Beginning of Agriculture

Following the climate change that occurred towards the end of 11,000 BC, dry seasons were no longer. These harsh conditions only favored the annual plants which produced many seeds. These grains were easy to store and this was a contributing factor to the development of first settlements in these areas by the hunter-gatherers. Most of the plants domesticated were easily stored. These were wheat, lentils, barley and chickpeas among others. In China (7500 BC), for example, rice, beans, millet and soy were domesticated. Agriculture first developed in Mesopotamia in 8000 BC. This was a fertile land which supported a variety of annual plants and grasses.

There was a rising need to feed the rising population by many societies. This led to transformation of many communities from being hunters and gatherers to farmers. This significant transformation was known as Neolithic Revolution.  It led to a variety of changes to mankind and the society. There was need to have a constant food supply and farming was the solution to this. The hunting and gathering activity was unreliable and a tedious exercise compared to farming.

The farming process involved clearance of bushes and setting them on fire. Farming on these pieces of land was for a period of time before moving to the next area. The need for a new land was due to the fact that crops were stunted and the yields were low due to constant use of the land. There was development of crop rotation since some groups returned to their old lands. The use of irrigation developed in dry areas due to increase in population hence the need for good lands. Canals were dug to disperse water in the dry lands. The irrigation process was first used in the valley of River Euphrates at around 4000 BC.

Despite the development of agriculture, archeological evidence reveals that the gatherers lived a quality life and their lifespan was longer than that of the farmers. They (hunter-gatherers) ate a more balanced diet with more calories than that from hunting.

The Neolithic revolution also marked the beginning of animal and plant domestication by different groups. Domestication involved slightly changing the way an animal behaves and the plants genetic structure. Domestication of cows began at around 6000 BC and they were mainly used in the farms. The early man set up home made traps and in the process, wild animals were caught. The hunters were aided by dogs which were domesticated at around 10,000 BC. These wild game animals served as a steady supply of food for the families. In Western part of Asia, large numbers of gazelles were domesticated despite their fast speeds. The hunting process proved to be tiresome and this could have led to the need to start cultivation. This was due to the increasing need for plant foods.

The agricultural development led to the disappearance of dormant plants. Most early farmers were selective hence they only picked seeds with easily seen characteristics. Those that were bigger, sprouted fast and tasty were preferred. These were sown rather than being scattered in the farms. In Babylon for example beets were domesticated due to the edible roots and sugar content. Sunflower and palm oil were domesticated due to their oil content whereas cotton for its fiber. Some of the plants had stimulant effects hence were preferred, for example coffee (Ethiopia), coca (South America). Tea and camphor (China) and tobacco (North America). In China (4000 BC), grafting skills had developed. It helped in the domestication of apples, plums and pears. Most of the fruit trees, for example figs and grapes, were also domesticated. Plants like oats, lettuce and turnips were domesticated last. These plants were found in farms as weeds without being cultivated. The overall result of plant domestication was the development of different kinds of plants which were easily available in the farms. The plants adapted to the prevailing conditions and climate.

Results of Neolithic Revolution
The Neolithic Revolution allowed establishment of permanent settlements in one area, living together as one group and the sharing of responsibilities. There was development of towns and cities as a result of agriculture. They built semi permanent and permanent homes. The city of Jericho, for example, began as a village and developed gradually. In Turkey, Catal Huyuk town grew as a result of new settlements which were established as a result of agriculture. Its buildings are similar to the ones in Jericho and were mainly used for religious activities. This shows that the way of life and organization created time for people to engage in other activities. Many towns developed in other areas and provided centralized form of administration.

Secondly, Neolithic Revolution led to the beginning of political elites and governments with organized structures. Most of the foods produced were used by the armies. The population grew, excess food was produced and the surpluses were sold. This was the beginning of development of trade. Most farming groups migrated into different parts of Europe and India. They introduced the crops in these places as they established new settlements in these regions. Therefore, most crops which were found mainly in Mesopotamia found their way in Ireland and Japan. A variety of local crops were also adopted by the Europeans during their invasion.


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