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Eating Acorns: What Story do the Distant, Far, and Near Past Tell Us, and Why?

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Béatrice Chassé

Published May 2016 International Oaks No. 27: 107–135

Abstract

“In archaeological contexts the absence of evidence cannot be taken as evidence of absence.” To nothing does this sentence apply more pointedly than to the absence of acorns in the archaeological record. There has been a relatively generalized dismissal of their possible importance in human nutrition and the significance of the role they would/could have played in various different forms of socioeconomic development. Renewed interest in the possible significance of acorns faces the additional problems related to acorn preservation as compared to other nuts, and especially to seed grasses.
To these “archaeological” handicaps must be added an epistemological bias. The terms “incipient agriculture” or “proto-agriculture” clearly show that any form of social organization between hunter-gatherer and agriculture has generally been considered a kind of non-equilibrium state desperately trying, as it were, to attain the implicitly “better” or “more advanced” state of agricultural-based societies.
This review attempts to explore the history of the story of acorns in our history, presenting the new approaches to the question, as well as evidence that may, in the future, lead to quite a different story about the importance of acorns in human social evolution.

Keywords

Neolithic revolution, agricultural revolution, Natufian, long-term social memory, Proto-Indo-European, Hittite

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