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Ancient Brits Showed Sophisticated Trading in Wheat

Feb 27, 2015 04:09 PM EST
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Approximately 8,000 years ago during the Stone Age, ancient Brits imported wheat from Europe long before the development of agriculture, showing that they were more sophisticated in trading than previously thought, according to a new study.

Stone Age humans were believed to be strictly hunter-gatherers, isolated from agriculture that was already in Europe. However, British scientists found traces of wheat DNA in a Stone Age site off the south coast of England near the Isle of Wight, 2,000 years before the ancient Brits started growing cereals and 400 years before farming was brought to the region.

Since farming was taking place in some other regions of Europe during that time, these findings suggest that wheat was imported over a vast distance, despite the fact that European and British cultures were thought to be independent from one other.

"This is a smoking gun of cultural interaction. It will upset archaeologists. The conventional view of Britain at the time was that it was cut off. We can only speculate how they got wheat -- it could have been trade, a gift or stolen," Robin Allaby of the University of Warwick told Reuters.

Researchers also discovered DNA evidence of several other plants and animals in their samples, including wolves, dogs, deer, poplar, beech, and oak woods. However, no wheat pollen was found from the site, suggesting the plant was not grown nearby.

The Stone Age settlement is currently 38 feet below sea level. If this is the case, how did both groups of early humans trade wheat? According to the researchers, sea levels were lower during the Ice Age than they are today, resulting in a land bridge between Britain and the European continent.

What's more, this isn't the first evidence of trading in this region during the Stone Age. For example, bones of domesticated pigs were found in Germany when people there were strictly hunter-gatherers, with no farm animals of their own.

The recent findings were published in the journal Science.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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