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The Importance of Agriculture

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Agriculture is one of the most important discoveries/inventions in human history.  Nearly everything in civilization relies on the transition from nomadic hunter/gatherer, and pastoral lifestyles to a permanent settlement based on plant and animal domestication.  Over the centuries, women collecting grains would probably have started learning peculiarities about their “prey,” like the regions, types of soil, and amount of wetness required for the best harvests.  They probably would have noticed that a spilled pile of grain turned into plants the next season.  Likewise, men on the hunt would have gathered knowledge about their prey- what it eats, where it goes, what sorts of needs it has, and its breeding habits.  With a likely combination of higher population and some sort of shortage or famine, they would have tried planting and perhaps herding the animals away from their competitors.  Necessity is the mother of invention, and with more tribes fighting over the same resources, every edge counts.  Once horticulture caught on (non-mechanized agriculture), they likely would have started using horses and cattle to pull plows to prepare fields.  Current horticultural people tend to migrate between their fields, but once agriculture became the norm, people started settling in permanent villages.  They were then able to stockpile and accumulate items, food, and wealth since they no longer had to carry everything they owned on their backs.  With accumulation comes hoarding, and when wealth was transferred from generation to generation within a family, social classes were born.  More food means more people can be supported, so a population explosion occurred.  When people were no longer required to constantly be searching for their next meals, fewer people were required to take care of food, and with the surplus, other non-producers could pursue other skills and occupations.  This surplus is mandatory for a culture to have monuments, temples, palaces, a standing military, and any art form more intense than cave painting.  Without being able to support other people who do not harvest their own food, none of these other pursuits are possible.  In addition, once you have more than a tribe made up of a family, you must have some method of settling conflict and a method of maintaining a standing military force against invaders who want to steal your surplus.  This leads to the formation of government, whether a chiefdom, a kingdom, or an empire.  Agriculture allows civilization to exist.

Bentley, J. H., Ziegler, H. F., & Streets, H. E. (2008). Traditions & encounters: A brief global history (Ashford University ed.). Boston: The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Nowak, B., & Laird, P. (2010). Cultural Anthropology (S. Wainwright & D. Moneypenny, Eds.).

Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu/books/AUANT101.10.2/sections/ch00


01/02/2012 Posted by | College Papers, Learning | , , , , , | Leave a comment