Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

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  • The Fertile Crescent

    The Fertile Crescent is a term for an old fertile area north, east and west of the Arabian Desert in Southwest Asia. The Mesopotamian valley and the Nile valley fall under this term even though the mountain zone around Mesopotamia is the natural zone for the transition in a historical sense.

    As a result of a number of unique geographical factors the Fertile Crescent have an impressive history of early human agricultural activity and culture. Besides the numerous archaeological sites with remains of skeletons and cultural relics the area is known primarily for its excavation sites linked to agricultural origins and development of the Neolithic era.

    It was here, in the forested mountain slopes of the periphery of this area, that agriculture originated in an ecologically restricted environment. The western zone and areas around the upper Euphrates gave growth to the first known Neolithic farming communities with small, round houses , also referred to as Pre Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) cultures, which dates to just after 10,000 BC and include areas such as Jericho, the world’s oldest city.

    During the subsequent PPNB from 9000 BC these communities developed into larger villages with farming and animal husbandry as the main source of livelihood, with settlement in the two-story, rectangular house. Man now entered in symbiosis with grain and livestock species, with no opportunity to return to hunter – gatherer societies.

    The area west and north of the plains of the Euphrates and Tigris also saw the emergence of early complex societies in the much later Bronze Age (about 4000 BC). There is evidence of written culture and early state formation in this northern steppe area, although the written formation of the states relatively quickly shifted its center of gravity into the Mesopotamian valley and developed there. The area is therefore in very many writers been named “The Cradle of Civilization.”

    The area has experienced a series of upheavals and new formation of states. When Turkey was formed in the aftermath of the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians perpetrated by the Young Turks during the First World War it is estimated that two-thirds to three-quarters of all Armenians and Assyrians in the region died, and the Pontic Greeks was pushed to Greece.

    Israel was created out of the Ottoman Empire and the conquering of the Palestinian terretories. The existence of large Arab nation states from the Maghreb to the Levant has since represented a potential threat to Israel which should be neutralised when opportunities arise.

    This line of thinking was at the heart of David Ben Gurion’s policies in the 1950s which sought to exacerbate tensions between Christians and Muslims in the Lebanon for the fruits of acquiring regional influence by the dismembering the country and the possible acquisition of additional territory.

    The Christians are now being systematically targeted for genocide in Syria according to Vatican and other sources with contacts on the ground among the besieged Christian community.

    According to reports by the Vatican’s Fides News Agency collected by the Centre for the Study of Interventionism, the US-backed Free Syrian Army rebels and ever more radical spin-off factions are sacking Christian churches, shooting Christians dead in the street, broadcasting ultimatums that all Christians must be cleansed from the rebel-held villages, and even shooting priests.

    It is now time that the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Assyrians and Armenians is being recognized, that the Israeli occupation, settlements and violence against the Palestinians stop, and that the various minorities in the area start to live their lifes in peace – without violence and threats from majority populations, or from the West, and then specificially from the US.

    War in the Fertile Crescent
    https://aratta.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/war-in-the-fertile-crescent

    Everyone is free to use the text on this blog as they want. There is no copyright etc. This because knowledge is more important than rules and regulations.

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The Neolithic in the Armenian Highland and China

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on September 22, 2019

Portasar

Armenian Portasar («Mountain Navel»), in Turkish known as Göbekli Tepe («Potbelly Hill») is an archaeological site in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey approximately 12 km (7 mi) northeast of the city of Şanlıurfa. It is approximately 760 m (2,490 ft) above sea level.

All statements about the site must be considered preliminary, as less than 5% of the site has been excavated, and Schmidt planned to leave much of it untouched to be explored by future generations when archaeological techniques will presumably have improved.

While the site formally belongs to the earliest Neolithic (PPNA), to date no traces of domesticated plants or animals have been found. The inhabitants are presumed to have been hunters and gatherers who nevertheless lived in villages for at least part of the year.

