Food around 7,000 BC

The Globe

Just after 10,000 years ago, people in several widely separated areas of the world began to domesticate a few plant and animal species. At about the same time they built villages, began living in them year-round, and began to subsist mainly on plants they cultivated and animals they kept. (Patterns in Prehistory)

When we look at the history of this massive change in human lifeways around the world, two curious facts emerge: first, all of the largest and most complex civilizations throughout history have been based on the cultivation of one or more of just six plant genera--wheat, barley, millet, rice, maize, and potatoes; other plants such as sorghum, rye, beans, yams, taro, and thousands more, have been critical to the survival of peoples, and domesticated animals have also been important sources of calories and power, but the six genera listed above have been the main engines of "civilizations." Second, one of the particularly striking characteristics of the "agricultural revolution" is that, not only was it rapid and widespread, but it also happened independently in different parts of the world at about the same time.  For millions of years our ancestors subsisted solely on the proceeds of hunting and gathering, yet within just a few thousand years, between about 10,000 and 3,500 years ago, people all over the world--without any apparent connection--began growing crops and establishing agricultural economies based on, for example, potatoes in the Andes, maize in Mexico, wheat in Southwest Asia, rice in China, and many other crops in many other places. (Patterns in Prehistory)

In the Stone Age, men were the hunters, women the collectors of plant foods. Women domesticated plants c. 10,000 BC before men domesticated animals, c. 7000 BC. (The God-Kings & the Titans)

7500 BC Agriculture begins (Uriel's Machine)

Africa

 

Southwest Asia

The first major period of occupation at 'Ain Ghazal began at about 7,200 BC and it was pobably occupied  most or all of the time until about 5,000 BC. Covering approximately 30 acres, 'Ain Ghazal is about three times larger than Jericho, but it is unclear how much of the site was occupied at any one time. It probably had at one point at least several hundred inhabitants, who ate wheat, barley, lentils, sheep, and goats, and lived in mudbrick buildings of various sizes and shapes. (Patterns in Prehistory)

Domestic cattle were herded on the Anatolian Plateau (central Turkey) by about 6,500 BC. As with sheep and goats, cattle domestication seems to have been a widespread phenomenon, probably beginning sometime after 9,000 BC and occurring in many areas from China to western Europe. Across this vast area, ancient farmers seem to have bred cattle for reduced size, increased docility and milk production, and increased tolerance of climatic conditions. Cattle were probably especially important to the first settlers on the southern Mesopotamian alluvial plain. During the dry, hot summers in this region, few reliable protein sources arfe available to primitive agriculturalists, and cow meat and milk apparently provided a crucial nutritional component. (Patterns in Prehistory)

By 7,000 BC farmers at Argissa-Maghula in Greek Thesaly were subsisting on cultivated emmer wheat and barley as well as domestic cattle and pigs. (Patterns in Prehistory)

The earliest records of settled village life based on producing a few supplemental cereal crops come from the hilly flanks of the Fertile Crescent, from 7000 BC in Jarmo (in what is now northern Iraq), and from 6000 BC in Catal Huyuk (in what is now southern Turkey). (The Genesis Race)

In order for the Sumerians to settle along the Tigris with the intent to engage in large-scale irrigation for agriculture, they would have necessarily arrived with high-level knowledge of how to do this to ensure adequate food for themselves. They indeed knew that the first step required to turn Mesopotamia into productive farmland was to take charge of the rivers and marshes.  But where could they have gained such a body of knowledge: Scholars have uncovered no evidence to explain how Sumerians acquired their agricultural and irrigation techniques or the rest or their technical knowledge so far in advance of the rest of the world. Their settlement occurred at a point in history prior to the advent of cities (which they themselves would later invent) and social stratification and preceded the specialization of labor. Keeping these details in mind, it hardly seems likely that a major river valley would be the first and most logical choice for the settlement of a primitive tribe. In addition, at this time in history the world was neither overpopulated nor lacking in alternative choices for settlement. There were no nations and no sovereign armies to worry about, and people did nor have a track record for success with a settled way of life and growing crops in hill country. (The Genesis Race)

