Barley has always been popular because of the fact that it is the most important ingredient in making beers. Beer, after all, is considered to be the most beloved beverage in most parts of the world. Lately, however, this crop has gained prominence as a tool for explaining the end of cultures and civilizations. Anthropologists have come up with studies that explain the causes of the demise of ancient societies simply by studying the barley grains. According to them, the studies could also lead to conclusions on how climate change could drastically alter the existence of current centers of population in areas where barley is commonly grown. All this from what is found in beer!
The findings are essentially based on the composition of barley. Archeologists who have found samples of barley from ancient civilizations have pointed out that there are clear differences in the composition when compared to modern versions of the grain. They point out that carbon isotopes in barley vary depending on the availability of water. Because of this, they have also been able to determine the periods of drought that actually led to villages and towns being abandoned to the point that civilizations ultimately ceased to exist. Such studies are said to be very important, especially in determining climate change nowadays.
The study on barley was basically focused on the ancient civilization that existed in the area covering the modern countries of Egypt until the Iran-Iraq border. This expansive area used to be a very rich and fertile land where substantial amounts of barley were grown. This was also a region with a very rich culture and advanced civilization relative to the times. However, the societies that dotted the region ultimately stopped existing because of factors that were largely unexplained. Recent studies, through barley analysis, have led to certain conclusions though which are considered scientific and valid.
The said civilized region experienced massive and intense droughts for so many years. This is based on the comparative studies on the barley samples found in the area. The droughts prompted the people living the towns and villages to abandon their homes and farms and to settle where there is more water, usually the coastal areas. As this developed, the civilizations that were built in the interior areas, including the cultures that sustained these ultimately vanished. Apparently, such conclusions would not have been possible if there were no barley samples analyzed.
According to Frank Hole of Yale University and who led the team of scientists that conducted the study on barley, they found their research very important in the effort to determine whether climate change could really have an impact on the existence of societies. It must be pointed out that there has been a long-standing debate on whether climate change can have serious repercussions on society and on people. Hole believes that their studies have affirmed the point that climate change can be very harmful to societies. Because of this, the proponents of climate change mitigating measures have found another argument added to their arsenal.
However, the studies conducted by Hole and his team also explained that people do not immediately abandon their habitats due to a change in climate. Their tendency is to first seek solutions that could resolve problems brought about by the effects of climate change. For example, as soon as the nearby natural sources of water for the crops had dried up, they had learned to construct irrigation systems that cover large tracts land planted with barley. The carbon isotope composition of the barley in irrigated areas again proved this tendency. Nevertheless, as soon as the irrigation systems that they had established become no longer sufficient, they were prompted to leave their localities and search for other regions with enough water.
While the studies may have been focused at first at ancient Mesopotamia, it prompted similar research to be conducted in other areas where barley is commonly grown. There have been such studies in certain regions in France as well as in other parts of Europe. Apparently, the effort is no longer meant to explain what happened to ancient civilizations but to actually predict the outcome of climate change if it should become even more serious. There may be other crops that could foretell the same occurrences in the future, considering that climate change is a grave reality already. However, it is only barley that has so far provided the most detailed proofs that gave weight to the explanations made by Frank Hole and his team.