When did the hunter-gatherers of northwest Europe become farmers? Most archaeological evidence points to a transition around 6000 years ago (for Britain). However, new research published in Science shows that wheat was in the UK at 8000 years ago. The most likely explanation for this 2000 year time discrepancy? Trade. Whilst it has long been known that the transition from the Mesolithic hunter-gatherers to the Neolithic farmers was gradual, this new research demonstrates that these two cultures interacted and traded with one another.
The Mesolithic-to-Neolithic transition marked the time when a hunter-gatherer economy gave way to agriculture, coinciding with rising sea levels. Bouldnor Cliff, is a submarine archaeological site off the Isle of Wight in the United Kingdom that has a well-preserved Mesolithic paleosol dated to 8000 years before the present. We analyzed.... microgeomorphology and microfossils with sedimentary ancient DNA (sedaDNA) analyses to reconstruct floral and faunal changes during the occupation of this site, before it was submerged. In agreement with palynological analyses, the sedaDNA sequences suggest a mixed habitat of oak forest and herbaceous plants. However, they also provide evidence of wheat 2000 years earlier than mainland Britain and 400 years earlier than proximate European sites. These results suggest that sophisticated social networks linked the Neolithic front in southern Europe to the Mesolithic peoples of northern Europe.