As It Happens

Stone Age Britons ate wheat 2,000 years before farming

When the meat-eaters met the wheat-eaters. New and surprising DNA evidence shows that Stone Age Britons began eating wheat 2,000 years before they started farming. Which means they got it, bought it or stole it from someone who did.

When the meat-eaters met the wheat-eaters.

New and surprising DNA evidence shows that Stone Age Britons began eating wheat 2,000 years before they started farming. Which means they got it, bought it or stole it from someone who did.

Robin Allaby is the co-author of the report, published in the journal Science. He led the study out of the University of Warwick in England.

“We found evidence of wheat 8,000 years ago, which came as a surprise really, because that’s 2,000 years earlier than the start of farming on the British mainland,” says Allaby.

There’s no evidence of cultivation, so researchers think that the wheat may have been imported from Europe, which means there would have been an interaction between Mesolithic people (from the Middle Stone Age) and Neolithic people. This is unheard of and is a major development for researchers.

“It could be trade, it could gifted, it could be some kind of conflict. It’s completely open to speculation. But what is true, is that there is some kind of cultural interaction going on between those two people, which puts the Mesolithic people in a completely different light.”

Allaby says his teams’ research shows the Mesolithic people were involved in the process and the rise of farming, as opposed to being ignorant of it. He says their role in history may now be redefined.

The study also raises questions about why it took another 2,000 years for farming to start in Britain.

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