Ancient Grains – Proof of Civilization?
When early civilizations were growing, they had to learn to scavenge, then hunt, then farm food. They had to learn to prepare and store it safely. And make and keep it edible. Long before the day of plastics or metals they could easily shape into storage containers, they made baskets from the grasses and plants around them. Some of those plants also became food. (Along with matting/weaving the grasses for clothes and sails for their boats)
Anyone who has dealt with grasses knows the amount of work it takes to mill and cook them into something you actually want to eat.
It would take a whole village a LOT of time. Or….. it would take slaves.
But this type of production and cooperation showed at least basic civilization in ways that were discounted by the early colonials and armies.
Their bodies were covered modestly, they were getting around, storing and preparing food, owning property like baskets and animals, making war and commerce/trade, and had slaves.
- Teff is an ancient crop and was likely domesticated more than 6,000 years ago in Ethiopia.
- Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) is a warm-season cereal of African origin, which was first cultivated in the region of Ethiopia or Chad over 5000 years ago.
- Fonio is considered to be the oldest West African cereal, and its cultivation is thought to date back to 5000 bc. Black fonio (D. iburua Stapf) is grown by the Hausa of Nigeria (northern Nigeria), and in Guinea, Togo, and Benin, but the total production of black fonio is insignificant.
- Millets were probably first cultivated in Asia more than 4,000 years ago, and they were major grains in Europe during the Middle Ages.
Millet grains have been discovered in pots used for storing grans and seeds discovered at archaeological sites in present day China, India, Europe and different parts of Africa.
- Emmer (wheat) was one of the first cereals to be domesticated in the old world; it was cultivated from around 9700 bc in the Levant1,2 and subsequently in south-western Asia, northern Africa and Europe with the spread of Neolithic agriculture.
- Avena Fatua (oats) Native to the Mediterranean. Ethiopia, N. Africa, Europe and Asia among other locations. Considered to be a weed. It is believed to have originated in Central Asia during the early Iron Age between 1200 B.C. and 600 B.C.,
- Quinoa was first domesticated by the Andean peoples around 3,000 to 4,000 years ago.
- Amaranth seeds have been found at mid Holocene era archaeological sites in northern Argentina, dating back 8,000 to 7,000 years ago. The archeological record indicates that A. cruentas is the original cultivar, domesticated close to 6000 years ago.
The genus Amaranthus contains upwards of 70 species of plants and can be found on every continent, though most species are considered weeds. Only a dozen or so of the Amaranthus species have been cultivated by humans, selected either for their seed head or large leafy greens. Three species have been domesticated for their large seed heads: A. cruentus and A. hypochondriacus are indigenous to Mexico and Central America, and A. caudatus is indigenous to the South American Andes.
- Chia The Aztecs boast the first record of Chia as early as 3500B.C. It was, in fact, one of the main foods in the Aztec diet. The prevalence of Chia continued for quite some time. Later, between 1500 and 900B.C, it was grown in Mexico by the Teotihuacan and Toltec people.
….. Middle East
- Spelt is an ancient grain which was cultivated by earlier civilizations such as Mesopotamia in the Middle East around 9000 years ago.
Gauls (an ancient people of present day France and Belgium) and Celts (an ancient Indo-European people), the earliest flax growers in Western Europe, learned about flax from the Romans. German archaeological digs of Iron Age (between 1200 B.C. and 600 B.C) settlements have uncovered remains of bread prepared from millet, wheat and flaxseed.
The Slavic tribes were the first to begin cultivating flax in Eastern Europe, having brought it from Greece. It was used to make fishing nets, ropes, sailcloth and linseed oil. By the 10th and 11th centuries A.D. flax was grown extensively in Russia.
- Buckwheat originated in northern China. Archaeological finds have dated the cultivation of buckwheat as early as 2600 BCE.
- Rice Carbonized rice grains found near the Yellow River and Yangtze River in China, dated between 10,500 and 12,000 years ago, are considered by some to be the world’s oldest rice. In 2003, South Korean researchers said they had found 15,000-year-old burnt rice grains at a site in South Korea, claiming it was evidence of the world’s oldest rice and challenging the idea that rice was first cultivated in China.