequently froze permanently, presumably due to a cooling of the local climate.

The fruits grew into healthy plants, though subtly different from modern examples of the species

Sugar sweet

Back in the lab, near Moscow, the team’s attempts to germinate mature seeds failed.

Eventually they found success using elements of the fruit itself, which they refer to as “placental tissue” and propagated in laboratory dishes.

“This is by far the most extraordinary example of extreme longevity for material from higher plants,” commented Robin Probert, head of conservation and technology at the UK’s Millennium Seed Bank.

“I’m not surprised that it’s been possible to find living material as old as this, and this is exactly where we would go looking, in permafrost and these fossilised rodent burrows with their caches of seeds.

“But it is a surprise to me that they’re finding viable material from this placental tissue rather than mature seeds.

The Russian team’s theory is that the tissue cells are full of sucrose that would have formed food for the growing plants.

Sugars are preservatives; they are even being researched as a way of keeping vaccines fresh in the hot climates of Africa without the need for refrigeration.

So it may be that the sugar-rich cells were able to survive in a potentially viable state for so long.

Silene stenophylla still grows on the Siberian tundra; and when the researchers compared modern-day plants against their resurrected cousins, they found subtle differences in the shape of petals and the sex of flowers, for reasons that are not evident.

The scientists suggest in their PNAS paper that research of this kind can help in studies of evolution, and shed light on environmental conditions in past millennia.

But perhaps the most enticing suggestion is that it might be possible, using the same techniques, to raise plants that are now extinct – provided that Arctic ground squirrels or some other creatures secreted away the fruit and seeds.

“We’d predict that seeds would stay viable for thousands, possibly tens of thousands of years – I don’t think anyone would expect hundreds of thousands of years,” said Dr Probert.

“[So] there is an opportunity to resurrect flowering plants that have gone extinct in the same way that we talk about bringing mammoths back to life, the Jurassic Park kind of idea.”

Original Article:

bbc.co.uk

By Richard Black Environment correspondent, BBC News

February 20, 2012

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Topic:Early agriculture on Mo’orea

Part of the Nuuroa marae complex in Haapiti, Mo‘orea, French Polynesia.

 

Mo'orea Island-Illustration by Stephen Rountree.

Walking up the sweltering, steep slopes of Mo‘orea’s gray volcanic peaks, the lumbering banyan trees, bursts of pink blooms, and iconic views of the South Pacific can mesmerize. But if you stop to catch your breath and glance down, a whole new set of wonders reveals itself at your feet.

There, at ankle level, meticulously stacked, moss-shrouded stone blocks outline an ancient way of life on the forest floor.

These are the marae of Mo‘orea, and while now weathered and overgrown, they once were temples—sometimes covering 4,000 square feet (370 square meters)—where the island’s original settlers, the Maohi, came to pray to gods, pay respect to chiefs, and meet on tribal matters.

Much of what the marae stood for has faded over the years, replaced by European and Christian institutions. But archaeologists are taking a closer look at these well-worn platforms and, in doing so, are digging deeper into the island’s history.

One of best-restored and most-studied marae sits in ‘Opunohu Valley, up the slope from the bay where Captain James Cook anchored during the mid-18th century. Cook was considered an “enlightened voyager,” spending more time than his predecessors interacting with the locals. Indeed, Cook’s stories of Tahiti and the surrounding Society Islands, including Mo‘orea, shaped the European concept of the “noble savage.”

When Cook and other European explorers arrived in this part of the world, there may have been anywhere from 6,000 to 40,000 people living on Mo‘orea in complex chiefdoms. It was a culture that expressed itself economically, socially, and religiously at the marae sites, but also through its use and management of the island’s natural resources.

Stake in the Ground

The earliest evidence of humans on Mo‘orea dates back 1,200 years. Those intrepid Polynesian pioneers brought roots and seed stock for breadfruit, Tahitian chestnut, taro, and other introduced species that helped them establish homes and gardens along the coast.

Coastal marae were built, but structures don’t appear in Mo‘orea’s valleys until after 1350, when the population started to spread from the coastline into the mountains, according to Jennifer Kahn, associate archaeologist at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu. She has been coming to Mo‘orea for decades to dig for clues to the past.

