The Farming Revolution

By Tim Lambert

After 9,000 BC a great change came over the world. Previously humans lived by hunting animals and gathering plants. Then about 8,000 BC people began to grow wheat, barley, peas, and lentils instead of gathering them wild. By 7,000 BC they domesticated sheep, pigs, and goats. By 6,000 BC they also domesticated cattle.

Farming first began in the Fertile Crescent, which stretches from Israel north to southeast Turkey and then curves southeast to the Persian Gulf. However, agriculture was also invented independently in other parts of the world as well.

The invention of agriculture took place over thousands of years but it fundamentally changed human life. People began to live in settled communities instead of being nomadic or semi-nomadic. When the food supply improved the population increased. Most of all people developed new skills, first making pottery and then using metals. Finally, they invented writing.

Pottery was first made in the Middle East and North Africa about 7,000 BC. Pottery was, of course, of no use to people living a nomadic or semi-nomadic life but it was very useful to people living in settled villages.

The First Towns

About 7,500 BC the world’s first town was built at Jericho. It was protected by a 6-meter high wall. Before 6,000 BC a town was built at Catal Huyuk in southern Turkey. It consisted of houses made of mud brick. The houses had no front doors. Instead, they had openings on the roofs with ladders. Inside walls were decorated with murals.

Meanwhile, by 5,000 BC Chinese farmers began growing millet and rice. By 5,000 BC farming had also begun in the Indus Valley. Then, at about 3,500 BC people in Mexico began growing maize and beans.

Meanwhile, farming spread from the Middle East to Europe. By about 4,000 BC people in central Europe were using oxen to pull plows and wagons. At about the same time, people in the Middle East began using donkeys as beasts of burden. Also, in about 4,000 BC horses were domesticated on the steppes of Eurasia.

Furthermore, about 4,500 BC people began using copper. By about 3,500 they used bronze tools.

Meanwhile, by 5,000 BC people had learned to dig canals to bring water from rivers to their crops. As a result, they began to farm the arid lands between the Tigris and the Euphrates. It was here that the world’s first civilization arose.

Last revised 2024