Study suggests ancient communities resisted farming practices

Research involving Leicester researchers has uncovered new evidence of lifestyles thousands of years ago.

Dr Huw Barton (pictured) of the School of Archaeology and Ancient History, collaborated with colleagues in Cambridge and York to study people living up to 8000 years ago in north Africa.

The research yields new evidence about people living at a time seen as a turning point in human exploitation of the environment, paving the way for rapid expansion in population.

Around 11,000 years ago, during the early phase of the geological period known as Holocene, nomadic communities of Near Eastern regions made the transition from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to a more settled farming existence as they began to exploit domesticated crops and animals developed locally. The research in Northern Libya and Western Egypt is increasingly revealing a contrasting scenario for the North African regions.

The new research reveals that the surfaces of the stone tool grinders show plant use-wear and contain tiny residues of wild plants that date from a time when, in all likelihood, domesticated grains would have been available to them. These data are consistent with other evidence from the site, notably those from the analysis of the plant macro-remains carried out by Jacob Morales (University of the Basque Country), which confirmed the presence of wild plants alone in the site during the Neolithic.

Together, this evidence suggests that domesticated varieties of grain were adopted late, spasmodically, and not before classical times, by people as they moved seasonally between naturally-available resources.