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Bread Wheat: Gift From the Gods?

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posted on Jun, 11 2008 @ 10:33 AM
Everyone is pretty much familiar with the theory concerning Ancient Astronauts. It asserts that in ancient times, pre-civilization, aliens visited earth and genetically created homo sapiens. Then, they taught us the various aspects of civilization; agriculture, mathematics, codes of law, etc. These aliens, who were worshiped as the Gods, eventually left, vowing to return.

Whether you believe this or not, there is one small piece of circumstantial evidence that I would like to bring to your attention. The evolution of Bread Wheat. Right around the time when civilization was taking root in the Middle East, there was an accident of nature that gave everything a jump start.

When groups of hunter-gatherers settled down in villages for the first time, there grew Wild Emmer (Triticum dicoccoides), which they began to cultivate. About 9000 years ago, it hybidized with a wild Goat Grass (Aegilops tauschii), to form spelt.

Spelt, itself an amphiploid hybrid between Emmer Wheat and a Goat Grass, was a hard hulled type of wheat. However, about 8,500 BP, a fortuitous natural mutation changed the structure of the Spelt spike or ear. The ear became roughly square in section, with more grains and a tougher rachis. More importantly, the hard hull enclosing the grain mutated to a softer shell that would break away when threshed, thus releasing the grains. This free-threshing hexaploid hybrid evolved further to become the source of our modern Bread Wheat, Triticum aestivum.

Very fortuitous indeed. The new wheat provided more, bigger grains. It was also much easier to thresh. This provided a big boost to early development as amount of labour decreased at the same time as surpluses increased.

But not only that. Because the new heavy grains could no longer become airborne, men was needed to sow this new wheat by hand, and so became inextricably linked to it. It was as though the new wheat was made for man.

Plus, the timing of the mutation, between 10000BC and 4500BC, places it during a period that we don't know much about, and that there is a lot of speculation of an unknown technical civilization.

Also, this wasn't the original impetus to settle in villages. People were already settling and cultivating the wild wheat of the period. This new wheat just gave civilization a big boost up.

So, I got suspicious and looked up the evolution of the potato, another human staple food. I was surprised to discover this:

Recent evidence indicates that potatoes were first domesticated in the central Andes of South America some 10,000 years ago. These belonged to the primitive diploid species,Solanum stenotomum, derived from the wild prototype,S. leptophyes. The tetraploid potato,S. tuberosum, arose through hybridization ofS. stenotomum with a second wild diploid species,S. sparsipilum. Further evolution took place with at least two other wild species,S. acaule andS. megistacrolobum, bringing genes for frost resistance into the cultivated gene pool, and resulting in a polyploid series.

Notice the date, 10000 years ago. So, at around the same time as the wheat the potato was hybridized from a diploid to a polyploid species.

Now rice.

Some 10,000 years ago white rice evolved from wild red rice and began spreading around the globe.

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.

The researchers speculate that ancient farmers actively bred and spread white rice varieties first throughout the Himalayan region and then the rest of the world because the varieties cooked faster (requiring less fuel), their hulls were easier to remove compared with red rice, and disease and insects were easier to see amid the white grains. The farmers also may have favored one mutation over the other because it may have produced favorable grains more consistently, the researchers say.

Ooops, there's that date again. Ten thousand years ago, or 8000BC. Interesting coincidences that these three staple foods, so critical to early civilizations, undergo hybridation and beneficial mutations all around the same time in history. I'm suspicious that this can occur by accident. Maybe it's possible that aliens did this for us as a sort of going away present. Gifts from the Gods?

[edit on 11-6-2008 by TheComte]

[edit on 11-6-2008 by TheComte]

posted on Jun, 28 2008 @ 05:25 PM
This is a subject I have wondered about for some time so I am glad you have started this thread even though I have arrived a little late thanks for pointing this out over on the blue eye thread.

Here are some questions that need to be investigated.

How long does a genetic modification process take, ie selective cross breeding, to change a plant from it's wild origins to what is considered the modern standard ?

If this was carried out by our ancestors, who presumably were hunter gatherers, than was there enough time left in the day to devote to selective breeding/planting of food plants ?

If this was our ancestors work than perhaps the selective planting was done by the women while the men did the hunting/gathering.

I believe the wild counterparts still exist so have any experiments been done to assert the time frames involved in producing the advantageous qualities of said plants ?

Are there any specialist botanical archeologists working on this subject at the moment ?

posted on Jun, 28 2008 @ 11:15 PM
no one has anything to say on this?!? im going to look around see if i can find anything on this...very interesting find!!

posted on Jun, 28 2008 @ 11:21 PM
I'm afraid I can't answer any of your questions. But, the gist of what I got from the sources I cited is that the hybridations of the staples occurred by chance without human intervention. I'm not sure though.

