The one who owns petrol owns the commonwealth; the one who owns food owns the nation.” This quote is claimed to have been phrased by Henry A. Kissinger in 1974, the United States Foreign Minister at the time.
he one who owns petrol owns the
commonwealth; the one who owns
food owns the nation.” This quote is
claimed to have been phrased by Henry A.
Kissinger in 1974, the United States Foreign
Minister at the time.
Confirming his saying, wheat has always
played an important role in forming human
history as it is the very first of our food
resources. In this article, it will be mentioned
how wheat had an ability to create a civiliza-
tion and accordingly the archeological proofs
that support this claim.
Wheat and humanity
Wheat has always been essential to
humanity being one of the first domesticated
It differs from other crops with it being
satisfying in calorie and the raw material
of bread. It also gets on well with humans,
furthermore, it would not be wrong to say
that it rules the world.
Wheat is cultivated in an area of about
six million square meters in the world; more
than half of Europe or all Australia. For
instance, imagine an area fivefold of the USA
and two-fold of India. This is the area on
which wheat has a big impact.
Moreover, it has the biggest ecological
tolerance as a plant in the world, other than
human beings. What I want to say is that
ecological tolerance is the ability to adapt
oneself to different geographies and climates.
In other words, the ‘human-wheat’ relation-
ship has always been involved in colonization
This couple – human-and-wheat - prob-
ably started colonization 14,000 years ago.
We can also say that when humans
first came across wheat, it stole his heart
and became the ruler of the whole world.
Humans put wheat under his control, plant-
ing it in different lands and thus wheat con-
vinced him to live together. This relationship
means settlement and settlements means
the beginning of a civilization.
Nutrition a basic human instinct
Nutrition has been one of the basic
instincts for humans for about 3.5 million
years. It was also a basic instinct before
human began to be a human. Likewise, all
living beings have the same instincts: a need
for nutrition, surviving and reproducing.
It was 3.5 million years ago when human
started to exist as a human beings and first
initiated toolmaking in order to be able to
use these tools to get food. 3,485,000 years
of this time was all about hunting and collect-
ing. For about 3,485,000 years, humans only
maintained their existence by means of hunt-
ing and collecting from nature not attempting
to make any agricultural production at all.
After that, about two million years ago,
humans left Africa and spread into other
parts of the world. During their journey, they
invented agriculture. This was probably the
most important invention after toolmaking
and being able to keep fire under control.
Then, humans noticed something while
observing nature: It was that the same plant
was born again after the seeds fell to earth.
However, as I mentioned before, 3,485,000
“Wheat brings new habits”
– Charles Darwin
by Dr Ahmet Uhri, Archeologist, The Department of Archeology,
Dokuz Eylül University, Turkey
Dr Uhri gave a
presentation on the
of the Turkish Flour
Exhibition in Antalya
in late March 2014
on the history of
wheat and its value
in human nutrition.
10 | March - April 2014 GRAIN&FEED MILLING TECHNOLOGYF
years had to pass for him to discover such
things. In other words, everything started
14 to 15,000 years ago when humans, first
having lived as a wanderer, eventually set-
tled down and started agriculture. This new
beginning is called the Neolithic Revolution
by archeologists and historians.
All of these have been proven to be true by
the archeologists excavating in Southeastern
Anatolia Region within the body of GAP
(Southeastern Anatolia Project).
The excavations in Hallan Çemi, Çayönü,
Göbekli Tepe, Nevali Çori, Körtiktepe, Mezra
Teleilat, Gürcütepe and Diyarbakır Çayönü
give us some information including another
meaning to the term ‘neolithic’. These exca-
vations also claim that farmers first began to
emerge gradually about 14,000 years ago.
Mehmet Özdoğan, an expert of this field,
“Briefly, the Neolithic period reflects the
period of reformation in the areas such as
nutrition, technology and lifestyle.
“In the basis of these reforms, this period
was a kind of revolution lasting from 12,000
to 6000 BC. The beginning of this period
was mainly associated with the disappear-
ance of what Last Ice Age caused and the
appearance of today’s climates. Throughout
the world, people tried to adapt themselves
to these changing climatic conditions with
the help of technology and their social habits.
