Scientists Unlock the DNA of Ancient Barley Seeds from Masada

July 21 2016

Analyzing 6,000-year-old barley seeds found in a cavern in Masada, scientists have found evidence for the theory that the grain—mentioned frequently in the Hebrew Bible—was domesticated from wild strains in the Jordan valley. Ilan Ben Zion writes:

[The] seeds . . . have become the oldest plant genome to be sequenced, an international team of researchers announced. . . . The arid climate and precipitous cliff [near where they were found] left the grains preserved for millennia. Ehud Weiss of Bar-Ilan University, one of the heads of the study, [explained] that whereas most ancient kernels are found charred and [thus] useless for DNA study, those excavated from the cave on Masada . . . “looked almost alive, almost fresh.” . . .

Radiocarbon dating determined the seeds were 6,000 years old, grown several millennia after humans residing in the Fertile Crescent first domesticated grains such as barley and wheat around 10,000 years ago.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Ancient Near East, Archaeology, History & Ideas, Masada, Science

No, Israelis and Palestinians Can’t Simply Sit Down and Solve the “Israel-Palestinian Conflict”

Jan. 17 2019

By “zooming out” from the blinkered perspective with which most Westerners see the affairs of the Jewish state, argues Matti Friedman, one can begin to see things the way Israelis do:

Many [in Israel] believe that an agreement signed by a Western-backed Palestinian leader in the West Bank won’t end the conflict, because it will wind up creating not a state but a power vacuum destined to be filled by intra-Muslim chaos, or Iranian proxies, or some combination of both. That’s exactly what has happened . . . in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. One of Israel’s nightmares is that the fragile monarchy in Jordan could follow its neighbors . . . into dissolution and into Iran’s orbit, which would mean that if Israel doesn’t hold the West Bank, an Iranian tank will be able to drive directly from Tehran to the outskirts of Tel Aviv. . . .

In the “Israeli-Palestinian” framing, with all other regional components obscured, an Israeli withdrawal in the West Bank seems like a good idea—“like a real-estate deal,” in President Trump’s formulation—if not a moral imperative. And if the regional context were peace, as it was in Northern Ireland, for example, a power vacuum could indeed be filled by calm.

But anyone using a wider lens sees that the actual context here is a complex, multifaceted war, or a set of linked wars, devastating this part of the world. The scope of this conflict is hard to grasp in fragmented news reports but easy to see if you pull out a map and look at Israel’s surroundings, from Libya through Syria and Iraq to Yemen.

The fault lines have little to do with Israel. They run between dictators and the people they’ve been oppressing for generations; between progressives and medievalists; between Sunnis and Shiites; between majority populations and minorities. If [Israel’s] small sub-war were somehow resolved, or even if Israel vanished tonight, the Middle East would remain the same volatile place it is now.

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at New York Times

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Middle East