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Scientists Say Irrigation Used in Prehistoric Olive Cultivation

Olives in a bowl

<![CDATA[Scientists say they have found evidence that prehistoric farmers in what is today's northern Israel made use of irrigation techniques to cultivate olives. Seven thousand years in the past, the residents of the Tel Beit She'an Valley were busily going about the business of raising animals and growing crops. Between herds of pigs, cattle, sheep, and goats - and growing peas, buckwheat, lentils, barley and wheat, these ancient humans were rather busy, according to the archaeological record; but now, the activities of these prehistoric farmers are being revisited after hundreds of olive pits were found in a recent dig organized by the University of Haifa. According to an article in The Jerusalem Post, the international team of archaeologists – spearheaded by the Zinman Institute of Archaeology from the University of Haifa – announced the find this week, remarking that with such a large quantity of olive pits, it is highly likely that these early farmers would have needed to employ irrigation techniques. Professor Daniel Rosenberd, the co-leader of the research project, stated that the revelation that ancient agrarian societies were relying on artificial irrigation could result in a fundamental change in how scientists and historians understand how sophisticated these ancient farmers were. Rosenberg and his colleague: Dr. Florian Klimsh from the German Archaeological institute, believe that the prehistoric settlements found here in northern Israel in close proximity to Jordan were instrumental in the developmental process of the Near Eastern cultures and cities of antiquity. Despite this, little is known about these ancient settlements today. In order to broaden that knowledge, the recent research into the region focused on gathering botanical evidence to make determinations regarding what the conditions would have been in the Jordan Valley seven thousand years ago. Doing so could help shed light on not just agricultural practices and diet but also the economy of the region and how these settlements were organized socially, researchers say. It is well known that olives were being used in the region at this time, based on other documented evidence. However, with the sheer number of olive seeds found on site, Rosenberg said that several questions were raised which necessitate a new look at how ancient farmers irrigated their crops – and how the olive and olive oil trade operated during the time as well. Data collection over the past four years has already revealed much regarding the lives of these ancient farmers, with evidence pointing to the inhabitants growing different plant species concurrently. These plants, which all had differing maturation cycles, were meant to be used as a back-up in the event of a poor harvest. ]]>

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