July 7, 2013

New evidence from Luristan reveals that Neolithic Revolution was almost simultaneous across the Fertile Crescent

Wild barley from Chogha Golan
The new sites, in the Southern Zagros mountain country of Luristan (Iran), evidence local development of agriculture between 12,000 and 9800 BP:

The plant remains found at the Chogha Golan site document more than 2,000 years of the region’s land use and represent the earliest record of long-term plant management in Iran, according to the researchers. The site’s excavation, which was conducted by archaeologists from the University of Tübingen and the Iranian Center for Archaeological Research between 2009 and 2010, shows that Chogha Golan’s early inhabitants cultivated wild barley, wheat, lentil and grass peas—and eventually domesticated emmer wheat—during their occupation, which began about 12,000 years ago.

Plentiful findings of chaff remains of the cereals indicate that people processed their harvest within the sites they were living in,” Riehl said. “Mortars and grinding stones may have been used for turning the grain into some kind of bulgur or flour, which may have been further processed either by cooking or roasting.” (The author also notes, however, that chemical studies of the grinding tools showed that they were multi-purpose—not just for processing plant materials.)

Annotation on study's map. 
Earliest Neolithic areas in red (previously known) and in blue (new ones). Notice that Jarmo is not usually considered (against what the legend says) part of PPNA, but a different locally rooted culture altogether. There are doubts on whether PPNA was a productive or just Mesolithic cereal-gatherer economy.
Consolidated Neolithic: The green dotted line marks the max. extension of PPNB, which was not the only consolidated Neolithic culture: earliest Balcanic and South Asian Neolithic were already ongoing by that time (8th millenium BCE), while in Africa it should be not much more recent. In lowland Mesopotamia the sediments have so far hidden any cultural phase prior to the already highly developed Ubaid culture, the first known civilization.
East Asia and Papua had their own distinct Neolithic developments of similar time-frame.

Source: Past Horizons.

Ref. S. Riehl et al. Emergence of Agriculture in the Foothills of the Zagros Mountains of Iran. Science Magazine 2013. Pay per viewLINK [doi:10.1126/science.1236743]

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