Researchers have studied the DNA of 6000 years old barley seeds, making these the oldest plant genome to be reorganized to date.
The 6,000-year-old Chalcolithic barley grains was found in Yoram cave Israel, near the Dead Sea.
According to Ehud Weiss of Bar –llan University , “These archaeological remains provided a unique opportunity for us to finally sequence a Chalcolithic plant genome. The genetic material has been well-preserved for several millennia due to the extreme dryness of the region”.
In order to find out the age of the ancient seeds, the team of researchers split the grains and put half of them to radiocarbon dating while the other half was used to extract the ancient DNA.
After sequencing the genome of Chalcolithic barley grains, the team of researchers, consisting of archaeologists, specialists in ancient DNA analysis and experts in barley and crop genetics suggested that the barley grown today in southern Levant is very similar to the prehistoric barley.
“For us, ancient DNA works like a time capsule that allows us to travel back in history and look into the domestication of crop plants at distinct time points in the past,” said Johannes Krause, from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena.
“This is just the beginning of a new and exciting line of research,” predicted the second lead author of the study, Dr. Verena Schuenemann, from Tuebingen University, “DNA-analysis of archaeological remains of prehistoric plants will provide us with novel insights into the origin, domestication and spread of crop plants.” She added.
The research has been published in the online version of the journal ‘Nature Genetics’.
(With Agency input)