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9 December 2007
5,000-year-old wheat suggests early China, Middle East trade

Wheat grains nearly 5,000 years old found at a Chinese archaeological site two years ago, have revealed that western man travelled to China much earlier than previously thought. The research, published by Professor John Dodson and Professor Xiaoqiang Li, shows there are no modern wild varieties of the wheat and barley, which were found in the region in a domesticated form, and carbon dated to 2,650 BCE.
     It is now thought they originated in the Middle East, which showed exchanges between China hundreds of years before the Silk Road, previously thought to be the earliest contact. "There could have been trade, so I guess we're saying certainly a trade in technology and ideas," said Professor Dodson, from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation. Professor Dodson added that a major archaeological find in the region in 1987, the Xinjiang mummies, may be evidence of those who brought the wheat from the Middle East. Archaeologists discovered around 100 perfectly preserved corpses in a dry, hilly region in China's far northwest, which dated at 4,000 years old, and showed Caucasian features.

Source: ABC Radio Australia (6 December 2007)

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