agriculture, origins of

agriculture, origins of

 the active production of useful plants or animals in ecosystems that have been created by people. Agriculture has often been conceptualized narrowly, in terms of specific combinations of activities and organisms—wet-rice production in Asia, wheat farming in Europe, cattle ranching in the Americas, and the like—but a more holistic perspective holds that humans are environmental engineers who disrupt terrestrial habitats in specific ways. Anthropogenic disruptions such as clearing vegetation or tilling the soil cause a variety of localized changes; common effects include an increase in the amount of light reaching ground level and a reduction in the competition among organisms. As a result, an area may produce more of the plants or animals that people desire for food, technology, medicine, and other uses.

      Over time, some plants and animals have become domesticated, or dependent on these and other human interventions for their long-term propagation or survival. domestication is a biological process in which, under human selection, organisms develop characteristics that increase their utility, as when plants provide larger seeds, fruit, or tubers than their wild progenitors. Known as cultigens, domesticated plants come from a wide range of families (groups of closely related genera that share a common ancestor; see genus). The grass (Poaceae), bean (Fabaceae and Leguminosae), and nightshade or potato ( Solanaceae) families have produced a disproportionately large number of cultigens because they have characteristics that are particularly amenable to domestication.

      Domesticated animals tend to have developed from species that are social in the wild and that, like plants, could be bred to increase the traits that are advantageous for people. Most domesticated animals are more docile than their wild counterparts, and they often produce more meat, wool, or milk as well. They have been used for traction, transport, pest control, assistance, and companionship and as a form of wealth. Species with abundant domesticated varieties, or breeds, include the dog (Canis lupus familiaris), cat (cat, domestic) (Felis catus), cattle (Bos species), sheep (Ovis species), goat (Capra species), swine (Sus species), horse (Equus caballus), chicken (Gallus gallus), and duck and goose (family Anatidae).

      Because it is a cultural phenomenon, agriculture has varied considerably across time and space. Domesticated plants and animals have been (and continue to be) raised at scales ranging from the household to massive commercial operations. This article recognizes the wide range of activities that encompass food production and emphasizes the cultural factors leading to the creation of domesticated organisms. It discusses some of the research techniques used to discern the origins of agriculture as well as the general trajectory of agricultural development in the ancient societies of Southwest Asia, the Americas, East Asia, Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and Europe. For specific techniques of habitat alteration and plant propagation, see horticulture. For techniques of animal propagation, see livestock farming; poultry farming.

Research techniques
      Agriculture (agriculture, origins of) developed independently in many regions of the world. It was the first profound change in the relationship between fully modern humans and the environment: people evolved into their current form some 200,000–100,000 years ago (see human evolution), yet they did not begin to engage in agriculture until about 15,000–10,000 years before the present (BP). Because humans began to alter wild habitats in productive ways long before they developed unambiguous writing systems—an event that occurred in Southwest Asia circa 5100 BP and in East Asia circa 3000 BP— archaeology provides most of the data with which to explore the development of agriculture.

      Radiocarbon dating (carbon-14 dating) provides a chronometric framework for archaeological research. Before the early 1980s, radiocarbon analysis required fairly large quantities of material. The robust size and composition of animal bones have long made them a reliable source of samples for such analysis. Faunal remains have also been routinely subjected to morphological, genetic, and biochemical forms of analysis.

      Although one might presume that plant remains are very rarely preserved in the archaeological record, ancient hearths and middens almost always include small quantities of charred remains of plants. Charring preserves this material, which in turn allows identification by genus and sometimes species, as well as other forms of qualitative and quantitative analysis. Archaeologists generally recover plant materials by placing sediments from pits and hearths in water; the plant remains float to the surface, where they may be retrieved. However, because plants generally have smaller, more friable remains than animals, archaeologists were long forced to date them indirectly, via the sediments in which plant remnants were found rather than via the remnants themselves. More-recent radiocarbon techniques have allowed the direct dating of small quantities of material, such as those found in a single seed. By the 21st century the direct dating of plant remains had become the normal practice in serious studies of the origins of agriculture, replacing the indirect methods used in the past.

      Other important information regarding plant domestication can be obtained by means of palynology, the study of pollen, and phytolith analysis. Phytoliths are microscopic silica bodies produced by many plants; as a plant grows, an individual phytolith forms in a cell to aid in the physical support of the plant structure. Each phytolith retains the shape of the cell in which it was formed, and these forms may be quite specific to a given type of plant. Starch grains are similarly distinctive and also stay preserved for long periods. They can be recovered from the surfaces of pots and stone tools and are often the only way to identify certain food remains, such as potatoes. By identifying and quantifying the pollen, phytoliths, and starch grains found in archaeological sediments and on artifacts, an archaeologist can glean additional information on the plants growing on or near ancient sites.

How agriculture and domestication began
 Agriculture has no single, simple origin. A wide variety of plants and animals have been independently domesticated at different times and in numerous places. The first agriculture appears to have developed at the closing of the last Pleistocene glacial period, or ice age. At that time temperatures warmed, glaciers melted, sea levels rose, and ecosystems throughout the world reorganized. The changes were more dramatic in temperate regions than in the tropics.

      Although global climate change played a role in the development of agriculture, it does not account for the complex and diverse cultural responses that ensued, the specific timing of the appearance of agricultural communities in different regions, or the specific regional impact of climate change on local environments. By studying populations that did not develop intensive agriculture or certain cultigens, such as wheat and rice, archaeologists narrow the search for causes. For instance, Australian Aborigines (Australian Aborigine) and many of the Native American peoples of western North America developed complex methods to manage diverse sets of plants and animals, often including (but not limited to) cultivation. These practices may be representative of activities common in some parts of the world before 15,000 years ago.

      Plant and animal management was and is a familiar concept within hunting and gathering cultures (hunting and gathering culture), but it took on new dimensions as natural selection and mutation produced phenotypes (phenotype) that were increasingly reliant upon people. Because some resource management practices, such as intensively tending nondomesticated nut-bearing trees, bridge the boundary between foraging and farming, archaeologists investigating agricultural origins generally frame their work in terms of a continuum of subsistence practices.

      Notably, agriculture does not appear to have developed in particularly impoverished settings; domestication does not seem to have been a response to food scarcity or deprivation. In fact, quite the opposite appears to be the case. It was once thought that human population pressure was a significant factor in the process, but research indicated by the late 20th century that populations rose significantly only after people had established food production. Instead, it is thought that—at least initially—the new animals and plants that were developed through domestication may have helped to maintain ways of life that emphasized hunting and gathering by providing insurance in lean seasons. When considered in terms of food management, dogs may have been initially domesticated as hunting companions, while meat and milk could be obtained more reliably from herds of sheep, goats, reindeer, or cattle than from their wild counterparts or other game animals. Domestication made resource planning a more predictable exercise in regions that combined extreme seasonal variation and rich natural resource abundance.

Earliest beginnings
      The domestication of plants and animals caused changes in their form; the presence or absence of such changes indicates whether a given organism was wild or a domesticate. On the basis of such evidence, one of the oldest transitions from hunting and gathering to agriculture has been identified as dating to between 14,500 and 12,000 BP in Southwest Asia. It was experienced by groups known as Epipaleolithic peoples, who survived from the end of the Paleolithic Period into early postglacial times and used smaller stone tools (microblades) than their predecessors. The Natufians (Natufian culture), an Epipaleolithic culture located in the Levant, possessed stone sickles and intensively collected many plants, such as wild barley (Hordeum spontaneum). In the eastern Fertile Crescent, Epipaleolithic people who had been dependent on hunting gazelles (Gazella species) and wild goats and sheep began to raise goats and sheep, but not gazelles, as livestock. By 12,000–11,000 BP, and possibly earlier, domesticated forms of some plants had been developed in the region, and by 10,000 BP domesticated animals were appearing. Elsewhere in the Old World the archaeological record for the earliest agriculture is not as well known at this time, but by 8500–8000 BP millet (Setaria italica and Panicum miliaceum) and rice (Oryza sativa) were being domesticated in East Asia.

      In the Americas, squash (Cucurbita pepo and C. moschata) existed in domesticated form in southern Mexico and northern Peru by about 10,000–9000 BP. By 5000–3000 BP the aboriginal peoples of eastern North America and what would become the southwestern United States were turning to agriculture. In sum, plant and animal domestication, and therefore agriculture, were undertaken in a variety of places, each independent of the others.

      The dog appears to have been the earliest domesticated animal, as it is found in archaeological sites around the world by the end of the last glacial period. Genetic evidence indicates that a very small number of females—as few as three—were ancestral to 95 percent of all domesticated dogs. The species' greatest genetic diversity is in China, which indicates that the history of dogs is probably longer there than elsewhere. The earliest dogs found in the Americas are all descendants of the Chinese group, suggesting that they accompanied the first people to reach the New World, an event that occurred at least 13,000 years ago (see Native American: Prehistory (Native American)). People reached Beringia, the temporary land bridge between Siberia and Alaska, as long as 40,000 years ago, suggesting that dogs may have been domesticated even earlier.

      Although the exact timing of dog domestication has not been definitively determined, it is clear that the dog was domesticated from the wolf. How and why this happened is not well understood, but the earliest dogs may have assisted humans with hunting and finding food. Studies have demonstrated that dogs as young as nine months of age are better at reading human social behaviour and communication than wolves or even chimpanzees (chimpanzee). This characteristic appears to be inherited and would have established a very close bond between dogs and humans.

