Today, it is common to see tractors ploughing the field in preparation for the next harvest. This job was not so simple in ancient times. We explain the history of the plough, what is its origin, who is its inventor and how it has evolved over time.
Origin of the plough
Every time we sit at the table to eat, we can notice a curious fact. The diet of humans is based largely on a few plant species.
Generalizing, we can say that European civilizations have grown thanks to wheat, Asian ones thanks to rice, and American ones thanks to corn. This has been possible thanks to a fantastic ability to produce on the part of agriculture.
We have been improving the plants, we have made each spike make many large and very nutritious ones and, above all, we have managed to obtain a very high yield from the soil. This race of improvements commented many centuries ago with a simple, but revolutionary tool: the plough.
Who invented the plough?
Again, it is from Mesopotamia where we have the first news of ploughs, more than five thousand years ago: a wood to which another vertical wood had been fixed and which was dragged by some pack animal.
Coupling that mechanism to an animal, allowed to do much more work than if a man did it with the strength of his arms. In Mesopotamia of the IV millennium BC, the first idea of a primitive plough without a front set is found.
Some Sumerian cylindrical seals and pictograms show a two-handed instrument supported by a transverse bar, the extremities of which end in a grating or blade, which has a rudder complemented with a deposit of seeds, and is pulled by oxen or zebu.
The plough was an evolution of another even simpler tool: the hoe . The idea is simply to remove the ground. As simple as that. But, in doing so, the soil is aerated, becomes more porous and better captures rainwater, thus facilitating the work of the roots of the plants that we are going to grow.
That rudimentary utensil was quickly improved. He put on a handle to guide it, and the wood was bent to fit the ground better. But the great advance was made in the Mediterranean: the Roman plough is the basis of all that have been invented since then.
History and evolution of the plough
Actually the name is misleading and the Greeks already used it before the Romans, but it was during the Roman Empire that its use became widespread throughout Europe.
For a long time the basic plough structure was maintained, until in the 9th century, they put a metal tip to improve resistance. Until then, humans, always so practical, preferred to use metals above all to make weapons and not to dedicate them to agriculture.
With the arrival of the Normans, the plough had another important improvement: they put wheels. This made things easier, since dragging something is not the same as rolling something.
Another improvement was to put the blade slightly inclined on its side, so that the ground that was stirred was turned to fall again.
And finally, they started putting different ploughs together to carve out a few lines in the ground with each pass.
This seems very obvious, but if you only have oxen to drag, the force is low. When things got mechanized with tractors, everything became much easier.
It was actually so simple and the ability to carve was so powerful that, as always, we humans went out of line.
Tilling the soil is great and improves yield a lot, but it also has drawbacks: nutrients are lost more easily by the rain, and soil erosion is also very important. So now there is a tendency to try to control the force we use when preparing the ground.
Be that as it may, if the planet can currently generate food, certainly poorly distributed, for more than seven billion humans, it is thanks to the fact that, one day five millennia ago, a Mesopotamian farmer had the idea of joining two canes and making a bull will drag them.