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6 Millennia Old Seeds in Masada Unravel Barley’s Origins

(Photo: iStock)

When researchers recently discovered 6,000-year-old barley seeds in the Judean Desert, they couldn't believe how well preserved the seeds remained. Their condition has allowed scientists to study their DNA and gain more information about the history of cereal's domestication in the Jordan Valley.

Barley seeds, dated to 6,000 years ago, have become the oldest plant genome to be sequenced, an international team of researchers announced in a journal article published Monday. Analysis of the 6,000-year-old cereals supports the hypothesis that the key crop was domesticated thousands of years ago in the Jordan Valley…

The arid climate and precipitous cliff left the grains preserved for millennia. Ehud Weiss of Bar-Ilan University, one of the heads of the study, told The Times of Israel that whereas most ancient kernels are found charred and useless for DNA study, those excavated from the cave on Masada by a Hebrew University team “looked almost alive, almost fresh.”

Their immaculate preservation allowed scientists to “read the DNA from these seeds” and determine that they were domesticated locally, he said.

Tags: Facts and Findings

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