The Greeks, Egyptians and Romans all practiced compost making taking straw from animal stalls and burying it in cultivated fields. There are references to composting manure and straw in the Talmud and Old Testament,
The Bible contains numerous references to dung and dunghills. In the country manure was spread onto fields, in cities and towns it was collected with street sweepings , which no doubt contained a fair proportion of faecal
material, and stored in a dunghill outside the city wall. Manure contaminated straw was also soaked in water to make a liquid manure a practice not unknown today.
The Hebrew Talmud records that ashes, straw, stubble,
chaff, grass where used to enrich the soil and that blood from animal sacrifices was collected as a fertiliser
In addition to manure ashes, brambles, chaff, grass, stubble, straw are recorded in the Talmud as being used.
Blood from sacrifices was collected and sold to gardeners
Marcus Porcius Cato, 234 -149 BC a retired Roman general
described composting in his book titled “De Agri Cultura” (Concerning the Culture of the Fields). This included composting animal manures, including goat, sheep, cattle and other dung as well as plant wastes including
straw, lupines, chaff, bean stalks, husks, and ilex and oak leaves. Dung was used in 3 ways:
- Direct spreading
- Mixed with street sweepings and organic refuse on the dunghill outside the city wall
- Trampled straw soaked was soaked in dung-water (liquid manure)
His system would also appear to be the first recorded use of composting using worms (vermicomposting)
As mentioned above the Egyptians were early composters but they went even further. Cleopatra, in 50 BC, is reported to have made worms sacred after observing their composting abilities. She also enacted laws to make removal
of earthworms from Egypt a crime punishable by death. While many of us will be in favour of composting and protecting the environment it may be felt that such a policy may not be total acceptable in the UK today.
or 12 century
Idn al Awan writing in a Book on Agriculture (Kitab al Falahah) gives information on composting and the use of manures.
In the UK the monasteries played a
role promoting good agriculture practice and in subsequent years as more documents survived so the references to the use of manure and composting increased.