Early development
      The development of agriculture involves an intensification of the processes used to extract resources from the environment: more food, medicine, fibre, and other resources can be obtained from a given area of land by encouraging useful plant and animal species and discouraging others. As the productivity and predictability of local resources increased, the logistics of their procurement changed, particularly regarding the extent to which people were prepared to travel in order to take advantage of seasonally available items. Group composition eventually became more stable, mobility declined, and, as a consequence, populations increased.

      In terms of material culture, durable houses and heavy tools such as pestles, mortars, and grindstones, all of which had long been known, came into more general use. Although discussions of prehistoric cultures often imply a direct correlation between the development of pottery and the origins of agriculture, this is not a universal relationship. In some parts of the Old World, such as Southwest Asia, and in the Americas, pottery appears long after agriculture starts, while in East Asia, where the first pottery dates to as early as 13,700 BP, the opposite is the case.

Southwest Asia
      Village farming began to spread across Southwest Asia shortly after 10,000 BP, and in less than 1,000 years settled farming cultures were widespread in the region. Notably, the intensive harvesting of wild grains first appeared well before the Epipaleolithic Period. At the Ohalo II site in Israel (c. 23,000 BP), a small group of Upper Paleolithic people lived in brush shelters and harvested a wide range of grass seeds and other plant foods.

      At the Netiv Hagdud site in Israel, dating to 11,500 BP, wild barley is the most common plant food found among the grass, legume, nut, and other plant remains. The Netiv Hagdud occupants manufactured and used large numbers of sickles, grinding tools, and storage facilities, indicating an agricultural lifeway that preceded domesticated plants. The barley at the site is wild in form, but the large quantities and singular importance of the plant indicate that it was a crop. Similarly, the cereals at the Syrian sites of Mureybet and Jerf el-Ahmar appear to be wild.

      The Abū Hureyra site in Syria is the largest known site from the era when plants and animals were initially being domesticated. Two periods of occupation bracketing the transition to agriculture have been unearthed there. The people of the earlier, Epipaleolithic occupation lived in much the same manner as those at Netiv Hagdud. However, the wide array of plant and animal remains found at Abū Hureyra show that its residents were exploiting significant amounts of wild einkorn (the progenitor of domesticated wheat), rye (Secale species), and gazelle; in addition, they harvested lentils (lentil) (Lens species) and vetch (Vicia species). The earliest rye at the site is directly radiocarbon-dated to 12,000 BP and may be domesticated. If so, it would be the earliest evidence of plant domestication in the world; however, the oldest indisputably domesticated grain is einkorn from Nevali Çori (Turkey) dating to about 10,500 BP.

      During the later period of occupation, the people of Abū Hureyra grew a broader range of cultigens, including barley, rye, and two early forms of domesticated wheat: emmer (Triticum turgidum dicoccun) and einkorn (Triticum monococcum). Legumes, which fix nitrogen to the soil, were also grown; they helped to maintain soil health and added plant protein to the diet. In addition, a form of crop rotation came into use either by accident or by design, also helping to maintain soil fertility.

      People in Southwest Asia had become dependent on cultigens by 10,000 BP, a rapid transition. The research at Abū Hureyra has suggested that the rapid development of farming in the region was caused by the sudden onset of a cool period, the Younger Dryas (c. 12,700–11,500 BP), during which most of the wild resources people had been using became scarce. This model suggests that agriculture was already a component of the economy and that it simply expanded to fill the gap left by this reduction in natural resources. This explanation may be too simplistic, or it may apply only to the Abū Hureyra region. At the time, people throughout Southwest Asia were developing agriculture in a variety of environments and using a diverse array of plants; they probably shifted to food production for different reasons depending on local conditions.

      While village life and plant domestication were getting under way in the Fertile Crescent, people in the foothills of the Zagros Mountains (Iran) were relatively mobile, practicing vertical transhumance. Wild goats and sheep were hunted at lower elevations in the colder months and at higher elevations in the warmer months. People also harvested wild grasses as they followed the animals. Sheep and goats eventually replaced gazelles as the primary animal food of Southwest Asia. The earliest evidence for managed sheep and goat herds, a decrease in the size of animals, is found at the Ganj Dareh (Ganj Darreh) site in Iran between about 10,500 and 10,000 BP. This size change may simply reflect an increase in the ratio of female to male animals, as these species are sexually dimorphic and many pastoral peoples preferentially consume male animals in order to preserve the maximum number of breeding females. The smaller size may also reflect the culling of large or aggressive males.

      More than 1,000 years later, the Ali Kosh site (also in Iran) was settled. This site is located in a lower elevation zone than Ganj Dareh, outside the natural range of goats. Goat remains at Ali Kosh show clear signs of domestication—the females have no horns. Sheep and goats were herded at Abū Hureyra by 8000 BP. cattle were not of immediate importance to the people of ancient Southwest Asia, although aurochs (Bos primigenius), the wild ancestors of modern cattle, were hunted throughout the region by about 10,000 BP and for the next 1,000 years diminished in body size. Smaller, domesticated forms of cattle were not prevalent until about 8000 BP in Anatolia and on the coast of the Mediterranean.

      The successful agricultural system that would come to support Mesopotamia's complex forms of political organization began with the amalgamation, after 10,000 BP, of the predominantly grain-based economies found in the western Fertile Crescent and the livestock-based economies of the eastern Fertile Crescent to form a production system invested in both. During the earliest period of this transition, hoes or digging sticks were used to break the ground where necessary, and planting was probably accomplished by “treading in,” a process in which livestock are made to plant seeds by walking over an area where they have been broadcast. Techniques of food storage grew in sophistication; there were pit silos and granaries, sometimes of quite substantial nature. In drier areas, crop irrigation, which greatly increased yield, was developed; and, with the increasing population, more labour was available to carry out wider irrigation projects. See also history of Mesopotamia (Mesopotamia, history of).

      Indigenous peoples in the Americas created a variety of agricultural systems that were suited to a wide range of environments, from southern Canada to southern South America and from high elevations in the Andes to the lowlands of the Amazon River. Agriculture arose independently in at least three regions: South America, Mesoamerica, and eastern North America. Although the Americas had several indigenous animal species that were domesticated, none were of an appropriate size or temperament for use as draft animals; as a result, the plow and other technology reliant on heavy traction were unknown.

      Swidden production, also known as slash-and-burn agriculture, was practiced from temperate eastern North America to the tropical lowlands of South America. Field fertility in swidden systems resulted from the burning of trees and shrubs in order to add nutrients to the soil. Such systems had high ecological diversity, thus providing a range of resources and prolonging the usefulness of what would otherwise have been short-lived fields and gardens. Settlements moved when productivity significantly declined and firewood was in low supply.

 Complex societies such as the Maya and Aztec used swidden agriculture to some extent, but elaborate irrigation systems and tropical ecosystem management techniques were necessary to support their dense populations. In Peru the Inca built terraced fields on the steep Andean slopes. Foot plows and hoes were used to prepare these fields. Llama and alpaca dung, as well as human waste, provided fertilizer. Such fields were not limited to the Incas, however; terraced fields were also constructed in northern Mexico.

       corn, or maize (Zea mays), was the most widely used crop in the Americas and was grown nearly everywhere there was food production. Other crops had more-limited distributions. Important cultigens native to the Americas included potato, squash, amaranth (Amaranthus species), avocado (Persea americana), common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris), scarlet runner bean (Phaseolus coccineus), tepary bean (Phaseolus acutifolius), lima bean (Phaseolus lunatus), cacao (Theobroma cacao), coca (Erythroxylon coca), manioc ( cassava; Manihot esculenta), papaya (Carica candicans), peanuts (peanut) (groundnuts; Arachis hypogea), quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa), huazontle (Chenopodium nutalliae), pepper (Capsicum species), two types of cotton (Gossypium hirsutum and G. barbadense), pineapple (Ananus comosus), tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum), tobacco (Nicotiana species), sweet potato (Ipomea batatus), and sunflower (Helianthus annuus). Animals domesticated in the Americas included the alpaca (Lama pacos), llama (Lama glama), cavi, or guinea pig (Cavia porcellus), Muscovy duck (Cairina moschata), and turkey (Meleagris gallopavo).

      The earliest evidence of crops appears between 9000 and 8000 BP in Mexico and South America. The first crops in eastern North America may be almost as old, but substantial evidence for crop use there begins between 5000 and 4000 BP. Corn, the crop that eventually dominated most of the agricultural systems in the New World, appears rather suddenly in Mexico between 6300 and 6000 BP but was clearly domesticated earlier than that. Indigenous peoples in the Americas domesticated fewer animal species than their Old World counterparts, in large part because the Americas were home to fewer gregarious, or herding, species of appropriate size and temperament. Substantial villages were built only after the development of most crops; this contrasts with Old World practices, in which settled villages and towns appear to have developed earlier than, or at the same time as, agriculture.

 Farming communities arose sometime before 8000 BP in China, but how much earlier is not yet known. In general, people in northern China domesticated foxtail and broomcorn millets (Setaria italica and Panicum miliaceum), hemp (Cannabis sativa), and Chinese cabbage (Brassica campestris), among other crops, while their contemporaries to the south domesticated rice. water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis), swine, and chickens were also domesticated, but their earliest history is not yet documented in any detail.

