Monday, 19 March 2012

Predomestication cereal processing and storage

The latest Antiquity includes a detailed treatment by Willcox and Strodeur of Large-scale cereal processing before domestication during the tenth millennium cal BC in northern Syria at Jerf el Ahmar. The archaeobotany of Jerf has featured large in discussion in recent years on Near Eastern domestication, with apparent evidence for an early arable weed flora (see Willcox 2012 for latest), some grain size increase (reported in Willcox 2004, discussed further in Fuller 2007), but with wild-type shattering rachides, mostly of barley and rye. Jerf has been one of the major datasets contributing to a "slowing down" of domestication, from how fast we thought it was before, and of a "de-centring of the fertile crescent." So it is important to understand just how the archaeobotanical evidence fits with the archaeology on this site, and there are some important details to digest. In this paper the present some more details on the spatial patterning of finds, especially rye and barley in relation to crop-processing (mainly later stage dehusking and preparation for grinding), and argue for possible storage in the 'public' multi-room round building in the the site. There is also discussion of rodent dropping, mainly mice (Mus), which argues for on-site cereal stores, the key context for the evolution of commensal rodents.

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