“However, this revolution was a different
one in some regions of the Near East when
compared to the rest of the world. Thus, a
new lifestyle came into being affecting the
March - April 2014 | 11GRAIN&FEED MILLING TECHNOLOGY
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The epigram above by Charles Darwin
makes sense now: “Wheat brings new hab-
its.” This revolution in the regions of Near
East and the appearance of a new lifestyle
are again connected to wheat as its ‘home-
town’ is Southeastern Anatolia Region. Due
to the archeobotanic data that we have,
DNA analysis results show that today’s
einkorn and emmer wheats have a kind
of relation with the ones in Karacadağ in
Göbekli Tepe near Urfa, where the
excavations have been going since 1995,
contributes a lot to Near East archeology
and provides some satisfactory results. This
12,000-year-old area makes us realise how
people began agriculture and settlement.
Kalus Schmidt, one of the excavators in
Göbekli Tepe says: “At that time, Göbekli
Tepe still belonged to the hunters and
gatherers. This place also represents the
final period of hunters who were about
to discover a lifestyle based on farming to
supply nutrition and to initiate the Neolithic
First use resembles today’s use
However, I can say that the first use of
wheat resembles today’s use of wheat.
In the Southeastern Region, in the exca-
vation sites like Çayönü, Nevali Çori and
Hallan Çemi, Mediterreanean coasts (Nahal
Oren, Hayonim etc.) in Palestine between
the years of 11,000 – 9300 BC, Jordan
Plateau and the Rift Valley (Ayn Mallaha),
Tell Mureybet in northern Syria, along with
the seeds of barley, einkorn, acorn, lentil,
chickpea, beans , ground stones, stoves and
food storages have been found. 2
In the settlements of this culture named
as Natuf Culture in literature, roasted grain
samples and grain roasting places found in
Tell Mureybet 3 are the proofs that people
used roasting. Eroded teeth found in Natuf
skeletons show that this was caused by the
common usage of ground stones remained
in their vegetables.
On the other hand, the examination
made on the Hittite skeletons shows the
same results and this leads us to the fact
that this kind of grinding was used for a long
time and in various places. Also, there is a
fact that Strontium/Calcium in their bones
was the consequence of being closer to the
herbivores rather than carnivores. This sug-
gests that the vegetative food has a leading
role in Natuf people’s diet.
That is to say, this was not easy for
people to come to these days. It has been a
long journey from the first grinding crops to
today’s various and modern bakery products.
Wheat started our civilisation as
we know it
The result of the transition from gathering
and hunting period to the first production
has been like a revolution for human beings.
They have reached a civilized level in the
past 15,000 years. In other words, they have
developed metallurgy, changed the way of
settlement, invented writing, started urbani-
sation and progressed on in time.
Shortly, wheat started civilisation or the
civilisation started when it met the human.
It was love, but not love at first sight. They
observed each other for a certain time and
sometimes they got closer. However, some-
times they did not. In the end, they realised
that they could not live without each other.
The main issue is the prehistoric period
of wheat and it is possible to provide a basis
for the place of wheat in prehistoric times by
giving some examples. In the myths found in
the documents of Sumerians, who first used
writing, some information about wheat has
been provided to lead us along the way.
Among these myths, Dumuzi and
Enkimdu are highly interesting in content.
They are also considered as the sources
of Kain and Habil. This myth is about the
rivalry between the lifestyles of farmers and
shepherds. The myth reveals that Goddess
Inanna is about to choose her husband. The
candidates are Shepherd God Dumuzi and
Farmer God Enkimdu. Enkimdu says that he
will give gifts to Dumuzi if he withdraws.
Moreover, there is also wheat among
these gifts. When we are already into the
prehistoric times, it will be a good idea to
go further into the next periods since some
other civilisations also emerge.
It is seen that Storm God Tarhunt is
depicted as holding a bunch of wheat and
grapes as a sign of fertility on the famous Ivriz
embossment remained from Late Hittites.
In later periods, it is also clear in the
descriptions that Demeter, Goddess
of Fertility, again is holding some wheat.
Furthermore, there are about 180 bread,
cake, pastry and pie names in Hittite docu-
ments1, but these names are given to them
according to their forms, contents, ingredi-
ents and tastes.
