Monday, December 24, 2012

Wheat Not Found in the New World – Part II

Continuing from the last post, the evidence indicates that wheat was first domesticated in the Old World, although the exact location of the event is a matter of debate. The earliest known grains of domesticated wheat have been found with barley and pulses in the Fertile Crescent, in Anatolia (Turkey) and the Balkans, and date to as early as 7500–6500 BC. (Simcha Lev-Yadun, Avi Gopher, and Shahal Abbo, "The Cradle of Agriculture," Science 288, 2 June 2000, p1602)
Top: Wheat fields that criss-cross the land of Israel. Wheat was used throughout the scriptures such as telling the parables of the sower and tares and the bread of life; Bottom: Granaries from an Iron Age Israelite fortress in the Negev, 1200 to 1000 B.C.
The wheat Zeniff's people sowed was probably descended from seed stock originally imported from the Old World by Lehi and his family, which was prehistoric in the Old World—meaning it existed from earliest times. Egyptian monuments indicate that wheat crops were already established before the Hebrew scriptures came into existence, and when the Egyptians and Greeks speak of its origin they refer to mythology—plants from the gods—according to Moshe Feldman, "Wheats," in Evolution of Crop Plants, ed. Norman W. Simmonds, Longman, London, 1976, p124.
Lev-Yadun, Gopher, and Abbo note that it is generally agreed that plant domestication first took place in the Jordan Valley and areas of the southern Levant (present-day Israel and Jordan) according to Eviatar Nevo, "Genetic Diversity in Wild Cereals: Regional and Local Studies and Their Bearing on Conservation ex Situ and in Situ," Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution 45/4, 1998, p355.
They suggest, however, that since the remains of wild forms of einkorn and emmer wheat, barley, chickpea, lentil, bitter vetch, flax, and perhaps pea, have been found in a small cove area in the Fertile Crescent near the upper reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, the northern Levant (present-day southeast Turkey and north Syria) is also a candidate for the location of domestication of these species. They conclude that agriculture in the region was first based upon three cereals (barley and einkorn and emmer wheat), four pulses (lentil, pea, chickpea, and bitter vetch), and a fiber crop (flax).
All of these would have been available to Lehi and no doubt were crops he grew at his home outside the walls of Jerusalem (1 Nephi 1:4), and most, if not all, would have been included when they “gathered together all manner of seeds of every kind, both of grain of every kind, and also of the seeds of fruit of every kind” (1 Nephi 8:1), before leaving Jerusalem and heading into the wilderness, eventually reaching Bountiful, along the coast of the Arabian Sea, and later sailing to the Western Hemisphere.
“And it came to pass that we did begin to till the earth, and we began to plant seeds; yea, we did put all our seeds into the earth, which we had brought from the land of Jerusalem” (1 Nephi 18:24)
Early farmers of antiquity spent from daylight to nightfall working their fields in order to provide food for themselves and their family. It was difficult labor, long hours, and back-breaking work
Growing wheat anciently was a labor-intensive undertaking. First the land had to be tilled (or plowed) and then leveled, after which seeds were sown in rows. When the seed heads ripened, the farmer used a sickle to cut the stalks, which were then tied into sheaves and taken to the threshing floor (a flat area of hard, compacted earth) for threshing. This was usually accomplished in Lehi's day by dragging a heavy threshing sled over the wheat, which would grind, cut, and crush the seed heads, thereby separating the naked kernels from the chaff (Isaiah 28:24–28).
Winnowing followed. On a breezy day the Nephite farmer would use his winnowing fork to pick up the chaff and grain mixture from the threshing floor and throw it into the air. The wind would blow the light chaff away, while the heavier grain would fall back to the earth in a pile. The clean grain would then be collected and stored in barns or garners. The stubble left in the field would be plowed back under or often burned in preparation for planting in the next growing season. That Book of Mormon peoples were familiar with these grain-growing practices is suggested by the use of terms throughout the text such as plowing, tilling, sowing, reaping, chaff, stubble, and sickles.
Left: Winnowing the wheat involves throwing the mixture into the air so the wind blows away the lighter chaff, while the heavier grains fall back down for recovery; Right: The final grain is gathered in baskets
Coming back to the renowned botanist Alphonse de Candolle who was discussed in the last post, in addition to his comment that “archaeologists typically accept the axiom that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” we also have the problem of location in trying to find something in the ground to verify historical events or find artifacts.
As an example, archaeological information is generally derived from official digs by university teams, professional excavations or by accidental discoveries of people digging in areas for other reasons. Typically, the first two are undertaken because of some type of evidence that some ancient city, pyramid or culture existed there, the latter because a farmer was digging on his property or workers were digging for construction purposes.
Which brings us to the location where artifacts or evidence of ancient cultures might be found. And in this case, the location either encourages or discourages such activity. The more open and accessible an area is, the more likely people, archaeologists and construction would be involved. Conversely, the more inaccessible an area is, the less likely accidental finds will be located, or knowledge of ancient cultures existed.

Inaccessible, difficult to reach, uninhabited, and remote areas where no archaeological interest has been shown, yet this type area covers much of Andean Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia
It should be obvious that whatever might be in the ground in areas like these is going to stay in the ground, including ancient animal bones, artifacts and even buried cities. For people to ask why such and such of the Book of Mormon has not been found, it should not be difficult to ascertain why looking at such areas as these and much of the rest of the Andean area of South America.

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