So far, very little evidence for residential use has been found. Through the radiocarbon method, the end of Layer III can be fixed at about 9000 BCE, but it is believed that the elevated location may have functioned as a spiritual center during 10,000 BCE or earlier, essentially, at the very end of the Pleistocene.

The surviving structures, then, not only predate pottery, metallurgy, and the invention of writing or the wheel, but were built before the so-called Neolithic Revolution, that marks the beginning of agriculture and animal husbandry, around 9000 BCE.

Einkorn wheat

Einkorn wheat is one of the earliest cultivated forms of wheat, alongside emmer wheat (T. dicoccum). It commonly grows wild in the hill country in the northern part of the Fertile Crescent and Anatolia although it has a wider distribution reaching into the Balkans and south to Jordan near the Dead Sea. Evidence from DNA fingerprinting suggests einkorn was first domesticated near Karaca Dağ in southeast Turkey, an area in which a number of PPNB farming villages have been found.

An important characteristic facilitating the domestication of einkorn and other annual grains is that the plants are largely self-pollinating. Thus, the desirable (for human management) traits of einkorn could be perpetuated at less risk of cross-fertilization with wild plants which might have traits – e.g. smaller seeds, shattering seed heads, etc. – less desirable for human management.

The principal difference between wild einkorn and cultivated einkorn is the method of seed dispersal. The cultivated form is similar to the wild, except that the ear stays intact when ripe and the seeds are larger. In the wild variety the seed head usually shatters and drops the kernels (seeds) of wheat onto the ground. This facilitates a new crop of wheat. In the domestic variety, the seed head remains intact.

While such a mutation may occasionally occur in the wild, it is not viable there in the long term: the intact seed head will only drop to the ground when the stalk rots, and the kernels will not scatter but form a tight clump which inhibits germination and makes the mutant seedlings susceptible to disease. But harvesting einkorn with intact seed heads was easier for early human harvesters, who could then manually break apart the seed heads and scatter any kernels not eaten.

Over time and through selection, conscious or unconscious, the human preference for intact seed heads created the domestic variety, which also has slightly larger kernels than wild einkorn. Domesticated einkorn thus requires human planting and harvesting for its continuing existence. This process of domestication might have taken only 20 to 200 years with the end product a wheat easier for humans to harvest.

Hunter gatherers in the Fertile Crescent may have started harvesting einkorn as long as 30,000 years ago, according to archaeological evidence from Syria. Although gathered from the wild for thousands of years, einkorn wheat was first domesticated approximately 10,000 years BP in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) or B (PPNB) periods.

From the northern part of the Fertile Crescent, the cultivation of einkorn wheat spread to the Caucasus, the Balkans, and central Europe. Einkorn wheat was more commonly grown in cooler climates than emmer wheat, the other domesticated wheat.

Cultivation of einkorn in the Middle East began to decline in favor of emmer wheat around 2000 BC. Cultivation of einkorn was never extensive in Italy, southern France, and Spain. Einkorn continued to be cultivated in some areas of northern Europe throughout the Middle Ages and until the early part of the 20th century.

The earliest clear evidence of the domestication of einkorn dates from 10,600 to 9,900 years before present (8650 BCE to 7950 BCE) from Çayönü and Cafer Höyük, two Early Pre-Pottery Neolithic B archaeological sites in southern Turkey.

Genetic studies of emmer wheat, the precursor of most current wheat species, show that the slopes of Mount Karaca (Karaca Dağ), which is located in close vicinity to Çayönü, was the location of first domestication. A different DNA approach pointed to Kartal Daği.

Robert Braidwood wrote that “insofar as unit HA can be considered as representing all of the major pre-historic occupation at Cayonu, cultivated emmer along with cultivated einkorn was present from the earliest sub-phase.”

Çayönü Tepesi is a Neolithic settlement in southeastern Turkey which prospered from circa 8,630 to 6,800 BC. It is located forty kilometres north-west of Diyarbakır, at the foot of the Taurus mountains. It lies near the Boğazçay, a tributary of the upper Tigris River and the Bestakot, an intermittent stream.

