Tuesday, June 29, 2004

hunting and gathering

What people were eating 23,000 years ago:

The principal plant foods appear to have been grass seeds, augmented with a variety of other plants from different habitats. These include Mount Tabor oak acorns, almonds, pistachios, wild olives, and fruits and berries such as Christ's thorn, raspberry, wild fig, and wild grape. There were also several plants from the borage (Boraginaceae) and sunflower (Compositae) families, as well as a small quantity of pulses. The largest component of the assemblage, the grasses, includes the wild cereals emmer wheat and barley, progenitors of the domesticates, and an enormous quantity of small-grained grasses (SGG). Most of these have not been reported from other archaeological sites. They include brome (Bromus pseudobrachystachys/tigridis) (the great majority), foxtail (Alopecurus utriculatus/arundinaceus), alkali grass (Puccinellia cf. convoluta), and others.
Ehud Weiss et al., "The broad spectrum revisited: Evidence from plant remains," PNAS 101, 9551-9555. [Evidence: >90,000 plant remains from 142 taxa, of which nearly 19,000 were grass grains, from Ohalo II on the Sea of Galilee.] This shows that people were collecting a wide variety of relatively unprofitable foods 10,000 years earlier than previously thought, presumably in response to population pressure. Once wheat and barley were domesticated, the small-grained grasses were given up.

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