• Is Farming Older Than We Thought? — Chromatography Explores

Is Farming Older Than We Thought? — Chromatography Explores

Aug 22 2017 Read 1222 Times

There have been many revolutions in human history. The industrial revolution when we started to harness the energy from newly invented steam engines — or the amazing and rapid increases seen in the technology revolution currently taking place. But, many historians and anthropologists argue that the most important human revolution of all was when humans started farming.

How and when we changed from hunter-gatherers to farmers has captivated researchers for centuries. New research carried out by scientists at the University of York and published in Scientific Reports could help researchers piece together the beginnings of the most important revolution.

Planting seeds for the future

When humans started planting crops — rather than gathering in plants — is considered a significant change in our development as a species. But finding evidence for the use of cereals such as wheat or rye is extremely difficult.

Part of the problem is that plant residues are very difficult to identify, especially if the food has been cooked. Cereals have low levels of chemically stable fats and high starch content. But the starch breaks down during cooking and degrades relatively quickly afterwards. Other plant matter in Bronze Age utensils is easier to determine, especially if they have waxy leaves or oil rich seeds.

Hunting for wheat

The team from York examined the residues found in a container found in the mountains of Switzerland — and found some interesting biomarkers that could help trace the development of farming in Europe. Over the past 30 years, archaeologists have analysed thousands of artefacts for food residues and found lots of evidence for milk and meat products. But it is grains like wheat — the most widely grown crop — that is at the heart of many cultures, and evidence of when we started to cultivate wheat is scarce.

The team used gas chromatography mass spectrometry to analyse the residues and identified biomarkers that could in future be used to identify wheat in Bronze Age artefacts. The use of chromatography to analyse food residues is discussed in the article, LC-MS/MS and GC-MS/MS Multi Residue Pesticide Analysis in Fruit and Vegetable Extracts on a Single Tandem Quadrupole Mass Spectrometer.

Biomarkers for wheat

In their analysis, the team found biomarkers for wheat and barley, providing strong evidence that the grains were being transported through the alps. Dr Colonese, the lead author on the paper stated that:

“One of the greatest challenges of lipid analysis in archaeology has been finding biomarkers for plants, there are only a few and they do not preserve very well in ancient artefacts. You can imagine the relevance of this study as we have now a new tool for tracking early culinary use of cereal grains, it really is very exciting.”

The findings help to shed new light on prehistoric farming and finding molecular markers for wheat could contribute to important research on how farming in Europe started and spread.

Read comments0

Do you like or dislike what you have read? Why not post a comment to tell others / the manufacturer and our Editor what you think. To leave comments please complete the form below. Providing the content is approved, your comment will be on screen in less than 24 hours. Leaving comments on product information and articles can assist with future editorial and article content. Post questions, thoughts or simply whether you like the content.

Digital Edition

Chromatography Today - September 2018

September 2018

In This Edition Articles - The Past, Present, and Future (?) of Analytical Supercritical Fluid Chromatography - a 2018 Perspective - Column Technology for Achiral SFC Separations - Practica...

View all digital editions


analytica China

Oct 31 2018 Shanghai, China

ISPPP 2018

Nov 04 2018 Berlin, Germany

MicroTAS 2018

Nov 11 2018 Kaohsiung, Taiwan

WWEM 2018

Nov 21 2018 Telford, UK


Jan 30 2019 Amsterdam, Netherlands

View all events