Emmer

Emmer wheat or hulled wheat is a type of awned wheat. The domesticated types are Triticum turgidum subsp. dicoccum and Triticum turgidum conv. durum. The wild plant is called Triticum turgidum subsp. dicoccoides. Along with einkorn wheat, emmer was one of the first crops domesticated in the Near East. Emmer is found in a large number of Neolithic sites scattered around the fertile crescent.

From its earliest days of cultivation, emmer was a more prominent crop than its cereal contemporaries and competitors, einkorn wheat and barley. It was widely cultivated in the ancient world, but is now a relict crop in mountainous regions of Europe and Asia.

The principal difference between the wild and the domestic is that the ripened seed head of the wild plant shatters and scatters the seed onto the ground, while in the domesticated emmer the seed head remains intact, thus making it easier for humans to harvest the grain.

Wild emmer is native to the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East, growing in the grass and woodland of hill country from modern-day Israel to Iran. The origin of wild emmer has been suggested, without universal agreement among scholars, to be the Karaca Dag mountain region of southeastern Turkey. In 1906, Aaron Aaronsohn’s discovery of wild emmer wheat growing in Rosh Pinna (Israel) created a stir in the botanical world.

Emmer wheat has been found in archaeological excavations and ancient tombs. Emmer was collected from the wild and eaten by hunter gatherers for thousands of years before its domestication. Grains of wild emmer discovered at Ohalo II had a radiocarbon dating of 17,000 BC and at the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) site of Netiv Hagdud are 10,000–9,400 years old.

The location of the earliest site of emmer domestication is still unclear and under debate. Some of the earliest sites with possible indirect evidence for emmer domestication during the Early Pre-Pottery Neolithic B include Tell Aswad, Çayönü, Cafer Höyük, Aşıklı Höyük, Kissonerga-Mylouthkia [de] and Shillourokambos.

Definitive evidence for the full domestication of emmer wheat is not found until the Middle Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (10,200 to 9,500 BP), at sites such as Beidha, Tell Ghoraifé, Tell es-Sultan (Jericho), Abu Hureyra, Tell Halula, Tell Aswad and Cafer Höyük. Small quantities of emmer are present during Period 1 at Mehrgharh on the Indian subcontinent, showing that emmer was already cultivated there by 7000–5000 BC.

In the Near East, in southern Mesopotamia in particular, cultivation of emmer wheat began to decline in the Early Bronze Age, from about 3000 BC, and barley became the standard cereal crop. This has been related to increased salinization of irrigated alluvial soils, of which barley is more tolerant,[13] although this study has been challenged.

Emmer had a special place in ancient Egypt, where it was the main wheat cultivated in Pharaonic times, although cultivated einkorn wheat was grown in great abundance during the Third Dynasty, and large quantities of it were found preserved, along with cultivated emmer wheat and barleys, in the subterranean chambers beneath the Step Pyramid at Saqqara.

Neighbouring countries also cultivated einkorn, durum and common wheat. In the absence of any obvious functional explanation, the greater prevalence of emmer wheat in the diet of ancient Egypt may simply reflect a marked culinary or cultural preference, or may reflect growing conditions having changed after the Third Dynasty.

Emmer and barley were the primary ingredients in ancient Egyptian bread and beer. Emmer recovered from the Phoenician settlement at Volubilis (in present-day Morocco) has been dated to the middle of the first millennium BC.

Emmer wheat may be one of the grains mentioned in ancient rabbinic literature as one of the five grains to be used by Jews during Passover as matzah (that is, kept from leavening, even accidental). However, this depends on the meaning of the Hebrew term shibboleth shu’al, which is uncertain and debated.