Dating from around 7300 BC, the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B occupation of Jericho...[reveals that] Einkorn and emmer wheat and two-row barley were domestic, goat and possibly sheep were herded, but in contrast to earlier settlements in the Levant (and to contemporary Zagros sites), there is no evidence of the consumption of fish, snails fresh-water mussels, or birds. (Plato Prehistorian)

…the more surprising aspect of Umm Dabaghiyah's faunal sample was the very high percentage (68%) of the bones of the wild ass. It seems that the primary purpose of this settlement, and that for which it presumably was founded, was the capture of this desert and steppe-dwelling animal. The wild ass dominated the art of Umm Dabaghiyah as well. The several wall paintings recovered at this site have been compared to those of contemporary Catal Huyuk, but the majority of the murals preserved at Umm Dabaghiyah portray the wild ass. With small clay forms of this animal also applied in relief to ceramic containers, a more-than-economic valuation of the wild ass seems certain. (Plato Prehistorian)

Aside from the wild grasses already mentioned, there is evidence to suggest that oats, peas, lentils, alfalfa and grapes had also first been cultivated by the precursors of the Kurdish peoples. The discoveries of grindstones, mortars and pestles have indicated the level of sophistication of this farming activity, even in its earliest phases. The remains of dogs, goats, pigs and sheep found at three important Kurdish archaeological sites, dated to between 8000 BC and 6000 BC, show that animal domestication was also spreading hand in hand with land cultivation. (From the Ashes of Angels)

Egypt

People in Egypt appear to have been in the process of domesticating cattle and other plant and animal species just as the Pleistocene was ending and the deserts were beginning to close around the Nile, about 10,000 years ago (perhaps earlier). But only about 7,500 years ago did some of the become full-time farmers and make the transition to village life and an economy based mainly on the foods that eventually were to serve as the staples of pharaonic Egypt—emmer, wheat, barley, sheep, goats, cattle, and pigs. Sometime after about 10,000 years ago, Egyptians appear to have been domesticating several varieties of local grasses, and they also apparently were in the process-of domesticating cattle, and then later some other animals, such as the mongoose (icheumon), gazelle, oryx, addax, ibex, and hyena--none of which ever became completely domesticated or extensively used as farm or food animals. (Patterns in Prehistory)

As for human activities, the early decline in rainfall in the eastern Sahara may have led to the oldest-known astronomical alignment of megaliths in the world. Consisting of a set of huge stone slabs in the desert of southern Egypt, known as Nabta, it forms a stone circle, a series of flat, tomb-like stone structures and five lines of standing and toppled megaliths, and is dated at around 6.5 to 6 kya. To judge from carbon dating of charcoal and ostrich shells, occupation may have started as early as 12 kya. Initially the settlements at Nabta were small seasonal camps of cattle-herding and ceramic-using people. These cattle are regarded as the first example of the African pattern of herding. Cattle served as a 'walking larder' and provided milk and blood, rather than meat, as they do to this day for the Masai in Kenya. The site was intensively exploited by around 9 kya. This included the digging of walk-in wells that suggest the site could have been occupied throughout the year. Nomads used the area until about 5.6 kya, at which time it became hyperarid and uninhabitable. (Climate Change in Prehistory)

Indus Valley

The ancestors of the people who built the Indus civilizations spent thousands of years as small-time farmers and herders in the highlands above the Indus; most of the plain was perhaps only lightly occupied during these centuries. Domesticated wheat and the remains of domesticated sheep and goats have been found in levels dating to about 7000 BC in several sites in Afghanistan and Baluchistan, and the evidence suggests that thereafter the agricultural and pastoral ways of life spread gradually, from west to east, throughout highland areas where rainfall and streams provided sufficient water. (Patterns in Prehistory)

Mehrgarh was first occupied shortly after 7000 BC by people who lived in simple, multi-room mudbrick buildings and seem to have subsisted on a blend of cereal farming and hunting. The people of early Mehrgarh did not use pottery to store their domesticated wheat and barley. Archaeologists have found fire places in these buildings so the people of Mehrgarh may have mainly used these cereals for bread. They also hunted extensively. Most of the bones from the earliest levels of Mehrgarh are from gazelle, deer, antelope, wild water buffalo, wild sheep and goat, wild cattle, wild pig, and even elephant. (Patterns in Prehistory)

