Ancient origins

The Fertile Crescent of the Middle East was the site of the earliest planned sowing and harvesting of plants that had previously been gathered in the wild. Independent development of agriculture occurred in northern and southern China, Africa's Sahel, New Guinea and several regions of the Americas. The earliest documented grains of domesticated emmer wheat were found at Abu Hurerya in Turkey and dated to 13,500 BP.[citation needed] Barley has been found in archeological sites in Levant, and East of the Zagros mountains in Iran.[citation needed] The eight so-called Neolithic founder crops of agriculture appear: first emmer wheat and einkorn wheat, then hulled barley, peas, lentils, bitter vetch, chick peas and flax. Bitter vetch and lentils along with almonds and pistachios appear in Franchthi Cave Greece simultaneously, about 9,000 BC.[citation needed] Neither are native to Greece, and they appear 2,000 years prior to domesticated wheat in the same location. This suggests that the cultivation of legumes and nuts preceded that of grain in some Neolithic cultures.
By 7000 BC, small-scale agriculture reached Egypt. From at least 7000 BC the Indian subcontinent saw farming of wheat and barley, as attested by archaeological excavation at Mehrgarh in Balochistan. By 6000 BC, mid-scale farming was entrenched on the banks of the Nile. About this time, agriculture was developed independently in the Far East, with rice, rather than wheat, as the primary crop. Chinese and Indonesian farmers went on to domesticate taro and beans including mung, soy and azuki. To complement these new sources of carbohydrates, highly organized net fishing of rivers, lakes and ocean shores in these areas brought in great volumes of essential protein. Collectively, these new methods of farming and fishing inaugurated a human population boom dwarfing all previous expansions, and is one that continues today.
By 5000 BC, the Sumerians had developed core agricultural techniques including large scale intensive cultivation of land, mono-cropping, organized irrigation, and use of a specialized labour force, particularly along the waterway now known as the Shatt al-Arab, from its Persian Gulf delta to the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates. Domestication of wild aurochs and mouflon into cattle and sheep, respectively, ushered in the large-scale use of animals for food/fiber and as beasts of burden. The shepherd joined the farmer as an essential provider for sedentary and semi-nomadic societies. Maize, manioc, and arrowroot were first domesticated in the Americas as far back as 5200 BC. [21] The potato, tomato, pepper, squash, several varieties of bean, tobacco, and several other plants were also developed in the New World, as was extensive terracing of steep hillsides in much of Andean South America. The Greeks and Romans built on techniques pioneered by the Sumerians but made few fundamentally new advances. Southern Greeks struggled with very poor soils, yet managed to become a dominant society for years. The Romans were noted for an emphasis on the cultivation of crops for trade.

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