Emergence of Agriculture
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Sedentary Agriculture

    Questions to consider about the emergence of agriculture:
  1. When and why did agriculture emerge as a way of life?
  2. Why is agriculture necessary to the development of civilization?
  3. What are some of the advantages of sedentism as a way of life?
  4. What are some of the problems that peoples adapting to a sedentary agricultural life have to overcome? For example,
      a. Why do agriculturists tend to have larger families than hunter-gatherers?
      b. Why are agricultural villages more vulnerable--and inviting-- to attack than villages of hunter-gatherers?
      c. How did early agriculturists deal with the problem of security? How did they protect the fruits of their labor?
      d. Why were early agriculturists particularly vulnerable to disease?
      e. Why were some of the earliest agricultural sites eventually abandoned by their inhabitants?
      f. To what extent have these problems been solved?

The Emergence of Agriculture

While they are not exciting in appearance, settled agricultural villages like this early example at Ban Po, China (below left), represented a radically new way of life for human beings, unlike anything that had existed before.

First, agriculture means sedentism--living permanently in one place. This was itself new to human beings, and it may have seemed very constraining to the first people to experience this way of life. Living in one spot permanently means exploiting a relatively small amount of land very intensively (rather than exploiting a large amount of land extensively, as hunter-gatherers did), and over a long period of time.

To understand how radical this change was, it is necessary to consider carefully both the advantages and disadvantages of gaining one's living from one piece of ground and the effects of such a way of life on the environment.

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