Farming societies without calendars

Farming societies without calendars

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Were there ever any farming societies without a calendar?

For example, the Egyptians had a calendar to help them know when to plant and when to harvest. The ancient Greeks had a calendar, as did the Romans. Were there ever any societies that lived by farming (as opposed to pastoralism or hunting/gathering) without a calendar to keep track of the parts of the year?

One example would be the Amondawa who are a group of indigenous peoples of Brazil. The Amondawa are a sedentary group that utilize various forms of hunting fishing and agriculture to provide for their community, yet according to researchers the Amondawa lack an "abstract concept of time."

The University of Portsmouth and the Federal University of Rondonia in Brazil have hypothesized that the lack of the time concept arises from the lack of "time technology" - a calendar system or clocks - and that this in turn may be related to the fact that their number system is limited in detail and only goes up to four.

Amondawa seasons are decided by weather, the changing landscape and by the rhythm of agriculture itself. The irony being that instead of agricultural activities being performed by a season designated by "time", agriculture is an integral part of what actually determines the seasons.

The Amondawa were first "discovered" by anthropologists in 1986 and according to recent studies the Amondawa language has no word for "time", or indeed of time periods such as "month" or "year".

Source: Amondawa tribe lacks abstract idea of time, study says

By Jason Palmer, Science and Technology Reporter BBC News | Science & Environment

Prof Sinha and his team, including a linguist and anthropologist, spent eight weeks with the Amondawa researching how their language conveys concepts like "next week" or "last year". There were no words for such concepts, only divisions of day and night and rainy and dry seasons.

Source: Amazonian tribe has no calendar and no concept of time

By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent The Telegraph | Science News

Research team's collective article:

When Time is not Space: The social and linguistic construction of time intervals and temporal event relations in an Amazonian culture.

Article appears in Language and Cognition, 3(1): 137-169.


Chris Sinha (University of Portsmouth) Vera da Silva Sinha (University of Portsmouth) Jörg Zinken (University of Portsmouth) Wany Sampaio (Federal University of Rondônia)

Agriculture in Israel: History & Overview

The study of the history of ancient agriculture in the Land of Israel has been the focus of a great amount of research in recent decades. Much more data is now available as a result of an intensification of data-collection and the use of new methodologies during archaeological excavations and surveys, especially in regard to the development of rural settlements (villages, hamlets and farms) and their landscapes (fields, terraces, access routes to markets), and the technology of agricultural implements (digging tools, ground stone objects) and installations (wine and oil presses). The intensive gathering of plant and wood remains at sites using flotation procedures has helped to enlarge knowledge about the variety of cultivations and fruits trees available during different archaeological periods. Botanical remains are frequently found on the floors of houses and storage buildings, on the surfaces of courtyards, in fire-pits and in silos. Inventories of crops are thus produced and this helps towards a reconstruction of agrarian practices and dietary patterns. Further insights into the history of agriculture have also emerged as a result of inter-disciplinary work with geomorphologists, agronomists, and botanists. The analysis of Phytoliths &ndash fossilized mineral particles produced biogenetically within plants &ndash under microscope, has been found to be useful in the study of cultivated cereals. Palynological studies have also contributed to the investigation of landscape changes and the overall effect humans have on their environment, though usually only on a regional scale. Pollen studies are less helpful in elucidating changes on a micro-environmental level. Pollen cores have hitherto been taken from the Dead Sea and from the Sea of Galilee.

In Pre-History

Some archaeologists date the beginnings of agriculture in Palestine to the Mesolithic period, when the Natufian culture made its appearance with its bone and flint artifacts, some of which have survived to the present day. In the Kabara caves on Mt. Carmel, a flint sickle with its handle shaped to represent a fawn's head has been found. To that same period belong the sickles, mortars, and pestles which have been discovered in other localities in Palestine. According to these scholars, all these artifacts indicate the cultivation of cereals. According to others, however, these utensils were used merely to reap and mill wild grain. Archaeological finds testifying to soil cultivation and cattle raising become more numerous in the Neolithic Age, the period of caves and huts, agricultural implements, and cleaving tools. All these are evidence of settled communities which produced and stored food. To this period, likewise, belong excavated, prehistoric locations such as the Abu Uzbah cave on Mt. Carmel, the Neolithic cave near Sha'ar ha-Golan in the Jordan Valley and the lower strata of Jericho. In the Chalcolithic period, the transition between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age (4000 B.C.E.), agricultural settlements in the valleys, especially in the proximity of water sources, increased. Settlements were established in the plains of Moab (N.E. of the Dead Sea) where the Telleilat el-Asul (Ghassul) were found &ndash mounds covering simple buildings, grain storages, agricultural implements, and artisans' tools made of calcareous or flint stone. By the later Chalcolithic period copper vessels like those found in Tel Abu-Matar near Beersheba appeared. In this area and at nearby Khirbet al-Bitar, excavations have unearthed ricewheat (Triticum dicoccum), einkorn (Triticum monococcum), two-rowed barley (Hordeum distichum), and lentils (Lens esculenta Moench). Elsewhere, olive and date kernels, grape seeds, and pomegranate rinds have been discovered.

From the Beginning of the Bronze Age to the Conquest of Joshua

This period includes the early (3000 B.C.E.), middle (until 1550 B.C.E.), and part of the late Bronze Age. The earliest literary evidence of local agricultural activity is provided by an inscription on the grave of the Egyptian officer Weni, who conducted a military expedition in Palestine during the reign of Pepi I (beginning of 24 th century B.C.E.) "The army returned in peace after smiting the country of the sand dwellers [the inhabitants of the coastal plain]&hellip after he had cut down its figs and vines." At that time the King's Highway running along the coastal plain and through the Jezreel and Jordan valleys became increasingly important, and many settlements were established along its length. Settlements were also founded in the south of the Judean mountains, for example at Tell Beit-Mirsim, apparently the biblical Debir. The Sanehat Scroll (20 th century B.C.E.) described the travels in Palestine of this Egyptian officer and the document proves that, in the southern regions of the country, there were settlements which supported themselves by farming and cattle raising. Evidence of many settlements during the 18 th century B.C.E. is furnished by the Egyptian "Execration Texts." During the Hyksos occupation, the Habiru, apparently the Hebrew tribes of the patriarchal era, are first mentioned. They were nomads who did not establish any permanent settlements. Some occupied the marginal grasslands and occasionally sowed there. Thus Isaac planted in the Naḥal Gerar region "in that year," and, as a result of plentiful rain fall, reaped a "hundredfold" harvest (Gen. 26:12). Other scriptural references suggest that the land was closely settled and highly valued at this time. Abraham's and Lot's shepherds quarreled with each other while the "Canaanite and Perizzite dwelt then in the land" (Gen. 13:7). For a burial plot he wanted to purchase, Abraham had to pay Ephron, the Hittite, the full price (ibid., ch. 23), and Jacob similarly had to pay a large sum for the section of the field in Shechem where he pitched his tents (ibid., 33:19). The depiction at the Temple of Amon of Thutmose's expeditions in Palestine (c. 1478 B.C.E.) and his famous victory at Megiddo includes reliefs of the plants he brought from Palestine (the Karnak "Botanical Garden"). An inscription states that "the amount of harvest brought&hellip from the Maket [plain of Jezreel] was 280,000 heqt of corn [150,000 bushels] beside what was reaped and taken by the king's soldiers."

Early Israelite

In contrast to scriptural references, external evidence on the state of local agriculture just before and after the Israelite conquest is rather meager. Yet from all sources, the incontrovertible fact emerges that no radical climatic changes occurred. Huntington's theory of the country becoming increasingly arid from the biblical time until today must, therefore, be rejected. It is not supported by any examination of the sources or archaeological discovery. These indicate that the areas sown and planted then coincide with the regions watered by rain or irrigation today. An intensively farmed, settled area existed in the irrigated regions of the Jordan Valley and another along the Mediterranean coast (where the annual precipitation exceeds 300 mm.), but there were no stable agricultural settlements in the northern Negev. The land there was cultivated once in several years, when plentiful rainfall would yield abundant harvests. The southern Negev and Arabah were waste, except for desert oases and irrigation projects where waters flowing down from the mountains were collected in dams. Such projects were limited during the kingdom, but increased in the Nabatean era (see below). The condition of afforestation was no different then than at the beginning of Jewish colonization in modern times. Forest and woods spread over the hill and rocky regions which were difficult to cultivate and in areas where the lack of security made soil cultivation and the erection of agricultural installations too hazardous. The "vines and figs" of the regions bordering the routes of the traversing armies were pillaged. This explains the presence of woods in the Naḥal Iron (Wadi ʿArah) district mentioned in the expedition of Thutmose III (and later the "large forest" on the Sharon Plain mentioned by Strabo). Broad forests also extended along the north and northeast boundaries of the country &ndash in Gilead, Bashan, and the Lebanon. There, in the vegetation along the Jordan and in the deserts, lurked wild beasts (see Fauna of Israel ). During the intervals when the land lay desolate, animals would invade the ruins where forests had begun to grow. Several times the scriptural warning against the danger of a too rapid military conquest had been issued "thou mayest not consume them too quickly, lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee" (Deut. 7:22 Ex. 23:29 Num. 26:12). Having wandered in the desert for many years, the children of Israel were unfamiliar with local conditions and could hardly have been expected to succeed in mastering the intensive farming which obtained, for the most part, in the newly conquered territory. Furthermore, the neglect caused by wars and conquest had temporarily devastated large farming tracts, and these had been overrun by natural forests &ndash a condition later recalled in Isaiah 18:9. Scrub and woods became widespread, and farmland degenerated into pasture (cf. ibid., 7:28).

