|Fig 1. Location map of Kharaneh IV and the other sites mentioned.|
When ancient hunter-gatherers first began to give up their nomadic life, they weren’t just chasing the grain. Rather than looking for big payoffs from harvesting cereal grains, it seems at least some groups may have been playing it safe.
If so, the transition to sedentary life — the first big step toward agriculture — may have been more complex, and more varied, than archaeologists thought.
The standard view has been that around 20,000 years ago, our ancestors began to stay in one place for long periods so that they could exploit the wild grains growing there, which provided a dense source of energy. After many generations of selection, these grains became the modern domesticated cereals on which most of our civilisations depend.
Archaeologists have had few opportunities to test this view because plant remains from the early stages of this transition are scarce. Recently, however, researchers have begun to use phytoliths — microscopic silica crystals that form in plant tissues and persist for millennia — to investigate which plants would have been around at early archaeological sites.
Monica Ramsey, an environmental archaeologist at the University of Toronto, Canada, and her colleagues studied phytoliths at the 22,000-year-old Kharaneh IV site in Jordan [...] New Scientist / Link 2