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Farming … when did it begin?

23 March 2013

According to New Scientist – see www.newscientist.com/article/dn23290-farming-has-deep-roots-in-chinese-i… … it seems three grinding stones have been found in China with traces of plant material that seem to show they were used to process millet and other grains, as well as yams, beans, and various roots. The big eye opener is that they date from as early as 23,000 years ago, at the height of the Late Glacial Maximum. Robin Allaby of the University of Warwick says there was a warm blip at that time and it could well have been warm enough to grow things. This sounds a bit like desperation – warmth in the LGM? However, in Peter Warlow's revised polar circle (SIS Conference at Cambridge) China would have been in a temperate zone at 23,000 years ago – no problem. No need to twist the data, or temporarily de-ice the LGM. It seems that cereals were being used in the Middle East at around the same time – so did farming begin at the end of the Younger Dryas? Would seem not. The paper, in PNAS, sticking rigidly to the consensus model, assumes that this early evidence, in China, means that it actually took 12,000 years for the Chinese to become actual farmers and means only that they were experimenting with the idea – for 12,000 years. This conclusion is reached, as actual evidenc on the ground of humans actually growing plants on purpose is not there until the Holocene begins. This is largely due to what happened at the end of the Ice Age – but never mind.

We may also note that Neanderthals used medicinal plants and probably encouraged the growth of nutritionally useful plants too.

At http://news.yahoo.com/holy-land-farming-began-5-000-years-earlier-181224… (story is also at www.livescience.com). The current thinking, in respect of the deserts, in this instance the Negev, is that people were mainly pastoral and did not practise agriculture. Seems the consensus had it wrong, once again, as research south of Beersheba has shown evidence of farming as early as 5000BC (about the same time it entered the Nile Valley) until around 4500BC, again between 1600 and 950BC, contemporary the Biblical period (the Late Bronze Age). However, farming in the Negev is also dated to between AD650 and AD750 (a C14 derived date) right in the middle of the early Islamic era.

BBC News, in a rant that involves the usual doomsaying, informs us that rock art in northern England is in danger from climate change. Wonderful. It has survived the last 6000 years, periods of intense cold and wet weather, and now a bit of warming (whenever it arrives) is going to destroy our national heritage – see www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-tyne-21789329?print=true

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