Here is an interesting link. It appears squash was also domesticated 8000BC in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Squash detective. In a similar way, research on ancient plant domestication could help improve today's crops, says Bruce Smith, an archaeobotanist with the National Museum of Natural History. He has pinpointed the origins of squash domestication to 10,000 years ago in Oaxaca, Mexico, and plans to cross wild squash with genetically modified squash to test whether genetic tinkering might threaten biodiversity.

[edit on 28-6-2008 by TheComte]

[edit on 28-6-2008 by TheComte]

[edit on 28-6-2008 by TheComte]

posted on Jun, 28 2008 @ 11:56 PM

Timeline of agriculture and food technology
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

It says that the first agricultural revolution occurred 12,000 BC
The Neolithic Revolution as it was called

posted on Jun, 29 2008 @ 09:59 AM
Ok, it seems to me that the subject has not had any intensive studies and is far from proved and there are some abstract theories, this abstract from wiki may be the popular belief though.

Once agriculture started gaining momentum, cereal grasses (beginning with emmer, einkorn and barley), and not simply those that would favour greater caloric returns through larger seeds, were selectively bred. Plants that possessed traits such as small seeds or bitter taste would have been seen as undesirable. Plants that rapidly shed their seeds on maturity tended not to be gathered at harvest, thus not stored and not seeded the following season; years of harvesting selected for strains that retained their edible seeds longer. Several plant species, the "pioneer crops" or Neolithic founder crops, were the earliest plants successfully manipulated by humans. Some of these pioneering attempts failed at first and crops were abandoned, sometimes to be taken up again and successfully domesticated thousands of years later: rye, tried and abandoned in Neolithic Anatolia, made its way to Europe as weed seeds and was successfully domesticated in Europe, thousands of years after the earliest agriculture.[10] Wild lentils present a different challenge that needed to be overcome: most of the wild seeds do not germinate in the first year; the first evidence of lentil domestication, breaking dormancy in their first year, was found in the early Neolithic at Jerf el-Ahmar, (in modern Syria), and quickly spread south to the Netiv Hagdud site in the Jordan Valley.[10] This process of domestication allowed the founder crops to adapt and eventually become larger, more easily harvested, more dependable in storage and more useful to the human population.

A Sumerian Harvester's sickle dated to 3000 BCBarley and, most likely, oats were cultivated in the Jordan Valley, represented by the early Neolithic site of Gilgal, where in 2006 archaeologists found caches of seeds of each in quantities too large to be accounted for even by intensive gathering, at strata dateable c. 11,000 years ago. Some of the plants tried and then abandoned during the Neolithic period in the Ancient Near East, at sites like Gilgal, were later successfully domesticated in other parts of the world.

Once early farmers perfected their agricultural techniques, their crops would yield surpluses which needed storage. Most hunter gatherers could not easily store food for long due to their migratory lifestyle, whereas those with a sedentary dwelling could store their surplus grain. Eventually granaries were developed that allowed villages to store their seeds for longer periods of time. So with more food, the population expanded and communities developed specialized workers and more advanced tools.

The process was not as linear as was once thought, but a more complicated effort, which was undertaken by different human populations in different regions in many different ways.

I still feel though that comparative studies need to be carried out to ascertain how long and how much knowledge is needed to bring a precurser crop up to a usefull standard for production on a larger scale.

posted on Jun, 29 2008 @ 10:41 AM
reply to post by The Utopian Penguin

Yes, humanity was cultivating for a while before 8000BC. But, arguably, large settlements were not sustainable until this fortuitous genetic mutation. And civilization as we know it did not begin until after the mutations of the staple crops.

So, it's likely a coincidence that these mutations happen when they do. But I'd like a mathematician to calculate the odds, if possible.

[edit on 29-6-2008 by TheComte]

posted on Jun, 29 2008 @ 11:15 AM
I think it would also be importatnt to note Domestication of animals whether for food or companionship started around 10,000 years ago


Dog 10,000 SW Asia, China, N.America
Sheep 8,000 SW Asia
Goat 8,000 SW Asia
Pig 8,000 SW Asia, China
Donkey 4,000 Egypt
Horse 4,000 Ukraine
Water Buffalo 4,000 S.Asia or China
Llama/alpaca 3,500 S.America
Chicken 3,500 Central Asia
Arabian Camel 2,500 Arabia
Bactrian Camel 2,500 Central Asia

There was alot going on 10,000 years ago.

[edit on 29-6-2008 by ATruGod]

posted on Jun, 29 2008 @ 08:20 PM
reply to post by TheComte

There would also be a correlation to tools being used and domesticated animal as "work horses" in regards to setting up permanent homes.

Better yields= more surplus=storage=permanent settlements and so on
Saving the best seeds of a crop=better crop next harvest
a good strain pops up= save some for planting

Somewhere humans realized this .The best seeds in your environment should be used for planting.

[edit on 29-6-2008 by The Utopian Penguin]

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