The history of growing and propagating apple trees in ancient times in Mesopotamia

 
Malus Sieversii are the wild origin for eating apples. Trees grow wild in southern Kazakhstan and Xinjiang province of China, but only genes from the apples in Kazakhstan are found in modern apple varieties.
 
It's known, that apples was grown and propagated by ancients greeks and romans.
 
But there are evidence, that apples where common food in Mesopotamia as early as 2500 BC.
 
Reconstructed sumerian necklaces and headgear discovered in the tomb of Queen Puabi. British Museum.
Reconstructed sumerian necklaces and headgear discovered in the tomb of Queen Puabi. British Museum.
Puabi was an Sumerian Queen buried at the city of Ur ca. 2500 BC. Puabi was buried with several servants where the females had headgear with 3 stylized flowers and nekles with leaves.
The leaves look like apple leaves, and the flowers could be stylized apple flowers.
In the tomb of Puabi was found slices of apples and and among the jewelry small apples in gold.
 
This is malus sieversii apple that looks like the small gold apples from Puabis tomb. 3 small apples in a cluster.
This is malus sieversii apple that looks like the small gold apples from Puabis tomb. 3 small apples in a cluster.
 

Hashur are the Sumerian word for apple. In Sumerian poetry are mentioned apples, apples orchard, the girl who looks like a apple orchard and more. Clay tablets dated back to about 2300 B.C. mention fruits like dates, apples, fig, watermelon, grapes, plums, mulberries and peaches.

 
Apples was among Common food for the ordinary Sumerian’s, thats why, there can bee no doubt, that Sumerian was able to propagate apple trees. But how did they do it?
 
The Adda Seal, Sippar 2300 BC. British Museum, London. The Adda Seal, Sippar 2300 BC. British Museum, London.
The Adda Seal, Sippar 2300 BC. British Museum, London.
Akkadian seal. The seal deals with hunting on the left and the rivers to the right. What I see in the middle is a male person who faces a small tree. His right arm is in a hole near the root of the trees. He got a saw in his left hand. He searches for the root of the tree. Above him is a winged goddess, she has a piece of the root in her hand.
 
I believe peoble in Mesopotamien propagated apple trees and other fruit trees by root cuttings from before 2500 BC.
 
It is possible to have roots to sprout. Spring or autumn.
 
Fragment showing the godess Nisaba with an inscription of Entemena, ruler of Lagash 2430 BC. Museum of Ancient Near East, Berlin. 
Fragment showing the godess Nisaba with an inscription of Entemena, ruler of Lagash 2430 BC. Museum of Ancient Near East, Berlin. 
This piece show the goddess Nisaba with a piece of root in her hand. Just like the goddess from the Adda seal. In her hairdress I see symbols for trees, earth and roots.
Nisaba was the goddess of innovation, development of agriculture and writing.
 
This limestone relief are from Department of Oriental Antiquities, Louvre Museum. Ca. 2500 BC. This limestone relief are from Department of Oriental Antiquities, Louvre Museum. Ca. 2500 BC.
This limestone relief are from Department of Oriental Antiquities, Louvre Museum. Ca. 2500 BC.
At the left of the relief, Nisaba. A bit of a tree shows in her headgear. To the right is a male person watering a small tree in a pot. Some of the trees roots are hanging out over the pot.
Perhaps they had developed a technique for copying trees from root. May bee the roots gain the right plant hormones when exposed to sunlight, so they will sprout easily. I am going to experiment with that.

In early June 2018 I planted a seeded apple tree in a pot, so that a piece of root hung over the edge of the pot. The root was exposed to sunlight for 5 days, after which the root was cut free and planted in its own pot. After approx. 3 weeks a sprout is seen.
It could be the way the Sumerians was propagating apple trees.

The Adam and Eve Seal, British Museum. 2200BC-2100BC
The Adam and Eve Seal, British Museum. 2200BC-2100BC
I believe this shows a scene of education. The 2 serpents or snakes are symbols of goddess Nisaba and knowledge. Again a small tree with roots hanging out over the pot.
In the period 2500 BC to 2100 BC it was a common motive.
 
Something changes after 2000 BC. Roots are no longer seen on the trees illustrated. The trees are shaped, and the branches are held in place with a rope, that is anchored in the ground with an anchor.
 
