Research finds Neolithic farmers fertilized crops with manure

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Farming practices are often passed from one generation to the next, and a recent discovery has found the practice of cultivating crops with manure has been around for 8,000 years.

Researchers from the University of Oxford discovered the nitrogen-15 isotope in charred remains of grain from the Neolithic Age. This isotope is found abundantly in manure, implying that farmers fertilized these crops with livestock manure.

While this news seems trivial to the modern farmer, it has great significance to our understanding of Neolithic civilization. It was previously thought fertilizing crops with manure didn’t start until the Iron Age, the period before Rome’s invasion of Britain in 43 CE. Neolithic civilizations were thought to be nomadic, but this new research suggests they may have been sedentary, staying in one place to cultivate their farms on a long-term basis.

This research also gives scientists a better idea of our predecessors’ diets and their social structures. Read more here.

Our Neolithic ancestors were also familiar with dairy farming. Archeologists have found 9,000-year-old evidence from Turkey of dairy production. The art of cheese-making is a bit younger. Evidence shows that cheese-making is only a 7,000-year-old craft.

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