      Agricultural communities began to flourish between 8000 and 7000 BP in China, some relying on dry field production and others dependent on the annual rise and fall of water levels along the edges of rivers, lakes, and marshes in the Yangtze River (Chang Jiang) basin. The ingenious invention of paddy fields eventually came to mimic the natural wetland habitats favoured by rice and permitted the expansion and intensification of rice production.

      People in the Korean peninsula and Japan eventually adopted rice and millet agriculture. They also raised crops not grown initially in China. A clearly domesticated soybean (Glycine max) was grown by 3000 BP in either northeast China or Korea. The adzuki, or red, bean (Vigna angularis) may have become a crop first in Korea, where considerable quantities of beans larger than their wild counterpart have been found in association with 3,000-year-old soybeans. Both types of beans have been recovered from earlier sites in China, but a sequence of development with which to document their domestication has yet to be established. Wild buckwheat (Fagopyrum species) is native to China, but archaeological evidence for the plant in East Asia is found only in Japan. Barnyard (barnyard grass), or Japanese, millet (Echinochloa esculenta or Echinochloa crus-galli utilis) is known only in the archaeological record of Japan and is assumed to have been domesticated there.

      In Europe agriculture developed through a combination of migration and diffusion. The oldest sites with agriculture are along the Mediterranean coast, where long-distance population movement and trade could be easily effected by boat. Franchthi Cave in southeastern Greece, a site occupied for more than 15,000 years, documents the development of agriculture in southern Europe over several centuries. A few Southwest Asian plants are part of the earlier record at Franchthi Cave, but there is no evidence that they were domesticated or cultivated. Wild emmer may have grown in the area at the time; it is not clear whether it was domesticated locally or had been brought in from Southwest Asia. The same may be true for lentils and grass peas (Pisum species). Shortly after 9000 BP sheep, goats, pigs, barley, lentils, and three types of wheat had become part of the resource base in the region. By 8000 BP cattle were added; at about the same time, crops and livestock were being introduced as far west as the Iberian Peninsula. Within five centuries, clear domesticates and a village-based agricultural way of life had been established on a coastal plain to the north at Nea Nikomedia (Macedonia).

      As agriculture spread to more-temperate regions in Europe, practices that focused on cattle, pigs, emmer, einkorn, and legumes became important. In the milder and more arid regions along the Mediterranean coast, fewer modifications were necessary. When available, the incorporation of indigenous wild stock into domesticated herds doubtless aided animals' acclimatization, a practice that continued into historic times. The earliest evidence for agriculture northwest of the Black Sea comes from the Starčevo-Cris culture (c. 7500 BP), where four types of wheat, as well as oats (Avena sativa), barley, peas, and broomcorn millet, have been found. The millet is particularly interesting because it was extensively grown in northern China at the same time and presumably originated there, although it may have been independently domesticated in eastern Europe.

      Agriculture spread through complex interactions between resident hunters and gatherers and agricultural peoples who were migrating into the region. The Linearbandkeramik, or LBK culture, is distributed widely across central Europe and is the first archaeological culture in the region for whom the material signature clearly demonstrates agriculture. However, it is unclear to what extent agriculture was spread through the exchange of ideas and to what extent it was spread via direct colonization. One study of the LBK culture, for instance, shows little change in the genetic makeup of local populations, an indication that ideas rather than people were moving across the landscape. As elsewhere, it is likely that new people and new ideas were accepted by established groups to varying degrees depending upon local conditions. For instance, in some areas, such as Hungary and Switzerland, many groups that adopted some form of agriculture also continued to rely upon hunting, sometimes retaining this practice for thousands of years.

      However the expansion occurred, the archaeological signature of the LBK culture spread rapidly between 7300 and 6900 BP, moving westward at a rate of nearly 3 miles (5 km) per year. Archaeologists long presumed that LBK agriculture involved slash-and-burn techniques, in part because it was thought to be a necessary response to the region's low soil fertility and in part as an explanation for the culture's rapid expansion. However, experimental archaeology and plant remains from LBK sites have provided evidence that these people did not regularly shift their fields. By 6000 BP the transition to food production was under way in the British Isles, and by 5000 BP farming was common in western Europe.

Early agricultural societies
      In the Old World, settled life developed on the higher ground from Iran to Anatolia and the Levant and in China in the semiarid loess plains and the humid Yangtze valley. In contrast, the earliest civilizations based on complex and productive agriculture developed on the alluviums of the Tigris, Euphrates, and Nile rivers. Villages and townships existed in the Euphrates valley in the latter part of the 7th millennium BP. Soon the population was dispersed in hamlets and villages over the available area. Larger settlements provided additional services that the hamlets themselves could not.

  Sumer, located in the southernmost part of Mesopotamia, between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, was the home of the one of the first civilizations, Sumeria. Sumeria's Early Dynastic Phase began about 5000 BP, a century or so after the development of a nuanced writing system based on the Sumerian language. Barley was the main crop, but wheat, flax (Linum species), dates (date palm) (Phoenix species), apples (apple) (Malus species), plums (plum) (Prunus species), and grapes (grape) (Vitaceae species) were also grown. This was the period during which the earliest known evidence of carefully bred sheep and goats has been found; these animals were more numerous than cattle and were kept mainly for meat, milk, butter, and cheese. It has been estimated that at Ur, a large town covering some 50 acres (20 hectares) within a cultivated enclave, there were 10,000 animals confined in sheepfolds and stables, of which 3,000 were slaughtered each year. Ur's population of about 6,000 people included a labour force of 2,500 who annually cultivated 3,000 acres of land (some 1,200 hectares), leaving an equal amount of land fallow. The workforce included storehouse recorders, work foremen, overseers, and harvest supervisors, as well as labourers. Agricultural produce was allocated to temple personnel in return for their services, to important people in the community, and to small farmers.

 The land was cultivated by teams of oxen (ox) pulling light unwheeled plows, and the grain was harvested with sickles in the spring. Wagons had solid wheels with leather tires held in position by copper nails. They were drawn by oxen or onagers (onager) (wild asses) that were harnessed by collars, yokes, and headstalls and controlled by reins and a ring through the nose or upper lip and a strap under the jaw. As many as four animals, harnessed abreast to a central pole, pulled a wagon. The horse, which was probably domesticated about 6000 BP by pastoral nomads in what is now Ukraine, did not displace the heartier onager as a draft animal in the region until about 4000 BP. Soon after, written instructions appeared for the grooming, exercising, and medication of horses; presumably for breeding purposes, horses were named and records of sires kept. The upper highland areas continued to be exploited by transhumant nomads.

The Nile valley
 In ancient Egypt (Egypt, ancient), agricultural exploitation apparently did not intensify until domesticated animals from Southwest Asia were introduced. By the first quarter of the 7th millennium BP in Al-Fayyūm, some villages were keeping sheep, goats, and swine and cultivating emmer, barley, cotton, and flax, which was woven into linen. In this dry climate, village silos consisted of pits lined with coiled basketry; crops were harvested with reaping knives slotted with sharp flints. Elsewhere, at Al-Badarī in Upper Egypt, animals were also kept; the fact that dead domesticated animals were wrapped in linen and then buried close to villages may indicate that agriculture was closely associated with some form of religious belief.

      By the time of the predynastic Amratian culture, about 5550 BP, agriculture appears to have begun in the valley alluviums of the Nile. By late predynastic times, about 5050 BP, there is evidence of a considerable growth in wealth deriving from agricultural development and accompanied by a more hierarchical social system.

      Depictions on tombs and artifacts from the dynastic periods indicate that, in addition to present-day domesticates, animals such as the gazelle, deer (Cervidae species), hyena (Hyaenidae species), and aoudad, or Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia), were kept either in captivity or under some form of control. Whether this can be regarded as domestication is unclear, but certainly some aspects of animal husbandry were practiced with these unusual animals. Some early villages in Egypt relied heavily on gazelles as a food source. Some scholars have suggested that incipient gazelle domestication may have been under way during the predynastic period, but this hypothesis has been challenged by other researchers. It has also been suggested that millet was a staple crop in ancient Egypt.

      By the beginning of Egypt's 4th dynasty, about 4525 BP, agriculture had become a sophisticated enterprise. In contrast to Mesopotamia, where the tendency had been to develop urbanized communities, Egypt had cities that tended to be no more than market towns to serve the surrounding countryside. A whole bureaucracy dealt with agriculture. The grand vizier, second only to the pharaoh, stood at its head, and the ministry of agriculture stood under him. There was a chief of the fields and a master of largesse, who looked after the livestock. There were royal domains and temple estates. Between landlord and tenant there was a patriarchal relationship, which, although despotic, was underlain by a strong sense of responsibility to the land. Rent was three and a half bushels of grain to the acre.