The matter is further complicated by the cultivation of spelt (Heb. kusemet, Aramaic kusmin) in Israel of Biblical times and onwards (spelt is easily confused with emmer). However, it is fairly certain that spelt did not grow in ancient Israel, and emmer was probably a significant crop until the end of the Iron Age. Likewise, references to emmer in Greek and Latin texts are traditionally translated as “spelt,” even though spelt was not common in the Classical world until very late in its history.

In northeastern Europe, emmer (in addition to einkorn and barley) was one of the most important cereal species and this importance can be seen to increase from 3400 BC onwards. Pliny the Elder, notes that although emmer was called far in his time formerly it was called adoreum (or “glory”), providing an etymology explaining that emmer had been held in glory, and later in the same book he describes its role in sacrifices.

Barley

Barley (Hordeum vulgare), a member of the grass family, is a major cereal grain grown in temperate climates globally. Barley is a highly resilient crop, able to be grown in varied and marginal environments, such as in regions of high altitude and latitude.

It has been used as animal fodder, as a source of fermentable material for beer and certain distilled beverages, and as a component of various health foods. Barley grains are commonly made into malt in a traditional and ancient method of preparation.

It is used in soups and stews, and in barley bread of various cultures. In medieval Europe, bread made from barley and rye was peasant food, while wheat products were consumed by the upper classes. Potatoes largely replaced barley in Eastern Europe in the 19th century.

The grain appeared in the same time as einkorn and emmer wheat. It was one of the first cultivated grains, particularly in Eurasia as early as 10,000 years ago. To further elucidate the routes by which barley cultivation was spread through Eurasia, genetic analysis was used to determine genetic diversity and population structure in extant barley taxa. 

One of the world’s most important crops, barley, was domesticated in the Near East around 11,000 years ago (circa 9,000 BCE). Archaeobotanical evidence shows that barley had spread throughout Eurasia by 2,000 BCE. Genetic analysis shows that cultivated barley spread through Eurasia via several different routes, which were most likely separated in both time and space.

Barley was one of the first domesticated grains in the Fertile Crescent, an area of relatively abundant water in Western Asia, and near the Nile river of northeast Africa. Genetic analysis on the spread of barley from 9,000 to 2,000 BCE. Barley beer was probably one of the first alcoholic drinks developed by Neolithic humans. Barley later on was used as currency.

Wild barley (H. vulgare ssp. spontaneum) ranges from North Africa and Crete in the west, to Tibet in the east. According to some scholars, the earliest evidence of wild barley in an archaeological context comes from the Epipaleolithic at Ohalo II at the southern end of the Sea of Galilee. The remains were dated to about 8500 BCE.

Other scholars have written that the earliest evidence comes from Mesopotamia, specifically the Jarmo region of modern day Iraq. Further research has shown that the villagers of Jarmo grew wheat of two types, emmer and einkorn, a type of primitive barley and lentils (it is common to record the domestication of grains, less so of pulses). 

Some scholars believe domesticated barley (hordeum vulgare) originally spread from Central Asia to India, Persia, Mesopotamia, Syria and Egypt. Some of the earliest domesticated barley occurs at aceramic (“pre-pottery”) Neolithic sites, in the Near East such as the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B layers of Tell Abu Hureyra, in Syria. 

By 4200 BCE domesticated barley occurs as far as in Eastern Finland and had reached Greece and Italy around the 4th c. BCE. Barley has been grown in the Korean Peninsula since the Early Mumun Pottery Period (circa 1500–850 BCE) along with other crops such as millet, wheat, and legumes.

Barley (known as Yava in both Vedic and Classical Sanskrit) is mentioned many times in Rigveda and other Indian scriptures as one of the principal grains in ancient India. Traces of Barley cultivation have also been found in post-Neolithic Bronze Age Harappan civilization 5700–3300 years before present.

In the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond proposed that the availability of barley, along with other domesticable crops and animals, in southwestern Eurasia significantly contributed to the broad historical patterns that human history has followed over approximately the last 13,000 years; i.e., why Eurasian civilizations, as a whole, have survived and conquered others.