Kahn says a boom in marae construction that lasted until the 18th century, just before European contact, reflects a population explosion and an increasingly complex society.

There have been approximately 220 marae and ritual shrines uncovered in the ‘Opunohu Valley, and many others dot the coastline and other interior valleys. This is just a small percentage of the number of structures that are estimated to pepper the whole of Polynesia, according to Kahn.

The marae were where ruling chiefs made political, social, and religious decisions, explains Hinano Teavai-Murphy, president of the Association Te Pu Atitia. It’s a community-based nonprofit that aims to bridge the gap between local indigenous knowledge and western science.

“Each family clan had a marae and they were indicative of land ownership. All genealogy is built and attached to a marae,” says Tevai-Murphy. “For us land is very important, it’s a place where you bury your ancestors, and the placenta of your children. We don’t own the land, we belong to the land.”

“You want to be careful in all of this to not paint an idyllic picture of the past,” points out Dana Lepofsky, an archaeology professor at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia who has worked with Kahn. “People are people.” The marae also are where ancient Polynesians made human sacrifices to their war-god ‘Oro. And the elite were self-serving, she explains, extracting resources and demanding agricultural production from the working class for their own ceremonies.

Feast or Famine

At the same time that Mo‘orean (Maohi) society was booming, its approach to agriculture was shifting from erosive land clearing to terraced fields and orchards that could reliably and sustainably feed a growing population. Maohi farmers, through generations of careful observation and trial and error, gained significant ecological knowledge about how best to cultivate that landscape.

Sometime in the past, a top-down land management system called rahui was established, where chiefs restricted harvests to ensure there was enough food for elite feasts on the ruling class’s marae. These top-down restrictions, in combination with the farmer’s ecological knowledge may have led to a kind of conservation ethic.

From 1650 to 1788, some chiefdoms in the ‘Opunohu Valley were at war with coastal chiefs. Local stories and chants tell of battles between those who lived in the less productive “dry” land on the shores and those who settled on the more fruitful “wet” land farther inland. Later the valley became a refuge for coastal chiefs fleeing European influence.

Returning to the Roots

Mo‘orea became a French colony in 1880, and in the 1900s the French introduced species from their own gardens, including Miconia (Miconia calvescens). Miconia, which now fringes most marae sites with its waxy broad leaves, is an invasive species that threatens to shade out the Maohi cultivars and native plants that have grown in Mo‘orea’s forests for centuries.

Today in the ‘Oponohu Valley, instead of terraced fields next to marae and elaborate forest gardens, you see cookie-cutter pineapple plantations with exposed blood red soil. Much of the knowledge of agricultural traditions, along with 80 percent of the population, was wiped out in the 1800s by diseases brought from Europe. The mono-cropped pineapple plantations on Mo‘orea are in sharp contrast to the biologically and structurally diverse agricultural systems of pre-European times. There once were more than a dozen varieties of bananas on Mo‘orea, according to Lepofsky.

Mo‘orea’s population, now about 16,000, is concentrated on the coasts, but there’s a surge of interest in returning to the rich soil of the valleys. There, among the old marae sites in the ‘Opunohu Valley, students like Tearai Marzin, who attends an agricultural high school, are tapping into their roots as they go out of their way to learn how to cultivate traditional Polynesian crops.

The interest in keeping tradition alive is growing, but traditional farming practices are still fairly limited. Marzin has had to turn to community leaders like Teavi-Murphy to connect her with elders who can share knowledge she can’t get at the school. “There is a lot to learn from them that isn’t part of the curriculum,” she says.

This interest in traditional agriculture is an example of a trend Lepofsky has seen in her work around the world—as people reclaim their heritage, they increasingly turn to lessons learned by their ancestors about how to sustainably interact with their environment.

“There is an inextricable link,” she says, “between biological and cultural diversity.

Original article:

Tasha Eichenseher in Mo‘orea

Published February 18, 2011

newsNationalGeographic.com

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Topic: Avocados and Millet

Avocado Tree

Certain foods, such as avocados and millet, have been associated with religion, healing, love, mortality, status and beauty. Look through any ancient literature, and you will see illuminating accounts of various foods and their “magical” powers on the human mind, soul and body. Therefore, it is no surprise that many of these myths and folklores play an important role in our own food choices today.