      Irrigation and the waters of the Nile were carefully controlled. Records show that King Menes (Menes), who lived about 4875 BP, had a large masonry dam built to control the Nile River and provide water for irrigation. A millennium later the Nile at flood was diverted through a channel 12 miles (19 km) long into Lake Moeris (Moeris, Lake) so that, after the flood, water in the lake could be released for irrigation. Seed grain was lent to tenants, and teams of oxen were lent or hired to them. The land was tilled with a wooden plow drawn by an ox or an ass. The land was plowed twice, once to break the ground, after which the clods were broken up by heavy hoes, and a second time to cover the seed. Six-rowed barley and emmer wheat were the main crops. The seed was sown by a funnel on the plow or, alternatively, was trodden in by sheep. The crops were cut with sickles, which had been improved by the introduction of a curved blade. The harvest produced 11 times the sowing, but it is not known whether or not two crops were grown within the year. The grain was threshed by asses or cattle treading on it on the threshing floor. It was winnowed by tossing in the wind, which caused the chaff to blow away and the grain to fall back into the basket, and was then stored in great silos. Lentils, beans, flax, and onions (onion) (Allium species) were other important Egyptian field crops.

      The production of animals for food was also important, and records indicate that people raised cattle (black, piebald, and white), sheep with kempy (coarse) coats, goats, pigs, and domesticated ducks and geese. One wealthy landlord in the 6th dynasty owned 1,000 cattle, 760 asses, 2,200 goats, and 1,000 sheep. Animal breeding for specialized purposes was also developed: one breed of cattle was kept for meat and another for milk; a saluki-like hunting dog was bred; and a type of fat-tailed sheep was developed for meat and milk.


      An understanding of Mesoamerican agricultural origins is hampered by the fact that few archaeological sites pertinent to the question have been explored. The Guilá Naquitz site in southern Mexico has some of the earliest evidence for the shift to food production in Mesoamerica, including extensive evidence for the use of acorn (Quercus species), piñon pine nut (Pinus edulis), prickly pear (Opuntia species), mesquite seeds (Prosopis species), wild runner bean, and the seeds of various grasses. Several squash seeds that are larger than those from wild squashes have also been found at this site, indicating that domestication was occurring. One of the largest of these seeds has been directly dated to 10,000 BP, making it among the oldest evidence for a domesticated plant in the Americas. Local experimentation with foxtail grass seems to have led to a failed domestication attempt. Pollen from domesticated corn and manioc has been found in levels dating to 7000–6000 BP at the San Andrés site in the gulf coast of Tabasco, Mex. Cotton pollen and seeds that may be from the domesticated sunflower (Helianthus species) have also been recovered there and dated to 4600 BP. However, the sunflower is problematic because all available evidence is for its domestication in eastern North America, suggesting that the Mexican specimens may belong to another species. Low-density, highly mobile Preceramic populations were responsible for these developments.

      Despite the prominence of corn in the late archaeological record of Mesoamerica, the origins of this crop are still not clearly understood. The oldest recovered corn cob is from Guilá Naquitz and dates to between 6300 and 6000 BP, but corn was probably not domesticated in this part of Mexico, because it appears suddenly and in an already domesticated form. Among the wild grasses—including teosintes (teosinte) (e.g., Zea diploperennis and Z. mays parviglumis), the best candidates for the wild ancestor of corn—none have the extraordinarily robust and productive cob structure of corn. In one model a series of massive mutations has been proposed to account for the development of the corn cob, but how to account for these mutations is problematic. Instead of requiring mutations, a recent genetic analysis indicates that a third grass, gamma grass (Tripsacum dactyloides), crossed with teosinte to produce a hybrid with the cob structure typical of corn. Although teosinte is not particularly palatable, Tripsacum has a history of being used for food. People may have recognized teosinte-Tripsacum crosses in the wild and selected them for planting. Another possibility is that teosinte and early corn were exploited first for the sugar content of their stalks and leaves. Ancient Mexicans chewed the leaves and stalks of early corn for their sweet flavour, and the sugar and starch from corn were also useful in making alcohol, an important comestible in many types of social interactions. Corn kernels would have been less important in these contexts, making it less likely that they would be preserved. This might help explain the rarity of corn in the early archaeological record. Whatever its origins, corn became a staple crop of the Americas, where it was often prepared as a potage or by boiling in limewater and grinding. Cornmeal paste was then made into tortillas, flat cakes, or gruel.

      Villages did not become common in the Americas until the so-called Early Formative period, which began about 3800 BP, after corn was domesticated. Village life was based on the extended family, composed of parents and their children's families, which provided the labour force. Villages were organized into larger territorial units based on ceremonial centres that commonly featured flat-topped pyramids. Eventually, Formative groups such as the Olmec, known for carving colossal stone heads, developed large prosperous towns. Larger territorial units developed about 2000 BP, and Formative cultures were eventually eclipsed by the Maya, Toltec, and Aztec empires. Food was supplied to these empires' large urban centres by a combination of rain-fed swidden fields and gardens and irrigated tropical lowland field systems.

      Prominent crops in Mesoamerica eventually included avocados, cacao, chili peppers, cotton, common beans, lima beans, corn, manioc, tomatoes, and quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa subspecies). The principal domestic animals were the turkey, dog, and Muscovy duck. Irrigation, terracing, and the use of artificial islands (chinampas) increased land usage in areas with less precipitation. The land was cleared by chopping and burning, and the seeds were sown with the aid of fire-hardened digging sticks. Crops were stored in pits or granaries. It is apparent that much remains to be learned about early agriculture in the Mesoamerican lowlands.

South America
      In the highlands of south-central Chile, potatoes were collected as early as 14,000 BP. By 5000 BP the domesticated potato is found in desert coastal sites; it was apparently domesticated well before that time. Between 14,000 and 8000 BP the cavi, or guinea pig, was economically important; it was probably domesticated by 3000 BP. Wild camelids were hunted as early as 10,000 BP; by 7500–6000 BP  llama and alpaca remains are so common in archaeological sites that they had probably been domesticated as well. Quinoa was harvested by 7500 BP and cotton by 6000 BP in northern Peru.

      Highland sites have also yielded squash (c. 10,400–10,000 BP) and peanuts (c. 8500 BP). However, these cultigens were introduced to the Andes in fully domesticated form, indicating they were important in the lowlands at the same time or earlier. Thus, the development of successful tropical lowland swidden systems with crops such as avocados, cacao, chili peppers, cotton, manioc, corn, papayas, sweet potatoes, and tobacco may have a long history in the Amazon basin. Lowland sites have yielded the phytoliths of domesticated plants such as bottle gourd (Lageneria siceraria), squash, and corn that date to between 8000 and 7000 BP. However, this evidence is controversial because phytoliths cannot yet be directly dated.

      The 8000–7000 BP phytolith date for early corn has also been questioned because it challenges the timing of the domestication of corn in Mexico, which seems to be the more likely site for this transformation. Corn remains directly dated to 3500 BP have been recovered from coastal Ecuador and are reported from the interior a few centuries later. These remains are consistent with an earlier domestication in Mexico followed by a southward dispersal to South America. Additional directly dated corn remains will be necessary to sort out the complex issue of this plant's initial domestication and spread.

      The lima bean and the common bean (green bean) are two other significant crops that became widespread in the Americas. Both appear to have been domesticated in the southern Andes. The oldest domesticated lima beans come from the Peruvian desert coast and date to between 7000 and 5000 BP; however, as this plant was domesticated in the highlands, it must have become a cultigen well before 7000 BP. The oldest common bean in the Americas is from Guitarrero Cave (Peru) and is directly dated to 4300 BP. Lima beans at the same site date to 3400 BP.

      Studies of pollen and charcoal retrieved from ancient sediments around Lake Ayauch (Ecuador), in the western Amazon, indicate that the earliest forest clearance and burning normally associated with swidden agriculture occurred there about 5000 BP or slightly earlier. Between 4500 and 2000 BP these activities had also intensified in the eastern Amazon. Tropical lowland slash-and-burn agriculture was apparently practiced throughout the Amazon basin by that time. Ceramic griddles used to cook bitter manioc appear about 4000 BP. The long history of swidden production is related to its appropriateness for the tropical lowlands: it helped to maintain local soil fertility and mimicked the ecologically diverse tropical ecosystem. Further, labour-intensive technology was not required. Some researchers have proposed that the nature of tropical lowland ecosystems cannot be understood without acknowledging the long-term presence of swidden agriculture.

      Agriculture eventually came to support the Inca empire and other highland South American cultures. The problems of maintaining large populations in the highlands were resolved through an agricultural system supported by terracing, irrigation, and fertilizers.

North America
      The regions north of the Rio Grande saw the origin of three, or perhaps four, agricultural complexes. Two of these developed in what is now the southwestern United States. The Upper Sonoran complex included corn, squash, bottle gourd, and the common bean and was found where rainfall was greater than about 200 mm (8 inches) annually. The Lower Sonoran complex, with less annual precipitation, included corn, squash, cotton, and beans—tepary bean, lima bean, scarlet runner bean, and jack bean (Canavalia ensiformis).

      Corn appears to have been the first cultigen in the Southwest. Direct radiocarbon dates place it at the Bat Cave site in the Mogollon highlands of New Mexico by 3200 BP, where squash is also present. The first beans appear about 1500 BP. These crops were integrated into the diets of Archaic cultures (Archaic culture)—groups characterized by high mobility, no pottery, and extensive plant use, including grain harvesting. The Southwestern Archaic system may have been similar to those of the traditional Paiute and Kumeyaay (one branch of the Diegueño Indians (Diegueño)), who did not practice agriculture per se but who had developed an agroecosystem. In agroecosystems, people actively planted flora in order to increase the diversity of available plant resources. They also harvested wild grass seeds, separating the grain heads from the stalks by pulling or cutting. The stalks were gathered into sheaves. After harvesting, they burned the grass and then broadcast some of the seeds over the burned area, consuming the rest. Economically important plants were concentrated around their settlements as a result of these actions.