The ancient Sumerian word for barley was akiti. Akitu or Akitum (Sumerian: ezen á.ki.tum, akiti-šekinku, á.ki.ti.še.gur.ku₅, lit. “the barley-cutting”, akiti-šununum, lit. “barley-sowing”; Akkadian: akitu or rêš-šattim, “head of the year”) was a spring festival in ancient Mesopotamia.

The name is from the Sumerian for “barley”, originally marking two festivals celebrating the beginning of each of the two half-years of the Sumerian calendar, marking the sowing of barley in autumn and the cutting of barley in spring. In Babylonian religion it came to be dedicated to Marduk’s victory over Tiamat.

In ancient Mesopotamia, a stalk of barley was the primary symbol of the goddess Shala, an ancient Sumerian goddess of grain and the emotion of compassion. The symbols of grain and compassion combine to reflect the importance of agriculture in the mythology of Sumer, and the belief that an abundant harvest was an act of compassion from the deities.

Traditions identify Shala as wife of the fertility god Dagon, or consort of the storm god Hadad’ also called Ishkur. In ancient depictions, she carries a double-headed mace or scimitar embellished with lion heads. Sometimes she is depicted as being borne atop one or two lionesses.

From very early times, she is associated with the constellation Virgo (Greek: Παρθένος, Parthenos) and vestiges of symbolism associated with her have persisted in representations of the constellation to current times, such as the ear of grain, even as the deity name changed from culture to culture.

Virgo is the sixth astrological sign in the Zodiac. It spans the 150-180th degree of the zodiac. Under the tropical zodiac, the Sun transits this area on average between August 23 and September 22, and the Sun transits the constellation of Virgo from approximately September 16 to October 30.

The symbol of the maiden is based on Astraea (Ancient Greek: Ἀστραῖα; “star-maiden” or “starry night”), in ancient Greek religion, a daughter of Astraeus and Eos. She is the virgin goddess of justice, innocence, purity and precision.

She is closely associated with the Greek goddess of justice, Dike (daughter of Zeus and Themis). The nearby constellation Libra reflected her symbolic association with Dike, who in Latin culture as Justitia is said to preside over the constellation.

In Greek mythology, she was the last immortal to abandon Earth at the end of the Silver Age, when the gods fled to Olympus – hence the sign’s association with Earth. According to legend, Astraea will one day come back to Earth, bringing with her the return of the utopian Golden Age of which she was the ambassador.

Alongside emmer wheat, barley was a staple cereal of ancient Egypt, where it was used to make bread and beer. The general name for barley is jt (hypothetically pronounced “eat”); šma (hypothetically pronounced “SHE-ma”) refers to Upper Egyptian barley and is a symbol of Upper Egypt.

According to Deuteronomy 8:8, barley is one of the “Seven Species” of crops that characterize the fertility of the Promised Land of Canaan, and it has a prominent role in the Israelite sacrifices described in the Pentateuch (see e.g. Numbers 5:15). A religious importance extended into the Middle Ages in Europe, and saw barley’s use in justice, via alphitomancy and the corsned.

The practice was to dry the barley groats and roast them before preparing the porridge, according to Pliny the Elder’s Natural History. This produces malt that soon ferments and becomes slightly alcoholic. Pliny also noted barley was a special food of gladiators known as hordearii, “barley-eaters”. However, by Roman times, he added that wheat had replaced barley as a staple.

Tibetan barley has been a staple food in Tibetan cuisine since the fifth century CE. This grain, along with a cool climate that permitted storage, produced a civilization that was able to raise great armies. It is made into a flour product called tsampa that is still a staple in Tibet. The flour is roasted and mixed with butter and butter tea to form a stiff dough that is eaten in small balls.

Demeter

In mainland Greece, the ritual significance of barley possibly dates back to the earliest stages of the Eleusinian Mysteries. The preparatory kykeon or mixed drink of the initiates, prepared from barley and herbs, referred in the Homeric hymn to Demeter, whose name some scholars believe meant “Barley-mother”.

