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Transitions to Agriculture

Uploaded by lockergod on Dec 08, 2003

Transitions to Agriculture

The transition in the common mode of subsistence, from hunter-gatherer to agriculture, marks an important stage in the development of mankind. During the time of this transition, humans experienced an increase in their social, political, and technological complexity. A number of varying hypotheses have been put forward to explain the causes of agriculture’s origin, as well as its effect upon the human population. However, due to the lack of definitive data in much of the archaeological record, it is often difficult to discern the validity of theories suggested to explain either events leading up to, or the consequences of the Agricultural Revolution.

Agriculture is defined as the “planting of multipropagators of domesticates or cultivars in relatively large plots or fields” (Macneish 1992:11). Agriculture involves changes both in humans’ use of the earth as well as in the structure and organization of human society. Agriculture is often accompanied by use of ceramic containers, extensive forest clearing, cultivation of hard-shelled cereals which can be stored for long time periods, invention and adoption of technologies for farming, with an increase in sedentism and population, as well as an increased pace towards more complex social and political organization (Price and Gebauer 1995:6). The process of agricultural domestication seems to be self-perpetuating and begins an increased dependency on cultivated foods rather than on wild resources. Once a commitment to this way of life is made, the necessity of maintaining food production transforms the basis of the society, making a return to the original state improbable or impossible (Smith 1976:17). Definitive signs of plant cultivation first appeared in early Neolithic villages in the Near East around 7500-7000 B.C. Food production within the area was based on the domestication of approximately nine species of local grain plants (Zohary and Hopf 1988:207). These early domesticated species include emmer wheat, einkorn wheat, barley, lentils, peas, bitter vetch, chickpeas, broadbeans, and flax (Zohary 1986:5-6). Zohary and Hopf describe several techniques which are used to date the origin and spread of cultivated plant species. The analysis of archaeological evidence, such as carbonized plant remains; impressions left on pottery, daub, and bricks; parched plant remains; waterlogged preservation; preservation by oxides of metals; digested or partly digested remains, can help to determine the age of the species. Other methods can include analysis...

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Uploaded by:   lockergod

Date:   12/08/2003

Category:   Miscellaneous

Length:   13 pages (2,947 words)

Views:   2082

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