      In most of the Southwest, the Archaic lifestyle was transformed to a more sedentary system supported by food production soon after 1700 BP. By 900 BP, Ancestral Pueblo (Ancestral Pueblo culture) (Anasazi), Hohokam (Hohokam culture), and Mogollon (Mogollon culture) communities had become widespread. These groups used a variety of agricultural techniques: crops were grown on alluvium caught behind check dams, low walls built in arroyos to catch runoff from the limited rains; hillside contour terraces helped conserve soil and water; and bordered gardens and irrigation systems were devised. At Snaketown, a Hohokam site in Arizona, a complex canal system supported a large urban population. Many canals were at least 2 metres (6.5 feet) deep and 3 metres (almost 10 feet) wide. In the nearby Phoenix area, hundreds of kilometres of canals have been found. See also Southwest Indian.

      The third agricultural regime in North America was found in the eastern part of the continent. It originated in the region between the Mississippi River and the Appalachian Mountains, an area that includes the rich watersheds of rivers such as the Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Plants of the Eastern Agricultural Complex included sunflower, squash, a native chenopod (Chenopodium berlandieri), amaranth (Amaranthus species), maygrass (Phalaris caroliniana), sumpweed (Iva annua), little barley (Hordeum pusillum), and possibly erect knotweed (Polygonum erectum). Fish, shellfish, deer, acorns, walnuts (Juglans species), and hickory nuts (Carya species) were also important.

      An agroecology similar to that proposed for the Archaic Southwest probably existed among the Eastern Archaic peoples, but it has been difficult to document. Eastern groups had well-established bases from which they foraged, including shell mound sites used for thousands of years in Kentucky and Tennessee. At the Koster site in Illinois, a semipermanent village dates to 8400 BP, and a more permanent settlement was occupied beginning about 5900 BP.

      The earliest locally domesticated plant in the region is squash; examples appear between 8000 and 5000 BP on sites in Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Maine. Squash seeds from the Phillips Spring site (Missouri) date to about 5000 BP and are within the size range of domesticated squash. Although a squash was domesticated in Mesoamerica by 10,000 BP, genetic and biochemical research indicates that the squashes in eastern North America are a separate subspecies that was domesticated locally.

      Another early local cultigen is sumpweed. A drastic change in seed size indicates that wild sumpweed fruits were harvested in Illinois about 7000 BP and that by 5500 BP a domesticated, large-seeded sumpweed was being grown. The average size of sumpweed seeds continued to enlarge until about 500 BP, when the domesticated form became extinct, but wild forms have persisted.

       sunflower is another crop that was domesticated in the East. Small wild sunflower fruits are reported from the Koster site in an occupation dating to about 9000 BP. By 5000 BP at the Hayes site in Tennessee, larger domesticated sunflower fruits are reported. Wild sunflower is not native to the East. Rather, wild sunflower appears to have been introduced somehow from the Colorado Plateau in the U.S. Southwest. Sunflower was never domesticated there, however; sometime after the start of the European conquest, domesticated sunflower was introduced to the region from the East.

      Chenopod domestication in the East dates to at least 4500 BP, when thin-seed-coat specimens appear at the Cloudsplitter and Newt Kash rock shelters in Kentucky. Extensive collection of chenopod fruits began even earlier in Illinois.

      Eastern Archaic peoples were becoming increasingly sedentary by about 4000–3000 BP. At Poverty Point in the lower Mississippi valley (now Poverty Point National Monument), people built a complex set of geometrically arranged mounds that date to between 3800 and 3400 BP. By 3000 BP the Eastern Agricultural Complex supported a complex socioeconomic system exemplified by cultures such as the Adena (Adena culture) and its descendant, the Hopewell (Hopewell culture) (see also Woodland cultures). In much of the region, communities became fully sedentary; in addition, pottery had become common, mound complexes began to be built over a wide area, and populations were growing rapidly.

      Also at about 3000 BP, archaeological sites on the Cumberland Plateau of Kentucky provide clear evidence that fire was being used to clear garden plots. Burning was widely used in aboriginal North America as a technique for clearing the forest understory; it was also used to maintain stands of fire-tolerant species such as oak. By creating forest openings and edges that exposed the trees to more sunlight and less competition, burning encouraged more nut production.

      The earliest corn in the East appears in the central Mississippi valley about 2100 BP. The introduction of corn did not displace the use of locally domesticated plants. Instead, it seems to have been an addition that did not immediately have an obvious impact. By 1600 BP corn was grown as far north as Ontario, Can., where no form of crop production had previously existed. By 1500 BP the Hopewell pattern ceased. Two distinct systems followed, the Mississippian (Mississippian culture) and the Late Woodland, both eventually supported by corn agriculture. In the Mississippi valley and the Southeast, urban centres with temple mound architecture had developed by 1000 BP. At almost the same time in the Northeast, people were beginning to establish longhouse villages and towns. The common bean was not incorporated into agricultural production until about 800 years ago. By then substantial socioeconomic changes resulting from agriculture had transformed the human landscape across the region (see also Northeast Indian; Southeast Indian).

      The region from southern British Columbia through California and west to the Great Basin is increasingly being considered as the domain of a fourth agricultural regime. Nearly all of the native peoples living in this region managed habitats and plants, and some had small gardens at the time of European contact. Perhaps because the first Europeans to visit the region did not witness the extensive geometric field production of grains with which they were familiar, they assumed the indigenous peoples did not have agriculture. Nevertheless, people such as the Owens Valley Paiute irrigated the grasses they used for subsistence. Other groups used controlled burning to manage oak stands and increase acorn production, often planting tobacco in the burned areas. Another management technique was to tend sedges ( Cyperaceae family) so that the rhizomes became long and unbranched, a practice that made the plants easier to harvest. These complex plant and habitat management practices blur the distinctions between hunter-gatherers and farmers to the extent that many anthropologists are no longer classifying these people as hunter-gatherers per se (see also Northwest Coast Indians (Northwest Coast Indian); California Indians (California Indian); Great Basin Indians (Great Basin Indian)).

Gary W. Crawford

Agriculture in ancient Asia
 On his way across the Pamirs in search of Buddhist texts (518 CE), the Chinese pilgrim Song Yun noted that the crest of the bare, cold, snowy highlands was commonly believed to be “the middle point of heaven and earth”:The people of this region use the water of the rivers for irrigating their lands; and when they were told that in the middle country [China] the fields were watered by the rain, they laughed and said, “How could heaven provide enough for all?”

      Yet, heaven provided. The vast majority of the population of Asia lives in the regions between the inland mountains and the seas—from Pakistan through India, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and eastern China up to the Bo Hai (Gulf of Chihli) and the offshore island groups of Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka. In the early 21st century some 2.5 billion people were concentrated in just two of these countries, China and India.

      There is no consensus on the origin and progress of plant and animal domestication in Asia. The Soviet plant geneticist Nikolay Ivanovich Vavilov (Vavilov, Nikolay Ivanovich) postulated several world centres of plant origin, of which

an unusual wealth of original genera, species, and varieties of plants is found in India and China, countries which have contributed almost half of our crop plants.

 From earliest times, agriculture in China has been divided into two major regions by the Qin Mountains, with wheat and millet predominant in the northern realm and rice in the south. At different periods and places, subsidiary native domesticates have included soybeans; tree fruits such as peach and persimmon; hemp (Cannabis sativa); beefsteak plant (Perilla frutescens); rapeseed, or canola (Brassica campestris); tea (Camellia sinensis); water chestnut (Trapa natans); and silk (via sericulture, the raising of silkworms). Domesticated animals have included dogs, pigs, chickens, goats, and cattle.

Early history
      Although few archaeological data have been recovered from the period from roughly 12,000 to 9000 BP in China, the presence of settlements in Japan at that time suggests that further investigations will reveal analogous developments on the continent. Settled communities are first evident between 9000 and 8000 BP in Inner Mongolia and the Huangtu Gaoyuan ( Loess Plateau) drained by the Huang He (Yellow River) system and other rivers such as the Liao in northeastern China. In all these areas, people were moving toward agriculture by 8000 BP.

      Although the northern regions are relatively dry today, they were wetter in the past; river valley locations would have further ameliorated regional aridity. Early settlements consisted of groups of pit houses, a form of architecture that provides natural insulation and, given the labour involved in construction, represents a long-term commitment to a particular locale. The Xinglongwa culture in Inner Mongolia began sometime just before 8000 BP and had well-developed stone and pottery technology, broomcorn millet, rectangular houses arranged in rows with a ditch surrounding the community, and burials of people and pigs below some house floors. The immediate predecessor of this culture is not yet known. At Peiligang (north-central Henan) and Cishan (southern Hebei), numerous oval and rectangular houses are associated with large storage pits.

      Crops domesticated in the north include foxtail and broomcorn millet, both well adapted to dry climates with short growing seasons. The ancestor of foxtail millet is green foxtail grass (Seteria italica viridis), while the ancestor of broomcorn millet has yet to be identified. Domesticated millet grains are distinguished from wild grains by changes in their proportions and size. Both foxtail and broomcorn millet seeds are somewhat spherical, while their wild counterparts are flat and thin. Each domesticated grain has considerably more food value than the wild grain. Hemp also became an important fibre and oil crop, although the archaeological record for the plant is poor. Members of the mustard family, such as Chinese cabbage, were also being domesticated. Some of the earliest domesticated chickens are found here, as are swine. Notably, the East Asian pig was domesticated independently from that domesticated in western Asia and Europe.

