The DNA tests on an 8,000-year old wheat sample found in a submersed archeological site in England show that British people consumed imported wheat 2,000 years before producing it.
Eight thousand years ago, the authors of the discovery noted, wheat wasn’t a native plant on the British isles, while the people inhabiting the region were mostly hunters and gatherers.
Thus, researchers reached the conclusion that ancient Britons imported the cereal grain long before producing it. They also speculate that the prehistoric populations in England were trading with the French farmers for the grain.
“For the British Isles, all species of wheat are alien. To say it’s wheat is to say that it’s Near Eastern,”
said Prof. Robin Allaby, lead author of the study.
Prof. Allaby explained that in the Near East people settled as farmers 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, during the “Neolithic Revolution,” so Near Easterns knew how to produce wheat thousands of years before British populations started to cultivate it.
Greger Larson, a bio-archaeology and palaeogenomics researcher from the Oxford University, argues that ancient people’s concept of “trade” is much different from the term we know today. About 8,000 years ago, “trade” didn’t involve money, but the “exchange for mutual benefit through some economic system.”
However, scientists acknowledged that they didn’t know what traders got in exchange for their wheat or how the wheat reached prehistoric Britain. They just know that it was there 8,000 years ago. Mr. Larson also noted that the new discovery challenges decades of studies about the emergence of western Eurasian agricultural trade.
In-depth analysis of the wheat sample found in England revealed that the plant wasn’t carried by a stream or the sea to the submersed archeological site, nor was it a “modern contamination,” or native to the site. The data clearly showed that the wheat wasn’t indigenous, but it had to be imported.
The wheat sample was found at Bouldnor Cliff, a submersed 8,000 year-old archeological site in Solent. Archeologists disclosed that they hadn’t found entire parts of the plant, but microscopic wheat DNA accumulated in the local seabed. Also, they found DNA traces of apple, oak, and poplar trees in the samples.
If the hypothesis of French trade connections is correct and the British hunter-gatherers interacted with prehistoric French farmers, the Mesolithic and Neolithic cultures virtually interacted with each other but did not alter their cultural identities for 2,000 years, which is amazing, Prof. Allaby explained.
Image Source: Oregon Fresh