During the transition period, the children of Israel, presumably, were primarily engaged in tending flocks, as in patriarchal days. The Song of Deborah yields no trace of extensive occupation with agriculture, even though the soil was tilled. The tribe of Reuben is described as living "among the sheep-folds, to hear the pipings of the flocks" (Judg. 5:16). Scripture also testifies to the existence of broad grazing lands in Gilead, and Bashan in Transjordan, the areas settled by the tribes of Reuben and Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh, all of whom owned much livestock (Num. 32 Deut. 3:19 Josh. 1:14). Although the Bible does portray the land of Canaan as "flowing with milk and honey" (date syrup), no conclusions can be drawn from this expression as to the relative importance of grazing land ("milk") as opposed to soil cultivation ("honey"). Livestock was raised to a limited extent in the border grassland regions and deserts, or was fed on the stubble of the grain fields and the stalks of the vegetable gardens. During the period of the conquest, sheep and cattle were also grazed in the forests which had covered the farm lands. The talmudic sages undoubtedly relied on an ancient tradition when they included, among the ordinances enacted by Joshua , one permitting the grazing of flocks in the wooded areas (BK 81a).

The agricultural prosperity of Israel, however, is determined by the rainfall. This fact is emphasized already in the Bible which praises the country as a land that "drinketh water as the rain of heaven cometh down" (Deut. 11:10&ndash11), in contrast to Egypt which was irrigated. This blessing, however, also entails the danger, repeated several times in the Bible and rabbinical literature, that, on account of sin, rainfall could be withheld, with drought and famine resulting. Although the country is described as "a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths springing forth in valleys and hills" (ibid., 8:7), there is no evidence that in ancient times there were more than the hundreds of small springs and the few moderate and large fountains which now exist. Scripture praises the plain of the Jordan as "well watered," and so it is, even today (Gen. 14:10).

Either through experience or by borrowing the agricultural skills of the indigenous population, the Israelites gradually mastered the cultivation of the soil. The Talmud describes their predecessors as "well versed in the cultivation of the land," saying, "Fill this amount with olives fill this amount with vines," and interprets their names accordingly: "Hori they that smelled the earth Hivi they that tasted the earth like a serpent" (Shab. 85a). Even the spies admitted that Israel was a land "flowing with milk and honey and this is its fruit" (Num. 13). The Pentateuch states that the conquerors would enter a land with a highly developed agriculture, fertile soil, and established agricultural installations (Deut. 6:11). Special reference is made to hill cultivation where terraced fields were planted with vines and fruit trees and contained water cisterns, oil and wine presses, and tanks. Since the Canaanites had not yet been ousted from the fertile valleys, the wheat fields were not available to the Israelites (Judg. 1:19, 27&ndash36).

Hill cultivation is intensive by nature land holdings are small, and knowledge and experience are needed for such farming to yield a livelihood. These conditions apparently explain why the descendants of Joseph (Ephraim and half the tribe of Manasseh) complained to Joshua that the mountain of Ephraim was too small to maintain them. Joshua advised them to go to the forests of Gilead and Bashan (the land of the Perizzites and Rephaim), fell the trees, and settle there upon the assumption that in securing the dominating heights, they would succeed in dislodging the Canaanites from the valleys (Josh. 17:14&ndash18). Clearing the forests was by no means easy, and was not yet completed in the reign of David, for this region included the "Forest of Ephraim" where the armies of David and Absalom fought each other (II Sam. 18:6&ndash8). The Israelites did gradually succeed not only in mastering agricultural skills but also in organizing permanent town and village settlements. The nomads, enemies of the Israelites from the desert period, now envied the successful Israelite colonization. Together with their flocks, they raided Israelite territory and plundered the fields. Between each wave, the Israelites harvested their fields in haste and stored the produce in hidden receptacles (Judg. 6:2). Rather than use an exposed threshing floor, Gideon was forced to thresh his harvested wheat in a barn where fleeces were dried (ibid., 6:37&ndash40). He was a well-to-do farmer, owning cattle and sheep, vines, and wheat fields. The ordinary Israelite farmer, however, seems to have been poor. His main diet consisted of barley, and consequently the children of Israel were contemptuously represented in the Midianite soldier's dream as a "cake of barley bread" baked on coals (ibid., 7:13).

The state of agriculture at this time may be deduced from the laws of land inheritance in the Pentateuch, and the descriptions of the settlement of the tribes, the divisions of parcels of land among the various families, and the procedure of redeeming estates recounted in the Book of Ruth. These sources reveal Hebrew agriculture as based on the small single family holding. It depicts an idyllic prosperous village life, although workers were only hired at harvest time, and even the wealthy Boaz personally supervised the stacking of the grain after the winnowing. In the course of time, however, a poor, landless class arose &ndash as Scripture itself had foreseen: "the poor shall never cease out of the land" (Deut. 25:11). The unfortunates were the recipients of the gifts to the poor: the gleanings, the forgotten sheaves, the corners of the fields, the poor tithe. To the priests and levites, the heave offerings and tithes were given. The Book of Ruth reflects this, as well as the redeeming of fields to insure the continuity of family ties with the land. This almost sacred bond tying the Hebrew farmer to his inherited land was characteristic of Israel agriculture in every period. Here, too, is a reason for the speedy recovery of the local agriculture after every period of desolation. It should also be noted that the Israelite farmer always maintained a distinctly high cultural level. This fact is attested to by the "Gezer Calendar", which gives a succinct but comprehensive account of the annual cycle of seasonal agricultural occupations. If the conjecture is correct that this calendar was a lesson transcribed by a boy, it is evidence that formal instruction in agriculture was imparted during the period of the Judges. The Hebrews also acquired agricultural techniques from their neighbors, as may be deduced from Shamgar the son of Anath's smiting the Philistines with an ox goad (Judg. 3:31) &ndash not the primitive implement made entirely of wood, but one with a metal nail knocked through one end, and a metal spade attached to the other. In later sources, the dorban (also an ox goad) is mentioned as one of the few metal implements the Hebrews were allowed to take to the Philistines to be repaired and sharpened, metal work being prohibited to the Israelites lest they fashion arms to war upon their Philistine overlords (I Sam. 13:19&ndash22). It appears that the children of Israel adopted agricultural skills and the use of the new types of implements brought by the Philistines who invaded the country in the 13 th century from the Aegean islands, and who settled in the southern coastal region and the lowlands of Judah. Their main gainful occupation was farming. Although they were the enemies of the Hebrews, they nevertheless refrained from attacking the farms on the hills and in the valleys. A period of agricultural stability ensued. This period provides the background for the Book of Ruth.

First Temple Period

Israelite agriculture was based, as has been shown, on the autarchic family farm. With the rise of the monarchy, this order was threatened with collapse. Samuel warned the assembled people: "He (the king) will take your fields and your vineyards, and your olive yards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants" (I Sam. 8&ndash14), but it is doubtful if the prediction came true. Although David owned royal estates over which he appointed officials (I Chron. 27:26&ndash29), they were apparently conquered and annexed territories, or else previously unworked areas which were developed by royal initiative. In the days of Solomon, boundaries were extended, and officials "who provided victuals for the king and his household" (I Kings 4:7) administered the royal estates. Agriculture prospered, and the memory of that condition was perpetuated in Scripture: "Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and fig tree from Dan to Beer-Sheba&hellip" (ibid., 5:5). Uzziah, king of Judah, is called "lover of husbandry," and was noted for owning fields and vineyards, and for building "towers in the wilderness and hewing out many cisterns" (II Chron. 26:10). Evidence corroborating this statement has been found in recent times through the excavation in the Negev hill region of an agricultural settlement, irrigated by an accumulation of rain water flowing down from the mountains. Settlements of this type were, apparently, guard posts and supply stations along the Negev caravan routes. In those days agriculture and agronomy reached their peak and were described by Isaiah as wisdom emanating from God, Who had taught the sons of man excellent methods of plowing and reaping (Isa. 28:23&ndash29). It is noteworthy that these verses mention threshing implements which appeared only many generations later in Egypt and Rome. After the death of Uzziah security deteriorated and a decline set in among the Hebrew settlements in the lowlands. Against this background, Isaiah prophesied better days to come, when settlements would extend through the lowlands, when the farmer would sow his irrigated fields near the springs, and the shepherd tend his flocks without interference (ibid., 32:19&ndash20).

The story of Naboth's vineyard, which was coveted by King Ahab, who wished to convert it into a vegetable garden, reflects agricultural conditions in the Northern Kingdom. Whereas the Jewish king respected the sanctity of a paternal inheritance to an Israel farmer, Queen Jezebel, a Sidonian princess, could not appreciate it (I Kings 21). With the passage of time, apparently, the poor and its widows and orphans were, in increasing numbers, likewise evicted from their holdings, and the prophet denounced those "who join house to house, that lay field to field" (Isa. 5:68). Nevertheless, in the main, the right of inheritance to patriarchal estates was upheld. When Jerusalem was actually under siege, Jeremiah, exercising his right of redemption, bought a plot of land (32:7&ndash12). The remarkable agricultural prosperity of the land of Israel during the First Temple period is indicated in Ezekiel 27:17, which lists the exports of Judah and Israel to the market of Tyre as wheat of Minnith (probably a place in Transjordan), "pannag" (which cannot be clearly identified), honey, oil, and balm. With the destruction of the Kingdom of Israel at the end of the eighth century B.C.E. Samaria was denuded of its Israelite population, and repopulated by the nations the King of Assyria transported from other districts of his empire. The new inhabitants &ndash later called Samaritans and in the Talmud, "Kutim" &ndash failed to farm their land properly. Perhaps the lions that attacked them (II Kings 17:25&ndash27) had found a lair in the forests which encroached on neglected farms. There is no further information on conditions in Galilee. Some Israelites must have remained, since Hezekiah communicated with them (II Chron. 30), and Josiah extended his domain over them (ibid., 34:6). A few biblical passages point to persisting desolation, and a prophecy predicted the restoration of cultivation in Samaria (Jer. 31:5).

