Washington, Feb 13 : Archaeologists have found the earliest evidence ever discovered of an ancient Egyptian agricultural settlement.
Discovered by Archaeologists from UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) and the University of Groningen (RUG) in the Netherlands, the findings included farmed grains, remains of domesticated animals, pits for cooking and floors for what appear to be dwellings.
None of the varieties of domesticated animals or grains are indigenous to the area, so they would have to have been introduced.
The findings, which were unearthed in 2006 and are still being analyzed, also suggest possible trade links with the Red Sea, including a thoroughfare from Mesopotamia, which is known to have practiced agriculture 2,000 years before ancient Egypt.
Evidence in support of this was the discovery of a bracelet by the archaeologists.
The bracelet is made of a type of shell only found along the Red Sea, suggesting a possible trade link with the cradle of agriculture in the Near East. In addition, they unearthed clay floors of what may have been simple structures - possibly posts with some kind of matting overhead.
"By the time of the Pharaohs, everything in ancient Egypt centered around agriculture," said Willeke Wendrich, the excavation's co-director and an associate professor of Near Eastern languages and cultures at UCLA.
"What we've found here is a window into the development of agriculture some 2,000 years earlier. We hope this work will help us answer basic questions about how, why and when ancient Egypt adopted agriculture," he added.
"We had evidence that there was agriculture by 5,200 B.C. but not how it was used in a domestic context," said excavation co-leader Rene Cappers. "Now, for the first time, we have domesticated plants and animals in a village context," he added.
The latest findings date to the Neolithic period, a stage of human development that occurred at various times around world, beginning in 8,600 B.C. Sometimes called the New Stone Age, the period is characterized by the introduction of farming, animal husbandry and a movement away from hunting and gathering and toward a less nomadic way of life, with pots, tools and settlements.
With more than three feet of undisturbed strata at the site, the team expects to be able to piece together the evolution of domestication in the area between 5,200 B.C. and about 4,200 B.C.
"The arrival of the entire Neolithic package in ancient Egypt has always been treated as a moment in time, but we're finding stratified layers that will allow us to tease out the development of agriculture in this area as it developed over the course of hundreds of years," said Wendrich.