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Stone Age Diet

31 August 2016

It seems like Mesolithic foragers were consuming domesticated cereals  such as wheat and barley long before the early farming package reached the Balkans or eastern Europe – see http://phys.org/print391692061.html. Mind you, the dates been bandied around, 6600-6450BC, may suggest trade contacts with early farming communities in Anatolia (not so very far away). It's also possible some pioneering farmers had already entered Egypt from Asia Minor – or prospectors looking for metal sources.

The so called Neolithic package much vaunted by compartment fillers and chronological cardboard boxes (stored away in the vaults of museums) includes the introduction of pottery (where pottery did not previously exist), domesticated plants and animals, polished stone axes (though why Mesolithic foragers could not polish a stone axe as a ceremonial item is perhaps the least authentic part of the package), and timber built houses (with developed carpentry joints and joists). Archaeologists will have to re-examine the transition from Mesolithic to Neolithic in the Balkans and East Europe we are told – but that same tradition is blurred somewhat later in NW Europe. Basically, the new evidence is telling us that foraging communities picked up some ideas from farmers prior to the wholesale switch to farming – transforming the landscape. Domesticated cereals were being eaten alongside wild oats and other wild grasses, peas and beans and various legumes, the forerunners of porridge and gruel (which became an important part of the diet in Europe).

At http://phys.org/print391409400.html … a 41,000 year old (I like these precise numbers rolled around at C14 plateau periods) Aboriginal stone tool has been found embedded in a limestone reef on Barrow Island (off the NW coast of Australia). The chert stone did not occur on Barrow Island so it was deduced it had been carried there by humans – and it has all the characteristics of a stone tool. Barrow Island was once joined to the mainland prior to the sinking of a large part of the contiinental shelf system in northern and western Australia that occurred around the same time Sunda Land was inundated leaving behind the Indonesian islands. This occurred in mid Holocene (dates vary according to how old the geologist might be and what he was fed on durng his degree course). If it was chips with everything it was likely to be around 8000 years ago but if it was pot noodles the dates were a bit younger but sometimes, a bit older. If it was yoghurt and celery the dates could be anywhere. Dating systems are changing within generations let alone with passing generations, which  tends to complicate the use of older textbooks. Anyway, the basic message is that Barrow Island has been cut off from the mainland for thousands of years and the stone tool must have got there before this occurred. The deducings were published in the Journal of Archaeological Science;Reports (2016).

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