Second Temple Period

Having destroyed the Temple, Nebuzaradan left "the poorest of the land to be vinedressers and husbandmen" (II Kings 25:12), apparently tenant farmers or hired workers of the royal estates. He may also have left behind those familiar with local methods in order to prevent the further deterioration of the farms by unskilled and inexperienced labor. The impoverished Jews and the foreigners who settled in abandoned Jewish territory could not, however, maintain the terraced hill farms and orchards. When the exiles returned, they found the land forsaken and desolate. They proceeded to repair the terraces, to restore the agricultural installations and to plant vines and fruit trees. Yet, due to their ignorance of how to exploit the rain water for hill cultivation, they failed to establish viable farms. Somewhat later, conditions improved. Farming prospered, and the prophet Malachi regarded the changed situation as a manifestation of God's love for His people. Desolate Edom is contrasted with prospering Judah (1:2&ndash3). From the books of Ezra and Nehemiah it appears, however, that this optimism was premature, particularly in view of the ensuing moral degeneration. Poor farmers were evicted from their lands by the rich, and a new landowning class emerged. The new conditions loosened the bonds of devotion tying the farmer to his patrimony, and Jewish agriculture suffered. Now the foreigners, who had been forced to restore the lands seized from the Israelites, began to raise their heads. They obtained employment from the new owners and were often able to buy back the lands they had forfeited. Fields, vineyards, and orchards were neglected, and the woods again spread. From these trees, the Jews were enjoined to cut branches and build tabernacles (Neh. 8:15). As a result of the social and agrarian reforms instituted by Ezra and Nehemiah the Jewish population became more securely settled. Although a significant portion of the land still belonged to the king of Persia, the Jewish settlement broke through its boundaries by extending northward toward Galilee. The meager historical source material for the period includes the Book of Judith, assigned to the early fourth century (the period of Artaxerxes II, 404&ndash359 B.C.E.). The setting of the hook is the hills overlooking Jezreel, and the Jewish settlements mentioned as existing in the vicinity (Judith 7:3&ndash13) apparently formed the link between the inhabited areas of Judea and the colonies that flourished in Galilee in later generations.

The level of Jewish agriculture in the Hellenistic period is not altogether clear. The author of the Letter of Aristeas (pars. 112&ndash118: early third century B.C.E.) praised the agricultural productivity of the country and the great "diligence of its farmers. The country is plentifully wooded with numerous olive trees and rich in cereals and vegetables and also in vines and honey. Date palms and other fruit trees are beyond reckoning among them." He apparently exaggerated the extent of the irrigated areas and the importance of the Jordan River as a water source. He similarly referred to large parcels of land &ndash "each a holder of one hundred auroura lots" &ndash about 275,000 square meters. Perhaps he wanted to draw an analogy between the Nile and the Jordan, comparing the small lots of Judah with the large holdings of Egypt. Had Ereẓ Israel been as densely populated as he claimed, the landholding of each family must have been much smaller than he estimated. His assertion might, however, indicate the growth of the landowning class on the one hand and a landless class on the other, conditions that arose soon after the return of the Babylonian exiles. The book of Ben Sira stresses such a contrast between the classes. In the Zeno papyri (259 B.C.E.), Syria and Palestine are described as exporters of agricultural produce: grain, oil, and wine.

The Hasmonean Period

A period of further consolidation and expansion of Jewish settlement. The Hasmonean revolt relied mainly on the farmers, who received their just reward once the war had been won when many Gentile holdings fell into their hands. The farmers adhered closely to the Torah, especially to the precepts pertaining to the land, such as the year of release. Josephus relates (Wars, 1:54&ndash66) that John Hyrcanus was forced to raise his siege of Ptolemy's stronghold because of the scarcity of food occasioned by the sabbatical year. During the reign of Alexander Yannai the Hasmonean kingdom reached the peak of its expansion, Jewish colonization of Galilee increased, and it became the largest center of Jewish population outside of Judea.

The Mishnaic & Talmudic Periods

Began a generation before the destruction of the Temple and ends at the time of the division of the Roman empire. Josephus describes an abundance and fertility in the land at the end of the Second Temple period. He lavishes praise on Galilee in particular where "the land is so rich in soil and pasturage and produces such a variety of trees, that even the most indolent are tempted by these facilities to devote themselves to agriculture. In fact every inch of soil has been cultivated by the inhabitants there is not a parcel of wasteland. The towns, too, are thickly distributed and even the villages, thanks to the fertility of the soil, are all so densely populated that the smallest of them contains above fifteen thousand inhabitants" (Jos., Wars, 3:42&ndash43). The last number is an obvious exaggeration, especially in view of the number of villages in Galilee, which he elsewhere puts at 204 (Jos., Life, 235). He also describes Samaria and Judea: "Both regions consist of hills and plains, yield a light and fertile soil for agriculture, are well wooded, and abound in fruits, both wild and cultivated&hellip But the surest testimony to the virtues and thriving conditions of the two countries is that both have a dense population" but he is less enthusiastic about Transjordan which "is for the most part desert and rugged and too wild to bring tender fruits to maturity." Yet, he continues, even there, there were "tracts of finer soil which are productive of every species of crop, country watered by torrents descending from mountains and springs" (Wars 3:44&ndash50). He praises the valley of Gennasereth where "there is not a plant which its fertile soil refuses to produce" &ndash both those "which delight in the most wintry climate" and those which "thrive on heat," and concludes that "Nature had taken pride in this assembly, by a tour de force of the most discordant species in a single spot" (ibid., 3:517&ndash18). With equal enthusiasm Josephus regarded the valley of Jericho and the plentiful spring of Elisha which waters it. There grow "the most charming and luxuriant parks. Of the date palms watered by it there are numerous varieties differing in flavor &hellip here too grow the juicy balsam, the most precious of all local products, the henna shrubs and myrrh trees so that it would be no misnomer to describe this place as divine" (ibid., 4:468ff.). Similar praise of the date palms of Jericho are found in the nature studies of Pliny, who gives the names and characteristics of the varieties of dates which were export items (Historia Naturalis, 13:9). He also mentions the balsam groves of Jericho and En-Gedi, and writes parenthetically: "But to all the other odors that of balsam is considered preferable, a plant that has only been bestowed by Nature upon the land of Judea. In former times it was cultivated in two gardens only, both of which belonged to kings of that country.&hellip The Jews vented their rage upon this shrub just as they were in the habit of doing against their own lives, while, on the other hand, the Romans protected it indeed combats have taken place before now in defense of a shrub &hellip the fifth year after the conquest of Judea, these cuttings with the suckers were sold for the price of 800,000 sesterces" (ibid., 12:25, 24).

On account of the density of the population, holdings were quite small. The typical size may be estimated from Eusebius's account (Historiae Eccleseastiea, 3:20, 1ff.) of the two grandsons of Judah, brother of Jesus, who declared to the Roman government that they derived their sustenance from an area of 39 plethra (34,000 m 2 .) which they cultivated with their own hands, from which it follows that the average family derived its livelihood from 17,000 m 2 . Several passages in talmudic literature refer to the unit bet kor or 30 se'ah (about 23,000 m 2 in area) as a large field and a substantial inheritance (e.g., Mekh., Be-Shallaḥ, 87&ndash88). On the other hand, some individuals at the close of the Second Temple period possessed immense fortunes. Among them was the almost legendary R. Eleazar b. Ḥarsum (Kid. 49b), a high priest, "of whom it was said that his father had left him 1,000 cities, yet he would wander from place to place to study Torah" (Yoma 35b). These cities were razed during the Bar Kokhba War (TJ, Ta'an. 4:8, 69a)

In those times, the state of agriculture fluctuated constantly in accordance with the policies of the Roman conquerors. Josephus relates that, after the destruction, Titus issued a decree expropriating Jewish landholdings which he ordered sold or leased out (Wars, 5:421). At first these lands were acquired mainly by Gentiles who leased the plots to the former Jewish owners, and these later tried to buy back their land. To assure the restoration of the lands to their former Jewish owners, the talmudic sages enacted ordinances forbidding competition and speculation in land (BB 9:4 TJ, Ket. 2:1, 26b Git. 52a, et al.). On the other hand, a class of extremely wealthy landowners emerged at that time like the nasi dynasty, R. Eliezer b. Azariah, and others, who had acquired heirless estates from the Roman government. Asked what constituted a wealthy person, their contemporary R. Tarfon answered: "Whoever owns 100 vineyards, 100 fields, and 100 slaves to work them" (Shab. 25b). The response, it should be noted, is one of the isolated instances in rabbinic literature which refers to the employment of slave labor in agriculture (see also TJ, Yev. 8:1, 8d). Gentile (there were no Jewish) slaves were chiefly employed in housework and urban domestic services, whereas agriculture was the province of farmers, tenants, lessors, and hired workers. In the first years following the destruction, Gentiles still possessed and also worked many former Jewish farms. Rabbinic literature alludes to this situation in the gloomy baraita: "For seven years the Gentiles held vintage in the vineyards soaked with Israel's blood without fertilizing" (Git. 57a). With the passage of time, however, the Jewish population resettled on the farms and regained ownership. Natural increase forced the size of each family's holding to decrease, the average now being four-five bet se'ah, i.e., 3,000&ndash3,500 m 2 . of field crops, the area known as bet ha-peras (Oho. 17:2 &ndash in Latin: forus). Plots of this size are mentioned in deeds of sale dating from the time of Bar Kokhba, found in Wadi Murabbaʿat in the desert of Judah (Benoit, Milik, de Vaux, Les grottes de Murabaat, pp. 155ff.). These documents speak of the sale of "an area where five se'ah of wheat can be sown." Presumably an area of 3,500 m 2 sufficed to supply the cereal needs of a family. In addition the farmer owned vines and orchards. Executed during Bar Kokhba's rebellion, these deeds prove that even in the thick of war, Jews continued to buy and sell land.

The rebellion and its aftermath seriously affected Jewish agriculture. Certain localities were utterly devastated, "since Hadrian had come and destroyed the country" (TJ, Pe'ah 7:1, 20a). Especially in Judea, where the Roman government took possession of the lands of the thousands of war dead, the desolation was great. In the words of the aggadah: "Hadrian owned a large vineyard, 18 mil square, and he surrounded it with a fence of the slain of Bethar" (Lam. R. 2:2, no. 4). Galilee, too, sustained heavy damage. Before "the times became troubled," the area had been so densely populated that R. Simeon b. Yoḥai found a way of measuring the distances between the villages so that not one was beyond the Sabbath range (2,000 cubits) of its nearest neighbor (TJ, Er. 5:1, 22b&ndashc). Its olive groves had previously been so numerous that one "dipped one's feet in oil" there, yet later "olives [were] not normally found there" (TJ, Pe'ah, 7:1, 20a). Oppressive decrees and heavy taxes jeopardized the existence, both physical and spiritual, of the farmer. Before the revolt, Simeon b. Yoḥai, the disciple of Akiva, was particularly interested in the religious precepts applying to land after it, he complained: "Is that possible? If a person plows in the plowing season and reaps in the reaping season&hellip what is to become of the Torah?" (Ber. 35a). The suggested solution was employment in trade and in crafts in the city. Yet once again, agriculture recovered. Jewish settlement expanded and even penetrated to the northern coastal regions (Tosef., Kil. 2:16).

