Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

From Foraging to Farming

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

From Foraging to Farming

Article excerpt

THE SOURCE: "Evidence for Food Storage and Predomestication Granaries 11,000 Years Ago in the Jordan Valley" by Ian Kuijt and Bill Finlayson, in Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, July 7, 2009.

IT TOOK THOUSANDS OF YEARS for humans to transition from on-the-go foraging bands to settled farming villages. How did this change come about? Recent excavations at an archaeological site near the Dead Sea in Jordan have provided a clue: Humans living about 11,000 years ago grew and stored wild grains for more than a millennium before they began growing domesticated plants. The surpluses they salted away enabled humans to settle and to develop farming techniques and new crops.

Humans who lived even earlier had built and lived in semi-permanent settlements in the region, but none of the ruins from that period 15,000 to 12,800 years ago show direct evidence of food storage. Presumably, the inhabitants had multiple food sources that provided enough yield regardless of the season, without the need to build up stores for leaner times. A period of climate change nearly 13,000 years ago forced the villagers to abandon their settlements and return to a nomadic lifestyle.

When the climate stabilized about 11,500 years ago, people in the region began to invest more energy and resources in building more permanent dwellings. …

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