She and her daughter Persephone were the central figures of the Eleusinian Mysteries, a religious tradition that predated the Olympian pantheon, and which may have its roots in the Mycenaean period c. 1400–1200 BC. The main theme in the Eleusinian mysteries was the reunion of Persephone with her mother Demeter, when new crops were reunited with the old seed, a form of eternity.

In ancient Greek religion and mythology, Demeter is the goddess of the harvest and agriculture, presiding over grains and the fertility of the earth. Demeter’s emblem is the poppy, a bright red flower that grows among the barley. Demeter was often considered to be the same figure as the Anatolian goddess Cybele, and in Rome she was identified as the Latin goddess Ceres.

In epic poetry and Hesiod’s Theogony, Demeter is the Corn-Mother, the goddess of cereals who provides grain for bread and blesses its harvesters. This was her main function at Eleusis, and became panhellenic. In Cyprus, “grain-harvesting” was damatrizein.

According to the Athenian rhetorician Isocrates, Demeter’s greatest gifts to humankind were agriculture, particularly of cereals, and the Mysteries which give the initiate higher hopes in this life and the afterlife. These two gifts were intimately connected in Demeter’s myths and mystery cults. In Hesiod, prayers to Zeus-Chthonios (chthonic Zeus) and Demeter help the crops grow full and strong.

However, though Demeter is often described simply as the goddess of the harvest, she presided also over the sacred law, and the cycle of life and death. Her cult titles include Sito (Σιτώ), “she of the Grain”, as the giver of food or grain, and Thesmophoros (θεσμός, thesmos: divine order, unwritten law; φόρος, phoros: bringer, bearer), “Law-Bringer”, as a mark of the civilized existence of agricultural society.

The earliest recorded worship of a deity possibly equivalent to Demeter is found in Linear B Mycenean Greek tablets of c. 1400–1200 BC found at Pylos. The tablets describe worship of the “two queens and the king”, which may be related to Demeter, Persephone and Poseidon. An early name which may refer to Demeter, si-to-po-ti-ni-ja (Sito Potnia), appears in Linear B inscriptions found at Mycenae and Pylos.

It is possible that Demeter appears in Linear A as da-ma-te on three documents, all three apparently dedicated in religious situations and all three bearing just the name. It is unlikely that Demeter appears as da-ma-te in a Linear B (Mycenean Greek) inscription; the word da-ma-te, probably refers to “households”.

On the other hand si-to-po-ti-ni-ja, “Potnia of the Grain”, is regarded as referring to her Bronze Age predecessor or to one of her epithets. Demeter’s character as mother-goddess is identified in the second element of her name meter (μήτηρ) derived from Proto-Indo-European *méh₂tēr (mother). 

In antiquity, different explanations were already proffered for the first element of her name. It is possible that Da (Δᾶ), a word which corresponds to Ge (Γῆ) in Attic, is the Doric form of De (Δῆ), “earth”, the old name of the chthonic earth-goddess, and that Demeter is “Mother-Earth”.

This root also appears in the Linear B inscription E-ne-si-da-o-ne, “earth-shaker”, as an aspect of the god Poseidon. However, the dā element in the name of Demeter is not so simply equated with “earth” according to John Chadwick.

The element De- may be connected with Deo, an epithet of Demeter probably derived from the Cretan word dea (δηά), Ionic zeia (ζειά)—variously identified with emmer, spelt, rye, or other grains by modern scholars—so that she is the Mother and the giver of food generally.

During the Bronze Age, a goddess of nature dominated both in Minoan and Mycenean cults, and Wanax (wa-na-ka) was her male companion (paredros) in the Mycenean cult. Elements of this early form of worship survived in the Eleusinian cult, where the following words were uttered: “Mighty Potnia bore a strong son.”