Further increases in population led to further decrease in the size of family holdings. In the next generation there is a conflict of opinion as to what constituted the minimum size of land divisible among heirs. The majority of sages held it to be a plot large enough to provide each heir with one and a half bet se'ah (1,176 m 2 .) while Judah regarded a field even half that size as divisible among heirs (BB 7:6 Tosef., BM 11:9). Normally a single owner would have several fields of this size, yet there were cases where an individual farmer had to subsist on an even smaller plot of land. A certain Samaritan reportedly drew his sustenance from a field a bet se'ah in area (784 m 2 Ket. 112a).

The period from the disciples of Akiva until the third amoraic generation (middle of second century to end of third century C.E.), was both spiritually and physically one of the most productive periods of all times. It saw an unprecedented progress in agriculture. Highly cultured, the Jewish farmer did not allow himself to stagnate and he was always ready to adopt new techniques and to experiment with new strains (see Agricultural Methods ). Many aggadot celebrate the abundance and fertility of the land of Israel at the time, and mention grape clusters as large as oxen mustard as tall as fig trees two radishes being a full load for a camel turnips large enough to constitute a fox's den a peach large enough to feed a man and his animal to satiety, etc. Certain localities were designated as the referent in "the land of milk and honey," as for instance, sixteen mil around Sepphoris in Galilee and the vicinities of Lydda and Ono (see Meg. 6a Ket. 111b TJ, Pe'ah 7:4, 20a&ndashb).

Depression set in at the end of R. Johanan's lifetime. "In his days, the world changed" (TJ, Pe'ah 7:4, 20a), either through natural causes (BM 105h) or else through Roman taxation. In any event the lot of the farmer became progressively worse. Farmers had, in earlier times, most strictly observed the prescriptions of the sabbatical year now they became more lax (Sanh. 26a). Previously "one was not supposed to raise sheep and goats" in the land of Israel now Johanan advocated sheep raising (Ḥul. 84a). It had obviously become increasingly difficult for the Jewish farmer to be self-supporting. In principle, R. Eliezer, who had previously laid down that whoever did not own land was no man, now came to the cruel realization that there was no occupation less distinguished than agriculture. Only those farmers close to the rulers could maintain themselves, and he therefore concluded: "Land was only given to the powerful" (Yev. 63a Sanh. 58b).

An exodus from village to city ensued in which the process of the displacement of the Jewish farmer began. Gentiles replaced them to such an extent, that the question arose as to whether most of the land of Palestine was in Gentile or Jewish hands. The new owners neither felt an attachment to the land nor possessed the skills of their predecessors. Especially in the hill regions, lands were now abandoned or turned into pastures, and once more the forests began to encroach on the deserted farms.

The Byzantine-Muslim Period

Under Byzantine rule, the situation hardly improved. However there is evidence, even for that time, of the existence of Jewish settlements in the Valley of Jezreel and in the Negev, as well, where remains of exquisite ancient synagogues are visible (Bet Alfa, Nirim, etc.). The Nabatean agriculture which flourished in the Negev mountain area is also noteworthy. This people had developed a highly perfected system of gathering runoff water and so irrigating arid, desolate regions. With the Moslem conquest, many Byzantine lands were laid waste, the owners fleeing or killed. These lands became state property and were leased out to tenant farmers. The Muhammadan rulers were totally ignorant of agriculture and their heavy taxes drove the owners from the land. Here and there, especially in Galilee, some Jewish settlements persevered. Later, there was an improvement. By the 11 th century Ramleh figs had become an important export item, and cotton, sugar cane, and indigo plants were cultivated.

The Crusader conquest wreaked further damage on local agriculture. The Franks, who took possession, farmed large tracts extensively, using a combination of European and local techniques. The village population became serfs indentured to the land. There is almost no information available on Judea at that time. It is known, however, that Jews suffered less than the Muslim population at the hands of the crusaders. There is mention of Jewish settlements in Galilee (Gischala (Gush Ḥalav), Alma, Kefar Baram, etc.) where the population engaged mainly in handicrafts and trade. Little is known of Jews in Palestine in the time of the Mamluks. At the end of the 14 th century, Jews expelled from France settled in Ereẓ Israel, among them Estori Parḥi, whose work Kaftor va-Feraḥ describes the country and its agriculture. The author made his home in Beth-Shean, an area where Jews were living, as they did too, in Safed, Gischala, Lydda, Ramleh, and Gaza.

A marked improvement in agriculture and an increase in population occurred under Ottoman rule, at the end of the 16 th century. Jews were engaged in the manufacture of finished products from agricultural raw materials: wine, textiles, and dyeing. They lived in Ein Zeitim, Biriyyah, Peki'in, Kefar Kanna, and elsewhere. In the 17 th century the Jews in the villages were harassed by both Bedouin tribes and government soldiers the population there consequently declined. Dahir al-Amr who ruled over Galilee in the 1740s encouraged the settlement of fallahin, and Jews also came to live in the region, in villages like Kefar Yasif and Shefaram. After his death, another period of decline ensued. Only at the end of the 19 th century was there noticeable improvement. The Jewish population increased, and Sir Moses Montefiore among others formulated plans for settling Jews on the land. The Mikveh Israel agricultural school was founded in 1870 and a little later the first Jewish colonies, Moẓa and Petaḥ Tikvah sprang up. In 1881, the American consul in Jerusalem noted that 1,000 Jewish families were earning their livelihood from agriculture. Colonization gained new strength from the First Aliyah in 1882, and from then and until today the extent of Jewish agricultural settlement has been constantly expanding.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.


Hunter-gatherers had different subsistence requirements and lifestyles from agriculturalists. They resided in temporary shelters and were highly mobile, moving in small groups and had limited contact with outsiders. Their diet was well-balanced and depended on what the environment provided each season. Because the advent of agriculture made it possible to support larger groups, agriculturalists lived in more permanent dwellings in areas that were more densely populated than could be supported by the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. The development of trading networks and complex societies brought them into contact with outside groups. [9]

However, population increase did not necessarily correlate with improved health. Reliance on a single crop can adversely affect health even while making it possible to support larger numbers of people. Maize is deficient in certain essential amino acids (lysine and tryptophan) and is a poor source of iron. The phytic acid it contains may inhibit nutrient absorption. Other factors that likely affected the health of early agriculturalists and their domesticated livestock would have been increased numbers of parasites and disease-bearing pests associated with human waste and contaminated food and water supplies. Fertilizers and irrigation may have increased crop yields but also would have promoted proliferation of insects and bacteria in the local environment while grain storage attracted additional insects and rodents. [9]

The term 'neolithic revolution' was coined by V. Gordon Childe in his 1936 book Man Makes Himself. [12] [13] Childe introduced it as the first in a series of agricultural revolutions in Middle Eastern history, [ citation needed ] calling it a "revolution" to denote its significance, the degree of change to communities adopting and refining agricultural practices. [ citation needed ]

The beginning of this process in different regions has been dated from 10,000 to 8,000 BCE in the Fertile Crescent, [14] [15] and perhaps 8000 BCE in the Kuk Early Agricultural Site of Papua New Guinea in Melanesia. [16] [17] Everywhere, this transition is associated with a change from a largely nomadic hunter-gatherer way of life to a more settled, agrarian one, with the domestication of various plant and animal species – depending on the species locally available, and probably influenced by local culture. Recent archaeological research suggests that in some regions, such as the Southeast Asian peninsula, the transition from hunter-gatherer to agriculturalist was not linear, but region-specific. [18]

There are several theories (not mutually exclusive) as to factors that drove populations to take up agriculture. The most prominent are:

  • The Oasis Theory, originally proposed by Raphael Pumpelly in 1908, popularized by V. Gordon Childe in 1928 and summarised in Childe's book Man Makes Himself. [12] This theory maintains that as the climate got drier due to the Atlantic depressions shifting northward, communities contracted to oases where they were forced into close association with animals, which were then domesticated together with planting of seeds. However, today this theory has little support amongst archaeologists because subsequent climate data suggests that the region was getting wetter rather than drier. [19]
  • The Hilly Flanks hypothesis, proposed by Robert Braidwood in 1948, suggests that agriculture began in the hilly flanks of the Taurus and Zagros mountains, where the climate was not drier as Childe had believed, and fertile land supported a variety of plants and animals amenable to domestication. [20]
  • The Feasting model by Brian Hayden [21] suggests that agriculture was driven by ostentatious displays of power, such as giving feasts, to exert dominance. This required assembling large quantities of food, which drove agricultural technology.
  • The Demographic theories proposed by Carl Sauer[22] and adapted by Lewis Binford[23] and Kent Flannery posit an increasingly sedentary population that expanded up to the carrying capacity of the local environment and required more food than could be gathered. Various social and economic factors helped drive the need for food.
  • The evolutionary/intentionality theory, developed by David Rindos[24] and others, views agriculture as an evolutionary adaptation of plants and humans. Starting with domestication by protection of wild plants, it led to specialization of location and then full-fledged domestication. , Robert Boyd, and Robert Bettinger[25] make a case for the development of agriculture coinciding with an increasingly stable climate at the beginning of the Holocene. Ronald Wright's book and Massey Lecture Series A Short History of Progress[26] popularized this hypothesis.
  • The postulated Younger Dryas impact event, claimed to be in part responsible for megafauna extinction and ending the last glacial period, could have provided circumstances that required the evolution of agricultural societies for humanity to survive. [27] The agrarian revolution itself is a reflection of typical overpopulation by certain species following initial events during extinction eras this overpopulation itself ultimately propagates the extinction event. argues that whatever plants were cultivated, the independent invention of agriculture always took place in special natural environments (e.g., South-East Asia). It is supposed that the cultivation of cereals started somewhere in the Near East: in the hills of Israel or Egypt. So Grinin dates the beginning of the agricultural revolution within the interval 12,000 to 9,000 BP, though in some cases the first cultivated plants or domesticated animals' bones are even of a more ancient age of 14–15 thousand years ago. [28] suggested that the Neolithic Revolution originated over long periods of development in the Levant, possibly beginning during the Epipaleolithic. In "A Reassessment of the Neolithic Revolution", Frank Hole further expanded the relationship between plant and animal domestication. He suggested the events could have occurred independently over different periods of time, in as yet unexplored locations. He noted that no transition site had been found documenting the shift from what he termed immediate and delayed return social systems. He noted that the full range of domesticated animals (goats, sheep, cattle and pigs) were not found until the sixth millennium at Tell Ramad. Hole concluded that "close attention should be paid in future investigations to the western margins of the Euphrates basin, perhaps as far south as the Arabian Peninsula, especially where wadis carrying Pleistocene rainfall runoff flowed."[29]

