Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Isle of Wight wheat DNA points to ancient trade

Diving Bouldner Cliff Image copyright Maritime Trust / Roland Brookes
Image caption The deposits came from 8,000-year-old sediment cores from Bouldnor Cliff, near Yarmouth

DNA from an archaeological site off the Isle of Wight suggests there was an international wheat trade 2,000 years before agriculture came to Britain.

Scientists analysing the DNA fragments from the underwater site said they matched wheat strains but there was no evidence of cultivation.

The deposits came from 8,000-year-old sediment cores from Bouldnor Cliff.

When the DNA was deposited, the English Channel was yet to be formed and Britain was part of mainland Europe.

Agriculture was unknown in Britain until about 6,000 years ago so the discovery suggests trade between English hunter gatherers and Neolithic farmers must have existed for thousands of years previously.

Unanswered questions

Lead researcher Dr Robin Allaby, of the University of Warwick, said: "We found ancient DNA evidence of wheat that was not seen in mainland Britain for another 2,000 years. However, it was already being grown in southern Europe.

"This is incredibly exciting because it means Bouldnor's inhabitants were not as isolated as previously thought.

"In fact they were in touch, one way or another, with more advanced Neolithic farming communities in southern Europe."

Dr Allaby said many questions remained unanswered and more research was needed.

Bouldnor Cliff, identified as the site of an ancient Mesolithic settlement in 1999, lies 11 metres (36ft) below the surface of the Solent, near Yarmouth.

It forms part of the Solent Maritime Special Area of Conservation.

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