A Glimpse into the Cultivation History of Rye, Barley & Wheat

Insights into my PhD thesis

What it is about

The anatomical modern human, as a very young species, followed in the beginning his ancestors and lived as nomadic hunter-gatherer of what nature provided. But more than ten thousand years ago first people started to settle down and to domesticate plants and animals, to build houses and villages and to produce pottery.

The first evidence for this “Neolithic Transition” comes from southwest Asia, from a region known as the “Fertile Crescent”. Among the first crops we already find the two wheat species emmer and einkorn as well as barley. Archaeobotanical remains of rye were found as well as in the oldest neolithic sites. However, rye seems to be a weed in its beginning until it was deliberately cultivated in the European Bronze Age.

Domestication?

The process of domestication gets great scientific attention at the very latest since Charles Darwin opened his magnum opus with a chapter of his observations on the transforming power of artificial selection in regard to the domestication of plants and animals by humans (“variation under domestication and under nature“).

The Neolithic transition marks the end of the Palaeolithic and the beginning of the Neolithic wherefore this process is also called Neolithization. Signs for this process can be found on different continents where a great diversity of plants and animals were domesticated independant and almost at the same time.

Beside archaeological remains from the Levante, describing the Neolithic way of life, remains from China as well as Central- and South America point to additional Neolithic core centres. In the course of the Neolithic in the Levant the first production of ceramics was a major achievement. Therefore the Neolithic period can be divided in the the Pre-Pottery Neolithic (PPN) and the Pottery Neolithic (PN). 

A further subdivision of the pre-pottery Neolithic distinguishes on the basis of the intensity of farming, used agricultural techniques and the use of tools between PPNA, with the first signs of settledness and the PPNB, with more sophisticated tools and techniques. With the spread of the Neolithic later on the style of pottery is one of the core characteristics to differentiate different Neolithic cultures. The end of the Neolithic begins with the first processing of copper and was then taken of by the Bronze Age.

The first domesticated plants and animals that spread together with their humans over Europe and are summarised in the so-called Neolithic Package.

Besenkunst – Under Construction

… there will be more in future…

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