Barley – the ideal food for mountain living?

New research in Science Magazine suggests that around 3600 years ago, farmers on the Tibetan Plateau started growing crops on slopes higher up on the Plateau, choosing to grow cold, frost-tolerant barley in favour of more traditional but less hardy crops such as millet.

Surprisingly, the expansion of agriculture on the Plateau seems to have occurred when the Tibetan climate was getting colder, suggesting that the switch to barley made growing crops possible at higher elevations, despite a worsening climate.

Archaeologist Kurt Rademaker calls it “a fascinating example of a cultural strategy to tackle a challenging place,”.

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