The 6000-Year-Old Edible Discovery Tucked Into Masada


When your country is located in the bosom of the Fertile Crescent–like, say, Israel–it’s sort of a given that you tend to be the first to a great discovery.

Take barley, which you may remember from such hits as bread, cereal, and beer. Barley, it turns out, became the grain we know and love over 10,000 years ago, and in Israel, no less.

Recently, a team of Israeli and German scientists found 6,000-year-old barley seeds in the “exceptionally inaccessible” Yoram Cave, a hole dug into the backside of Masada. What’s incredible about these seeds is that they’re domesticated, meaning they were consciously used for farming, a process that’s pretty integral to the growth of civilization.

By sequencing the grains, scientists were able to reveal in the barley a genetic makeup very similar to that of present-day barley grown in the same area. In other words, people in this region of the Southern Levant have been using the same kind of barley for thousands of years. And the fact that the earliest known flour-making and baking equipment was found right around the corner supports this claim.

Chew on that (or maybe some puffed barley snacks) next time you climb Masada.

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