60-Second Science

Ancient Granary Predates Agriculture

In a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers announced the discovery of a granary for storing wild barley and oats, which was built well before the advent of agriculture. Adam Hinterthuer reports

[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]

A team of archeologists working in Jordan has made a discovery that represents a new chapter in the story of our ancestors' move from foraging to farming. The researchers unearthed an ancient granary. The round, mud hut dates back more than 11,000 years. A raised floor was key for keeping grain dry and out of reach of hungry rats. But what makes the find so special is that the granary was built a thousand years before people ate domesticated crops. The report appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers found caches of wild barley and oats inside the structure. Such evidence of a dedicated food-storage edifice has never been recorded from the pre-pottery Neolithic age. The investigators say this selective cultivation and management of wild plants shows behaviors that led to agriculture. What’s more, the granaries were built in-between houses and buildings used for food processing, which led to the establishment of more permanent settlements. By stockpiling a food surplus, our predecessors produced a new societal structure and curbed their wandering ways. Which then led to today’s foraging for junk food in supermarket aisles.

—Adam Hinterthuer


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