The Origins Of Farming

12,000 years ago hunter-gathers abandoned their long standing nomadic lifestyle and ventured towards a more efficient means of gathering food, that means came to be known as farming. (Chatterjee, 2016) 

Figure 1: A map of the Fertile Crescent that includes the location of ancient Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. ( Astroskiandhike, 2018)

The Fertile Crescent, as seen in Figure 1, is a region that spans through present day Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan. The geographic features of the region allowed for the area to become a pinnacle of agricultural production dating back more than 11,000 years ago. (Chatterjee, 2016) The Tigris, Euphrates, as well as the Nile River, each traverse through the region. The convergence of these rivers helped to produce fertile soil, which is necessary for agriculture. Additionally, the rivers played an integral role in the development of irrigation, which is a necessary tool for the production of agricultural goods. Likewise, the easy access to the large waterways led to the development of trade routes. These trade routes not only transported goods and people, but also allowed for the interaction and confluence of diverse cultures and ideas. As the traders traveled back to their homeland, they transported these cultures and ideas. In essence, the Fertile Crescent become a melting pot for ideas, education and culture. These intangibles were exported along with the tangible agricultural products and goods. (Zimmer, 2016) 

Research has exhibited that no one central location in the Fertile Crescent can take credit for the invention of farming. Instead, evidence suggests that a number of smaller sites within the Fertile Crescent simultaneously practiced farming separate and apart from other groups. Researchers have examined the DNA of multiple groups that inhabited the Fertile Crescent in various locations. The DNA of individuals within those groups indicted that the groups were in no way related. Therefore, one can conclude that farming developed concurrently, at or around the same time, by various individual groups that were not interrelated. (Zimmer, 2016)   

Figure 2: Map of Jordan showing locations of ‘Ain Ghazal (Andrew N. Garrard, 2019)

One of the first locations farming was found to appear was the village of Ain Ghazal. That villages that lies in central Jordan, as seen in Figure 2, which is located in the Fertile Crescent. An analysis of the site evidences the progression from a nomadic society to more agricultural based society. Specific examples of this progression can be seen in the fact that crops were raised, animals were domesticated and tools were created for farming. The farmers of the village would raise barley, wheat, chickpeas and lentils. Additionally, they would herd sheep and goats in the nearby hillsides. Another site examined was located on the coast of the Sea of Galilee. That site revealed huts that contained the remnants of 150,000 charred seeds and fruits, along with olives, almonds and grapes. Also located at the site were tools used to harvest cereals (Zimmer 2016). The totality of the findings at these sites indicate a society well on its way to transition itself from the nomadic lifestyle to an agriculturally based society. 


Astrohikeandski. 2018.“File:Fertile Crescent.Svg – Wikipedia.” 2018. December 14, 2018.

Chatterjee, Rhitu. 2016. “Where Did Agriculture Begin? Oh Boy, It’s Complicated.” NPR, July 15, 2016, sec. Food For Thought.

Garrard, Andrew. 2019. “Figure 1 Map of Jordan Showing Locations of ’Ain Ghazal, Wisad Pools…” ResearchGate. August 2019.

Zimmer, Carl. 2016. “How the First Farmers Changed History.” The New York Times, October 17, 2016, sec. Science.

Further Research Links:


Hunter-Gatherers: The San People of Africa

Hunter-gatherer groups, also referred to as “bands,” are the first classification level of societies. In general, hunter-gatherer societies are mobile communities comprised of approximately 100 members. These communities are defined by their patterns of movement. These patterns of movement are directly tied to the seasons thereby allowing them to better hunt for food. Large areas of land are essential for this nomadic way of life. The large sums of land support and supply them with a diverse array of wildlife which they can then use to feed the members of their community. Additionally, the bands live in temporary, movable shelters as they do not settle in one area for a long period of time (National Geographic, n.d.).

One particular group of hunter-gatherers has been identified as the San people of Africa. The San are the earliest known hunter-gathers and established themselves within the region of the Kalahari desert. Within their bands there was no established hierarchy. Disputes between individuals or families were settled through open discussion. Additionally, no single individual had sole ownership of any track of land. Instead, the land that they settled was held by the community who resided on it for the common good (KrugerPark, n.d.).

The primary tool that the San used in hunting was the bow and arrow, seen in Figure 1. The arrow did not directly kill the animal. Instead, a portion of the tip of the arrow was coated in poison (Marshall, n.d.). This poison was a neurotoxin that took some time to incapacitate the prey. It should be noted that the poison did not spread throughout the animal but remained in the area closely associated with the arrow strike. This area was cut out and excised so that the remainder of the animal could be used to feed the San. The poison did not spread throughout the animal (KrugerPark, n.d.).

Figure 1: bow and arrow kit of the San people, found by Johannes Lombard in 1962 in the Mhlwazni Valley of Drakensberg. Photographed by Marlize Lombard. (Marshall, n.d.)

The San’s diet was very diverse and consisted of anything that provided sustenance. It ranged from vegetable matter to meat from zebras, fish, lions and even insects. No part of the animal went to waste. The meat was eaten, the hides were used for clothing and everyday life. And even the bones were consumed for their marrow (KrugerPark, n.d.).

Figure 2: rock painting of an eland with a human figure. (Vea, 2011)

The San rock art, seen in Figure 2, has been discovered in the KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and the Western Cape provinces (KrugerPark, n.d.). Much of the art depicts bodies in motion whether they be animal or human. The art holds deep spiritual and religious meaning and does not symbolize day to day life. Instead, their art is a vehicle that is used to communicate with the spirit world (Vea, 2011). The primary color employed in the rock art was red. This was interspersed with a spattering of yellow, white, brown and black (KrugerPark, n.d.).

While not a complete description of the many facets of San society, the within provides a small window into important aspects of the San’s everyday life.

Further Research Links:


“Hunter-Gatherer Culture.” n.d.

Marshall, Micheal. n.d. “First Poison Arrows May Have Been Loosed 70,000 Years Ago in Africa.” New Scientist.

“San – Bushmen – Kalahari, South Africa…” n.d.

Vea, Tanner. 2011. “Drakensberg: Barrier of Spears ~ San Rock Art of the Drakensberg | Nature | PBS.” Nature. March 2, 2011.