What did people eat in Qatar in the Past?

Now that the Origins of Doha and Qatar excavations have finished, all the materials are undergoing analyses from experts. One of these experts is Dr Alan Farahani, a paleoethnobotanist associated with UCLA’s Cotsen Center. He has been examining the plant remains from our excavations. Here he is, discussing the analysis of remains from the Old Doha Rescue Excavation:

My name is Alan Farahani and I am an archaeologist who researches ancient agriculture and the ways in which the social, political, and cultural lives of people affected and were affected by the plants they chose to grow. To study this I specialize in “paleoethnobotany”, which is the study of archaeological plant remains in order to learn about human culture. Many methods have been developed in order to recover both the macroscopic (seeds, stems, etc.) and microscopic remains of the remains of plants that people either grew or used near and on archaeological sites.

One such method, flotation, was utilized on the Old Doha Rescue Excavation (ODRE) project in order to identify what kind of plant foods people were eating in this important moment of Doha’s history. Flotation involves submerging archaeological sediment (aka dirt) in a special device that allows archaeological plant remains, usually carbonized plant seeds and wood charcoal, to float to the surface of the water and be recovered.

The project used this method and collected over 170 samples, equaling 1700L of processed sediment. Of these, slightly more than eighty samples have been analyzed by me and another researcher. The contents of these samples include date stones and fragments (Phoenix dactylifera L.) hulled barley (Hordeum vulgare L.), bread wheat (Triticum aestivum), rice (Oryza sativa L.), and even grape seeds (Vitis vinifera L.). Questions raised by these remains include the extent to which these plants were traded or grown locally. Thankfully, the ODRE project includes a substantial oral history and community involvement portion which will be able to shed light on this important evidence of early foodways in Doha.

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