Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Early Egyptian Farm Settlement Found

via National Geographic, the earliest settlement in Egypt showing evidence of agriculture has been found in the Faiyum area SW of Cairo. Dating back to around 5200 BC, the village shows evidence of domesticated livestock and cereal grains.

"Just centimeters beneath the modern plowed surface, in an area that had been used until recently to grow grapes, the researchers discovered evidence of structures, such as clay floors, and hearths containing homegrown wheat grain and barley.

Also unearthed were the remains of sheep, goats, and pigs—which, along with the grains, were imported from the Middle East."

The exciting part of the find is the stratigraphy is around a meter deep - meaning that archaeologists can track changes at the site over a significant period of time, perhaps as long as a couple of thousand years. Earlier finds near the site discovered evidence of agriculture, but the finds also have habitation sites, which could shed light on precisely when the livestock and grains were introduced to the area, and how tool use in Egypt may have evolved. Finds include potttery, shells, jewelry, flints, grinding stones and a very unique find - an unfired clay vessel, the first from this era to be discovered.

The other major impact of the find will be the view it gives us of Egypt's interactions with other areas of the Near East and the trade relationships between these cultures. Agricultural domestication appears to have started around 9000 BC in Mesopotamia and the "package" including both plants and animals combining with a more sedentary lifestyle began around 7000 BC. There is a new focus on discovering the routes and timelines of the diffusion of this package outside the region. The discovery of shells from the Red Sea at the site does give a slight clue that this agricultural lifestyle may have migrated overland via the Sinai, but also could have been transmitted from seafarers voyaging through the Mediterranean.

No comments: