Scientists have found evidence that Britons imported wheat about 8,000 years ago — a rather shocking indication of sophistication for supposed hunter-gatherers about 2,000 years before the existence of farms.
In new findings, British scientists uncovered traces of wheat DNA dating to the Stone Age on the south coast of England near the Isle of Wight, a place where researchers weren’t expecting to find it, according to a Reuters report. The findings were published in the journal Science.
The wheat was found about 2,000 years before Britons learned to grow cereals and 400 years before farming reached northern Germany or France, something that Robin Allaby of the University of Warwick said was a very surprising find, as quoted by Reuters. He called it a “smoking gun” of cultural interaction between hunter-gatherers in Britain and farmers in Europe.
He said the revelation would “upset” archaeologists, as the conventional view is that Britain was cut off from mainland Europe at the time culturally. Still, it remains unanswered how they got their hands on the wheat, with Allaby guessing it could have come from trade or a gift, or even stolen.
Scientists know the wheat wasn’t grown locally because they also found DNA in the area of various types of trees as well as that of animals such dogs and grouse, and there was no trace of wheat pollen in any of the samples.
Britain was once connected to Europe by land during the Ice Age, but that ended 10,000 years ago when the icecaps melted and caused seas to rise. Still, there may have been a land bridge 8,000 years ago, which is about when farming emerged in the Balkans.
Other signs of outside contact in the region include the bones of domesticated pigs in hunter-gatherer settlements in Stone Age Germany, indicating trade networks that existed before agriculture.