Stone-Age Hunter-Gatherers Imported Wheat From Mainland 8,000 Years Ago

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Stone Age Britons imported wheat about 8,000 years ago in a surprising sign of sophistication for primitive hunter-gatherers long viewed as isolated from European agriculture, a study showed on Thursday.

British scientists found traces of wheat DNA in a Stone Age site off the south coast of England near the Isle of Wight, giving an unexpected sign of contact between ancient hunter-gatherers and farmers who eventually replaced them.The wheat DNA was dated to 8,000 years ago, 2,000 years before Stone Age people in mainland Britain started growing cereals and 400 years before farming reached what is now northern Germany or France, they wrote in the journal Science.

"This is a smoking gun of cultural interaction," between primitive hunter-gatherers in Britain and farmers in Europe, co-author Robin Allaby of the University of Warwick said of the findings in the journal Science. "It will upset archaeologists. The conventional view of Britain at the time was that it was cut off," he said. "We can only speculate how they got wheat -- it could have been trade, a gift or stolen."

Britain used to be connected by land to Europe during the Ice Age but melting icecaps pushed seas higher about 10,000 years ago. A land bridge may have lingered 8,000 years ago.