Many of these claims date back to as far as 2000 B.C. Whether there is any accuracy to these references, no one can really say. While a lot of these accounts cannot be proven, one thing is certain: the two foods featured here are of great nutritional importance.

Avocados – Ancient Aztec, Mayan and Inca cultures believed that avocados nourished the body externally as well as internally.

Mayan folklore tells how the famous Indian, Seriokai, was able to trace his unfaithful wife to the end of the world. The lovers adored avocados and ate them wherever they went. Seriokai followed the young trees, which sprang from the discarded seeds.

In Mexico, the avocado has long been considered an aphrodisiac. An old Aztec legend describes how young and beautiful maidens were kept in their rooms for protection during the height of the avocado season.

Nutritionally speaking, the avocado is good source of Protein, Vitamins A, C and E, and the B Vitamins thiamin, riboflavin and niacin and the mineral magnesium and other trace minerals. It is also high in potassium. (One cup of avocado cubes has about 900 mg.) Avocados are low in calories, contain no cholesterol and are low in sodium, making this plant a good choice for people on low sodium and low cholesterol diets. Moreover, since the avocado possesses natural oils, it helps lower the bad cholesterol. It is easy to understand why these ancient cultures made such claims to this unique fruit.

Millet Grain ready to harvest

Millet – Once known as Panicum Spontaneum, millet has been growing as a cultivated plant since Neolithic times. As early as 2700 B.C., millet was ranked among the five most vital plants in China and was used as part of their religious ceremonies. The Romans used millet to produce a kind of mix porridge.

Due to millet’s inability to grow in the winter, this tiny, round yellowish grain was not able to compete for the rank of a principal crop as were barley and wheat in certain regions of the Mediterranean. Adry hot climate and an arid soil were important if the cultivation of millet was to reach its fullest potential.

Today, the United States grows millet freely, but summer heat is not sufficient to bring the grain to its complete perfection. However, the use of millet in America has been adapted to produce a variety of staple foods namely, flour, syrup and bread and secondary products such as alcoholic beverages, fuel and paper. Millet is also used in feeding livestock, poultry and wild birds.

Millet is important in Africa, the Far East and India since the bulk of their food consumption is from grain. North Africa, the East Indies and Canada are just a few of the regions that grow millet.

This ancient and nourishing grain is rich in carbohydrates, protein, fat, the B Vitamins: thiamin, riboflavin, and minerals. Millet also contains all of the essential amino acids. This grain can be purchased in any health food store and most Asian food markets. Moreover, because of its ability to increase in volume during cooking, millet is a great old grain to have around the kitchen.

Original Article:

AssociatedContent.com

July,2008 by hmcs

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Buena Vista peru 

Topic: Ancient Feast

Gourd and squash artifacts were recovered from this sunken pit and platform in the Fox Temple at the Buena Vista site in central Peru.

My Thoughts:

This dig with its findings of manioc, chile peppers and potato’s show us that ancient man was not dependant on just his hunting skills.

This looks like a feast any one of us would enjoy-that is if they liked their food hot!

 

Ancient humans left evidence from the party that ended 4,000 years ago

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Ancient Figs

ancient perserved figsfigs-ancient and modernTopic: Figs

In an article by Rebecca Morelle, science reporter for the BBC news, I found an even earlier example of agriculture.A team of US and Israeli researchers found carbonized figs from Gilgal I, a Neolithic village in the Jordan Valley, that date from between 11,200 and 11,400 years old.These figs, the article goes on to say are a variety that can only be grown with human help pinpointing the time when humans turned from hunter-gatherers to food cultivation.These small figs, nine in number were found in a house together with wild barley, wild oats, and acorns. The team concluded that the Neolithic people who lived in the village combined food cultivation with hunting and gathering.  These figs which pre-date the cultivation of other domesticated crops such as wheat and barley maybe the first known example (apart from carbonized rice found in Korea dated to 15,000 years ago) of agriculture.

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