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Europe’s Prehistoric Mega-Settlements Were Practically Vegetarian

Europe’s Mega-Settlements Vegetarian
An illustration of Europe’s mega-settlements that were almost exclusively vegetarian. Credit: Kiel University

Kiel University’s Collaborative Research Center (CRC) 1266 is looking into the nutrition of Trypillia mega-sites, situated in the forest-steppe northwest of the Black Sea, which covers today’s Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.

These mega-sites, dating back six thousand years, were sprawled across vast areas of up to 320 hectares and housed the world’s largest communities of the time. They had a population of about fifteen thousand residents.

These mega-sites are considered Europe’s oldest cities, predating even the urbanization of Mesopotamia. The mystery of their food supply has long puzzled researchers.

Previously, it was understood that smaller Neolithic settlements relied on subsistence farming for sustenance. The CRC 1266 at Kiel University is now at the forefront of unraveling the nutritional secrets of these ancient mega-sites, according to

Dietary preference of grain and peas among Trypillia farmers

Scientists from Kiel University’s CRC 1266 shared crucial insights on December 18th in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Frank Schlütz, a paleoecologist from Kiel, stated that “the provisioning of the residents of the mega-sites was based on extremely sophisticated food and pasture management.”

Examining the lifestyles of early Trypillia farmers, who thrived nearly seven thousand years ago in present-day Ukraine and Moldova, the study reveals a dietary preference for grain and peas, which enabled them to minimize meat consumption.

Kiel University spearheaded the research into Trypillia societies. The study was led by archaeologist Professor Johannes Müller in collaboration with experts from Ukraine and Moldova.

Around 4800 BCE, agricultural and stockbreeding communities emerged in the forest-steppe north of the Black Sea. The mega-sites featured well-structured layouts, with organized neighborhoods and meeting houses facilitating social integration and participation in decision-making.

The massive settlements of Trypillia, which remained at their pinnacle of prosperity for approximately five hundred years, according to, have been recognized as Europe’s earliest cities.

An almost exclusively vegetarian diet in Europe’s early mega-settlements

Frank Schlütz reveals that “a large proportion of the cattle and sheep [of Trypillia settlements] were kept on fenced pastures. Moreover, the manure of the animals produced there was used by people to intensively fertilize the peas in particular.”

As a result, peas and grains emerged as fundamental components of a well-rounded human diet. Such a diet not only provided essential nutrients, but, owing to peas, also ensured a balance of vital amino acids.

It is likely that the resulting pea straw was utilized as feed for the livestock grazing on the pastures. This close relationship between crop cultivation and stockbreeding enabled residents of the mega-sites to maintain a robust and nutritious diet. The demanding and resource-intensive process of meat production was significantly reduced, as reported by

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