We keep rewriting history, and things keep getting older.
Soil samples from southern Germany reveal that people in Europe were using slash-and-burn methods to cultivate land as early as 9,500 years ago.
Scientists investigated whether anthropogenic factors or climate had an influence on the development of the plant landscape of the Ammer Valley (Bavaria) over the last 11,500 years in their study, published in the Journal of Quaternary Science. Fires used by hunters and gatherers of the Stone Age were of particular interest to the researchers.
Climate change during the Holocene era, approximately 11,700 years ago, also led to reforestation, especially with pines, birches, and hazelnut trees. Reindeer and mammoth herds were replaced by deer and wild boar herds, which were native to forest areas during the Ice Age.
“Typical for the Mesolithic are so-called microliths—small flint implements, which at the beginning of the Mesolithic were mostly made in a triangular and later a quadrangular fashion. Numerous artifacts of this type have been recovered from the Mesolithic scattered finds of Rottenburg-Siebenlinden near Tübingen, Germany,” explains Shaddai Heidgen, a Ph.D. student at S-HEP.
“In our recent study, we explored how the landscape of the Ammer Valley changed during the Mesolithic period—and who was responsible for this change, in particular for the numerous fires during that period.”
A combination of pollen, micro carbon remains, and paleoclimate reconstruction from sediment cores revealed that open, moisture-rich vegetation was dominated by natural fires between 10,100 and 9,800 years ago.
Mesolithic settlements were able to flourish thanks to this. Herbivores and pioneer vegetation such as hazelnuts found the burned areas to be attractive. According to the study, slash-and-burn methods were first used extensively by people of that era for their own purposes as early as 9,500 years ago. The researchers explain that charcoal and pollen analyses reveal that Mesolithic hunters and gatherers controlled fires in a landscape increasingly dominated by deciduous trees.
Furthermore, the archaeological horizons of the Mesolithic settlement region coincide with the intensity of the fires but with a rather low frequency.
Previous research notes that agriculture appeared in Europe about 8,500 years ago in modern-day Turkey and spread to France approximately 7,800 years ago. Agriculture then spread to Britain, Ireland, and northern Europe about 6,000 years ago. The growth of the population was fueled by food supplies that were abundant and stable.
According to researchers, agriculture emerged in the Near East around 11,000 years ago.
Migration and diffusion were key factors in the development of agriculture in Europe. Agriculture has its earliest roots along the Mediterranean coast, where long-distance migration and trade were easily achieved by boat.
As agriculture spread across Europe, so did the creation of numerous megalithic sites. In fact, researchers believe that the ancestors of the original builders of Gobekli Tepe traveled across Europe, and the Mediterranean and settled in present-day England thousands of years ago. These people, who originated in present-day Turkey are thought to have helped in the construction of Stonehenge, thanks to the knowledge passed onto them by their ancestors.
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