Grain Silos – Older than Agriculture?

Interpretive reconstruction of Structure 4, phase 1, Dhra', Jordan. The exposed area illustrates the upright stones supporting larger beams, with smaller wood and reeds above, and finally covered by a thick coating of mud. The suspended floor sloped at 7° and served to protect stored foods from high levels of moisture and rodents.

Interpretive reconstruction of Structure 4, phase 1, Dhra', Jordan. The exposed area illustrates the upright stones supporting larger beams, with smaller wood and reeds above, and finally covered by a thick coating of mud. The suspended floor sloped at 7° and served to protect stored foods from high levels of moisture and rodents.

Recent archaeological discoveries in Jordan indicate that grain silos were being constructed some 11,000 years ago. According to the authors of the paper "The granaries represent a critical evolutionary shift in the relationship between people and plant foods, which precedes the emergence of domestication and large-scale sedentary communities by at least 1,000 years." In other words, these sophisticated structures appear to be older than the practice we know as agriculture. The researchers conclude that the people who built these granaries were not using new food sources. Rather, by developing new/improved storage methods they were able to better utilize their traditional plant-food resources. In doing so, they put in place the required technology that ultimately resulted in the development of domesticated plants. While the methods for constructing silos (elevators) has definitely changed over the last 11,000 years the reasons for their construction have not, i.e. to keep moisture low and to stop rodent infestations. The full article can be obtained in .pdf format at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America web site. Illustration from the original article Evidence for food storage and predomestication granaries 11,000 years ago in the Jordan Valley. Authors - Ian Kuijta  and Bill Finlayson.
Food storage is a vital component in the economic and social package that comprises the Neolithic, contributing to plant domestication, increasingly sedentary lifestyles, and new social organizations. Recent excavations at Dhra' near the Dead Sea in Jordan provide strong evidence for sophisticated, purpose-built granaries in a predomestication context 11,300–11,175 cal B.P., which support recent arguments for the deliberate cultivation of wild cereals at this time. Designed with suspended floors for air circulation and protection from rodents, they are located between residential structures that contain plant-processing instillations. The granaries represent a critical evolutionary shift in the relationship between people and plant foods, which precedes the emergence of domestication and large-scale sedentary communities by at least 1,000 years.

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