The finding was described in an article published in last month's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:
Evidence For Food Storage And Predomestication Granaries 11,000 Years Ago In The Jordan Valley
What was found:
Very sophisticated, raised-floor food storage huts, or granaries. Here's an excavation of one of the granaries:
Click to enlarge.
"The outer walls of the structure, which was constructed ~11,300 - 11,200 BP1, are defined by a partially preserved mud wall. Inside the structure are used grinding stones in upright position that have been notched to hold wooden beams."Here's a reconstruction of the structure above:
Click to enlarge.
The cut out in the wall is for illustration purposes only. Entry was had by that little hole to the right. The picture shows:
"... upright stones supporting larger beams, with smaller wood and reeds above, and covered by a thick coating of mud. The suspended floor sloped at 7° and served to protect stored foods from high levels of moisture and rodents."Sloping floors, air circulation, with "many granaries in use simultaneously" - and this was 1000 years before agriculture. Where did they get all this grain? From foraging, selective gathering, and rudimentary cultivation.
So, oats and barley (there is also mention of lentils) were not new food sources, even then.
Food As Commodity Fosters Social Inequality
There's another aspect to this story. Food storage, as evidenced by these granaries, contributed to a marked change in human way-of-life - a bump in the civilization curve. Successful storage of grain led to domestication of cereals and to farming, but also to:
- Sedentary lifestyles (and a "built landscape")
- Population growth
- New social organizations
"Food storage, population growth, sedentism, and social inequality are often interlinked. With greater sedentism, increased birth rates, and increased quality and quantity of domesticated foods we see the foundation for economic developments.Indeed, the granaries above were communal structures, built separate from living quarters and accessible by many. Over the next 2000 years, by about 9500 BP, food storage was incorporated into houses, "reflecting evolving systems of ownership and property."
An excess or surplus, that is to say an amount or quantity beyond what is considered normal or sufficient, results in production beyond the immediate annual household needs. To be a true excess or surplus, it is necessary to produce enough yearly food resources to cover the subsistence needs of the group, to secure sufficient stored food to overcome any seasonal or yearly shortage, and still have remaining amounts that can be used for trade, exchange, or some form of social currency."
All that grain - I wonder what, if any, chronic diseases they suffered.
Related post: Prehistoric Grinding Stone