Emergence Of Agriculture

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ABSTRACT AND KEYWORDS The exact origin and move towards agriculture is still being researched and evaluated. This paper reviews the origins of agriculture and the various hypothesies surrounding the shift from foraging to farming. Examples of Old World and New World cultures are discussed.

Key Words Fertile Crescent, Mesoamerica, Natufians, Paleolithic, Neolithic INTRODUCTION According to Greek mythology, Demeter-Ceres, the patroness of agriculture and the fruit of the earth, taught uncultured men how to plow, sow and reap (Odhner 1927:48). According to ancient storytellers, Demeter-Ceres bestowed wheat seeds on a priest who crossed the earth in a dragon-drawn chariot, sowing the dual blessing of agriculture and civilization.

The precise origin of the first center of agriculture is obscure as is the cause of the transition from foraging to farming. However one conclusion can be made. Agriculture came about through the desire to manipulate the environment and increase the reliability of a variety of species dependent on for survival (Smith 1995:16).

About 10,000 years ago, groups of people in several areas around the world began to abandon the foraging lifestyle that had been successful, universal and largely unchanged for millennia (Lee & DeVore 1968). The rise of sedentary agricultural communities during the Neolithic is one of the first great transformations of human society. While most human societies at the end of the Paleolithic period migrated in pursuit of game, some groups were more sedentary. More stable groups harvested wild grains that grew in profusion near their settlements, and some of these societies progressed to true farming by domesticating plants and animals.

The practice of agriculture is said to have first began around 10000 - 8000 B.C.E in the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia (part of present day Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Jordan). Human cultures became increasingly dependent on cultivated crops and domesticated...