THE LAVAGNONE PLOUGH
the oldest plough in the world
The Lavagnone plough dates back to an early phase of the Polada culture (Early Bronze Age I A, ca. 2000 BC) and is the oldest plough in the world.
The prehistoric plough is made of a single piece of wood, which, since it is an organic material, decomposes; but wood keeps completely in anaerobic conditions, for instance in a peat-bog.
The plough, discovered in a peat layer in 1978, was stuck between the piles of a Lavagnone pile-dwelling. It was restored in the laboratory of Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum at Mainz.
Made of oak, the plough consists of 3 parts:
a- plough-stock/ plough-share (working part);
b- plough-beam, enabling the tool fastening to the yoke;
c- plough-stilt, a sort of shaft to control the direction and the furrows' depth.
The variety between the shape of the 3 above-mentioned elements and their mutual link determine the plough's type.
The Lavagnone plough belongs to the Trittolemo type: the plough-beam and the plough-stock/ plough-share are made in a single piece, out of an oak branch's divarication; the plough-stilt is fitted in the stock. The real share - still missing - was supposed to be inserted in a groove on the stock's lower side and fastened with some strings. The share was the portion more subject to wear and fracture.
The end of the plough-beam was made to be articulated with the yoke to which it was linked. Three plough-stilts and half of a yoke were found togheter with the plough.
The Trittolemo plough belongs to the sole-ard type; this type reamained more or less unchanged over the centuries up to the introduction of new technologies. The plough-stock/share works in a horizontal direction and the beam is curved. This is a tool suitable for light soils, already tilled and flat. The Trittolemo plough has a symmetrical share (like all the other prehistoric ploughs); this technical peculiarity enables the plough to turn clods, therefore from aerating the soil to make it richer.
In Italy during the Bronze Age the Trittolemo plough was the only one in use and is the most common in prehistoric Europe.
Trittolemo ploughs were found in peat-bogs in Denmark, Northern Germany and Ukraine; the ploughs shown on VIth and Vth century BC Greek pottery and in Vth century BC arte delle situle are of Trittolemo type too.
The Lavagnone yoke is an extraordinary find, since it is, for sure, one of the oldest so far discovered. It is a piece made with care and grace, formed by a cylindrical bar. The bar is curved by the sides to stick to the oxen's withers and ends with a big moulded knob. The yoke was fastened to the beam with strings, hooked to 3 teeth in the middle of the bar. Leather straps, going through side rectangular holes, fastened the ox to the joke.
A similar piece of a yoke has been discovered in the pile-dwelling of Fiavè (Trento), dating to the beginning of Middle Bronze Age (XVI century BC). Several yokes were found in wagon burials of the Catacomb Culture (2nd half III millennium BC) in Ukraine and of the Transcaucasian Culture (II millennium BC) in Georgia and Armenia, therefore later than Lavagnone plough.
Lots of yokes date back to the European Iron Age. The most famous is the yoke from the site of La Téne (Swiss; III-II century BC).
In the Egyptian mastaba (Ancient Kingdom; 2686-2160 BC) a straight bar, fastened directly to the oxen's horns, always symbolises the yoke.
The wooden models from Middle Kingdom graves (2134-1778 BC) represent the yoke placed on oxen's