The Elements of Evolution (84-3) Agriculture continued


The shift from glacial to interglacial conditions dramatically changed the landscape. New plant and animal communities came into being. Vibrant ecosystems arose from previously barren lands.

In the Levant 12 TYA wild cereals grew abundantly on the previously scrappy steppe. Foragers could collect grains in great numbers.

Domestication became a matter of will. Wheat and other crops were grown 10 TYA in various Fertile Crescent settlements.

9,500 years ago Fertile Crescent farms attracted wildcats from the desert: drawn to the rodents that invaded grain stores. These cats domesticated themselves. The friendly ones took advantage of table scraps and protection. They shrank a bit in size and shed some of their fears and antisocial tendencies, allowing them to lounge in comfort around animals that once filled them with suspicion.

China’s development of agriculture mirrored the western experience. The Chinese were grinding grains for consumption 23 TYA, but intensive crop cultivation did not develop until ~12 TYA.

Cattle domestication in both China and the Near East began 10 TYA. Sheep were tamed in southwest Asia around this time. They were kept penned when farmers wanted exclusive use of crop fields.

By 7 TYA the Neolithic populace in China had domesticated rice, millet, soy, swine, chickens, and water buffalo.

In the more than 100,000 years of human existence prior to the Neolithic, there had been times conducive to crop cultivation. What changed most was a higher gear of sociality, resulting in greater complexity in social organization. This was initially driven by a climate not conducive to crops, and thus the dire need to improve food production productivity or perish.

The earliest communities founded on different tribes coming into contact, sparking settlement in the prospect of trade as a path to prosperity. Culture intensified and formalized food production, creating agrarian societies.