Quirks & Quarks

Ancient Wheat DNA in Britain

Traces found in sediment indicate wheat was transported to ancient Britain long before agriculture on the island.
Diving at the 8,000 year old underwater archaeological site off The Isle of Wight (Roland Brookes, Maritime Trust)
A well-studied archaeological site off the Isle of Wight in Britain has yielded a surprising connection between the Mesolithic hunter-gatherers of ancient Britain and Neolithic farmers in France.

Researchers at the 8,000- year-old site found DNA evidence of wheat in sediments, now 11 metres under water. Because wheat was not cultivated in Britain for another 2,000 years, the discovery suggests some form of social contact between these two peoples that was previously unknown.

Dr. Robin Allaby, an Associate Professor in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Warwick in England, determined that the DNA of the wheat found in Britain matched that of wheat from Europe. It is not known if the wheat was traded, stolen, or found.

Related Links

Paper in Science
Perpsective article in Science
- University Of Warwick release
Nature News story
BBC News story