Use-wear analysis of five glossed flint blades found at Ohalo II, a 23,000-years-old fisher-hunter-gatherers’ camp on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Northern Israel, provides the earliest evidence for the use of composite cereal harvesting tools. [30] The Ohalo site is at the junction of the Upper Paleolithic and the Early Epipaleolithic, and has been attributed to both periods. [31]

The wear traces indicate that tools were used for harvesting near-ripe semi-green wild cereals, shortly before grains are ripe and disperse naturally. [30] The studied tools were not used intensively, and they reflect two harvesting modes: flint knives held by hand and inserts hafted in a handle. [30] The finds shed new light on cereal harvesting techniques some 8,000 years before the Natufian and 12,000 years before the establishment of sedentary farming communities in the Near East. [30] Furthermore, the new finds accord well with evidence for the earliest ever cereal cultivation at the site and the use of stone-made grinding implements. [30]

Once agriculture started gaining momentum, around 9000 BP, human activity resulted in the selective breeding of cereal grasses (beginning with emmer, einkorn and barley), and not simply of those that favoured greater caloric returns through larger seeds. Plants with traits such as small seeds or bitter taste were seen as undesirable. Plants that rapidly shed their seeds on maturity tended not to be gathered at harvest, therefore not stored and not seeded the following season successive years of harvesting spontaneously selected for strains that retained their edible seeds longer.

Daniel Zohary identified several plant species as "pioneer crops" or Neolithic founder crops. He highlighted the importance of wheat, barley and rye, and suggested that domestication of flax, peas, chickpeas, bitter vetch and lentils came a little later. Based on analysis of the genes of domesticated plants, he preferred theories of a single, or at most a very small number of domestication events for each taxon that spread in an arc from the Levantine corridor around the Fertile Crescent and later into Europe. [32] [33] Gordon Hillman and Stuart Davies carried out experiments with varieties of wild wheat to show that the process of domestication would have occurred over a relatively short period of between 20 and 200 years. [34] Some of the pioneering attempts failed at first and crops were abandoned, sometimes to be taken up again and successfully domesticated thousands of years later: rye, tried and abandoned in Neolithic Anatolia, made its way to Europe as weed seeds and was successfully domesticated in Europe, thousands of years after the earliest agriculture. [35] Wild lentils presented a different problem: most of the wild seeds do not germinate in the first year the first evidence of lentil domestication, breaking dormancy in their first year, appears in the early Neolithic at Jerf el Ahmar (in modern Syria), and lentils quickly spread south to the Netiv HaGdud site in the Jordan Valley. [35] The process of domestication allowed the founder crops to adapt and eventually become larger, more easily harvested, more dependable [ clarification needed ] in storage and more useful to the human population.

Selectively propagated figs, wild barley and wild oats were cultivated at the early Neolithic site of Gilgal I, where in 2006 [36] archaeologists found caches of seeds of each in quantities too large to be accounted for even by intensive gathering, at strata datable to c. 11,000 years ago. Some of the plants tried and then abandoned during the Neolithic period in the Ancient Near East, at sites like Gilgal, were later successfully domesticated in other parts of the world.

Once early farmers perfected their agricultural techniques like irrigation (traced as far back as the 6th millennium BCE in Khuzistan [37] [38] ), their crops yielded surpluses that needed storage. Most hunter-gatherers could not easily store food for long due to their migratory lifestyle, whereas those with a sedentary dwelling could store their surplus grain. Eventually granaries were developed that allowed villages to store their seeds longer. So with more food, the population expanded and communities developed specialized workers and more advanced tools.

The process was not as linear as was once thought, but a more complicated effort, which was undertaken by different human populations in different regions in many different ways.

Spread of crops: the case of barley Edit

One of the world's most important crops, barley, was domesticated in the Near East around 11,000 years ago (c. 9,000 BCE). [39] Barley is a highly resilient crop, able to grow in varied and marginal environments, such as in regions of high altitude and latitude. [39] Archaeobotanical evidence shows that barley had spread throughout Eurasia by 2,000 BCE. [39] To further elucidate the routes by which barley cultivation was spread through Eurasia, genetic analysis was used to determine genetic diversity and population structure in extant barley taxa. [39] Genetic analysis shows that cultivated barley spread through Eurasia via several different routes, which were most likely separated in both time and space. [39]

Beginnings in the Levant Edit

Agriculture appeared first in Southwest Asia about 2,000 years later, around 10,000–9,000 years ago. The region was the centre of domestication for three cereals (einkorn wheat, emmer wheat and barley), four legumes (lentil, pea, bitter vetch and chickpea), and flax. Domestication was a slow process that unfolded across multiple regions, and was preceded by centuries if not millennia of pre-domestication cultivation. [40]

Finds of large quantities of seeds and a grinding stone at the Epipalaeolithic site of Ohalo II, dating to around 19,400 BP, has shown some of the earliest evidence for advanced planning of plants for food consumption and suggests that humans at Ohalo II processed the grain before consumption. [41] [42] Tell Aswad is the oldest site of agriculture, with domesticated emmer wheat dated to 10,800 BP. [43] [44] Soon after came hulled, two-row barley – found domesticated earliest at Jericho in the Jordan valley and at Iraq ed-Dubb in Jordan. [45] Other sites in the Levantine corridor that show early evidence of agriculture include Wadi Faynan 16 and Netiv Hagdud. [14] Jacques Cauvin noted that the settlers of Aswad did not domesticate on site, but "arrived, perhaps from the neighbouring Anti-Lebanon, already equipped with the seed for planting". [46] In the Eastern Fertile Crescent, evidence of cultivation of wild plants has been found in Choga Gholan in Iran dated to 12,000 BP, suggesting there were multiple regions in the Fertile Crescent where domestication evolved roughly contemporaneously. [47] The Heavy Neolithic Qaraoun culture has been identified at around fifty sites in Lebanon around the source springs of the River Jordan, but never reliably dated. [48] [49]

Europe Edit

Archeologists trace the emergence of food-producing societies in the Levantine region of southwest Asia at the close of the last glacial period around 12,000 BCE, and developed into a number of regionally distinctive cultures by the eighth millennium BCE. Remains of food-producing societies in the Aegean have been carbon-dated to around 6500 BCE at Knossos, Franchthi Cave, and a number of mainland sites in Thessaly. Neolithic groups appear soon afterwards in the Balkans and south-central Europe. The Neolithic cultures of southeastern Europe (the Balkans and the Aegean) show some continuity with groups in southwest Asia and Anatolia (e.g., Çatalhöyük).

Current evidence suggests that Neolithic material culture was introduced to Europe via western Anatolia. All Neolithic sites in Europe contain ceramics, and contain the plants and animals domesticated in Southwest Asia: einkorn, emmer, barley, lentils, pigs, goats, sheep, and cattle. Genetic data suggest that no independent domestication of animals took place in Neolithic Europe, and that all domesticated animals were originally domesticated in Southwest Asia. [50] The only domesticate not from Southwest Asia was broomcorn millet, domesticated in East Asia. [51] The earliest evidence of cheese-making dates to 5500 BCE in Kujawy, Poland. [52]

The diffusion across Europe, from the Aegean to Britain, took about 2,500 years (6500–4000 BP). The Baltic region was penetrated a bit later, around 3500 BP, and there was also a delay in settling the Pannonian plain. In general, colonization shows a "saltatory" pattern, as the Neolithic advanced from one patch of fertile alluvial soil to another, bypassing mountainous areas. Analysis of radiocarbon dates show clearly that Mesolithic and Neolithic populations lived side by side for as much as a millennium in many parts of Europe, especially in the Iberian peninsula and along the Atlantic coast. [53]

Carbon 14 evidence Edit

The spread of the Neolithic from the Near East Neolithic to Europe was first studied quantitatively in the 1970s, when a sufficient number of Carbon 14 age determinations for early Neolithic sites had become available. [55] Ammerman and Cavalli-Sforza discovered a linear relationship between the age of an Early Neolithic site and its distance from the conventional source in the Near East (Jericho), demonstrating that the Neolithic spread at an average speed of about 1 km/yr. [55] More recent studies confirm these results and yield the speed of 0.6–1.3 km/yr (at 95% confidence level). [55]

Analysis of mitochondrial DNA Edit

Since the original human expansions out of Africa 200,000 years ago, different prehistoric and historic migration events have taken place in Europe. [56] Considering that the movement of the people implies a consequent movement of their genes, it is possible to estimate the impact of these migrations through the genetic analysis of human populations. [56] Agricultural and husbandry practices originated 10,000 years ago in a region of the Near East known as the Fertile Crescent. [56] According to the archaeological record this phenomenon, known as “Neolithic”, rapidly expanded from these territories into Europe. [56] However, whether this diffusion was accompanied or not by human migrations is greatly debated. [56] Mitochondrial DNA – a type of maternally inherited DNA located in the cell cytoplasm – was recovered from the remains of Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) farmers in the Near East and then compared to available data from other Neolithic populations in Europe and also to modern populations from South Eastern Europe and the Near East. [56] The obtained results show that substantial human migrations were involved in the Neolithic spread and suggest that the first Neolithic farmers entered Europe following a maritime route through Cyprus and the Aegean Islands. [56]

Map of the spread of Neolithic farming cultures from the Near-East to Europe, with dates.

