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Two Effects of the Development of Agriculture on Early Societies

written by: Terrie Schultz•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 10/31/2010

The development of agriculture profoundly changed mankind's way of life. Learn about the effects of agriculture on early societies.

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    When and Where Agriculture was First Developed

    Agriculture is the cultivation of plants and animals that are useful to humans. Agriculture was first developed in different parts of the world around the time of the end of the last Ice Age, also known as the Pleistocene glacial period, approximately 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. The origin of agriculture is often referred to as the Neolithic Revolution.

    In the Fertile Crescent, domesticated plants appeared between 11,000 and 12,000 years ago. The earliest known domesticated crop is einkorn, a type of grain that was grown in Turkey 10,500 years ago. Evidence of early agriculture in Israel includes sickles, tools for grinding, and storage facilities dating back to 11,500 years before present. Farming rapidly spread throughout this area.

    In China, rice production was thriving by 8,000 years before present, and spread to Korea and Japan. Other crops grown in East Asia include soybeans, adzuki beans and buckwheat.

    Corn or maize was the most prevalent crop grown in the Americas, where agriculture first appeared in Mexico and South America between 8,000 and 9,000 years ago. Many other types of food were grown in the region, including beans, potatoes, squash, peanuts and cotton.

    Approximately 10,000 years ago in northern Africa, dry weather caused the desert to extend toward the south, and hunters and gatherers settled near lakes and rivers where they could reliably catch fish and plant seeds and roots that they had collected.

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    Two Effects of the Development of Agriculture on Early Societies

    Establishment of Towns and Cities- One effect of the development of agriculture on early societies is that people had a reliable source of food, allowing them to settle in one place rather than migrating or traveling from place to place to find food as they had done in earlier hunter-gatherer societies. This led to the establishment of permanent communities, which eventually grew into villages, towns and cities.

    Living in large, permanent groups fostered the development of many aspects of civilization, such as social stratification. People with different skills became proficient in different types of occupations. Some took on the role of civic leaders, while others became farmers, craftsmen or warriors. A class of clerics or priests arose, whose role was to oversee the spiritual life of the community.

    Development of New Technologies- A second effect of the development of agriculture on early societies is that once people were living in permanent settlements, they began to develop new technologies that significantly impacted all areas of life. Some major technological innovations that occurred as a result of agricultural development include:

    • Pottery for household and decorative use, and clay bricks for building structures
    • Spinning, weaving and other textiles
    • Tanning and leatherworking
    • Metallurgy, including bronze, iron, gold and copper
    • Tools to improve farming such as plows, scythes and irrigation systems
    • More sophisticated hunting tools, such as traps, nets, slings and bows
    • The wheel and tools involving rotary action, such as the potter's wheel, lathe and bow drill

    These are some of the ways in which development of agriculture profoundly affected how civilization evolved and changed. These advances paved the way for the world's great civilizations, including those of China, Egypt, India and Mesopotamia.

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