The role of wild grasses in subsistence and sedentism: new evidence from the northern Fertile Crescent
Manon Savard, Mark Nesbitt and Martin K. Jones
Sedentism is usually regarded as a pre-condition for the development of crop husbandry in Southwest Asia and, consequently, sedentary pre-agrarian sites are an important focus of research on the origins of agriculture. It is often assumed that wild grasses were as important for hunter-gatherers as domesticated cereals were for early farmers, and that wild grass exploitation may therefore have had a critical role in enabling sedentism. Results from the analysis of archaeobotanical assemblages from Hallan C¸ emi, Demirko¨ y, Qermez Dere and M’lefaat, and comparison with those of other sedentary pre-agrarian sites in Southwest Asia, challenge the role often attributed to the exploitation of grasses at this time. Archaeobotanical and ethnographical evidence instead suggests that hunter-gatherers took an opportunistic approach to the resources available and their subsistence strategies were not necessarily centred on grasses and ‘wild cereals’.
An interesting insight into the diets of pre Neolithic communities from the Levant/Southern Turkey. It shows that sedentism was being achieved without a grain based dite at these sites:
At Hallan Cemi, where there is bioarchaeological evidence for year-round occupation, sedentism was possible without the exploitation of grasses as an important subsistence strategy. At M’lefaat, where there is also strong bioarchaeological evidence for year-round occupation, other food plants are as important as grasses in terms of proportions and ubiquity.