ENP Newswire -
Release date- 01092014 - A study co-headed by
It is the first time that direct evidences enable to know humidity and fertility conditions of crops, as well as the process of cereal domestication developed by humans from the Neolithic (12,000 years ago) to early Roman times (around 2,000 years ago).
The study has been published in the journal
Researchers used crop physiology techniques to analyse archaeobotanical remains. In total, they analysed 367 kernels -for instance, barley and wheat-, and 362 wood samples obtained in eleven archaeological sites from Upper Mesopotamia, which includes present south-eastern
Researchers compared the size of kernel remains with present samples to determine the evolution of crop domestication. 'The methodology used to date does not reproduce real size; it measures width and long of charred kernels', explains
Wetter and more fertile soils
Sample analysis of carbon and nitrogen isotope compositions -a technique used in crop physiology and improvement- was a key factor to describe the conditions of the area. On one hand, 'carbon isotope composition enables to evaluate water availability for crops. It reached its maximum level 9,000 years ago, and then it decreased progressively until the beginning of our times', points out Araus. In any case, researchers have not found conclusive evidences about the use of irrigation as a common practice. 'This information together with cereal kernel weight allows assessing the productivity of ancient crops', highlights
On the other hand, nitrogen isotope composition provides information about soil's organic matter and fertility.
These data enable to describe more precisely agronomic conditions and the evolution of human populations linked to agricultural practices. 'The study relates conditions like water availability or soil fertility to crop yield', states
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