Based on a unique method of analyzing microscopic biological remains, scientists were able to reconstruct the picture of the processing of wild and domestic plants at the famous Neolithic site of Chatal-Huyuk.
Catal Huyuk is a World Heritage Archaeological Site located in Anatolia (Turkey) that was inhabited during the Neolithic Age, between 7100 and 6000 BC. It is one of the first urban centers with a high density of agglomerated residential buildings in the world. The houses were entered through the roof, and inside there were elaborate wall paintings.
The settlement has been continuously explored for nearly 30 years, with many charred plant remains, as well as many stone artifacts and tools used to process plant resources. Despite extensive research in the area, much of what is known about agricultural practices and the use of plant resources in both Chatal Huyuk and many other archaeological sites is based on the study of charred remains.
The problem is that these residues came from cooking or from an accidental fire: this gives a limited idea of the use of plant resources in the past. But scientists from the University of Leicester (UK) have developed an innovative approach based on the analysis of microscopic plant remains found on grinding tools.
The authors of the study, published in the journal PLOS One, managed to find out what types of plants were treated with these artifacts and even which parts: stems, fruits, seeds, tubers, and so on. It was shown that the population of Chatal Huyuk based their economy on agriculture, growing cereals and vegetables (wheat, oats, peas), but still actively used wild plants, which they did not know how to cultivate at that time.
These resources were just as important as home-grown plants, and most likely they were regularly supplied as a supplement to the main diet. At the same time, many wild plants contained poisonous tubers, so their processing required some knowledge.