New find in Israel shows that cereal production predates agricultural societies by millennia
Archaeologists have found strong evidence that wheat and barley were refined into cereals 23,000 years ago, suggesting that humans were processing grains long before hunter-gatherer societies developed agriculture. The findings, including the identification of the earliest known oven and hence the oldest evidence of baking, were described in a recent issue of the journal Nature. "This is an observation of key progress in human society, as the beginning of baking was likely a major step forward in nutrition," says author Ehud Weiss, a postdoctoral researcher in Harvard Universitys Department of Anthropology and Peabody Museum. "Our work also provides evidence that ancient people held important knowledge that survives to this day. Ten thousand years before agriculture developed, humans recognized the value of cereals."
Weiss and colleagues from the Smithsonian Institution and University of Haifa found evidence of ancient cereal production at a site called Ohalo II, located in present-day Israel and known from previous research to be 23,000 years old. Situated on the southwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, this location is covered most years by several meters of water, ensuring an exceptional level of preservation for artifacts entombed within its sediments.
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