Nature Middle East | House of Wisdom

Genomes of stone-age woman carry farming tales

Zagros Mountains harbor a site with evidence for an ancient economy.

Zagros Mountains harbor a site with evidence for an ancient economy.

JTB MEDIA CREATION, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo

The sequencing of the first genome of an early stone-age woman from Ganj Dareh, in the Iranian Zagros Mountains, can give us a glimpse into the world’s first farming efforts and the evolution of an activity that has profoundly affected human societies.

The international team of scientists, including a researcher from King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia, has been studying an archaeological site in Zagros – a site with early evidence for an economy of a population of pastoralists, primarily based on goat herding, some 10,000 years ago.

This population has evidently occupied the area for two to three centuries.

Their findings suggest that Western Iran was inhabited by a population genetically similar to hunter-gatherers from the Caucasus, but distinct from the new stone-age Anatolian people who later brought food production into Europe.

The inhabitants of Ganj Dareh made little direct genetic contribution to modern European populations, suggesting those of the Central Zagros were somewhat isolated from other populations of the Fertile Crescent.

Archaeobotanical evidence remains limited, according to the study published in Scientific Reports yesterday, but the evidence present gives us an idea into what crops were common: for instance two-row barley with no evidence for wheat or rye.

This probably means that the overall economy was at a much earlier stage in the development of cereal agriculture than that found in the Levant, Anatolia and Northern Mesopotamian basin.


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