Researchers have been successful in growing Dates from 2000-year-old seeds found in ancient fortresses and caves in the middle east. This revelation could help us figure out how the farmers from 2000 years ago selectively bred dates. This astonishing result shines light on the fact that we don’t know as much as we’d like to know about seed viability.
Ethnobotanists at the Hadassah Medical Center sifted through the hundreds of seeds. Some of the seeds were excavated from Masada, Israel, which is located on a plateau overlooking the Dead Sea.
The process of actually getting the seeds to grow was quite tedious. The researchers had to soak some of the most promising seeds in warm water and fertilizer and then planted them in sterile potting soil. The common pattern among the seeds that were grown was that they were considerably longer than modern Date seeds, almost 30% longer.
The teams had to make sure that the seeds were ancient and not just random specimens that were brought to the site by natural forces. To ascertain this, the team performed carbon dating on the shells of the seeds and found their age to be ranging from 1800 to 2200 years old.
The genetic analysis of the dates that were grown has revealed that ancient farmers that had bred these seeds had mixed traits from around the world. Dates back then were a prized treat throughout the Roman empire, as described by some of the roman writers.
The viability of the seeds still poses some big questions to the researchers. This is due to the fact that our current understanding of the DNA structure dictates that the DNA material required for these seeds to germinate should not be able to survive 2000 years, especially without protection. Researchers have theorized that the big size of the seeds must’ve had a role to play.
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