chapter
14 Pages

Origins and Spread of Agriculture

ByDavid R. Harris

In today’s world most people depend on the products of agriculture for their daily sustenance, yet this is a recent development in the evolution of humanity. Modern humans (Homo sapiens) had emerged in Africa by 100,000 years ago and during the following 50,000 years they spread, as foraging hunter-gatherers, through most of Eurasia. But it was not until about 10,000 radiocarbon (14C) years ago that some groups in Southwest Asia began to cultivate cereals and herbaceous legumes and thus became the world’s first farmers. The transition from foraging to farming radically changed the relationship of humans to their environment, and because it allowed more people to be supported per unit area of cultivable land, it paved the way for settled village life, and ultimately for urban civilization.