Feast or famine was the rule for Europe’s first farmers, archaeologists report. A population bust followed boom times in early agriculture from France to Ireland, a catalog of radiocarbon dates reveals.
Farming first moved into Europe from Greece around 8,500 years ago, spreading to Ireland and northern Europe over the next several thousand years. The switch from hunting and gathering to farming was a giant step forward for humanity, but the results from early Europe point to tough times for early farmers.
"Likely it played out in stark terms of soil degradation, probably ending in disease and warfare," says anthropologist Sean Downey of the University of Maryland in College Park, a co-author of the new Nature Communications journal study. “It’s fairly depressing and Malthusian, what happened.” Read more.
Europe’s first farmers helped spread a revolutionary way of living across the continent. They also spread something else. A new study reveals that these early agriculturalists were fertilizing their crops with manure 8000 years ago, thousands of years earlier than previously thought.
Fertilizer provides plants with all sorts of nutrients that they need to grow strong and healthy, including, most importantly, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. That’s why farmers all over the world, in countries rich and poor, put manure on their crops. Nevertheless, it may not be intuitively obvious that spreading animal dung around plants is good for them, and archaeologists had found no evidence for the practice earlier than about 3000 years ago. Read more.
Perhaps there was peace in the valley, after all. Thousands of years ago, foragers and early farmers in the Balkans lived in peaceful coexistence, according to a new study of skeletal remains. But this cozy picture, which includes cultural exchange and also apparently intermating, may not apply to the spread of farming everywhere, other researchers caution.
The transition from hunting and gathering to farming was one of the most momentous upheavals in human prehistory. That transition marks the beginning of the Neolithic period, which started nearly 11,000 years ago, when people of the Near East domesticated plants and animals and settled down in sedentary communities with permanent houses. In Europe, meanwhile, roving foragers of so-called Mesolithic cultures continued to hunt, fish, and gather wild plants. Read more.
Stone Age farmers lived through routine violence, and women weren’t spared from its toll, a new study finds.
The analysis discovered that up to 1 in 6 skulls exhumed in Scandinavia from the late Stone Age — between about 6,000 and 3,700 years ago — had nasty head injuries. And contrary to findings from mass gravesites of the period, women were equally likely to be victims of deadly blows, according to the study published in the February issue of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.
Linda Fibiger, an archaeologist at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and her colleagues focused on the late Stone Age, when European hunter-gatherers had transitioned into farming or herding animals. Read more.
Modern Europeans’ genetic profile may have been partly cultivated by early Mediterranean farmers who moved to what’s now Scandinavia, where they paired up with resident hunter-gatherers.
DNA taken from 5,000-year-old skeletons previously excavated in Sweden unveils a scenario in which agricultural newcomers from the south interbred with northern hunter-gatherers, say evolutionary genetics graduate student Pontus Skoglund of Uppsala University in Sweden and his colleagues. Their findings feed into a picture of many early migrations of farmers into Europe, which often would have included interactions with local hunter-gatherers.
Pieces of DNA extracted from an ancient farmer’s remains buried in southern Sweden display gene variants most like those found in people now living in Greece and Cyprus, the scientists report in the April 27 Science. DNA retrieved from the bones of three hunter-gatherers interred on an island off Sweden’s coast contains distinctive gene variants that most resemble those of native Finns. Read more.
Scientists have long held that some of the rainforests of Central Africa disappeared about 3,000 years ago, abruptly replaced by savannas due to a dramatic shift in the regional climate. However, the conclusions of a recent study now suggest that it was not climate change alone that may have been responsible for the shift — that humans may have had a big hand, as well.
Germain Bayon and a research team of colleagues conducted a geochemical analysis of a marine sediment core taken at the mouth of the Congo River and determined that the sediment had undergone very significant chemical weathering around 3,000 years ago. While climate change at the time was a factor, the weathering also coincided with the arrival of Bantu-speaking farmers from the region that now encompasses modern-day Cameroon and Nigeria. Read more.
Feisty forest-dwellers in winged helmets, with a fondness for roast boar, strong wine and Roman-bashing. That is the pen portrait of the Gaul as summed up by the pint-sized comic hero Asterix — and it is wrong from start to finish.
Drawing on three decades of archaeology, “Les Gaulois”, an exhibition opening this week at Paris’ Cite des Sciences, debunks popular myths about the Celtic tribes, known collectively as the Gauls, who peopled modern-day France before the Roman invasion.
And far from brutish war-mongers, the show reveals them to be sophisticated farmers, traders and craftsmen.
"The Gauls didn’t wait for the Romans or Greeks to civilise them," said the archaeologist Francois Malrain, one of the show’s curators. Read more.
ATHENS (AFP) - Archaeologists in northern Greece have found a rare group of ancient graves where farmers were interred with their livestock, a Greek daily reported on Friday.
At least 11 adults and 16 farm animals were found buried together near the town of Mavropigi in the northern region of Macedonia, some 21km from the city of Kozani, Ethnos daily said.
The men, women and a child lay alongside horses, oxen, dogs and a pig in two rows of graves, the area’s head archaeologist told the newspaper.
'It is the first time that this strange custom is found at such a scale, and from this particular period of time, the late 6th century and early 5th century BC,' head archaeologist Georgia Karamitrou-Mentesidi said. (source)