The Fertile Crescent (Photo: Sémhur/CC BY-SA 3.0)

The invention of farming stands as one of humanity’s greatest achievements. But as the Los Angeles Times reports, thanks to some recently discovered human remains, it seems that farming was actually invented more than once.

Views differ on where and how farming and agriculture first arose exactly, but most everyone agrees that it happened in the Fertile Crescent, an arcing region of land that falls mostly in what is today called the Middle East. The oldest farming villages discovered in the Crescent date back to around 10,000 years ago and were chiefly located near the western horn of the region, near the Mediterranean Sea.

But after a quartet of ancient skeletons were recently unearthed in the eastern portion of the Crescent, in what is modern day Iran, it appears that farming was actually invented at least twice and possibly a whole bunch of times in the Crescent. Study of the teeth and bones of the ancient inhabitants has shown that they were not only genetically differentiated from the peoples to the west, but that they also subsisted on a diet made up mainly of grains, and very little meat. This has led researchers to theorize that the eastern-dwelling people must have developed their own farming techniques independently.

It’s also possible that this sort of development occurred a number of times in the past, and the remnants of other types of early farming has simply been lost. Human history, in other words, is a history of our relationship with the literal earth.