Modern distribution of the haplotypes of PPNB farmers

Genetic distance between PPNB farmers and modern populations

South Asia Edit

The earliest Neolithic sites in South Asia are Bhirrana in Haryana dated to 7570–6200 BCE, [57] and Mehrgarh, dated to between 6500 and 5500 BP, in the Kachi plain of Baluchistan, Pakistan the site has evidence of farming (wheat and barley) and herding (cattle, sheep and goats).

There is strong evidence for causal connections between the Near-Eastern Neolithic and that further east, up to the Indus Valley. [58] There are several lines of evidence that support the idea of connection between the Neolithic in the Near East and in the Indian subcontinent. [58] The prehistoric site of Mehrgarh in Baluchistan (modern Pakistan) is the earliest Neolithic site in the north-west Indian subcontinent, dated as early as 8500 BCE. [58] Neolithic domesticated crops in Mehrgarh include more than barley and a small amount of wheat. There is good evidence for the local domestication of barley and the zebu cattle at Mehrgarh, but the wheat varieties are suggested to be of Near-Eastern origin, as the modern distribution of wild varieties of wheat is limited to Northern Levant and Southern Turkey. [58] A detailed satellite map study of a few archaeological sites in the Baluchistan and Khybar Pakhtunkhwa regions also suggests similarities in early phases of farming with sites in Western Asia. [58] Pottery prepared by sequential slab construction, circular fire pits filled with burnt pebbles, and large granaries are common to both Mehrgarh and many Mesopotamian sites. [58] The postures of the skeletal remains in graves at Mehrgarh bear strong resemblance to those at Ali Kosh in the Zagros Mountains of southern Iran. [58] Despite their scarcity, the 14C and archaeological age determinations for early Neolithic sites in Southern Asia exhibit remarkable continuity across the vast region from the Near East to the Indian Subcontinent, consistent with a systematic eastward spread at a speed of about 0.65 km/yr. [58]

In East Asia Edit

Agriculture in Neolithic China can be separated into two broad regions, Northern China and Southern China. [59] [60]

The first agricultural center in northern China is believed to be the homelands of the early Sino-Tibetan-speakers, associated with the Houli, Peiligang, Cishan, and Xinglongwa cultures, clustered around the Yellow River basin. [59] [60] It was the domestication center for foxtail millet (Setaria italica) and broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum) with evidence of domestication of these species approximately 8,000 years ago. [61] These species were subsequently widely cultivated in the Yellow River basin (7,500 years ago). [61] Soybean was also domesticated in northern China 4,500 years ago. [62] Orange and peach also originated in China. They were cultivated around 2500 BCE. [63] [64]

The second agricultural center in southern China are clustered around the Yangtze River basin. Rice was domesticated in this region, together with the development of paddy field cultivation, between 13,500 and 8,200 years ago. [59] [65] [66]

There are two possible centers of domestication for rice. The first, and most likely, is in the lower Yangtze River, believed to be the homelands of early Austronesian speakers and associated with the Kauhuqiao, Hemudu, Majiabang, and Songze cultures. It is characterized by typical pre-Austronesian features, including stilt houses, jade carving, and boat technologies. Their diet were also supplemented by acorns, water chestnuts, foxnuts, and pig domestication. The second is in the middle Yangtze River, believed to be the homelands of the early Hmong-Mien-speakers and associated with the Pengtoushan and Daxi cultures. Both of these regions were heavily populated and had regular trade contacts with each other, as well as with early Austroasiatic speakers to the west, and early Kra-Dai speakers to the south, facilitating the spread of rice cultivation throughout southern China. [66] [59] [60]

The millet and rice-farming cultures also first came into contact with each other at around 9,000 to 7,000 BP, resulting in a corridor between the millet and rice cultivation centers where both rice and millet were cultivated. [59] At around 5,500 to 4,000 BP, there was increasing migration into Taiwan from the early Austronesian Dapenkeng culture, bringing rice and millet cultivation technology with them. During this period, there is evidence of large settlements and intensive rice cultivation in Taiwan and the Penghu Islands, which may have resulted in overexploitation. Bellwood (2011) proposes that this may have been the impetus of the Austronesian expansion which started with the migration of the Austronesian-speakers from Taiwan to the Philippines at around 5,000 BP. [60]

Austronesians carried rice cultivation technology to Island Southeast Asia along with other domesticated species. The new tropical island environments also had new food plants that they exploited. They carried useful plants and animals during each colonization voyage, resulting in the rapid introduction of domesticated and semi-domesticated species throughout Oceania. They also came into contact with the early agricultural centers of Papuan-speaking populations of New Guinea as well as the Dravidian-speaking regions of South India and Sri Lanka by around 3,500 BP. They acquired further cultivated food plants like bananas and pepper from them, and in turn introduced Austronesian technologies like wetland cultivation and outrigger canoes. [60] [67] [68] [69] During the 1st millennium CE, they also colonized Madagascar and the Comoros, bringing Southeast Asian food plants, including rice, to East Africa. [70] [71]

In Africa Edit

On the African continent, three areas have been identified as independently developing agriculture: the Ethiopian highlands, the Sahel and West Africa. [72] By contrast, Agriculture in the Nile River Valley is thought to have developed from the original Neolithic Revolution in the Fertile Crescent. Many grinding stones are found with the early Egyptian Sebilian and Mechian cultures and evidence has been found of a neolithic domesticated crop-based economy dating around 7,000 BP. [73] [74] Unlike the Middle East, this evidence appears as a "false dawn" to agriculture, as the sites were later abandoned, and permanent farming then was delayed until 6,500 BP with the Tasian culture and Badarian culture and the arrival of crops and animals from the Near East.

Bananas and plantains, which were first domesticated in Southeast Asia, most likely Papua New Guinea, were re-domesticated in Africa possibly as early as 5,000 years ago. Asian yams and taro were also cultivated in Africa. [72]

The most famous crop domesticated in the Ethiopian highlands is coffee. In addition, khat, ensete, noog, teff and finger millet were also domesticated in the Ethiopian highlands. Crops domesticated in the Sahel region include sorghum and pearl millet. The kola nut was first domesticated in West Africa. Other crops domesticated in West Africa include African rice, yams and the oil palm. [72]

Agriculture spread to Central and Southern Africa in the Bantu expansion during the 1st millennium BCE to 1st millennium CE.

In the Americas Edit

Maize (corn), beans and squash were among the earliest crops domesticated in Mesoamerica, with maize beginning about 4000 BCE, [75] squash as early as 6000 BCE, and beans by no later than 4000 BCE. Potatoes and manioc were domesticated in South America. In what is now the eastern United States, Native Americans domesticated sunflower, sumpweed and goosefoot around 2500 BCE. Sedentary village life based on farming did not develop until the second millennium BCE, referred to as the formative period. [76]

In New Guinea Edit

Evidence of drainage ditches at Kuk Swamp on the borders of the Western and Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea indicates cultivation of taro and a variety of other crops, dating back to 11,000 BP. Two potentially significant economic species, taro (Colocasia esculenta) and yam (Dioscorea sp.), have been identified dating at least to 10,200 calibrated years before present (cal BP). Further evidence of bananas and sugarcane dates to 6,950 to 6,440 BCE. This was at the altitudinal limits of these crops, and it has been suggested that cultivation in more favourable ranges in the lowlands may have been even earlier. CSIRO has found evidence that taro was introduced into the Solomon Islands for human use, from 28,000 years ago, making taro cultivation the earliest crop in the world. [77] [78] It seems to have resulted in the spread of the Trans–New Guinea languages from New Guinea east into the Solomon Islands and west into Timor and adjacent areas of Indonesia. This seems to confirm the theories of Carl Sauer who, in "Agricultural Origins and Dispersals", suggested as early as 1952 that this region was a centre of early agriculture.

When hunter-gathering began to be replaced by sedentary food production it became more efficient to keep animals close at hand. Therefore, it became necessary to bring animals permanently to their settlements, although in many cases there was a distinction between relatively sedentary farmers and nomadic herders. [79] [ original research? ] The animals' size, temperament, diet, mating patterns, and life span were factors in the desire and success in domesticating animals. Animals that provided milk, such as cows and goats, offered a source of protein that was renewable and therefore quite valuable. The animal's ability as a worker (for example ploughing or towing), as well as a food source, also had to be taken into account. Besides being a direct source of food, certain animals could provide leather, wool, hides, and fertilizer. Some of the earliest domesticated animals included dogs (East Asia, about 15,000 years ago), [80] sheep, goats, cows, and pigs.

Domestication of animals in the Middle East Edit

The Middle East served as the source for many animals that could be domesticated, such as sheep, goats and pigs. This area was also the first region to domesticate the dromedary. Henri Fleisch discovered and termed the Shepherd Neolithic flint industry from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon and suggested that it could have been used by the earliest nomadic shepherds. He dated this industry to the Epipaleolithic or Pre-Pottery Neolithic as it is evidently not Paleolithic, Mesolithic or even Pottery Neolithic. [49] [81] The presence of these animals gave the region a large advantage in cultural and economic development. As the climate in the Middle East changed and became drier, many of the farmers were forced to leave, taking their domesticated animals with them. It was this massive emigration from the Middle East that later helped distribute these animals to the rest of Afroeurasia. This emigration was mainly on an east–west axis of similar climates, as crops usually have a narrow optimal climatic range outside of which they cannot grow for reasons of light or rain changes. For instance, wheat does not normally grow in tropical climates, just like tropical crops such as bananas do not grow in colder climates. Some authors, like Jared Diamond, have postulated that this east–west axis is the main reason why plant and animal domestication spread so quickly from the Fertile Crescent to the rest of Eurasia and North Africa, while it did not reach through the north–south axis of Africa to reach the Mediterranean climates of South Africa, where temperate crops were successfully imported by ships in the last 500 years. [82] Similarly, the African Zebu of central Africa and the domesticated bovines of the fertile-crescent – separated by the dry sahara desert – were not introduced into each other's region.