'What we see at Mehrgarh,' concludes Possehl, is a sequence of events that seems to document the local domestication of animals. The sheep, goats and cattle start out looking wild, and were manipulated...Over time the potential domesticates came to look like domesticated animals (smaller, with the osteological hallmarks of domesticated beasts)...The contribution of domestic or 'pro-domestic' stock to the faunal assemblages came to surpass that of other animals early in the aceramic. I note in passing that the food-production sequences that archaeologists have been able to piece together at Mehrgarh show a good level of fit with the Manu story - which, unlike the Noah story, says nothing about animals on the Ark, but which does tell us that the archetypal Indian flood survivor brought on board, 'carefully preserved and assorted, all the seeds which have been described of old'. (Underworld)

Fully functional 'village farming communities' like Mehrgarh in the foothills of the Himalayas appear suddenly in the archaeological record somewhere around 9000 years ago. It's a bit of a mystery. No clear antecedents have yet been found. The original settlers came with seeds and already knew how to farm. This happened in the midst of an epoch of cataclysmic global floods that saw huge areas of India's continental shelf inundated. The possibility, therefore, cannot be ruled out that the founders of Mehrgarh had previously lived on lands swallowed up by the rising seas. (Underworld)

An epoch of spectacular geological turmoil occurred at the end of the last Ice Age, with the most dramatic effects registered in a series of cataclysmic floods that took place at intervals between roughly 15,000 and 7000 years ago. Is it an accident that this same 8000-year period has been pinpointed by archaeologists as the very one in which our supposedly primitive forefathers made the transition (in different places at somewhat different times) from their age-old hunter-gatherer lifestyle to settled agriculture? Or could there be more to 'the food-producing revolution' than meets the eye? After all, most scientists already recognize a causative connection between the end of the Ice Age and the supposed beginning of farming - indeed an unproven hypothesis that rapid climate changes forced hunter-gatherers to invent agriculture presently serves as pretty much the sum of conventional wisdom on this subject. But there is another possibility. Nobody seems to have noticed that in the general vicinity of each of the places in the world where the food-producing revolution is supposed to have begun between 15,000 and 7000 years ago there is also a large area of land that was submerged by the post-glacial floods between 15,000 and 7000 years ago: We have seen that this is true for India, one of the world's ancient agricultural 'hearths', which lost more than a million square kilometres in the south and the west and, most conspicuously in the north-west, at the end of the Ice Age. (Underworld)

China

Domestic cattle were herded on the Anatolian Plateau (central Turkey) by about 6,500 BC. As with sheep and goats, cattle domestication seems to have been a widespread phenomenon, probably beginning sometime after 9,000 BC and occurring in many areas from China to western Europe. Across this vast area, ancient farmers seem to have bred cattle for reduced size, increased docility and milk production, and increased tolerance of climatic conditions.

An epoch of spectacular geological turmoil occurred at the end of the last Ice Age, with the most dramatic effects registered in a series of cataclysmic floods that took place at intervals between roughly 15,000 and 7000 years ago. Is it an accident that this same 8000-year period has been pinpointed by archaeologists as the very one in which our supposedly primitive forefathers made the transition (in different places at somewhat different times) from their age-old hunter-gatherer lifestyle to settled agriculture? Or could there be more to 'the food-producing revolution' than meets the eye? After all, most scientists already recognize a causative connection between the end of the Ice Age and the supposed beginning of farming - indeed an unproven hypothesis that rapid climate changes forced hunter-gatherers to invent agriculture presently serves as pretty much the sum of conventional wisdom on this subject. But there is another possibility. Nobody seems to have noticed that in the general vicinity of each of the places in the world where the food-producing revolution is supposed to have begun between 15,000 and 7000 years ago there is also a large area of land that was submerged by the post-glacial floods between 15,000 and 7000 years ago: It is true for China and for south-east Asia, both important centres of palaeo-agriculture. Immediately adjacent to them, but now under as much as 100 metres of water, lies the Ice Age continent of Sundaland. Prior to its final inundation of about 8000 years ago, this consisted of more than 3 million square kilometres of prime antediluvian real estate extending from the Malaysian peninsula through what are now the Indonesian islands and the Philippines. Taiwan was incorporated with the Chinese mainland and northwards from there the coast expanded almost 1000 kilometres to the east to fill what is now the Yellow Sea and incorporate the Korean peninsula fully with the mainland. (Underworld)

