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Egyptians first to farm fish 3,500 years ago: study

Depictions of ancient Egyptians fishing found in a tomb [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 October, 2018

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Scientists said that evidence of fish farming in Ancient Egypt dating back 3,500 years ago is the first documented evidence of the practice on earth.
Ancient Egyptians are the first documented civilisation to create fish farms, according to a new joint German-Israeli study, with evidence it was practiced more than 3,500 years ago by Pharaonic Egypt.

Scientists made the discovery after studying 100 fish teeth found at an archaeological site across modern-day Israel, concluding they had been plucked from a lagoon in Egypt's Sinai. 

"The sample of teeth covered a chronological period extending over 10,000 years, from the early Neolithic period through to the early Islamic period," said a statement from Israel's Haifa University, one of the participants in the study.

Of those samples, some were from about 3,500 years ago.

Farmers at the time found a lagoon which fish were entering and barricaded it for a few months, Guy Bar-Oz, one of the authors of the report and archaeology professor at the University of Haifa.

Afterwards "you can easily harvest them," the academic explained of a method still used in the same Sinai lagoon.

Through studying the different types of oxygen isotopes in the teeth, scientists deduced that they were "spending at least four months in the closed lagoon", Bar-Oz told AFP.

The Haifa academics worked alongside those from German universities in Mainz and Gottingen to deduce their findings from the teeth of gilthead sea bream.

The majority of the fish found by the researchers came from aquaculture and not local fishing.

Irit Zohar, from the University of Haifa and co-author of the study, said the size of fish standardised around 3,500 years ago and those imported from Egypt were all "the size of a plate".

"Exactly what we observe of the fish bred in modern aquaculture," she said.

Egypt became a "superpower in aquaculture" at that time, according to Bar-Oz.

Scientists believe fish farming was practised in China 4,000 years ago, although Bar-Oz said no evidence has yet been produced to prove the theory.

There is also documented evidence of Ancient Egyptians creating coffins for fish. 

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