Social change Edit

Despite the significant technological advance, the Neolithic revolution did not lead immediately to a rapid growth of population. Its benefits appear to have been offset by various adverse effects, mostly diseases and warfare. [83]

The introduction of agriculture has not necessarily led to unequivocal progress. The nutritional standards of the growing Neolithic populations were inferior to that of hunter-gatherers. Several ethnological and archaeological studies conclude that the transition to cereal-based diets caused a reduction in life expectancy and stature, an increase in infant mortality and infectious diseases, the development of chronic, inflammatory or degenerative diseases (such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases) and multiple nutritional deficiencies, including vitamin deficiencies, iron deficiency anemia and mineral disorders affecting bones (such as osteoporosis and rickets) and teeth. [84] [85] [86] Average height went down from 5'10" (178 cm) for men and 5'6" (168 cm) for women to 5'5" (165 cm) and 5'1" (155 cm), respectively, and it took until the twentieth century for average human height to come back to the pre-Neolithic Revolution levels. [87]

The traditional view is that agricultural food production supported a denser population, which in turn supported larger sedentary communities, the accumulation of goods and tools, and specialization in diverse forms of new labor. The development of larger societies led to the development of different means of decision making and to governmental organization. Food surpluses made possible the development of a social elite who were not otherwise engaged in agriculture, industry or commerce, but dominated their communities by other means and monopolized decision-making. [88] Jared Diamond (in The World Until Yesterday) identifies the availability of milk and cereal grains as permitting mothers to raise both an older (e.g. 3 or 4 year old) and a younger child concurrently. The result is that a population can increase more rapidly. Diamond, in agreement with feminist scholars such as V. Spike Peterson, points out that agriculture brought about deep social divisions and encouraged gender inequality. [89] [90] This social reshuffle is traced by historical theorists, like Veronica Strang, through developments in theological depictions. [91] Strang supports her theory through a comparison of aquatic deities before and after the Neolithic Agricultural Revolution, most notably the Venus of Lespugue and the Greco-Roman deities such as Circe or Charybdis: the former venerated and respected, the latter dominated and conquered. The theory, supplemented by the widely accepted assumption from Parsons that “society is always the object of religious veneration”, [92] argues that with the centralization of government and the dawn of the Anthropocene, roles within society became more restrictive and were rationalized through the conditioning effect of religion a process that is crystallized in the progression from polytheism to monotheism.

Subsequent revolutions Edit

Andrew Sherratt has argued that following upon the Neolithic Revolution was a second phase of discovery that he refers to as the secondary products revolution. Animals, it appears, were first domesticated purely as a source of meat. [93] The Secondary Products Revolution occurred when it was recognised that animals also provided a number of other useful products. These included:

Sherratt argued that this phase in agricultural development enabled humans to make use of the energy possibilities of their animals in new ways, and permitted permanent intensive subsistence farming and crop production, and the opening up of heavier soils for farming. It also made possible nomadic pastoralism in semi arid areas, along the margins of deserts, and eventually led to the domestication of both the dromedary and Bactrian camel. [93] Overgrazing of these areas, particularly by herds of goats, greatly extended the areal extent of deserts.

Living in one spot permitted the accrual of personal possessions and an attachment to certain areas of land. From such a position, it is argued [ by whom? ] , prehistoric people were able to stockpile food to survive lean times and trade unwanted surpluses with others. Once trade and a secure food supply were established, populations could grow, and society could diversify into food producers and artisans, who could afford to develop their trade by virtue of the free time they enjoyed because of a surplus of food. The artisans, in turn, were able to develop technology such as metal weapons. Such relative complexity would have required some form of social organisation to work efficiently, so it is likely that populations that had such organisation, perhaps such as that provided by religion, were better prepared and more successful. In addition, the denser populations could form and support legions of professional soldiers. Also, during this time property ownership became increasingly important to all people. Ultimately, Childe argued that this growing social complexity, all rooted in the original decision to settle, led to a second Urban Revolution in which the first cities were built. [ citation needed ]

Diet and health Edit

Compared to foragers, Neolithic farmers' diets were higher in carbohydrates but lower in fibre, micronutrients, and protein. This led to an increase in the frequency of carious teeth [94] and slower growth in childhood and increased body fat, and studies have consistently found that populations around the world became shorter after the transition to agriculture. This trend may have been exacerbated by the greater seasonality of farming diets and with it the increased risk of famine due to crop failure. [95]

Throughout the development of sedentary societies, disease spread more rapidly than it had during the time in which hunter-gatherer societies existed. Inadequate sanitary practices and the domestication of animals may explain the rise in deaths and sickness following the Neolithic Revolution, as diseases jumped from the animal to the human population. Some examples of infectious diseases spread from animals to humans are influenza, smallpox, and measles. [96] Ancient microbial genomics has shown that progenitors to human-adapted strains of Salmonella enterica infected up to 5,500 year old agro-pastoralists throughout Western Eurasia, providing molecular evidence for the hypothesis that the Neolithization process facilitated the emergence of human-disease. [97] In concordance with a process of natural selection, the humans who first domesticated the big mammals quickly built up immunities to the diseases as within each generation the individuals with better immunities had better chances of survival. In their approximately 10,000 years of shared proximity with animals, such as cows, Eurasians and Africans became more resistant to those diseases compared with the indigenous populations encountered outside Eurasia and Africa. [98] For instance, the population of most Caribbean and several Pacific Islands have been completely wiped out by diseases. 90% or more of many populations of the Americas were wiped out by European and African diseases before recorded contact with European explorers or colonists. Some cultures like the Inca Empire did have a large domestic mammal, the llama, but llama milk was not drunk, nor did llamas live in a closed space with humans, so the risk of contagion was limited. According to bioarchaeological research, the effects of agriculture on physical and dental health in Southeast Asian rice farming societies from 4000 to 1500 BP was not detrimental to the same extent as in other world regions. [99]

Jonathan C. K. Wells and Jay T. Stock have argued that the dietary changes and increased pathogen exposure associated with agriculture profoundly altered human biology and life history, creating conditions where natural selection favoured the allocation of resources towards reproduction over somatic effort. [95]

Technology Edit

In his book Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond argues that Europeans and East Asians benefited from an advantageous geographical location that afforded them a head start in the Neolithic Revolution. Both shared the temperate climate ideal for the first agricultural settings, both were near a number of easily domesticable plant and animal species, and both were safer from attacks of other people than civilizations in the middle part of the Eurasian continent. Being among the first to adopt agriculture and sedentary lifestyles, and neighboring other early agricultural societies with whom they could compete and trade, both Europeans and East Asians were also among the first to benefit from technologies such as firearms and steel swords. [100]

The dispersal of Neolithic culture from the Middle East has recently been associated with the distribution of human genetic markers. In Europe, the spread of the Neolithic culture has been associated with distribution of the E1b1b lineages and Haplogroup J that are thought to have arrived in Europe from North Africa and the Near East respectively. [101] [102] In Africa, the spread of farming, and notably the Bantu expansion, is associated with the dispersal of Y-chromosome haplogroup E1b1a from West Africa. [101] [unrelated Link]

Agrarian roots? Think again. Debunking the myth of summer vacation’s origins

It’s an image that many remember of America’s agrarian past: Kids toiling away on family farms during the long, hot summer break between school years.

So it’s perhaps unsurprising that the origin of the school calendar is often linked to these images — by policy makers and in the media.

In a story about achievement gaps caused by summer vacation, Time Magazine called the school calendar “a legacy of the farm economy.” In a segment on summer programs for low-income kids, NPR reported that the school year was based on an “agrarian calendar that dates back to farm cycles and harvests.” While advocating that kids spend more time in school, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told The New York Times that the long summer break was “based on the agrarian economy.”

But while there may be a kernel of truth to this theory, it’s mostly wrong.

“What school on the agrarian calendar actually looked like was a short winter term and a short summer term” said Kenneth Gold, a historian at the College of Staten Island. “And if you think about farming needs, that’s actually what makes sense.”

Kids in rural, agricultural areas were most needed in the spring, when most crops had to be planted, and in the fall, when crops were harvested and sold. Historically, many attended school in the summer when there was comparatively less need for them on the farm.

“The whole idea of an agrarian calendar makes it sound like it was an unthinking decision but the current school year was really a conscious creation,” said Gold, who is the author of “School’s In: The History of Summer Education in American Public Schools.”

Urban schools had a very different school schedule, but also included summer. School was essentially open year round, but was not mandatory, and children came when they could. In 1842, New York City schools were open 248 days a year, dramatically more than the 180 or so that they are open today.

In the days before air conditioning, schools and entire cities could be sweltering places during the hot summer months. Wealthy and eventually middle-class urbanites also usually made plans to flee the city’s heat, making those months the logical time in cities to suspend school.

By the late 19th century, school reformers started pushing for standardization of the school calendar across urban and rural areas. So a compromise was struck that created the modern school calendar.

A long break would give teachers needed time to train and give kids a break. And while summer was the logical time to take off, the cycles of farming had nothing to do with it, Gold said.

And none of the reasons for creating the current school calendar related to student achievement. “The conversations that we’re having today about creating a context for academic achievement just weren’t there.”

But today, researchers are considering that exact question.

Long summer breaks have been shown to cause children, especially lower-income children, to lose ground academically. It’s a phenomenon known as “summer slide,” where students return to school in the fall having lost a full month of learning, on average.

Researchers have studied enriching summer programs, summer school, and even year-round school to combat this summer learning loss. One school district in West Virginia has had a year-round calendar for more than two decades. Watch the video below to learn more.

Left: Children working on a farm near Mt. Vernon, Ky., in 1916. Credit: Library of Congress

1840s: Commercial Farming

The growing use of factory-made agricultural machinery increased farmers' need for cash and encouraged commercial farming. Developments included:

  • 1841: A practical grain drill was patented.
  • 1842: The first grain elevator was used in Buffalo, New York.
  • 1844: A practical mowing machine was patented.
  • 1847: Irrigation began in Utah.
  • 1849: Mixed chemical fertilizers were sold commercially.

10 of the most iconic farming quotes in history

A lot has been said and written about agriculture since the dawn of human civilization. Some good, some bad, and a lot that isn’t worth repeating. I’m probably guilty of the last one. But there are some farming quotes so good they stick out and are worth repeating.

So I’ve compiled a list of the most iconic quotes about agriculture, farmers, and country life. Iconic is something that is considered symbolic. It sums up a characteristic of the whole. And I think these quotes do that for agriculture.

1. “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.” — President Dwight D. Eisenhower

In other words, unless you’ve lived it, you don’t know as much as you think you do.

