Earliest archeological evidence of fertilization in Central Europe
The beginnings of food production—animal husbandry and crop cultivation—and of a sedentary way of life represent one of the most drastic changes in human history. Likewise, this is accompanied by an increasing human impact on nature, which is mainly caused by agricultural practices. Agriculture is related to the clearing of forests, tillage, maintenance of the cultivated land, and finally harvesting, which alters not only the vegetation cover but also soil fertility as there is a potential risk for a loss of nutrients. People already countered this loss of nutrients in the times of early agriculture through different techniques and practices. The article summarizes the earliest evidence of fertilization in the prehistory of Central Europe and presents the most important methods for their investigation. What significance fertilization had for early farming societies can presently not be estimated due to the small amount of data. We therefore advocate the development of a routine for sampling during archaeological excavations and for the analysis of various materials (sediment and plant remains) using various methods. For this, the awareness must be raised that anthropogenic sediments, such as pit fills, are important archives for research into the history of humankind.