E is for Einkorn and Emmer
These two early varieties of wild wheat are still slugging it out for the title of the first crop to be grown by early farmers. Grain from both has been found on Paleolithic sites with no other signs of farming, so it is assumed that grain was collected from wild plants. But it is known that wheat was first cultivated in the Fertile Crescent over nine thousand years ago.
It was this cultivation of food crops and the development of a food stuff – grain – that could be stored as a surplus from harvest to harvest that enabled the concentration of humans into cities.
The past couple of days I’ve talked about cats and dogs and relative antiquity of their domestication. Dogs belong to a time of hunters and gatherers and of nomadic herdsmen. But cats were domesticated at about the same time as granaries needed protection from rodents.
Dogs enabled our ancestors to live in the wilderness – they protected them from predators and helped them hunt big game. Cats in protecting the caches of emmer and einkorn, enabled civilisation to develop from Egypt to Assyria.