In order to come to a conclusion as to which processes were the most important in leading to the development of agriculture it is necessary to compare and contrast examples from various regions of the world. I have chosen to concentrate on Southwest Asia (particularly the Levant area), North America and East Asia. The processes discussed include the influence of climate change and the tendency towards a sedentary lifestyle amongst hunter-gatherer groups. Also the settling in small communities for longer periods in areas conducive to farming, the development of year round settlements into villages and the construction of ritual or communal sites which indicate advanced organisation of people. The beginnings of symbolism and cognitive behaviour may also contribute to the development of agriculture.
Climate change must have played a significant part in providing the environment in which agriculture could develop. In Southwest Asia the end of the ice age brought warmer, wetter conditions in the late Glacial Maximum and the early Epipalaeolithic. The cooler, drier Younger Dryas Period accentuated the need for groups to supplement their collecting of wild plants and when the climate became warmer and wetter around 9500 BC it produced fertile soils ready for cultivation, especially for wheat. In North America the fertile river floodplains of areas such as Illinois were not suitable for settling and crops until the mid-Holocene, around 7000 BC. At this time a shift south in plant species meant a change in diet for the hunter- gatherer groups. A climate similar to now was established only after 2500 BC. In East Asia two different areas developed at the same time but climate and environmental factors dictated that only when the formation...
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...food as a political weapon to impose control is a practice that continues to this day which indicates the importance of these processes.
Browman, D.L. Fritz, G. J. Watson. P. J. (2009 ) ‘Origins of food-producing economies in the Americas’, in Scarre, C. (ed.) The Human Past, London, Thames and Hudson, pp. 306–330.
Higham, C. (2009) ‘East Asian agriculture and its impact’ in Scarre, C. (ed.) The Human Past, London, Thames and Hudson, p. 234-244.
The Open University (2007) ‘Audio CD, Track 2’ [CD], A251 World archaeology, Milton Keynes, The Open University.
Perkins, P. (2009) A251 World Archaeology, Milton Keynes, The Open University. Scarre, C. (ed.) (2009) The Human Past, London, Thames and Hudson
Watkins, T. (2009) ‘From foragers to complex societies in Southwest Asia’, in Scarre, C. (ed.) The Human Past, London, Thames and Hudson, p. 200–225.
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