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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Jul 30;110(31):12589-94. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1305918110. Epub 2013 Jul 15.

Crop manuring and intensive land management by Europe's first farmers.

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School of Archaeology, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 2PG, United Kingdom.


The spread of farming from western Asia to Europe had profound long-term social and ecological impacts, but identification of the specific nature of Neolithic land management practices and the dietary contribution of early crops has been problematic. Here, we present previously undescribed stable isotope determinations of charred cereals and pulses from 13 Neolithic sites across Europe (dating ca. 5900-2400 cal B.C.), which show that early farmers used livestock manure and water management to enhance crop yields. Intensive manuring inextricably linked plant cultivation and animal herding and contributed to the remarkable resilience of these combined practices across diverse climatic zones. Critically, our findings suggest that commonly applied paleodietary interpretations of human and herbivore δ(15)N values have systematically underestimated the contribution of crop-derived protein to early farmer diets.


agriculture; husbandry; paleodiet; prehistoric

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