The Evolution of Wheat - Cultivated Emmer

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Wild Emmer was harvested by the hunter-gatherers of the Stone Age for many millennia. At some stage in the development of mankind, the cognitive reasoning ability had increased enough for man to be able to realise a regular annual cycle of plants. About 12,000 to 10,000 years ago, some of the Neolithic Age tribes began to cultivate Wild Emmer, instead of relying on the wild supplies. It is probable that, as the population increased, the local supplies of wild grain became insufficient and encouraged the cultivation of additional supplies. The plants would originally have had ears with a brittle stalk or rachis, similar to the wild form, fragmenting into separate spikelets when ripe. The tribes-people, most probably the women, would have naturally selected the larger intact ears when they harvested the grain. This subconscious selection led to the rachis gradually evolving from the brittle form into a non-brittle form.

By about 9,500 years ago, (9,500 BP / Before Present) a new Cultivated Emmer had been created that no longer fragmented into individual spikelets when ripe, but had become dependant upon man for propagation.

Although Cultivated Emmer was still a hulled wheat, it became one of the most important crops for 7,000 years, spreading throughout most of the Near East. It reached Egypt about 6,000 BP and became the principal cereal until replaced by free-threshing Durum Wheat around 2,500 to 2,000 years ago. Although used by the Egyptians for bread making, it lacks the gluten proteins that are required for the dough to rise and produces a poor quality loaf.