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Why is finding wheat that is 8,000 years old exciting?

On the face of it, finding wheat DNA from a sample dated to 8,000 years ago shouldn’t be so exciting. After all, people had been growing it for a couple of thousand years already. Well, if that wheat sample comes from southern Britain, then yes, exciting is the word. Why? we hear you ask! Well the answer is relatively simple. Until now archaeologists in Britain have thought that the arrival of wheat and then agriculture did not happen until somewhere around 6,000 years ago, or 4,000 BC. The presence of wheat and agriculture has long been  thought of as a defining characteristic of the Neolithic or New Stone Age. This new sample and its dating has really set the cat amongst the pigeons – it could lead to a revision of just what archaeologists consider to be two phases or periods of prehistory in Britain, the Mesolithic and the Neolithic.

Of course, finding wheat is one thing; understanding what it was doing there and what people did with it is quite another. We are sure that there’s going to be a great deal of discussion among archaeologists as to what may or may not have been happening in late Mesolithic Britain and Europe. We here at Enrichment await the results of this with much interest!


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