Sumerian seal showing a worshipper and a fish-garbed sage before a stylised tree with a crescent moon & winged disk set above it. Wikimedia Commons.
Sumerian seal showing a worshipper and a fish-garbed sage before a stylised tree with a crescent moon & winged disk set above it. Wikimedia Commons.
This seal are mentioned to be Sumerian, but from 1. millenium, can't be true. If it's Sumerian I guess it's from late Sumerion period about early 2. millenium. It shows a different tree than seen before.
But if compared to trees from the late Assyrian period, one might get an idea of what the meaning is.
I think the tree is shaped with the purpose of being able to propagate it with grafting by approach. A forerunner for actual grafting as the Greeks did in 300 BC.
 
Burney relief. Queen of the Night. Old Babylonian. 1900 BC-1800 BC. British Museum. Ishtar holding her symbol. Terracotta relief, early 2nd millennium BC. From Eshnunna. Louvre Museum, © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons
Burney relief. Queen of the Night. Old Babylonian. 1900 BC-1800 BC. British Museum.
Ishtar holding her symbol. Terracotta relief, early 2nd millennium BC. From Eshnunna. Louvre Museum, © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons
The 2 pictured godess above are holding anchors, one of them an anckor with a rope. I think the anchors have been developed in connection with, the development of a new way of propagating fruit trees. The anchors are holding the rope, around the tree, to the ground.
 
Assyrian stone relief. Mesopotamia, Nimrud (ancient Kalhu). Ca. 883–859 BC. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Assyrian stone relief. Mesopotamia, Nimrud (ancient Kalhu). Ca. 883–859 BC. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
This relief shows a tree similar to the Sumerian tree, but with more details. The tree is highly stylized and probably a mimic of another relief. There are several representations of similar trees.
 
 
Young leaves from shoots on apple trees in the spring could become what is seen in the relief in the stylized version.
 
 
A shot on a cropped branch, that is formed over a ring, could become, what is seen in the relief in a stylized version.
 
Something is tied to the tree, from which a small tree comes up and are tied together with the branches of the tree.
The leaves on the shoots, where the branches are tied together becomes irrigated.
 
Although everything in the relief is not entirely logical, there are many details that make me think, that it shows how, they have propagated fruit trees at that time.
Grafting by approach are an grafting method where you have 2 trees with their own root. Slice of bark is peeled off a branch on both trees. The two peeled surfaces are then bound tightly together. The tree's ability to heale itself, makes the 2 branches unite (4-8 weeks). After the parts are well united, the new grafted tree are cut free.
 
The Sumerians cultivated apple trees, when Puabi was buried ca. 2500 BC. The Greeks was grafting 300 BC.
After studying imagery of trees in the intervening period, it is my theory that apple trees and other fruit trees were propagated in Mesopotamia in the following ways:

1. Before 2500 BC. The Sumerians sawed apple seeds. they had from Kazakhstan.

2. From 2500 BC. Sumerians propagated apple trees by root cuttings.

3. From 2000 BC. Sumerians propagated apple trees by grafting by approach.
 
Urartu Helmet Fragment. King Sarduri II, 764–735 BC. Urartian Tree of Life. Wikimedia Commons.
Urartu Helmet Fragment. King Sarduri II, 764–735 BC. Urartian Tree of Life. Wikimedia Commons.
Urartu was a Kingdom, centered around Lake Van in the Armenian Highlands. A tree similar to the sumerian tree indicates that the methods of propagate apple trees spread to other cultures in the region.
 
But maybe the Sumerians were not the first to grow fruit trees.
 
The Göbekli Tepe seal. Before 7500 BC.
The Göbekli Tepe seal. Before 7500 BC.
This shows signs on a seal found in The Göbekli Tepe excavation in southern Turkey between the Euphrates and Tigris. It dates before 7500 BC.
The symbols snakes, tree and root reminds of the contents on the Sumerian Adam and Eve seal. Perhaps they knew how to propagate apple trees by root cuttings back then.
Remains of apple seeds are found in the city of Jericho, dating from 6500 BC. It could be seeds from sweet apples, whose origins are Kazakhstan.


Dreamstime
Around "The Göbekli Tepe" there are larger man-made holes in flat limestone rocks, that could be used to plant trees. Perhaps it is the world's first plant nursery.

Flemming Thorninger, June 15, 2018

 





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