Neolithic Archeological Breakthrough in Britain is Only the Beginning

A new discovery made possible by using DNA analysis.

How little we thought we knew. It’s now believed that the Neolithic agricultural society in Britain extended 2,000 years earlier than previously thought.

This goes to show that countless major breakthroughs in history and human understanding – are still yet to be discovered…

Neolithic

This remarkable archaeological underwater discovery could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory.

David Keys
The Independent

Remarkable new archaeological discoveries are likely to completely rewrite a key part of British prehistory.

Scientific tests suggest that a major aspect of the Neolithic agricultural revolution may have reached Britain 2000 years earlier than previously thought.

The research – carried out by scientists at the universities of Bradford, Birmingham and Warwick – reveal that wheat, probably already ground into flour, was being used at a Mesolithic Stone Age site in around 6000 BC.

The discovery – just published in the academic journal, Science – is likely to be viewed with some degree of consternation by many archaeologists  because it completely  changes accepted views of what happened in Britain (and indeed most of western Europe) in pre-Neolithic times.

1-Ancient-Maritime-Dig

Garry Momber, Director of the Maritime Archaeology Trust says that it is “one of the richest collections of pre-Neolithic worked timbers ever found in Britain or elsewhere in Europe” (The Maritime Archaeology Trust/Roland Brookes)

The species of domesticated wheat – an early form, known as einkorn – was identified by scientists from the University of Warwick, using DNA analysis. Although no einkorn seeds as such were found,  a small discrete area  of intense einkorn DNA was detected when geneticists tested samples of sediment, recovered by archaeologists from an underwater Mesolithic site in the Solent, just off the coast of the Isle of Wight.

The area was dry land 6000 years ago – but within 30 or 40 years had been permanently inundated by the sea, as a result of melting Arctic and other glaciers following the end of the Ice Age.

The einkorn DNA  – from a substantial quantity of the cereal, most likely in flour form – was recovered by archaeologists from the Maritime Archaeology Trust from a layer of sediment which had lain buried several metres below the seabed. Associated material (mainly fragments of wood) was dated by radio carbon ‘Bayesian’ dating techniques to between  6010 BC and 5960 BC.

The underwater location of the site is potentially very significant – because there are no other such indications of Neolithic influence in northwest Europe until around 5300 BC at the earliest. In Britain itself there are no aspects of Neolithic culture until around 4100 BC.

However thousands of square miles of Mesolithic land, on parts of Europe’s and Britain’s current continental shelves, were inundated by the sea between 6000 and 4000 BC – so the distinct possibility is emerging that cultural developments may have been occurring there, on those now- drowned coastal lowlands that did not take place further inland on what is still dry land.

For the archaeologists carrying out the research, a key puzzle is of course to work out how the einkorn got to the Isle of Wight. The nearest area known to have been producing einkorn by 6000 BC is southern Italy – and southern France and eastern Spain are thought to have been producing it by at least 5900 BC…

Continue this story at The Independent

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