October 19, 2016
Looking back 10,000+ years to the dawn of agriculture
Archeologists and others who study early human history believe the dawn of agriculture began in what’s referred to as the Fertile Crescent, a crescent shaped area of fertile soils and favorable climates for growing crops and raising livestock. According to Wikipedia, the Fertile Crescent mostly comprises the following countries we know today: “…Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, beside the southeastern fringe of Turkey and the western fringes of Iran.”
Up until recently, scientists have assumed that the earliest farming began in more specific areas of the Fertile Crescent known as the Southern Levant, an area that occupies portions of Israel and Jordan. Further, that the earliest farmers in this region were of the same ancestry from which all of modern agriculture we know today—began.
New DNA evidence from skeletal remains in the Near East seems to offer a surprising alternative. Advances in DNA testing have enabled analysis of these remains for the very first time. As a result, there is a growing body of archeological evidence pointing to the development of discrete farming villages that sprang independently of each other throughout the region. Rather than the spread of agriculture from a single group of early farmers, the evidence seems to suggest that inhabitants of different ethnicities and cultures developed farming practices about the same time and helped eventually spread agriculture to other places far and wide.
Only after the transition from a hunter-gatherer culture to that of an agricultural based society could populations begin to stabilize and grow exponentially in size. As the article points out, there’s still much to learn about the dawn of civilization and the role that our earliest farmers played in helping to advance their own cultures and of the world that soon followed.
Read the full NYT post: How the First Farmers Changed History