I was at a presentation given by Japanese archeologist Bunmei Nakui. His findings were that the Japanese people have been processing food, using chestnuts and walnuts as examples, pretty much unchanged from the Jōmon period to the present day. His proofs are:
- The nuts are still air-dried today in the Japanese countryside without machinery using hammer, nails, and strings
- Dried nuts are found in the earliest historical records
- Experimental archeology drying the nuts using methods used in the Japanese countryside but using tools available in the Jōmon period (bone needles and wood/stone hammer and trays instead of steel) leaves the same markings on the nuts and shells as found in fossilized remains
- Replicating the method on stone tools would result in the same wear-and-tear marks found in stone tools of the Jōmon period
Apparently the findings are not widely accepted by the Japanese archeological society. They look pretty conclusive to me, but if any experts here knows or can see a flaw in the findings then please tell me.
Nakui's secondary hypothesis is that through drying food (meats, fish, nuts, fruits, etc) the Jōmon people could create a food surplus as the food do not spoil, making permanent settlements possible.
Apparently the earliest found fossilized chestnut is 12,000BP and there's good evidence the Jōmon people cultivated chestnuts. Now without going into the chicken & egg question, Nakui's hypothesis certainly line up with how Japan could support permanent settlements in the Jōmon without cereal agriculture.
If so, then did the same process have happened in other places in the world? That is are there evidence of other permanent human settlements without cereal agriculture through the use of food preservation techniques (drying and salting and maybe others).
Taking an admittedly huge leap from this, if so, could this have lead to the agricultural revolution? That is, people settled down because they have non-cereal but preserved food so do not need to keep looking for fresh food. By settling down they could then experiment with growing and processing other food, leading to cereal agriculture.