Wheat, barley and peas, traditional grain-crops of the Western World are, by now, well known to have originated in the Near East. It was the cultivation of the wild ancestors of these crops, beginning soon after the end of the last European Ice Age, that eventually led to an utterly new way of life for most of the population of Europe and Western Asia, a new Neolithic culture based on food production and complete with appropriately adapted tool assemblages and relatively permanent living structures. Soon, from different parts of the Near East, this new pattern of subsistence based on wheats, barleys and pulse crops spread in all directions. One direction led up the Balkan Peninsula and into Central and, eventually, Northern Europe where the Near Eastern, Neolithic, cereal-pulse culture spawned temperate-adapted versions of just the same patterns of subsistence.
Rye, however, has played no part in this story as told to date, this despite the fact that, as Europeans, we automatically associate rye with wheat and barley, the two other providers of our ‘daily bread’.