14 November, 2011
Ever wonder what life would be like if we never transitioned to agriculture? We might still be hunting for food, moving from place to place, and with a world population of less than a million. But how did we transition to agriculture? The mix between pure coincidence and Mother Nature helped develop the path to the transition to agriculture.
For over 100,000 years, the first people, later known as the Natufian people, were known for being the hunter-gatherers during the Paleolithic Era. It was right after the an ice age that lasted for over 400,000 years that these people scavenged the lands of Europe for food; hunting for wild animals and gathering wild grown plants. They depended on this as their way of life and as a result they were never able to settle down anywhere. Since they moved from place to place in the search for more food, the populations of their tribes were very low at about 25 to 50 people. The world population was a fraction of what it is today, being less than a million people. Although life was hard, it gave the Natufian people more leisure time during this period. Remains tell us that they sculpted their tools into beautiful works of art, drew hieroglyphics on cave walls, and put more time into making pots and other containers. Skeletons also indicate that the Natufians were physically fit, as hunting is a very dangerous and physically demanding endeavor. The weapons they used, like spears, were very brittle and took a lot of upkeep. Other weapons, like the bola and slingshot were great for capturing animals; however, they were not very accurate. Tools within society like the early grinders, made of salt blocks, were very heavy and couldn’t be carried from site to site. These people needed a way to make better weapons and tools, and not have to spend weeks hunting for food. After the Natufian men had come back from their hunts and women from gathering the wild plants, they would sit around eating while throwing bones and seeds into refuse piles on the sides of their small villages. Since the soil was organically perfect with the proper nutrients, the seeds sprouted and by accident, these were the first known acts of farming. But the Natufian people wouldn’t expand on this idea on their own. It took a crisis, a short ice age known as the Younger Dryas, to put them into action. The Younger Dryas was a short ice age from about 12,800 years ago, to about 11,500 years ago. It froze all the fresh water lakes and ponds in Europe and therefore caused the people to make a change. The animals in the area were depleting and so without water and a reliable source of food, the Natufian people left the area. They moved to an area known as the Fertile Crescent, which stretches from modern day Israel to modern day Iraq. From here the people would develop the first farms and domesticate the first animals. The Fertile Crescent was a barren wasteland with small oasis’ spread out atop the vast mountains. Here the ground was terrible for wild plants to grow and so, with a crazy idea, the Natufian people harvested the land, sacrificed some of their stored grains, and tended the crops. Out of this idea came food, and plenty of it. Those were the first man-made farms and from there the idea would shape the history of man forever. Dogs have always been man’s best friend. Records indicate that they started populating into human society about 12,000 years ago. They were taken from the wild and tamed. From there, humans used these animals for hunting. Since these animals were incorporated into the camps of early human life and bred with the help of their owners, this was the first indications of early domestication of animals. However, just like farming, it took the Younger Dryas to push humans into expanding on this idea. When the hunter-gatherers moved to the Fertile Crescent, they soon realized that hunting was scarce as the animals were dying off. So, some...