Notable: Plant use in Neolithic Nubia

Notable paper: Madella M, García-Granero JJ, Out WA, Ryan P, Usai D (2014) Microbotanical Evidence of Domestic Cereals in Africa 7000 Years Ago. PLoS ONE 9(10): e110177. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0110177

Synopsis: Marco Madella and colleagues examined ancient plant evidence from two Nubian Neolithic cemeteries, both between 7000 and 6000 years old. Some of the graves included “pillows” of plant material behind the skulls of the human skeletons; in other cases Madella and coworkers examined dental calculus. Samples from Ghaba cemetery included starch grains and phytoliths from a number of local wild grasses, including a sorghum species, while samples from R12 cemetery—especially the pillows—had remains of wheat and barley relatives, showing that the spread of these Near Eastern crops south into Africa had begun.

Interesting because: The paleobotanical evidence shows that Near Eastern domesticates were brought south along the Nile half a millennium earlier than previously thought. The Neolithic population of Nubia was successfully adapting to a broad-based reliance upon local grasses, which may have preadapted them to adopt the exotic domesticated grasses.