Small-grained wild grasses as staple food at the 23 000-year-old site of Ohalo II, Israel

Abstract

More than 16 000 grains of small-grained grasses were retrieved at Ohalo II, a submerged 23 000-year-old site on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Israel. The grains were part of a very large archaeobotanical assemblage, unique for its period and region, as well as its exceptionally good preservation. This paper proposes that these grains were a staple food at Ohalo II, based on several lines of evidence: 1. the large number of grains found; 2. the fact that all grains were fully mature; and 3. ethnographic parallels for the use of small-grained grasses in hunter-gatherers’ societies as well as among present-day agriculturalists.

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Weiss, E., Kislev, M.E., Simchoni, O. et al. Small-grained wild grasses as staple food at the 23 000-year-old site of Ohalo II, Israel. Econ Bot 58, S125–S134 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1663/0013-0001(2004)58[S125:SWGASF]2.0.CO;2

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Key Words:

  • Diet
  • hunter-gatherers
  • Ohalo II
  • palaeoethnobotany
  • small-grained wild grasses
  • staple food
  • Upper Palaeolithic