Europe`s first farmers used manure 8,000 years ago

Neolithic farmers manured and watered their crops as early as 6,000 BC, thousands of years earlier than previously thought, a new Oxford study has found.

London: Neolithic farmers manured and watered their crops as early as 6,000 BC, thousands of years earlier than previously thought, a new Oxford study has found.

The study suggests Europe`s first farmers used far more sophisticated practices than was believed earlier.

It had always been assumed that manure wasn`t used as a fertiliser until Iron Age and Roman times. However, this new research shows that enriched levels of nitrogen-15, a stable isotope abundant in manure, have been found in the charred cereal grains and pulse seeds taken from 13 Neolithic sites around Europe.

The findings published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that Neolithic farmers used the dung from their herds of cattle, sheep, goats and pigs as a slow release fertiliser for crops.

Manuring involves a long-term investment in arable land because dung breaks down slowly and crops benefit from its nutrients over many years. This new theory indicates a long-term approach to farming.

Researchers conclude that early farmers recognised the inherent value of intensively managed land and sought to maintain it for their descendants. This new perspective overturns the traditional view held by scholars that Neolithic farmers were nomadic people who used slash and burn to create temporary farmland for agricultural crops, researchers said.

It is undisputed that the adoption of farming had a long-term impact on society. However, what has been unclear is the nature of early European farming and the role it has played in shaping social and economic change.

"The fact that farmers made long-term investments such as manuring in their land sheds new light on the nature of early farming landscapes in Neolithic times," lead author Dr Amy Bogaard from the School of Archaeology at the University of Oxford said.

"The idea that farmland could be cared for by the same family for generations seems quite an advanced notion, but rich fertile land would have been viewed as extremely valuable for the growing of crops. We believe that as land was viewed as a commodity to be inherited, social differences in early European farming communities started to emerge between the haves and the have-nots," Bogaard said.

The territoriality of early farming groups may help to explain documented events of the period involving extreme.

The research is based on stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis of 124 crop samples of barley, wheat, lentil and peas, totalling around 2,500 grains or seeds.

PTI

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