 As elsewhere, early domesticates were successful additions to an economic system that still included significant input from wild resources. The addition of these resources permitted communities to grow more numerous and populous by 6000 BP. During this period, regional pottery styles were well developed; the distribution of such styles indicates clear zones of habitual interaction over long distances. For instance, people with a sophisticated painted pottery complex known as the Yangshao dominated the Huang He catchment region. The Yangshao culture is notable for its kiln-fired pottery, which has black symbols and animals painted on a yellowish-orange background. Yangshao sites such as Banpocun (Shaanxi) were occupied for centuries; pit houses, storage pits, kilns, a cemetery, animal pens, and mortars and pestles for grinding grain have all been identified there. Much of Banpocun is surrounded by a moat several metres deep.

      Early agricultural communities in southern China were located close to water, because rice could be grown only in seasonally inundated habitats such as lake and marsh margins; paddy fields may have been in use, but rice grown without paddy fields could still be found in China in historical times. In this subtropical monsoonal region, the complex lake systems along the Yangtze basin in south-central China acted as catch basins for floodwaters and wetlands and provided an ideal setting for early rice exploitation.

      In this region, rice appears to have been exploited long before the first evidence for its domestication. Rock shelter or cave sites such as Diaotonghuan and Xianrendong, near Dongting Lake, have deposits older than 10,000 BP with evidence of wild rice use. Wild rice was likely growing in the nearby marshy lowlands, now filled in. Rice phytoliths, mainly from chaff, have been found in soils from Diaotunghuan, a rock shelter approximately 60 metres (some 200 feet) above the wet Dayuan basin, making it highly unlikely the phytoliths came into the shelter naturally. The site's earliest rice phytoliths date well before 10,000 BP and are all from wild rice. By 8000 BP the phytoliths resemble those from domesticated rice.

      Archaeological sites that are waterlogged but otherwise stable tend to have excellent organic preservation; such is the case at the Yangtze floodplain village of Bashidang, where a 100-square-metre (1,075-square-foot) area of wet deposits has yielded some 15,000 rice grains. Domesticated rice remains directly dated to 8500 BP are found at Bashidang and at another site, Pengtoushan. These sites belong to what Chinese archaeologists call the Pengtoushan culture, whose radiocarbon dates cluster from 9500 to 8100 BP. The sites each cover about 3 hectares (7.5 acres). Bashidang has some of the earliest defensive walls and ditches found in China.

      Much earlier claims for rice domestication have been made, but the evidence is currently weak. One outstanding issue in rice domestication is the origin of the plant's two prominent subspecies, Oryza sativa japonica and O. sativa indica. Interestingly, the Bashidang rice evinces considerable variation and belongs to neither subspecies.

      Another site dating to about the same period is Kuahuqiao, located near Hangzhou Bay. The economy at Kuahuqiao was not strictly dependent on agriculture, emphasizing instead a balance of food production, hunting, gathering, and fishing. The site was occupied for only a few centuries, then abandoned because of rising sea levels. Evidence indicates that people regularly burned the area near the site, possibly to clear the land for rice production. Rice was grown there, but other foods such as acorns seem to have been more important. People also ate peaches and plums as well as prickly water lily (Euryale ferox), water chestnut (Trapa species), and lotus root (Nelumbo nucifera). The dog is common at the site, and people fished and hunted a wide range of waterfowl and deer.

      The best example of an early community substantially dependent on rice production is Hemudu (6500–5500 BP), a site located on the south side of Hangzhou Bay, not far from Shanghai. Constructed in a wet area, wood-frame houses there were built on pilings to keep floors dry. Dogs, pigs, water buffalo, bottle gourds, water caltrop, and rice were all present.

      By 4500 BP the Longshan culture, generally viewed as ancestral to state societies in North China, stretched from the Huang He to the Shandong Peninsula. In some areas, Longshan people had added rice to their repertoire of crops.

The classical-imperial era
      About 335 BCE China's potential cropland was so expansive that the philosopher Mencius wrote, “If the farmer's seasons are not interfered with, there will be more grain in the land than can be consumed.” By the 1st century BCE, however, wastelands were being reclaimed for cultivation, and there was a demand for limitation of landholdings. About 9 CE the first (unsuccessful) attempt was made to “nationalize” the land and distribute it among the peasants. By the end of the 2nd century CE, severe agrarian crises culminating generally in the downfall of the ruling dynasty had become a recurrent theme of history. Through the centuries, then, much of Chinese agriculture has been characterized by a struggle to raise ever more food.

      By the 4th century CE, cultivation was more intensive in China than in Europe or the rest of Asia. The major cereal-producing region and the population, however, were shifting (Shen Nung) rapidly from the wheat and millet area of the North China Plain to the paddies of the lower Yangtze (Yangtze Plain) valley. By the 8th century the lower Yangtze was exporting enormous quantities of grain into the old northwest by way of a unified system of canals linking the large rivers.

      By about 1100 CE the population of South China had probably tripled, while that of the whole country may have exceeded 100 million. Consequently, cultivation became extremely intensive, with a family of 10 living, for example, on a farm of about 14 acres (5.6 hectares). Again, more new lands were opened to cultivation. Even tanks, ponds, reservoirs, streams, and creeks were reclaimed to be turned into farms. At the same time, complex water-driven machinery came into use for pumping irrigation water onto fields, for draining them, and for threshing and milling grain. A large variety of improved and complicated field implements were also employed; these are described and illustrated in the agricultural literature of the day.

Tools and techniques
      The first significant revolution in Chinese agricultural technology occurred when iron (ironwork) agricultural implements became available to the Chinese peasantry. The earliest iron plow found in northern Henan dates from the Warring States period (475–221 BCE) and is a flat V-shaped iron piece that must have been mounted on wooden blades and handles. It was small, and there is no evidence that draft animals were used. Cattle-drawn plows do not appear until the 1st century BCE.

      Several improvements and innovations, such as the three-shared plow, the louli (plow-and-sow) implement, and the harrow, were developed subsequently. By the end of the Song dynasty (Śuṅga Dynasty) in 1279, Chinese agricultural engineering had reached a high state of development.

      The common farmers continued to use these early medieval techniques into modern times. Their unfenced fields were cultivated by a wooden plow, with or without a cast-iron share and usually drawn by a water buffalo. Harvesting was by sickle or billhook (a cutting tool consisting of a blade with a hooked point fitted with a handle). Sheaves carried from the field were slung at the ends of a pole across an individual's shoulders. The grain was threshed by beating on a frame of slats or by flails on the ground. Winnowing was accomplished by tossing the grain in the wind. Rice was husked by hand pounding in a mortar or with a hand-turned mill. Irrigation techniques varied. The most common perhaps was a wooden, square-paddle chain pump with a radial treadle operated by foot. Fields were drained by open ditches and diking. Night soil, oil cakes, and ash fertilized the soil.

      Over the past millennium, the revolution in Chinese agriculture was not in mechanical or chemical technology but rather in the biological sphere: in crops, cropping systems, and land utilization. Under increasing population pressures, cultivation was forced to become more labour-intensive and also to expand into the sandy loams, the arid hills, and the upper reaches of lofty mountains. Lacking major technological inventions, the Chinese peasant had to expand the area under cultivation by finding suitable crops (crop rotation) for inferior land.

Land use
      A “three fields in two years” rotation system for wheat and millet was being practiced by the 6th century CE. Revolutionary changes in land utilization, however, started with the introduction in Fujian province of an early-maturing and relatively drought-resistant rice from Champa, a kingdom in what is now Vietnam. In 1012, when there was a drought in the lower Yangtze and Huai River regions, 30,000 bushels of Champa seeds were distributed. Usually a summer crop, the native rice plant of these locales required 150 days to mature after transplanting. Not only did this make a second crop difficult, but, because of the plant's soil and water requirements, cultivation was confined largely to the deltas, basins, and valleys of the Yangtze. The imported Champa rice, on the other hand, ripened in just 100 days after transplanting and required less water.

      The success of Champa rice initiated the development and dissemination of many more varieties suited to local peculiarities of soil, temperature, and crop rotation. The first new early-ripening strain to develop required 60 days after transplantation. By the 18th century a 50-day Champa and a 40-day Champa had been developed. In 1834 a 30-day variety was available—probably the quickest-ripening rice ever recorded. The effect was revolutionary. By the 13th century, much of the hilly land of the lower Yangtze region and Fujian had been turned into terraced paddies. At the close of the 16th century, Champa rice had made double, and sometimes triple, crops of rice common.

      A second revolution in land utilization began in the 16th century, with the adoption of food crops from the Americas, such as corn, sweet potatoes (sweet potato), potatoes (potato), and peanuts (peanut) (groundnuts). These could be grown at drier altitudes and in sandy loams too light for rice and other indigenous cereals. Virgin heights in the Yangtze region and northern China were turned into corn and sweet-potato farms. As the population in the mountain districts increased, the potato took over the soils too poor for those crops. By the middle of the 19th century, even ravines and remote mountains were being cultivated. Similarly, the cultivation of peanuts penetrated the remote and agriculturally backward areas of Guangdong, Guangxi, and Yunnan provinces and the sandbars of Sichuan. Gradually, they brought about a revolution in the utilization of sandy soils along the lower Yangtze, the lower Huang He, the southeast coast, particularly Fujian and Guangdong, and numerous inland rivers and streams.