Europe

Domestic cattle were herded on the Anatolian Plateau (central Turkey) by about 6,500 BC. As with sheep and goats, cattle domestication seems to have been a widespread phenomenon, probably beginning sometime after 9,000 BC and occurring in many areas from China to western Europe. Across this vast area, ancient farmers seem to have bred cattle for reduced size, increased docility and milk production, and increased tolerance of climatic conditions. (Patterns in Prehistory)

South America

There is some evidence that beans may have been domesticated before 8,000 BC, based on a few remains from Guitarrero Cave, and there are fairly secure finds of beans there dating to about 5,700, but the evidence of the ealiest stages of the domestication of beans and many other plants is scanty. (Patterns in Prehistory)

Mesoamerica

The Tehuacan sequence remains the best archaeolological reflection of the sequences of changes in cultural behavior that were involved in the period of the origins of agriculture in Mesoamerica. During the Ajuereado phase (c. 10,000-7,000 BC), people apparently lived in small mobile groups and exploited many wild plants. But they also depended heavily on hunting, exploiting wild horses, antelopes, and jack rabbits at first, and then shifting to deer and cottontail rabbits as post-Pleistocene climates and environments changed, supplementing these resources with gophers, rats turtles, and birds. (Patterns in Prehistory)

Wild bean remains recovered in caves in Tamaulipas date to 7,000 to 5,500 BC, and in Oaxaca from 8,700 6,700 BC, but the earliest known domesticated beans beans did not make their appearance in these areas unitl between 4,000 and 3,000 BC. (Patterns in Prehistory)

7000 BC Red pepper, bottle gourd, avocados and squash cultivated on Pacific coast of Guatemala. (The God-Kings & the Titans)

North America

Analysis of the animal and plant remains from sites dated between 9,000 and 2,500 years ago reveals an extremely diverse diet. Rabbits, rats, and squirrels were trapped--probably with twined nets--and bison, antelopes, and mountain sheep were also occasionally taken. At sites near bodies of water, grebes, pelicans, herons, ducks,swans, geese, and even hawks and ravens appear to have been eaten. The number of grinding stones and digging sticks found in Desert West sites suggests that, as with most hunters and gatherers, much of the diet was supplied by plant foods. (Patterns in Prehistory)

The Koster site, in the Illinois River Valley, was first occupied at about 7,500 BC, and people lived at this site many times, at least until about 2,500 BC. These people became masters at mixing and matching the resources of their environments. The annual autumn nut harvests gave them a stable nutricious food base, which they complemented with a wide variety of game, fruits, plants, fish, shellfish, migratory water fowl, and other foods. (Patterns in Prehistory)

From about 11,000 to 8,000 years ago, many of the Desert West peoples apparently organized their economies around the resources of lakes and marshes, while groups in more arid areas probably adopted a more generalized hunting-and-gathering strategy. Remains of pole-and-thatch huts have been found in some areas, but the size, location, and contents of most sites of this period suggest that for most of the year Desert West peoples lived in small bands and followed complex seasonal rounds, exploiting different resources as they became available. (Patterns in Prehistory)

Other

 …Uenohara (a Jomon site on the island of Kyushu) had been a continuously inhabited settlement over a 2000-year period from roughly 9500 to 7500 years ago. 'At any one time they had more than 100 people living here. They were comfortable...I would even say prosperous. All their basic needs were met. They had ample food, good shelter, comfortable, elegant clothing.' Aozaki went on to tell me how in his opinion the Uenohara community had managed to support itself through a kind of organized 'agriculture' and 'harvesting' of the forest - not quite farming, but certainly a planned husbandry of nature aimed at sustained, long-term survival. ‘They imported seedlings from Honshu and then cultivated them here. To all extents and purposes they were doing agriculture.' (Underworld)