Wanax (wa-na-ka) was her male companion (Greek: Πάρεδρος, Paredros) in Mycenaean cult. The Arcadian cult links her to the god Poseidon, who probably substituted the male companion of the Great Goddess ; Demeter may therefore be related to a Minoan Great Goddess (Cybele).

In Crete, Poseidon was often given the title wa-na-ka (wanax) in Linear B inscriptions, in his role as king of the underworld, and his title E-ne-si-da-o-ne indicates his chthonic nature. In the cave of Amnisos, Enesidaon is associated with the cult of Eileithyia, the goddess of childbirth, who was involved with the annual birth of the divine child.

The myth of the capture of Persephone seems to be pre-Greek. In the Greek version, Ploutos (πλούτος, wealth) represents the wealth of the corn that was stored in underground silos or ceramic jars (pithoi). Similar subterranean pithoi were used in ancient times for funerary practices. 

At the beginning of the autumn, when the corn of the old crop is laid on the fields, she ascends and is reunited with her mother Demeter, for at this time the old crop and the new meet each other. Before her abduction, she is called Kore; and once taken she becomes Persephone (‘she who brings destruction’).

According to the personal mythology of Robert Graves, Persephone is not only the younger self of Demeter, she is in turn also one of three guises of the Triple Goddess – Kore (the youngest, the maiden, signifying green young grain), Persephone (in the middle, the nymph, signifying the ripe grain waiting to be harvested), and Hecate (the eldest of the three, the crone, the harvested grain), which to a certain extent reduces the name and role of Demeter to that of group name.

Demeter was also zeidoros arοura, the Homeric “Mother Earth arοura” who gave the gift of cereals (zeai or deai). Arura or (Greek: ἄρουρα), is a Homeric Greek word with original meaning “arable land”, derived from the verb ἀρόω (aroō), “plough”. The word was also used generally for earth, land and father-land and in plural to describe corn-lands and fields.

The term arura was also used to describe a measure of land in ancient Egypt (similar in manner to the acre), a square of 100 Egyptian cubits each way. This measures 2700m² or 2/3 of an acre. The oldest attested form of the word is the Mycenaean Greek a-ro-u-ra, written in Linear B syllabic script, originally meant “plough”.

Aruru is a surname of the Sumerian earth and fertility goddess Ninhursag, the ancient Sumerian mother goddess of the mountains, and one of the seven great deities of Sumer. She is principally a fertility goddess. Frequently she carries a mace or baton surmounted by an omega motif or a derivation, sometimes accompanied by a lion cub on a leash.

Temple hymn sources identify her as the “true and great lady of heaven” (possibly in relation to her standing on the mountain) and kings of Sumer were “nourished by Ninhursag’s milk”. She is the tutelary deity to several Sumerian leaders.

Sometimes her hair is depicted in an omega shape and at times she wears a horned head-dress and tiered skirt, often with bow cases at her shoulders. The omega symbol is associated with the Egyptian cow goddess Hathor, and may represent a stylized womb. The symbol appears on very early imagery from Ancient Egypt. Hathor is at times depicted on a mountain, so it may be that the two goddesses are connected.

China: Millet

Millet: How A Trendy Ancient Grain Turned Nomads Into Farmers

Millets are a group of highly variable small-seeded grasses, widely grown around the world as cereal crops or grains for fodder and human food. Generally, millets are small-grained, annual, warm-weather cereals belonging to the grass family. They are highly tolerant of drought and other extreme weather conditions and have a similar nutrient content to other major cereals.

Specialized archaeologists called palaeoethnobotanists, relying on data such as the relative abundance of charred grains found in archaeological sites, hypothesize that the cultivation of millets was of greater prevalence in prehistory than rice, especially in northern China and Korea.

Millets also formed important parts of the prehistoric diet in Indian, Chinese Neolithic and Korean Mumun societies. Proso millet (Panicum miliaceum) and foxtail millet (Setaria italica) were important crops beginning in the Early Neolithic of China.

