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Bread existed even 23,000 years ago

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From Times Of India


WASHINGTON: An article published in a recent issue of Nature has revealed that archaeologists have found strong evidence that wheat and barley were refined into cereals 23,000 years ago.


"This is an observation of key progress in human society, as the beginning of baking was likely a major step forward in nutrition. Our work also provides evidence that ancient people held important knowledge that survives to this day," claimed Ehud Weiss, a post-doctoral researcher at Harvard University.


"Ten thousand years before agriculture developed, humans recognized the value of cereals," Weiss added.


Weiss and his 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.


Situated on the south-western shore of the Sea of Galilee, Ohala II is covered by several meters of water, ensuring an exceptional level of preservation for entombed artifacts.


Weiss and his colleagues found 150 starch granules buried in crevices in a foot-long stone apparently used to grind grains, within the remains of a hut at this site. Comprehensive studies of these starch molecules revealed that more than half were from the family that includes barley and wheat.


The archaeologists also found a special alignment of burned stones similar to hearth-like ovens used by recent and modern nomads and hunter-gatherers. This blackened area at the site was covered with a mixture of ash and barley grains, indicating that dough made from grain flour was baked there.


"This work provides fresh evidence that it was hunters and gatherers who first made the technological advances associated with turning grass and other plants into the productive dietary staples they are today," explained Weiss.


"Our data indicate that these events took place in southwest Asia, one of the great centres of agricultural origins, by 20,000 years ago- roughly 10,000 years before either wheat or barley was domesticated," he concluded.

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