PerspectiveAnthropology

How wheat came to Britain

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Science  27 Feb 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6225, pp. 945-946
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa6113

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Summary

Settled communities dependent on agriculture and animal husbandry emerged independently on several continents over the past ∼10,000 years. In many cases, farmers began to disperse out of regions where plants and animals were domesticated and into areas occupied by hunter-gatherer populations. This process of Neolithization certainly took place in Europe. Dating of artifacts and bones indisputably associated with human farming has led to a chronological framework for the spread of the Neolithic along two primary routes into Europe that ended with the arrival of farming in Britain ∼6000 years ago (1). Yet, on page 998 of this issue, Smith et al. (2) report genomic sequences of wheat in an ∼8000-year-old soil sample collected off the coast of southern England, suggesting that domestic crops first appeared on the British Isles long before they were cultivated there.