Some of the earliest evidence of millet cultivation in China was found at Cishan (north), where proso millet husk phytoliths and biomolecular components have been identified around 10,300–8,700 years ago in storage pits along with remains of pit-houses, pottery, and stone tools related to millet cultivation.

Millets may have been consumed by humans for about 7,000 years and potentially had “a pivotal role in the rise of multi-crop agriculture and settled farming societies”. Evidence at Cishan for foxtail millet dates back to around 8,700 years ago.

Chinese myths attribute the domestication of millet to Shennong, which can be variously translated as “Divine Farmer” or “Divine Peasant”, “Agriculture God”, a legendary Emperor of China, and Hou Ji, whose name means Lord Millet.

Shennong, also known as the Wugushen («Five Grains’ or Five Cereals’ God») or also Wuguxiandi («First Deity of the Five Grains»), is a mythological Chinese deity in Chinese folk religion and venerated as a mythical sage ruler of prehistoric China.

Hou Ji was a legendary Chinese culture hero credited with introducing millet to humanity during the time of the Xia dynasty. Millet was the original staple grain of northern China, prior to the introduction of wheat. His name translates as Lord of Millet and was a posthumous name bestowed on him by King Tang, the first of the Shang dynasty.

Houji was credited with developing the philosophy of Agriculturalism and with service during the Great Flood in the reign of Yao; he was also claimed as an ancestor of the Ji clan that became the ruling family of the Zhou dynasty.

Palaeoethnobotanists have found evidence of the cultivation of millet in the Korean Peninsula dating to the Middle Jeulmun pottery period (around 3500–2000 BCE). Millet continued to be an important element in the intensive, multicropping agriculture of the Mumun pottery period (about 1500–300 BCE) in Korea. Millets and their wild ancestors, such as barnyard grass and panic grass, were also cultivated in Japan during the Jōmon period some time after 4000 BCE.

Dadiwan culture

The Dadiwan culture (c. 7900–7200 BP) was a Neolithic culture located primarily in the eastern portion of Gansu and Shaanxi provinces in modern China. The Dadiwan culture shares a variety of common features, in pottery, architecture, and economy, with the Cishan and Peiligang cultures of eastern China.

The culture takes its name from the deepest cultural layer found during the original excavation of the type site at Dadiwan. The remains of millet, pigs and dogs have been found in sites associated with the culture, which is itself defined by a thin-walled, cord-marked ceramic tradition sometimes referred to as Laoguantai.

The Dadiwan type site in Qin’an County, Gansu sits atop a fan toe produced by a gully that drains into the Qingshui River valley, itself a tributary of the Wei River. The Neolithic cultural sequence here begins with the Dadiwan culture (c. 7900–7200 BP), followed by the Yangshao culture (c. 6800–4900 BP) and then the Changshan culture (c. 4900–4800 BP).

The site has continued to produce new information about the Dadiwan culture, for example, recent biogeochemical analyses reveal that dogs living at Dadiwan from 7900–4900 calBP likely consumed C4 carbon fixation plants throughout the year. Because all other wild animals (like deer and bear) found at the site only consumed C3 plants, it suggests that the natural year-round vegetation was dominated by C3 plants.

The only way that dog bones would contain strong C4 signals was if they consumed a rare plant year-round. A likely candidate for this is millet (a C4 grass); and because millet only grows in the summer, the only way that dogs could eat it year round is if humans were feeding it to them. Therefore, this represents some of the earliest evidence for agricultural production (cultivation, harvesting, and storing of seed crops) in East Asia.

The agricultural economy intensified and flourished during the early phases of the Yangshao culture. The foundation of a large building, measuring 290 and 420 m2 (3,100 and 4,500 sq ft) when including the outer courtyard, was discovered at Dadiwan. The building, known as F901, is described by Chinese archaeologists as a communal meeting hall. The building was built on an elevated rammed earth foundation, which was then layered with burnt clay.

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