Ancient seed sprouts plant from the past
Kütahya: Radikal | 12/16/2009 12:00:00 AM |
A 4,000-year-old lentil seed found during an archeological excavation has germinated, exciting scientists as the event might lead to invaluable data for comparisons between the organic and genetically engineered plants of today. ‘It would be the first seed from very old times whose genes were never modified,’ say the scientists.
A 4,000-year-old lentil seed unearthed in an archeological excavation has successfully sprouted after being planted.
Project leader and Dumlupınar University archeology faculty Professor Nejat Bilgen said they found the seeds during an excavation undertaken last year in Kütahya province.
Bilgen said a layer from the container in which they found the seeds was determined to be from the middle bronze age.
He said his team found many seeds, but most had been burnt, adding that they had failed to make the others turn green before the recent success. The excavation team believes they found a silo because there were many other containers around.
“A seed dug from underground and dating back approximately 4,000 years sprouted. The plant that came out of this seed is under examination and will be presented to the scientific community [so they can] make various analyses over it,” Bilgen said.
Nükhet Bingöl, an assistant professor from the same department, said she planted one of the seeds last year but that it dried up after germinating, adding that she sent another to Istanbul for fat analyses.
Bingöl said she planted the present seed three months ago before it successfully germinated. “Scientifically, we are still at the beginning,” said Bingöl, who explained that the age of the seed needs to be determined and compared to the lentils of today.
“Although [the seed] was found in an archeological excavation, we should prove it scientifically. We should look into whether those seeds came from outside [the container] or not,” she said.
Bingöl said the lentil is pretty weak – unlike its modern day versions – yet they hope it will be able to flower and produce seeds. If that happens, according to Bingöl, they would have extremely important data to compare with the organic and genetically engineered plants of today. “It would be the first seed from very old times whose genetics were never modified.”
Bingöl said the lentil is a plant that does not require much water and heat to grow, so it is very likely that they were planted near the excavation area. “Barley, lentil, wheat, all of these originated in Anatolia,” said Bingöl.
“That is why finding this seed was not a surprise for us but finding it alive was. This is caused by the structure of the [container’s] mold. A fire broke the mold, it collapsed and so [some] of the seeds were able to stay alive,” she said.
If the plant produces seeds, they would be genetically unmodified original seeds, she said. “Original seeds are always weaker than others. Maybe it would not offer much benefit to the country’s economy but we would be pioneering for other work in universities on collecting old seeds.”
Bingöl said there are domestic and foreign examples of centuries-old plants germinating, adding that Japan’s magnolia plant has different qualities than today’s magnolia plant in other parts of the world.