Found evidence of slash-and-burn agriculture in the Mesolithic

(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists from Germany came to the conclusion that people could control forest fires already 9.5 thousand years ago.

Slash-and-burn agriculture is one of the most primitive and ancient farming systems. Its essence is simple: in order to clear a forest area for arable land, trees are first cut down or cut down, cutting the bark so that they dry out, and after a year they are burned. In this case, the seeds are sown directly into the ash, which, as you know, serves as a good fertilizer.

This type of agriculture has been widespread in the zone of broad-leaved forests of Europe and Asia since the Neolithic, and in some areas it persisted until the middle of the 19th century.

In some African tribes, this method remains popular to this day. Scholars debate when the first evidence emerged of humans using fire not only to keep warm or cook food, but also to shape their environment.

Scientists from the University of Tübingen (Germany) came to the conclusion that the method of slash-and-burn agriculture could have appeared already in the Mesolithic (the era that preceded the Neolithic and followed the Paleolithic).

The researchers studied a record of geological Holocene deposits from the wetlands of the Ammer Valley in southwestern Germany, which included pollen, charcoal and plant particles from that time.

This area is located near the early and late Mesolithic sites of Rottenburg-Siebenlinden in the Tübingen region of Germany, where Mesolithic tools are found in large numbers.

Found evidence of slash and burn agriculture in the Mesolithic 2

After analyzing the biological deposits of the Ammer Valley, scientists came to the conclusion that between 10.1 and 9.8 thousand years ago, natural fires prevailed in the valley, which was open and rich in moisture and plants.

According to researchers, this created favorable conditions for people to settle there. This is because the fires in the long term contributed to the spread of such plants as hazelnut, wild apple, blackberry, elderberry (attractive to eat not only for people, but also for herbivores), nettle and reed (man could use them, for example , for weaving baskets and nets).

The fires “thinned out” the forest thickets and contributed to the growth at the edge of the above plants, which usually make up the undergrowth. Probably, observing how well useful herbs and shrubs grow on soil rich in ash, our ancient ancestors began to set fire to the forest themselves.

According to the authors of the work, who analyzed pollen and charcoal residues, this could have happened as early as 9.5 thousand years ago.

Since then, the fires seem to have been controlled by hunter-gatherers. Researchers have recorded an expansion of Mesolithic sites during this era and an increase in the frequency of low-intensity fires.


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