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In ancient European civilizations, animals were probably not raised for food


According to a recent research (, Europe's first cities were built on the foundations of a predominantly vegetarian diet. The study suggests that even in the dawn of agriculture and large planned settlements, meat was, in fact, nothing more than a delicacy.

The giant circular cities of the Trypillia culture arose about 6,000 years ago in what is now Ukraine and Moldavia. The largest of these mega sites covered an area equivalent to several hundred football pitches and was once home to up to 15,000 people.

They were larger than any other settlement in the world at the time, rivaling even the cities of ancient Mesopotamia that would soon follow.

Feeding every single mouth in Trypillia society required “extremely sophisticated food and grazing management,” says paleoecologist Frank Schlütz. But while livestock were a crucial element of the system, beef-based nutrition was not. Between 4200 and 3650 BC, according to Schlütz, animals domesticated by Trypillia societies were prized primarily for their feces, not their meat. An analysis of nitrogen isotopes in the teeth, bones, and soil of the remains of Tryphillia societies suggests that early European farmers primarily consumed peas, lentils, and grains, such as barley.

In ancient European civilizations, animals were probably not raised for food
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Cattle, sheep and goats, kept in fenced pastures, were largely used to fertilize agricultural land. These animals also ate peas and cereals, and their manure helped increase the production of subsequent crops.

Slaughtering the herds for meat would have depleted a vital resource after so much work to raise them, causing the entire system to collapse. Animal products contributed only 8 to 10 percent of Trypillia's regular diet.

When crops and soil are fertilized by manure, biological turnover increases, resulting in an overall increase in nitrogen isotope levels. That's how scientists determined that pea and broad bean seed yields found in the soil of the Trypillia sites were likely improved with "high levels of fertilization, over long periods, on small plots near houses and stables."

In its heyday, the Trypillia culture was one of a kind. Its settlements, which still dot Ukraine and Moldova today, were designed in concentric circles, with rows of houses aligned along “ring corridors,” surrounding a central open space. The largest Trypillia mega-sites show unusually high nitrogen isotope values ​​compared to smaller sites, indicating “sophisticated dung management.”

Cattle dung appears to have been the main fertilizer. Hundreds of cows were grazed across very large areas, in mega-sites, sometimes quite far from the settlement itself. Sheep and goats were also grazed, although to a lesser extent and the whole system was self-sustaining.

Some mega sites have been inhabited for over 150 years, providing a stable home for several generations of farmers. According to the researchers, “wise nutrient management” meant that Trypillia societies did not overexploit their natural resources. No one really knows why the Trypillia culture disappeared into obscurity around 3000 BC. Some experts suspect it was destroyed by force or as a result of political tensions while others speculate that it was a colder, drier climate that marked the end of these societies once flourishing.

The discovery of such an advanced agricultural technology that did not exploit the natural environment makes it even more likely that the disappearance of the Trypillia was not economic, but based on social or political changes. It seems that even a sustainable and nutritious vegetable-based diet cannot protect against all the ills of human society.

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DrWatson's profile picture

It's amazing to think that such a large and advanced society was primarily vegetarian. Shows that a plant-based diet can sustain large populations.

21 Jun 2024
lostcivilizations's profile picture
Lost Civilizations (@lostcivilizations)

Yes it is but the publication is new. We need to wait for new discoveries to find out more about it.

22 Jun 2024
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