Scientists discover advanced agricultural practices of ancient societies

Recent isotopic analyses have unveiled the unexpectedly advanced farming techniques of the Neolithic Trypillia societies, known for establishing some of the world’s earliest cities around 7,000 years ago in present-day Ukraine and Moldova, reports C&EN. These densely populated settlements, such as the reconstructed Maidanetske mega-site, have puzzled archaeologists with their ability to sustain large populations with seemingly primitive farming technology.

A study, that was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals that these societies were far ahead in agricultural practices than previously thought. Archaeologists initially believed these communities relied heavily on meat, based on animal bones and cereal grains found at Trypillian sites. However, a detailed analysis of carbon and nitrogen isotopes in animal and human bones, as well as charred grains and peas, paints a different picture.

The research indicates that Trypillia communities engaged in intensive farming of peas and other pulses, rich in protein and essential amino acids, alongside grain cultivation. Cattle, sheep, and goats were raised in fenced pastures, with the cattle playing a crucial role beyond providing meat. Their manure was used as fertilizer for cultivating peas, marking an early and sophisticated use of organic fertilizer.

The study findings show a significant increase in nitrogen levels during the settlement’s peak population period, indicating intensified farming and fertilizer use. Computer models based on this data suggest that the Trypillian diet was predominantly vegetarian, with meat constituting only about 10% and the rest almost equally divided between peas and grains.

Source: C&EN

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