      Even so, the revolution in land use failed to alter the basic human-land relationship in China. In the 18th century the Qianlong emperor rejected renewed demands for limitation of land ownership. In an edict (1740), however, he noted that “the population is constantly increasing, while the land does not become any more extensive.” He directed his subjects, therefore, to cultivate all and every odd piece of soil,

on top of the mountains or at the corners of the land. All these soils are suitable either for rice or for miscellaneous crops….No matter how little return the people may receive from cultivation of these lands, it will be always helpful in supplying food provisions for the people.

      Between at least 8000 and 4000 BP the Chulmun culture flourished in the Korean peninsula. Chulmun people lived in pit-house villages and made pottery that was undecorated or decorated with linear designs. Their economy seems to have been based largely on hunting, gathering, and fishing. Foxtail millet and broomcorn millet directly dated to 5500 BP were discovered at the Tongsamdong site, near Pusan in southern South Korea. By 4000 BP rice appears to have been introduced from China.

      Despite the initial adoption of crop production by Chulmun peoples, intensive agriculture did not develop in Korea until the beginning of the Bronze Age Mumun period, between 3500 and 3000 BP, when significant socioeconomic changes spread throughout the peninsula. Rice was more extensively grown during the Mumun period, and bread wheat (Triticum aestivum), soybean, adzuki (red) bean, and hemp were also grown. The original sources for soybeans (soybean) and adzuki beans are still unclear, although early Chinese records mention that soybeans were a gift from the region encompassing the Northeast Plain (formerly Manchuria) and Korea. Korean soybeans dating to about 3000 BP are the oldest yet discovered. Mumun ridged dry fields and paddy fields have been excavated in the southern Korean peninsula.

      In Japan, archaeologists have established a long unbroken sequence of cultures that spans the period from more than 30,000 years ago to the present. Villages were established throughout the Japanese archipelago between 13,000 and 11,000 BP. The oldest pottery in the world is found in Japan, China, and eastern Siberia and is associated with radiocarbon dates of about 13,800–13,000 BP. Extensive settlements in East Asia appear first in Japan at the beginning of the Jōmon period; the Uenohara site, in Kyushu, an Initial Jōmon (Jōmon culture) pit-house community, dates to 11,000–8000 BP.

      The early Jōmon were managing various plant resources and so are probably best described as food producers rather than strictly hunters and gatherers. Lacquer (Oriental lacquer) production was under way in northern Japan by 9000 BP, suggesting the so-called varnish tree (Rhus verniciflua) was being managed. At sites such as Usujiri B and Hamanasuno, in southwestern Hokkaido, small wild grains were harvested, as were fleshy fruits and nuts; as a result of human activity, the productivity of fruit- and nut-bearing trees was especially high near Jōmon communities.

      By 4000 BP seeds of wild barnyard grass increased in size and became indistinguishable from those of its domesticated descendant, barnyard millet, in southwestern Hokkaido sites; this indicates that the Jōmon domesticated at least one plant. By about the same time, they had developed an elaborate culture characterized by ornate pottery, an extensive stone tool kit, and probably social ranking. Population densities were within the range of what might be expected for agriculturalists, suggesting that these Japanese peoples were living lives similar to those led by early Chinese agriculturists a few millennia before. Chinese crops such as hemp, foxtail and broomcorn millets, and rice were in Japan by 3,000 years ago; at about the same time, earthworks associated with cemeteries began to become common in the north.

      By 3000–2500 BP, social and technological changes seen at least 500 years earlier in Korea were reaching the southern Japanese archipelago. These included paddy agriculture, bronze, and iron; the transformation produced the Yayoi culture. The Yayoi are known for metallurgy, intensive agriculture, and more-centralized sociopolitical organization. The Itazuke site has evidence of well-engineered drainage systems that were used to maintain paddy fields, and ditches and earthworks served as defensive structures around this and other densely populated communities. Crops included rice, millet, wheat, barley, soybeans, adzuki beans, hops, bottle gourds, peaches, and persimmons.

      The Yayoi transformation expanded toward the northeast, and by 2100 BP all but Hokkaido, the northernmost prefecture, was part of the Yayoi world. In the south the Yayoi culture moved mainly through migration, but in the north Jōmon people appear to have adopted aspects of Yayoi life, including intensive agriculture. Yayoi crops were not entirely new to northeastern Japan; the region's oldest directly dated rice, foxtail millet, and broomcorn millet are from Late Jōmon contexts (2900 BP) at the Kazahari site in Aomori prefecture.

      On the northern frontier, people experimented with paddy agriculture, but any success they met was short-lived, and dry-field production eventually became the system of choice. Rainfall-based agriculture likely included broadcast sowing and the use of wooden spades with iron bits. This form of agriculture continued into recent centuries in Hokkaido, where the Ainu people practiced a mixed economy of agriculture, hunting, fishing, and the gathering of wild plant foods. Soil samples from the Sakushu-Kotoni River site in Sapporo dating to 1300–1100 BP contain the largest collection of cultigen remains yet recovered in Japan. By 1300 BP millet, beans, hemp, barley, wheat, and melons were grown in northern Honshu and Hokkaido. The small number of rice grains found at northern sites suggests that rice was not locally grown but imported.

      The wheat grown in Japan until at least the 16th century had the smallest grains ever reported for wheat. Since grain size and plant size are correlated, this wheat plant was also short. Compact wheat is well adapted to regions that experience high winds and heavy rainfalls at harvest time, because the plants will not lodge (become broken by harsh weather). This wheat would have been useful in southern Japan, Korea, and southern China, all of which are monsoonal regions that are frequently exposed to typhoons at harvest time.

The Indian (India) subcontinent
      Research indicates two early stages of agricultural development in South Asia. In the earlier stage, dating roughly from 9500 to 7500 BP, agriculture was being established in parts of Pakistan, in the northwesternmost part of the subcontinent. At the ancient site of Mehrgarh, where the earliest evidence has been found, barley was the dominant crop and was apparently supplemented with some wheat. The barley found there is the well-developed domesticate, six-row barley. A small amount of wild barley and two-row domesticated barley have also been recovered, although archaeologists do not think that barley was independently domesticated in this region. Four types of wheat—einkorn, emmer, durum, and bread wheat—have also been found. All had diffused from Southwest Asia, so it is thought that barley probably did so as well. However, the early barley and wheat in Mehrgarh have predominantly small spherical grains, indicating that varieties adapted to local conditions were developed there. No evidence of irrigation has been found. Goats and sheep were also raised at Mehrgarh at this time.

      The second stage, dating to about 7000 BP at Mehrgarh, includes evidence of another crop, cotton. It is quite likely a local domesticate. Other important crops with histories in the Indian subcontinent are mung beans (Vigna radiata), black gram (Vigna mungo), horsegram (Macrotyloma uniflorum), and pigeon pea (Cajanus cajun), all of which appear after about 5000 BP. Rice is present by about 7000 BP (and possibly earlier), but in this early period its status as a cultigen is unclear; fully domesticated rice and little millet (Panicum sumatrense) appear in the archaeological record about 4500 BP. Their appearance coincides closely with significant socioeconomic changes in the subcontinent.

      Agriculture was well established throughout most of the subcontinent by 6000–5000 BP. During the 5th millennium BP, in the alluvial plains of the Indus River in Pakistan, the cities of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa (Harappā) experienced an apparent explosion of an organized, sophisticated urban culture. This society, known as the Harappan or Indus civilization, flourished until shortly after 4000 BP; it was much more extensive than those of Egypt or Babylonia and appeared earlier than analogous societies in northern China. Harappan society was remarkably homogeneous, thoroughly individual and independent, and a technological peer of the early civilizations of China and Egypt.

 Barley and wheat, supplemented by dates, sesame (Sesamum indicum), field peas, and lentils, were the primary crops. Goats, sheep, fowl, humped and humpless breeds of Indian cattle (Bos indicus), and the Indian elephant (Elephas maximus) had been domesticated. In addition to the domestication of a great variety of animals, fragments of dyed and woven cotton fabric attest to the antiquity of the cultivation of cotton plants and of the textile industry for which India was to become famous the world over.

      Little archaeological or pictorial evidence of farm implements has survived. It has been surmised, however, that the cereals could have been sown in the fall, on inundated land after the annual flooding of the rivers had receded, and then harvested in spring. That system continues to be used into the 21st century; it involves minimal skill, labour, and equipment, as the land does not have to be plowed, fertilized, or irrigated.

      The people of the Indus civilization were engaged in a great deal of commerce, and there is proof of river and sea traffic. There was a trading post at Lothal on the Gulf of Cambay with a brick dockyard and an elaborate channel and spillway. Two-wheeled bullock carts and light covered wagons—forms of transportation that remain common in the early 21st century—were used for local travel. Caravans of pack oxen were the principal mode of transportation over longer distances.

      South India, centre of the later distinctive Tamil culture, constituted a second, initially independent agricultural region. Crops were being raised there during the first half of the 4th millennium BP. Two varieties of pulses (legumes) and finger millet (also called raggee) were cultivated there.

