- Alev Tezer Çağlar
Today known as Aşıklı Höyük, a settlement of 10 500 years situated in the Aksaray, Gülağaç district, near the Kızılkaya village and bordering the Melendiz stream, hosted an early hunter-gatherer community who while adopting a sedentary lifestyle, have realized many “firsts”. During the 1000 years they have lived around this settlement, they have used the adobe (kerpiç) technic to build shelters for themselves, thus creating Anatolia’s first known sedentary village delimited with quarters and streets.
While continuing their hunter-gatherer traditions, they started to produce food in the settled order, which is known as the “agricultural revolution” in the field of nutrition today, and which is perhaps as important as standing on two feet and using fire in the two million-year history of human evolution. They began to domesticate wild grains and animal species they collected from nature. They developed agricultural technologies with the food production and storage methods they used. It is not quite correct to describe this change observed in the Early Neolithic period as a revolution, since it was a great transition period which showed profound cultural changes, that took place independently in various centers and various parts of the world, spanning approximately 1000 to 2000 years. Human communities, which consumed the plant species around them intensively, had entered a new era by planting wild species to meet their increasing needs.
The people who settled in Aşıklı Höyük have developed a nature-human-friendly lifestyle by using natural materials compatible with the environment. Aşıklı is one of the first settlements where food is processed, preserved and natural and cultural heritage is passed on to future generations. As a result of the co-evolution of humans, plants and animals, people have begun to change their environment to meet the needs of the increasing population. While living in a hunter-gatherer order, we can assume they knew their environment and their plant-based needs very well, and have thus imitated nature in light of the information they already possessed when settling down. The settling people have prepared new living spaces in and around the campus for fast growing plants and animals.
In terms of food production, the Aşıklı inhabitants who very effectively used their surroundings for food production and preservation, have slowly enhanced and diversified food production from the earliest days of small scale farming practices.
The archaebotanical findings from the site suggest that various plants were collected, cultivated, grown, used and gathered for processing for many aspects of life like food and fodder, basketry, mat and other textile works, construction, food for the animals, natural dye making and most likely medicinal uses. Due to its location, Aşıklı is surrounded with a variety of natural resources, and is very well positionned for a hunter-gatherer but also an early farming practices’ lifestyle, whether it be animal or plant based dietary ressources they had access to. We can study the plants used as food in four different categories, cereals, pulses, wild plants and fruits and nuts. Within these, cereals – especially wheat types – hold a very important place. The transition from the hard, spelled wheat grown in nature to the softer and edible spelled wheat depends on human selection and conscious production. These two species were bred together and separated by agricultural technologies still used today, and the resulting products were used as food, animal feed, construction intermediate and fuel for energy. While these processes were carried out in the settlement, both species were grown on rich alluvial soils along the surrounding valley.
The same types of wheat have been used throughout the 1000 years in Aşıklı. Thus began the evolution of the bread we eat today.
Different from cereals, a temporal change is observed in lentils, karaburçak, chickpeas and peas, which are another important food source.
Wild plants such as oak and pistachio/gum trees, which constitute the natural forest structure of the settlement area, constituted the group of wild plants that have an important place in the production of oils with high nutritional value and their use as dyestuffs. Nuts and fruits, another important food group, were also grown in these open forests under oaks and peanuts. Under these, poppy, camellia and awn barley were grown, the oils of which were used for various purposes.
Today we call this forest alignation as FOOD FOREST. Although a new concept, its applications date back. When the Western explorers and invaders stepped foot on the Americas, the Africas and the Far East in the 16th century, they concluded all agricultual works and paysage foreign to them were “primitive” and “in need of development”, therefore forcefully introducing their own applications for more output. The myriad of colours, this three dimentional system which evolved together in 2 milion years and to which we feel so instinctively close. Layerred with perennials, it also the greatest proof that while able to deal with the carbon emmission, with the flexibility they offer in terms of nutritional and against all kind of climate changes, will be able to preserve the food hegemony, and is the biggest proof that “Another World is Possible”.
One of the oldest examples of food forests of which few have survived, is a 2000-year-old palm forest in Morocco maintained by 800 people, under which guava, olive, fig, pomegranate citrus, mulberry trees are grown. A similar forest was found in Vietnam, for 300 years it is continued by the 28th generation of the same family.
The Food Forest concept was first applied and developped by Robert Hartman in the early 60’ies in Wennlock Edge, Shropshire in England. In 1996, Robert had identified the seven properties of a food forest:
- Self developing
- Permanent on its own
- Self fertilizing (soil)
- Self watering
- Self mulching
- Self fertilizing (plant)
- Self-healing and resistant to insect and diseases
The plant groups that make up the food forest, which imitate the seven layers of vegetation of the natural forest tissue, ensure a sustainable successful yield with placement techniques and inter-plant synergy.
LEARNING FROM THE PAST FOR TODAY:
In today’s world, we see that the sustainable human-plant relationship that we follow in Aşıklı turned into practices that produce very dire results, leading to both health and environment and therefore climate disasters. Legumes, which were grown and developed by the inhabitants of former Aşıklı, have taken on very important roles as basic food products with their long storage life, high nutritional value and nutritive properties in times of famine. In today’s world, they have gained even more importance with their food security and their flexible existence against the developing climate disaster, as they feed not only living things but also the soil by leaving nitrogen, increasing biodiversity.
As Aşıklı Höyük Friends Association, we want to create an experimental food forest in light of the archaeobotanical findings. Inspired by the experience and knowledge gained from the experimental historical Aşıklı houses and agricultural practices previously carried out by Prof. Dr. Mihriban Özbaşaran and her friends, we are aiming both to experience and learn about the early agricultural practices of 10 500 years ago, and to create an income-generating activity with the residents of Kızılkaya village. With this example we will create, we are also planning to trap carbon where it belongs, under the soil.