Study describes evidence of world's oldest known granaries

Jun 22, 2009
Study describes evidence of world's oldest known granaries

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new study coauthored by Ian Kuijt, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, describes recent excavations in Jordan that reveal evidence of the world's oldest know granaries. The appearance of the granaries represents a critical evolutionary shift in the relationship between people and plant foods.

Anthropologists consider food storage to be a vital component in the economic and social package that comprises the Neolithic period, contributing to plant , 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, Kuijt 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 B.C.) 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.

The new studies are a continuation of earlier research by Kuijt. As a graduate student from 1987-1995, he worked on and directed several field projects in Jordan that focused on the world's first villages during the Neolithic Period. As part of this research, he did several days of excavation at Dhra' with a Jordanian researcher. This was followed by several other field projects and by research from 2000 to 2005 with Finlayson.

"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: University of Notre Dame (news : web)

Explore further: 'Hidden Treasure of Rome' project unveiled

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Practice of farming reaches back farther than thought

Feb 20, 2007

Ancient people living in Panama were processing and eating domesticated species of plants like maize, manioc, and arrowroot at least as far back as 7,800 years ago – much earlier than previously thought – according to ...

Cattle respond to magnetic fields from power lines

Mar 16, 2009

(AP) -- High-voltage power lines mess with animal magnetism. Researchers, who reported last year that most cows and deer tend to orient themselves in a north-south alignment, have now found that power lines can disorient ...

Mexican genomes show wide diversity

May 11, 2009

(AP) -- The detailed new look yet at the genetics of Mexicans is showing significant diversity, a finding that could help point the way to customized drugs and identification of people prone to certain diseases.

Recommended for you

'Hidden Treasure of Rome' project unveiled

1 hour ago

For more than a century, hundreds of thousands of historical artifacts dating back to before the founding of Rome have been stored in crates in the Capitoline Museums of Rome, where they have remained mostly untouched. Now, ...

NOAA team reveals forgotten ghost ships off Golden Gate

5 hours ago

A team of NOAA researchers today confirmed the discovery just outside San Francisco's Golden Gate strait of the 1910 shipwreck SS Selja and an unidentified early steam tugboat wreck tagged the "mystery wreck." ...

Long lost Roman fort discovered in Gernsheim

5 hours ago

In the course of an educational dig in Gernsheim in the Hessian Ried, archaeologists from Frankfurt University have discovered a long lost Roman fort: A troop unit made up out of approximately 500 soldiers ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

mattytheory
5 / 5 (2) Jun 22, 2009
It never ceases to amaze me learning about the forethought and innovation of past cultures. They built the granary on a raised platform for circulation and had protections against pests (although the article does not specify how)? Simply amazing.

Think about the roman bathhouses in Europe too. Many of the baths were built so that the floors were heated. And, to insulate the roof of the baths, they used hollow bricks because they had correctly deduced that air is a better thermal insulator than stone! If you ever have a chance to visit the Roman baths, do it. Simply amazing!