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20 December 2009
Researchers germinate 4,000-year-old seed

A 4,000-year-old lentil seed found during an archeological excavation has germinated, exciting scientists as the event might lead to invaluable data for comparisons between the organic and genetically engineered plants of today. "It would be the first seed from very old times whose genes were never modified," say the scientists.
     Project leader and Dumlupınar University archeology faculty Professor Nejat Bilgen said they found the seeds during an excavation undertaken last year in Kütahya province (Turkey). Bilgen said a layer from the container in which they found the seeds was determined to be from the middle Bronze Age. He said his team found many seeds, but most had been burnt, adding that they had failed to make the others turn green before the recent success. The excavation team believes they found a silo because there were many other containers around.
     "A seed dug from underground and dating back approximately 4,000 years sprouted. The plant that came out of this seed is under examination and will be presented to the scientific community [so they can] make various analyses over it," Bilgen said. Nükhet Bingöl, an assistant professor from the same department, said she planted one of the seeds last year but that it dried up after germinating, adding that she sent another to Istanbul for fat analyses. Bingöl said she planted the present seed three months ago before it successfully germinated. "Scientifically, we are still at the beginning," said Bingöl, who explained that the age of the seed needs to be determined and compared to the lentils of today.
     "We are at the beginning of our research. First, we need to determine the precise age of all three seeds. This needs to be proven despite them being found as part of the archaeological dig," Bingöl added. She also said the the plant seems to be similar to the lentil and is pretty weak - unlike its modern day versions - yet they hope it will be able to flower and produce seeds. If that happens, according to Bingöl, they would have extremely important data to compare with the organic and genetically engineered plants of today. "It would be the first seed from very old times whose genetics were never modified."

Sources: Hurriet Daily News (16 December 2009), Today's Zaman (18 December 2009)

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