A new archaeological study has provided crucial evidence for the existence of wheat in Britain 8,000 years ago.
The researchers have recovered fragments of wheat DNA from an obsolete peat bog, suggesting the trade and exchange of the wheat grain much before it was actually grown by the first farmers in Britain.
According to the study, a sophisticated network of cultural links is expected to have been operational across Europe at that time.
The traces of wheat were spotted at the place which is now a submerged cliff off the Isle of Wight, the study showed.
The plants and animals farming is expected to have first prevailed in the Near East, amid the spreading of technology along two main European routes.
Prof Vincent Gaffney, from University of Bradford, said, “It now appears likely that the hunter-gather societies of Britain were part of extensive social networks, far from being isolated, who were involved in exchange or trade of exotic foodstuffs in most parts of Europe.”
The approved date of arrival on the UK mainland is approximately 6,000 years ago, as the ancient hunter gatherers started growing the crops like barley and wheat.
The DNA of the wheat – known as einkorn – was collected from sediment that was once a peat bog next to a river.
Scientists think traders arrived in Britain with wheat, via the land bridges connecting together the European mainland and the south east coast of Britain, where a less advanced hunter gatherer society has been encountered.
Lead investigator Dr Robin Allaby, of the University of Warwick, said the people of mainland Britain led the life of a hunter-gatherer 8,000 years ago, and the art of farming was also gradually spreading across Europe at that time.
“Common throughout neolithic Southern Europe, einkorn is not found elsewhere in Britain until 2,000 years after the samples found at Bouldnor Cliff,” Dr Allaby said.
The researchers believe the wheat may only have been traded for using them as flour in order to supplement the diet. According to the researchers, there were no signs of pollen or other clues suggesting the cultivation of the crop in Britain until much later.
The findings of the study were published in the journal Science.