Horticulture has its roots dating back to ancient times. Thousands of years ago, our ancestors evolved from hunter-gatherers to a farming society. And that’s when the agricultural revolution started. Instead of hunting, they started growing their own food. But, when did horticulture begin?
Around 10000 years ago, our forebears started growing with a few crops. Even though there are no records of its inception, most historians believe so. Because keeping records only became important while calculating yields. Hence, we can’t be sure of the exact year.
Remarkably, the discovery of horticultural practices started a revolution. With its roots derived from Egypt and Mesopotamia, it’s truly an ancient pursuit. Over the years, they invented practical solutions to growing plants.
Eventually, the successes of trial and error were passed orally through generations. And soon horticulture begin to become popular throughout humanity. Scriptures, tales and almanacs were important for its growth. Moreover, horticultural societies helped the spread of the art.
Notably, horticulture developed into the sophisticated art it is today from generations of innovation. Although there were many advancements throughout history, we will explore the major events. These include the tools and practices that changed horticulture forever.
In fact, the crops we grow today area all thanks to the improvement through generations of growers. All the way back to the ancient civilizations. During the Bronze and Iron ages, many unique and innovative tools came to existence.
Besides, some of the major inventions include
Historically, these were major milestones for our ancestors. And ever since, there are remarkable contributions in horticulture to this day. Especially, through research and improved technology. Specifically, the last 100 years have changed horticulture into a science.
However, all the innovation would not be possible without the discovery of ancient practices.
Where did Horticulture Begin?
Evidently, horticultural societies began around 7000 BCE in the Middle East. Eventually, societies started spreading through Europe, Africa and Asia. Instead of relying on hunter gatherers, they grew their own food.
As a result, these societies were self-sustainable and had permanent settlements. Consequently, the storage of food crops allowed the societies to grow even faster. Moreover, this encouraged trade and helped develop other societies.
Prehistoric humans were hunter-gatherers that followed the migrating animals for food. Eventually, they started the trial and error of wild plants and animals. Historians have found evidence of it dating back 20000 years.
Over thousands of years, our ancestors changed their lifestyle from nomadic food collection to food production. And slowly, they started settling in one place. After all, cultivation is a time-consuming process that demands attention and care.
Attempts to discover nature’s gift of food crops mark the beginning of horticulture. Speaking of discovery, curiosity and the desire to understand is the driving factor. Hence, societies have a huge role in the development of horticulture. Especially through innovations and sharing knowledge.
Evidently, horticulture makes its way in religious texts and scriptures too. For instance, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden with the olive branch as a peace symbol. And Noah’s vineyard cultivation after a flood affected the area.
Another popular horticultural reference is that of Charles Darwin describing nature’s evolution. Particularly, by branching trees depicting growth and dropped branches showing extinction.
Today, horticulture is a part of the fabric of our language and thought process. And its practices have integrated with our consciousness.
The Beginnings of Horticulture
Historians believe that horticulture reached its peak of development in the Neolithic Age. Moreover, they have found writings on the healing elements of specific plants on a tablet. They believe that this tablet dates back to around 2100 BCE during the Sumerian era.
Besides, the Tablet of Marduk has some of the earliest lists of herbs and vegetables during the Babylon era. Probably dating back to the 7th century BCE, its older than the Hanging gardens of Babylon.
Notably, the plants are listed in four columns, with around 20 names per column. Translation reveals the list to include:
- Thyme, and
Initially, crops were grown near dwellings by hard manual labour. Eventually, they spread out in the countryside.
Whereas, smaller gardens and fruit orchards were often near houses. Although, we can’t be sure of the exact time when houses included yards to grow their own food. However, evidence from the 3000 BCE proves it. Particularly, the vegetable and fruit gardens in Sumeria.
Moreover, the earliest horticulture tools also date back to the Neolithic age. For instance, the stone hoe was popular around the 5th millennium BCE. On the other hand, the plough came somewhere between 5000 and 4800 BCE.
However, metal tools came with the discovery of iron around 1100 BCE. By 1200 BCE, wrought iron tools became popular.
For centuries, horticulture evolved with trial and error into the Middle ages. Our ancestors observed various plants and crops under different conditions. To ensure that their crops thrive in regional climate.
The origins of Horticulture and its beginning
Some historians believe that Egyptian temple gardens had a huge role in the beginning of horticulture. Generally, these gardens featured palm trees, grapes vines and fruit trees.
However, advancements in horticulture were refined from existing innovations around Middle East. Irrigation for instance, was the most crucial discovery in horticulture. Although Egypt is credited for developing the first irrigation system. It’s more likely that it was invented by the Sumerians.
The Egyptians improved irrigation with canals and basins. Around 6000 BCE, illustrations prove the development of smaller irrigation systems in temple gardens.
What’s more, the Egyptians grew a wide range of food crops, spices, herbs and medicinal plants. Remarkably, more than 200 species of aromatic plants and flowers have been identified in royal tombs.
Evidently, ancient Egyptian gardens had many elements that are popular to this day. For instance, gardens were usually formal, rectangular and symmetric. Ironically, this layout is still the most efficient for irrigation and maintenance. Besides, they provide easy access for weeding and harvesting.
Moreover, they integrated water features by creating gardens of different levels linked by terraces. Additionally, they used walls, trellises, hedges and lines of trees to make distinct areas of gardens.
Notably, the Egyptians classified gardens by their form, plants and the surrounding buildings. For instance, separate vegetable gardens, fruit orchards, vineyards and groves of incense trees is backed by archaeological evidence.
Besides, they also made ornaments out of trees to beautify the gardens. Speaking of ornaments, ancient Egyptian drawings show the growth of ornamental plants in pots. And that’s a strong indicator that they invented container gardening.
Improvements in Horticulture
Generally, ancient horticulture practices were linked by myth, folklore, religion and superstition. And it’s this link that’s evident in ancient gardens around the world. Even today, this connection is seen in some cultures worldwide.
Such relations are true for Egyptian gardens as well. For instance, plants and buildings were symbolic and considered sacred. Further, they reflected myths that were associated with the Gods of Egypt.
Not only myths, but the gardens also provided flowers, aroma, fruits and vegetables. And they used this produce in religious rituals. Besides, this was used to feed the priest and people in the temples.
Eventually, our ancestors learned how to remove weeds, pests and treat diseases. Although it may sound bizarre, treatments included sacrificing animals. Whereas, other growers handpicked insects and pests.
Initially, all labour was done by hand or by animals. In most societies, women worked in the gardens. Whereas, men worked in the fields. To this day, women continue to work in horticulture.
Even though the evolution of horticulture is seen as a remarkable milestone in history. There are some negative effects in the past millennia.
Essentially, horticulture allowed people to settle and develop societies with a regular food supply. However, its negative effect is that hunting came to a standstill. Primarily, hunter-gatherers were used to a meat-based diet.
Naturally, adapting to a diet rich in plant nutrients and carbs brought nutritional diseases, famine and over population of certain areas. As a result, plague became common in societies.
Although we can’t be exactly sure of when did horticulture begin. Historic evidence reflects that the art is at least 10000 years old. With its roots derived from Egypt and Mesopotamia, it’s truly an ancient pursuit. Over the years, the invention of practical solutions improved horticulture.
Scriptures, tales and almanacs were important for its growth. Moreover, horticultural societies helped the spread of the art.
Evidently, horticultural societies began around 7000 BCE in the Middle East. Eventually, societies started spreading through Europe, Africa and Asia. Historians believe that horticulture reached its peak of development in the Neolithic Age.
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