2. “No race can prosper until it learns there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem.” — Booker T. Washington

We have to recognize that everyone serves an important role in society. From farmers to rulers, we’re all important.

3. “Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.” — Thomas Jefferson

Also, without agriculture we would all get pretty hungry. So Tommy’s observation is spot on,

4. “Farming is a profession of hope.” — Brett Brian

Every year the spring comes. And every year we plan those crops and try again. Every. Single. Year.

5. “Those too lazy to plow in the right season will have no food at the harvest.” — Proverbs 20:4

This Biblical passage has wider applications than its literal interpretation.

6. “The farmer has to be an optimist or he wouldn’t still be a farmer.” — Will Rogers

There are so many things that can devastate a crop: weather, markets, accidents. … Farmers have to believe none of them will happen.

7. “When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of human civilization.” — Daniel Webster

Farming might not be the first profession. But it’s a pretty close second.

8. “I would rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world.” — George Washington

9. “The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale, and pays the freight both ways.” — John F. Kennedy

It’s funny how some things don’t change.

10. “The story of family farming underscores a legacy of sustainability.” — Amanda Zaluckyj, The Farmer’s Daughter USA

Sure, I took some liberties declaring this as an “iconic” agriculture quote. But it’s the one thing I wish more people understood better. So maybe one day it’ll be iconic.

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Aztec Agriculture - Rich and Varied

In the days of the empire, Aztec agriculture was a lot more complex that growing a few stalks of maize. The remarkable farming practices of the peoples in central Mexico has been studied and admired ever since.

Prior to the Spanish conquest of Mexico, Aztec society ruled the central Mexico, built on the foundations of Mesoamerica. Aztec society was highly structured and complex, and the political emphasis was working as a larger unit with smaller parts that worked together.

Religion played an important part in agricultural life, such as the worship of the corn goddess.
Taken at the National Anthropological Museum in Mexico City

Just as other aspects of this society, Aztec agriculture was highly developed, and has become famous in studies of history. From the chinampas to the terrace crops grown, the Aztecs planned and organized their farming and worked for the benefit of the culture.


Aztec agriculture in the heart of the empire used chinampas for their crops. Chinampa is a method of farming that used small, rectangular areas to grow crops on the shallow lake beds in the Mexican valley. Chinampas were essentially artificial islands created for the crops.

An area was staked out in the lake bed, usually about thirty by two and a half meters. Once the area was fenced off, the farmers layered it with mud, sediment, and decaying vegetation until it was above the level of the lake. Trees were also often planted in the corners to help secure the area.

These islands then provided rich soil for crops with easy access to water. The farmers used channels between the islands to get to each area by canoe. Read more about this type of Aztec farming here.

Other methods of Aztec agriculture

In addition to chinampas, the Aztec farmers practiced terracing to provide more usable land. In terracing, walls of stone were created in hillsides, then filled in to create deeper soil that could be used, even if the land wasn't flat.

People also often created their own gardens to grow fruits and vegetables for their families, although commoners were expected to give tributes to the nobles of their land, according to the societal hierarchy.


The most common crop grown by the Aztecs was maize, also known as corn, and it was also the most important. Maize could be stored for long periods of time, and in addition to being eaten as it was, it could be ground into flour and made into other foods.

Squash was another important crop in Aztec agriculture. There are many varieties of squash that were utilized by Aztec farmers based on how they could be best used as a food source. The pumpkin, for example, was used often because its seeds provided a great deal of protein. And the bottle gourd was grown because after being eaten, it could be used as a water container.

Beans are another crop that provided protein for the Aztec people, so this crop was commonly found in chinampas. However, the Aztec farmers also grew avocados, tomatoes, and guavas, among others, as food sources, and used cotton plants and rubber trees to create products they needed like clothing and latex balls.


One challenge all farmers face is retaining nutrients in the soil where crops are planted. Different crops deplete the soil of certain nutrients, so if a specific crop is planted in the same field year after year, it won't grow as well. This is a particular challenge in areas of Mexico where there are large populations and small areas where farming can take place easily.

To combat this, Aztec farmers planted crops together or rotated crops to help keep nutrients in the soil, and give them the opportunity to regenerate.

Maize, squash, and beans were referred to as the "Three Sisters" in Aztec agriculture. These three crops were planted together because they kept the nutrients in the soil, ensuring the crops would grow well and the people would have the food they needed.

Aztec farmers also let the fields sit fallow for a time, meaning that particular plot of land wasn't used for crops to let it rest and regenerate the nutrients it needed.

Because of the importance of agriculture to the survival of the Aztec people, the growing of crops was important to all people of the society. As young people grew in society, they could learn agriculture as a trade, which meant the methods were passed to future generations.

People also used crops to trade for other products such as animal skins or woodwork. The Aztec society had a strong economy that was driven by trade, so having crops to trade meant the people would be sure to have other products they needed.

For more.

For a more in-depth discussion of farming in the empire, check the information by William Hickling Prescott. A lot of work has been done on the topic since, but his work still has a lot of good background. Here is his section on Aztec agriculture.

Also, be sure to search this site for more on farming and other aspects of Aztec culture.

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Assimilation, in anthropology and sociology, the process whereby individuals or groups of differing ethnic heritage are absorbed into the dominant culture of a society. The process of assimilating involves taking on the traits of the dominant culture to such a degree that the assimilating group becomes socially indistinguishable from other members of the society. As such, assimilation is the most extreme form of acculturation. Although assimilation may be compelled through force or undertaken voluntarily, it is rare for a minority group to replace its previous cultural practices completely religion, food preferences, proxemics (e.g., the physical distance between people in a given social situation), and aesthetics are among the characteristics that tend to be most resistant to change. Assimilation does not denote “racial” or biological fusion, though such fusion may occur.

Attempts to compel minority groups to assimilate have occurred frequently in world history. The forced assimilation of indigenous peoples was particularly common in the European colonial empires of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. In North and South America, Australia, Africa, and Asia, colonial policies toward indigenous peoples frequently compelled their religious conversion, the removal of children from their families, the division of community property into salable, individually owned parcels of land, the undermining of local economies and gender roles by shifting responsibility for farming or other forms of production from women to men, and the elimination of access to indigenous foodstuffs. Forced assimilation is rarely successful, and it generally has enduring negative consequences for the recipient culture.

Voluntary assimilation, albeit usually effected under pressure from the dominant culture, has also been prevalent in the historical record. One such case dates to the Spanish Inquisition of the late 14th and 15th centuries, when many Muslims and Jews responded to religious persecution by voluntarily converting to Roman Catholicism. Known as Moriscos and Marranos, respectively, they secretly continued to practice their original religions.

Another example of voluntary assimilation occurred during the 18th and 19th centuries, when millions of Europeans moved to the United States. In this case, being able to “pass” as a member of the dominant Anglo-Protestant culture was an important hedge against violent nativist groups such as the Know-Nothing Party (see United States: The people). Although popular notions generally presume that complete assimilation occurred among immigrants of European descent, research in the late 20th and early 21st centuries advocated a more nuanced and pluralistic view of historical culture change among American ethnic groups.

George Orwell's ɺnimal Farm' is still relevant today -- consider Egypt: Kevin Klesta

I recently finished reading "Animal Farm: A Fairy Story" by George Orwell and wondered whether the story's warning was as relevant today as it was when it was written. While it obviously pertained to Josef Stalin and his consolidation of power in the Soviet Union, there is also a curious contemporary example that fits just as well.

As many who have read it will remember, Animal Farm is a brilliant story that follows a farm animal uprising against Mr. Jones, their hard human master. The revolt is successful and, as the animals form a liberated socialist society governed by Seven Commandments of Animalism (distilled in the line "Four legs good, two legs bad."), they ultimately fall under the tyrannical control of one of their own, a pig by the name of Napoleon who uses fear, force and disinformation to take control and become the next Mr. Jones.

During the reign of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt was also suffering from a hard master. Freedoms were limited and rights were restricted. Corruption, torture and press censorship increased, as did the number of imprisonments without trial. In January 2011, the people tired of the worsening conditions and, like the farm animals, rebelled, successfully overthrowing the government. With Mubarak behind bars and a temporary government in place, possibilities must have seemed myriad. Though the conditions did not immediately improve, there was a reinvigorating freedom that many had forgotten or perhaps had never before experienced.

This rallied the Egyptians, and they focused on creating a new government, a better government that would cure the problems from the last regime.

Unlike the novella, they turned to democracy instead of socialism, but the end result was the same. On June 24, 2012, the Egyptian people elected Mohammed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the farm animals let Snowball take charge.

And just as the pigs did in the novella, Morsi solidified his governing body. On Nov. 22, 2012, he swiftly immunized himself and the Constituent Assembly from political interference, claiming he was protecting the revolution, but this only fomented fears that he was scheming to install an Islamic government. As the schism deepened between Morsi and his opponents, another round of protests erupted leading to an intervention by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who was both the Egyptian minister of defense and commander-in-chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces at the time.

Morsi was unseated and, like Snowball from Animal Farm, removed from power. El-Sisi has since turned the people's focus against those deposed, much as Napoleon turned the farm's attention against Snowball.

Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood were blamed for everything from terrorizing the populace to paralyzing Egypt's infrastructure. As el-Sisi executed numerous members of the Muslim Brotherhood and anyone who supported Morsi, so did Napoleon kill various farm animals that he claimed supported Snowball -- all to retain a tighter grip on the remaining populace.

At the end of Animal Farm, Napoleon reconciles with the humans and begins to take on their characteristics so el-Sisi has released Mubarak and begins to emulate him. El-Sisi was recently elected as president after a rushed election, and press censorship and imprisonments without trial have resurfaced almost as if Mubarak had never left. And so we watch what Orwell warned of many years ago.

The world outside looked from el-Sisi to Mubarak, and from Mubarak to el-Sisi, and from el-Sisi to Mubarak again, but already it was impossible to say which was which. I know it is naïve of me to feel amazement that a book like Animal Farm could have any relevance today and to think that Orwell's warning has been ignored by so many.

Kevin Klesta of Fairlawn is an archivist with a background in history.

Watch the video: - HOJA. Ein Alpsommer im Montafon (September 2022).


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