The discovery of roots belonging to a tea tree have pushed tea cultivation to possibly 6,000 years ago. It was previously thought that tea was first consumed about 3,000 years ago in China. The recovery of broken ceramics and evidence of manual digging around the roots––found at the site of Ningbo in the Zhejiang province–– suggest that the tea plants were purposefully planted by people.
The domestication of trees is a topic that interests archaeologists as it is not as well understood as the processes involving other crops. However, the discovery of ancient peach pits from the Yangtze Valley in China has shed some light on this long process which started 7500 years ago. By around 4,300 to 5300 years ago, the peaches started to look like the domesticated peaches currently produced and consumed. According to the researchers, ancient Chinese farmers used techniques such as grafting and vegetative reproduction to develop specific types of peaches.
Well-preserved mummies in northwestern China were apparently buried with cheese-- making this the oldest cheese in the world. Even more interesting is how the cheese was made. After careful studies of the cheese were undertaken, archaeologists believe that a mix of milk and a starter were used. This technique is still used today to make kefir. Researchers suggest that such an easy process of making cheese may explain the spread of herding throughout Asia.
More exciting news is emerging from China regarding ancient diets. Through starch grain analysis, researchers have identified unexpected plant species that are believed to have been consumed. This would suggest that an indigenous agricultural system was in place prior to the arrival of domesticated rice.
Follow the latest discoveries from the world of archaeology, plants, and people.