3,500 Year Old ‘Lunch Box’ With Traces of Grain Found In Swiss Alps




A Bronze Age lunch box found in the Swiss Alps could help archaeologists shed new light on the spread and exploitation of cereal grains.

The domestication of plants such as wheat was one of the most significant cultural and evolutionary steps of our species, experts say.

But direct evidence of their use in early culinary practices has remained frustratingly elusive, until now.

The team say the discovery of 3,500-year-old evidence of grains could help archaeologists map and trace the development of early farming in Eurasia.

The team of archaeologists, led by the University of York, found the wooden box in an ice patch in the Lötschenpass, 8,700 feet (2,650m) above sea level, in the canton of Bern.

Analysing the container, they were expecting to find a milk residue left behind, perhaps from a porridge-type meal wolfed down by a hunter or herder.

Instead they discovered fat-based biomarkers for whole wheat or rye grain, called alkylresorcinols.

Plants quickly degrade in archaeological deposits, so scientists are increasingly using molecular techniques to look for their remains.




Speaking to MailOnline about the findings, lead researcher Dr Andre Carlo Colonese said: ‘The deposit has been preserved because it was frozen in an ice patch until recently, when the ice started melting.

‘It was in very good condition, as if it was left up there just a few months ago.

‘It is not only significant for the development of early farming societies in Eurasia, but for the rest of the world as we know it today.

‘Thanks to the societies of the Near East that managed to transform the size, morphology and productivity of some wild grasses approximately 10,000 years ago, wheat has become one of the pillars of the modern global economy.

‘This long and complex process of plant domestication enabled past societies to improve plant yield and land productivity.

‘This led to human population growth and the accumulation of surpluses.

GRAIN ANALYSIS

A Bronze Age lunch box found in the Swiss Alps could help archaeologists shed new light on the spread and exploitation of cereal grains.

The team, led by the University of York, combined microscopic and molecular analyses to identify lipids and proteins using gas chromatography mass spectrometer.

This is a technique routinely applied to ceramic artifacts.

Over the last 30 years, thousands of ceramic artifacts from Europe have been analysed for their molecular content.

Most revealing evidence of milk and meat products, but hardly any evidence of cereals.

Combining these two kinds of molecular analysis, along with microscopy, is strong evidence that cereals were being transported across this alpine pass.

 

Over the last 30 years, thousands of ceramic artifacts from Europe have been analysed for their molecular content.

Most revealing evidence of milk and meat products, but hardly any evidence of cereals.

Combining these two kinds of molecular analysis, along with microscopy, is strong evidence that cereals were being transported across this alpine pass.

Dr Colonese added: ‘This discovery shows that cereal grains were being used beyond domestic consumption.

‘With the melting of ice patches in the Alps, we are learning more and more about Alpine communities, such as this example.

‘This study in particular shows what resources people considered the most suitable for their trips across the Alps, which requires particular adaptive strategies and advanced knowledge of Alpine environments.

‘We knew that people were taking cereal grains to the highlands during the Bronze Age in Switzerland, but now it is clear that these grains would also have been used as sources of energy during high altitude hiking – like the energy bars people eat while trekking through the mountains today.

 The full findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Source:

dailymail.co.uk



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