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Some of the first farmers in the Near East probably used green beads as amulets to protect themselves and their crops, a study suggests.
The authors of the research suggest that early agriculturalists attached special importance to this colour.
Beads they recovered from dig sites in Israel had been made from a variety of green minerals and the farmers went to great efforts to obtain them.
Details appear in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.

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Researchers at the University of Cincinnati and Florida State University have confirmed evidence of domesticated sunflower in Mexico 4,000 years before what had been previously believed.
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5200 B.C. Is New Date for Farms in Egypt
Long before the rule of pharaohs, Egyptians grew wheat and barley and raised pigs, goats, sheep and cattle. Spotty evidence had suggested that agriculture was practiced there more than 7,000 years ago, two millenniums earlier than the first royal dynasties.

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Chocolate
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Chemical and archaeological evidence has pushed back the earliest known use of cacao, the key ingredient of chocolate, by 500 years.
The chemical compound, theobromine, which only occurs in the cacao plant, has been found on pottery vessels dating back to as early as 1000 BC.
Experts say the vessels were used to serve a fermented cacao drink that was made from the sweet pulp of the plant.
The vessels were unearthed at sites in Puerto Escondido, Honduras.

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Evidence of the farming methods of hunter-gatherers from more than 6,000 years ago have surfaced in Washingborough (Lincolnshire, England). Rare criss-crossed ploughing tracks were uncovered before the construction of new business units on Smile Lane. The feint lines were uncovered during four weeks of painstakingly removing layers of soil by hand. And they were made by a rudimentary tool called an ard - a form of early plough. Flint tools buried in the soil have been bagged and tagged for proper identification.
The find is significant because it shows how ancient Britons farmed in the Witham Valley. Mark Allen, of Allen Archaeological Associates, was leading the investigation. He said the marks had been so well preserved because of a soil bank built by Romans. The material that was thrown up during its construction had gradually covered the field and protecting it from drainage water.

"This dates from the Neolithic period and it is very rare" - Mark Allen.

Source: Lincolnshire Echo

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Stone Age Chinese people began cultivating rice more than 7,700 years ago by burning trees in coastal marshes and building dams to hold back seawater, converting the marshes to rice paddies that would support growth of the high-yield cereal grain, researchers reported.
New analysis of sediments from the site of Kuahuqiao at the mouth of the Yangtze River near Hangzhou provides the earliest evidence in China of such large-scale environmental manipulation.

"It shows people were changing the environment, actively manipulating the system, and well on their way to having an agricultural way of life" - Gary Crawford, University of Toronto anthropologist, who wasn't involved in the study.

Using data from the site, it is possible to extrapolate a timeline back to the first attempts at domesticating rice, which would have occurred about 10,000 years ago, said archaeologist Li Liu of La Trobe University in Victoria, Australia, who was also not involved. That is contemporary with the development of agriculture in the Middle East.
The finding, being published in the journal Nature, also sheds new light on an ongoing controversy in archaeology: How long did it take for crops to become fully domesticated? The evidence from China, and new finds from elsewhere, indicate that the process took much longer than researchers previously thought.

Nonetheless, there is now "little doubt that by 7,700 years ago, these people were dedicated rice farmers. ... I think people were getting all the benefits of agriculture before plants were fully domesticated" - archaeobotanist Dolores Piperno of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama

Source: Los Angeles Times



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Joya de Ceran and Laguna Caldera
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A volcanic eruption that buried a Mayan village 1,400 years ago preserved a manioc fieldthe first evidence that the nutritious crop was cultivated by the ancient people, researchers said on Monday.
The discovery may help explain how the civilization prospered, the team at the University of Colorado at Boulder said. It is the first evidence for cultivation of the calorie-rich tuber in the New World.

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Latitude: 13.8335, Longitude: -89.3572

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Rice
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Some 10,000 years ago white rice evolved from wild red rice and began spreading around the globe. But how did this happen?
Researchers at Cornell and elsewhere have determined that 97.9 percent of all white rice is derived from a mutation (a deletion of DNA) in a single gene originating in the Japonica subspecies of rice. Their report, published online in the journal PloS (Public Library of Science) Genetics, suggests that early farmers favoured, bred and spread white rice around the world.

The researchers report that this predominant mutation is also found in the Indica subspecies of white rice. They have found a second independent mutation (a single DNA substitution) in the same gene in several Aus varieties of rice in Bangladesh, accounting for the remaining 2.1 percent of white rice varieties. Neither of these two mutations is found in any wild red rice species.

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Archaeologists have found some of the oldest evidence of cultivated food plants in South America. The squash seeds, peanuts hulls, cotton bolls and quinoa-like seeds add to evidence that the dawn of agriculture in the New World was earlier and more protracted than previously thought.
Tom Dillehay of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and his colleagues dug beneath floors and peered under ancient grinding-stones in the Peruvian Andes. They found squash seeds around 10,000 years old, a wild peanut far from the region where it typically grows around 8,000 years old, and a cotton boll around 6,000 years old.

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Anthropologists working on the slopes of the Andes in northern Peru have discovered the earliest-known evidence of peanut, cotton and squash farming dating back 5,000 to 9,000 years. Their findings provide long-sought-after evidence that some of the early development of agriculture in the New World took place at farming settlements in the Andes.
The discovery was published in the June 29 issue of Science.

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