For instance, thin bread (phyllo), thick
bread (a loaf of bread), small bread, bread in
the shape of a fish and the moon (croissant),
bread in the shape of an ear, a bunch of
grapes, a tooth, a sheep, a human, a boat and
a tyre, sweet bread (pastry), bread with beer
or peas, oily bread, sour bread, wet bread,
wheat, rye, barley bread, etc.
Humans took wheat with him on
About 14,000 years ago, the relationship
between human and wheat that first started
near Urfa in Southeastern Anatolia provided
human with chance for settlement and ena-
bled them to begin agriculture.
Having stayed in the same region for a
long time together, this couple, human and
wheat, became inseparable in time. As a
consequence, human never left wheat and
took him wherever it went during the migra-
tion started 9000 years ago.
This led to the rapid tranmission of the
new lifestyles to other regions of the world.
During this 9000 year-period, wheat reached
Atlantic coasts leaving Southeastern Anatolia
with human. In the meantime, not only the
new agriculture technologies and wheat, but
also the new lifestyles reached the entire
12 | March - April 2014 GRAIN&FEED MILLING TECHNOLOGYF
world like a packet referred to as Neolithic
Pack by archeologists.
If we take the holy scriptures into consid-
eration, since they are the products of human-
ity, the saying, “You shall eat weed; until you
become earth, you shall eat bread by the sweat
of your brow…”1 has come true. Human
landing on Earth from heaven has lived his own
heaven and hell on Earth. •
References & Footnotes
1 A.Uhri, “Ekmek ve Uygarlık”, Metro-Gastro/42,
Metro Kültür Yay., İstanbul-2007, s.121.
2 M.Özdoğan, “Neolitik Dönem: Günümüz
Uygarlığının Temel Taşları”, 12.000 Yıl
Önce “Uygarlığın Anadolu’dan Avrupa’ya
Yolculuğunun Başlangıcı” Neolitik Dönem,
(edt.)N.Başgelen, YKY Yay., İstanbul-2007, 9-20.
3 G.Willcox-M.Savard, “Güneydoğu Anadolu’da
Tarımın Benimsenmesine İlişkin Botanik
Veriler”, Anadolu’da Uygarlığın Doğuşu
ve Avrupa’ya Yayılımı-Türkiye’de Neolitik
Dönem-Yeni Kazılar, Yeni Bulgular, (edt.)
M.Özdoğan-N.Başgelen, Arkeoloji ve Sanat
Yay., İstanbul-2007, s.427-440.
4 K.Schmidt, “Göbekli Tepe” 12.000 Yıl
Önce “Uygarlığın Anadolu’dan Avrupa’ya
Yolculuğunun Başlangıcı” Neolitik Dönem,
(edt.)N.Başgelen, YKY Yay., İstanbul-2007,
5 P.Dolukhanov, Eski Ortadoğu’da Çevre
ve Etnik Yapı, Çev.S.Aydın, İmge Yay.,
Ankara-1998, 200-202 ve M.N.Cohen, The
Food Crisis in Prehistory, Yale Unv. Press.,
6 M.Roaf, Mezopotamya ve Eski Yakındoğu,
Çev.Z.Kılıç, İletişim yay., İstanbul-1996, s.27.
7 C.K.Maisels, Uygarlığın Doğuşu, Çev.A.Şenel,
İmge Ktbv. Yay., Ankara-1999, s.145.
8 Roaf 1996, s.29.
9 A.Ünal, Etiler ve Hititler, Etibank Yay.,
10 Dolukhanov 1998, s.204 Roaf 1996, s.29, ve
Maisels 1999, s.123 ayrıca Cohen 1977, s.135.
11 S.H.Hook, Ortadoğu Mitolojisi, Çev.A.Şenel,
İmge Ktbv., Ankara-1993, s.36-37.
12 A.Ünal, Etiler ve Hititler, Etibank Yay.,
13 Ünal 1999, 215-217.
14 Tekvin, 3: 18-19. Kitabı Mukaddes, Kitabı
Mukaddes Şirketi, İstanbul-1993.
March - April 2014 | 13GRAIN&FEED MILLING TECHNOLOGY
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