Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Jordan's black desert may hold key to Earth's first farmers

A team of archaeologists in Jordan who have been working for a few years in the Black Desert has made a discovery that could shed light on how early humans made the leap to agriculture.

The team found 14,000-year-old evidence that could lead to a new understanding of culture and the environment at the dawn of human civilization in the region. At that time, this area used to get much more rain and was able to sustain human settlement.

“It’s really startling new evidence that we didn’t expect to find in this particular part of southwest Asia. And it changes the way in which we think about these hunter-gatherer communities at the end of the last ice age, who were on the brink of developing these new technologies of agriculture, these new ways of life that are influencing us still today,” says archeologist Tobias Richter from the University of Copenhagen. Underneath the volcanic basalt on the windswept, arid and rocky plain, within sight of the Syrian border, the bones of a child and adult are slowly coming to the surface after at least 14,000 years entombed in the desert.

By analysing bones, seeds and other remains scientists hope to discover that in this area, 14.000 years ago, humans began farming, settling and forming large social groups.

“We can then identify different species of plants, which in turn will tell us what sorts of things were growing out here. It’s hard to imagine right now because it’s all desert, but back many, many years ago, it was actually really nice and very, very green, and we can tell that from these plant remains,” says finds co-ordinator Erin Estrup.

The team hopes that further discoveries in the desert will help them to build a clearer picture of how the environment and climate changed over time, and the impact this had on the development of human civilization in the area.

euronews. 2015. “Jordan's black desert may hold key to Earth's first farmers”. Euronews. Posted: June 8, 2015. Available online:

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