By Gerry Everding
Since the beginning of archaeology, researchers have combed the globe searching for evidence of the first domesticated crops. Painstakingly extracting charred bits of barley, wheat, millet and rice from the remains of ancient hearths and campfires, they’ve published studies contending that a particular region or country was among the first to bring some ancient grain into cultivation.
Now, an international team of scientists, led by Xinyi Liu of Washington University in St. Louis, has consolidated findings from hundreds of these studies to plot a detailed map of how ancient cereal crops spread from isolated pockets of first cultivation to become dietary staples in civilizations across the Old World.
“The very fact that the ‘food globalization’ in prehistory spanned more than three thousand years indicates perhaps a major driver of the process was the perpetual needs of the poor rather than more ephemeral cultural choices of the powerful in the Neolithic and Bronze Age,” said Liu, assistant professor of anthropology in Arts & Sciences.
The study illustrates the current scientific consensus on the prehistoric food globalization process that transformed diets across Eurasia and Northern Africa between 7,000 and 3,500 years ago.