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27 October 2009
Oldest known granaries predate agriculture

A new study describes recent excavations in Jordan that reveal evidence of the world's oldest know granaries. Anthropologists consider food storage to be a vital component in the economic and social package that comprises the Neolithic period, contributing to plant domestication, increasingly sedentary lifestyles and new social organizations. It has traditionally been assumed that people only started to store significant amounts of food when plants were domesticated.
     However, in a paper appearing in the June 23 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, Ian Kuijt, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame and Bill Finlayson, director, Council for British Research in the Levant, describe recent excavations at Dhra' near the Dead Sea in Jordan that provide evidence of granaries that precede the emergence of fully domesticated plants and large-scale sedentary communities by at least 1,000 years.
     "These granaries reflect new forms of risk reduction, intensification and low-level food production," Kuijt said. "People in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic Age (11,500 to 10,550 BCE) were not using new food sources, but rather, by developing new storage methods, they altered their relationship with traditionally utilized food resources and created the technological context for later development of domesticated plants and an agro-pastoralist economy. Building granaries may, at the same time, have been the single most important feature in increasingly sedentism that required active community participation in new life-ways."
     Designed with suspended floors for air circulation and protection from rodents, the granaries are located between residential structures that contain plant-processing instillations. "These granaries are a critical fist step, if not the very evolutionary and technological foundation, for the development of large agricultural villages that appear by 9,500 to 9,000 years ago across the Near East," Kuijt said. "In many ways food storage is the missing link that helps us understand how so many people were able to live together. And much to our surprise, it appears that they developed this technology at least a 1,000 years before anyone thought they did."

Source: Science Daily (22 October 2009)

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