      To the north and west of the Deccan plateau lay a third, intermediate area. There, at Lothal and Rangpur (Sibsagar), has been found the earliest South Asian evidence of rice cultivation, in the later Harappan period. Subsequently, wheat, cotton, flax, and lentils spread into the region from the Indus valley, and pulses and millets from the south.

      In all three regions the basic cropping pattern of the 4th millennium BP, except the pattern for rice, continued into the 21st century.

Early historic period
      A fourth South Asian agricultural region, the Ganges River valley, became increasingly developed after about 3000 BP. Although it is clear that some of these changes arose from contact with Indo-European (Indo-European languages) speaking peoples known as Aryans (Aryan), notions of a devastating Aryan invasion are mistaken and in the past tended to obscure objective research on the region's history.

      Through various forms of exchange, the region saw the introduction of the horse, coinage, the Brahmi (Brāhmī) script, and the whole corpus of Vedic texts (Vedic religion). Written sources of information join the archaeological sources from this point onward. The plow, for example, figures in a hymn of the most ancient of the texts, the Rigveda:

Harness the plows, fit on the yokes, now that the womb of the earth is ready to sow the seed therein.

      Apparently, rice played an important role in the growth of population and the founding of new settlements. These had spread eastward to the Ganges delta by about 2600 BP.

      In the later Vedic (Veda) texts (c. 3000–2500 BP) there are repeated references to agricultural technology and practices, including iron implements; the cultivation of a wide range of cereals, vegetables, and fruits; the use of meat and milk products; and animal husbandry. Farmers plowed the soil several times, broadcast seeds, and used a certain sequence of cropping and fallowing. Cow dung provided fertilizer, and irrigation was practiced where necessary.

      A more secular eyewitness account is available from Megasthenes (c. 2300 BP), a Greek envoy to the court of the Mauryan empire. In his four-volume Indica, he wrote:

India has many huge mountains which abound in fruit-trees of every kind, and many vast plains of great fertility….The greater part of the soil, moreover, is under irrigation, and consequently bears two crops in the course of the year….In addition to cereals, there grows throughout India much millet…and much pulse of different sorts, and rice also, and what is called bosporum [Indian millet].

      And again,

Since there is a double rainfall [i.e., the two monsoons] in the course of each year…the inhabitants of India almost always gather in two harvests annually.

      Other sources reveal that the soils and seasons had been classified and meteorological observations of rainfall charted for the different regions of the Mauryan empire, which comprised nearly the whole subcontinent as well as territory to the northwest. A special department of the state supervised the construction and maintenance of the irrigation system, including the dam and conduits at Sudarshana, a man-made lake on the Kathiawar Peninsula. Roads too were the government's responsibility. The swifter horse-drawn chariot provided greater mobility than the bullock cart.

The Mughal (Mughal Dynasty) century (c. 1600 CE)
      At the climax of the Mughal Empire, with the arrival and presence of the Western powers, a commercial economy based on oceanic trade was evolving (see Mughal Dynasty). But no technological revolution in cultivating tools or techniques had occurred since roughly the time of the Upanishads (Upanishad) (c. 2600–2300 BP).

      The empire was broadly divided into rice zones and wheat and millet zones. Rice predominated in the eastern states, on the southwest coast, and in Kashmir. Aside from its original home in Gujarat (Gujarāt), it had spread also to the Punjab and Sindh with the aid of irrigation. Wheat grew throughout its “natural” region in north and central India. Millets were cultivated in the wheat areas and in the drier districts of Gujarat and Khandesh as well.

      Cotton, sugarcane, indigo (Indigofera and Isatis species), and opium (Papaver somniferum) were major cash crops. Cultivation of tobacco, introduced by the Portuguese, spread rapidly. The Malabar Coast was the home of spices, especially black pepper (Piper nigrum), that had stimulated the first European adventures in the East. Coffee (Coffea species) had been imported from Abyssinia and became a popular beverage in aristocratic circles by the end of the century. Tea, which was to become the commoner's drink and a major export, was yet undiscovered, though it was growing wild in the hills of Assam. Vegetables were cultivated mainly in the vicinity of towns. New species of fruit, such as the pineapple, papaya, and cashew nut (cashew) (Anacardium occidentale), also were introduced by the Portuguese. The quality of mango and citrus fruits was greatly improved.

      Cattle continued to be important as draft animals and for milk. Land use never became as intensive as in China and East Asia, although, as noted by Megasthenes, double (and even triple) cropping was fairly common in regions favoured with irrigation or adequate rainfall. Though the population must have increased many times over since Mauryan times, in the 17th century virgin land was still abundant and peasants were scarce.

      Irrigation, however, had greatly expanded. Well water, surface water, and rainwater were captured and stored in tanks, then distributed across the landscape by a network of canals. Some new water-lifting devices—such as the sakia, or Persian wheel, which consists of a series of leather buckets on an endless rope yoked to oxen—had been adopted. All these practices continued to be widely used in the 21st century.

      The plow was the principal implement for tillage. Drawn by oxen, the traditional Indian plow has never had a wheel or a moldboard. The part that penetrates the soil is a wedge-shaped block of hardwood. The draft pole projects in front, where it is attached to the neck yoke of the bullocks. A short, upright stilt in the rear serves as a guiding handle. The point of the wedge, to which an iron share may or may not be attached, does not invert the soil. Some plows are so light that the cultivator can carry them daily on his shoulder to and from the fields. Others are heavy, requiring teams of four to six pairs of oxen. Levelers and clod crushers, generally consisting of a rectangular beam of wood drawn by bullocks, are used to smooth the surface before sowing. Among hand tools, the most common is the kodali, an iron blade fitted to a wooden handle with which it makes an acute angle.

      Drill sowing and dibbling (making small holes in the ground for seeds or plants) are old practices in India. An early 17th-century writer notes that cotton cultivators “push down a pointed peg into the ground, put the seed into the hole, and cover it with earth—it grows better thus.” Another simple device was a bamboo tube attached to the plow. The seed was dropped through the tube into the furrow as the plow worked and was covered by the soil in making the next furrow.

      Into the 21st century, reaping, threshing, and winnowing continued to be performed almost exactly as described in the Vedic texts. Grain is harvested with a sickle, bound in bundles, and threshed by bullocks treading on it or by hand pounding. To separate the grain from the chaff, it may be sieved with sieves made of stalks of grass or of bamboo, or it may be winnowed by pouring by hand at a height from a supa (winnowing scoop). The grain is then measured and stored. The sickle, sieve, and supa have remained essentially unchanged over more than two millennia.

 Many crops are native to Southeast Asia, including black pepper, sugarcane (Saccharum species), banana (Musa species), nutmeg (Myristica fragrans), taro (Araceae species), arrowroot (Maranta species), coconut (Arecaceae species), clove (Syzygium aromaticum), yam (Dioscorea species), and citrus fruits. The early history of these crops is poorly known.

      Wild rice (Zizania species) is found in the region but was apparently not domesticated there. By 4700–4000 BP, domesticated rice and shell sickles are common at the Khok Phanom Di site in Thailand. It is not known how much earlier domesticated rice was integrated into agriculture in that region. A little rice has been found at Banyan Valley Cave in the Late Hoabinhian. The Hoabinhian is a broad-spectrum foraging culture (having a subsistence strategy similar to that of the American Archaic) dating from the Early Holocene.

      New Guinea is another potential area of independent agricultural development in Southeast Asia. In the highland Kuk Swamp site, a long history of land drainage may begin as early as 10,000 BP. Most of the evidence, however, is younger than 6000 BP and consists of a series of drainage channels. There is no agreement on the type of crops grown there.

Kusum Nair Gary W. Crawford

Improvements in agriculture in the West: 200 BCE to 1600 CE

The Roman (ancient Rome) epoch: 200 BCE to 600 CE
      Crop farming and domestication of animals were well established in western Europe by Roman times. Yields per acre were small by 21st-century standards, and nearly half the annual crop had to be used as seed, but quantities of grain were still exported from Britain to Gaul. Where feasible, Roman farming methods were adopted.

      Greek (ancient Greek civilization) and Roman farming techniques are known from contemporary textbooks that have survived. Methods were dictated to some degree by the Mediterranean climate and by the contours of the area. The majority of the crops cultivated today on the Mediterranean coast—wheat, spelt, barley, some millet, and legumes, including beans, peas, vetch, chickpea (chick-pea)s (Cicer arietinum), alfalfa (lucerne; Medicago sativa), and lupines (Lupinus species)—were known at that time. Grapes, olives (Olea europaea), radishes (Raphanus sativus), turnips (Brassica species), and fruit trees were grown.

The farm
      Roman holdings were commonly as small as 1.25 acres (0.5 hectare); the ground was prepared with hand tools, hoes, and mattocks, doubtless edged with bronze or iron. Later, as farming developed and estates of different sizes came into existence, two writers set out catalogs of the tools, implements, and labour required to exploit a given-size holding. These were Marcus Porcius Cato (Cato, Marcus Porcius) (234–149 BCE) and Marcus Terentius Varro (Varro, Marcus Terentius) (116–27 BCE). Already in Cato's time, emphasis was on production of wine and oil for sale, rather than cultivation of cereal crops, beyond the volume required to feed animals and slaves.

      For an olive grove of 240 jugers (150 acres; 60 hectares), Cato estimated necessary equipment as three large carts, six plows and plowshares, three yokes, six sets of ox harness, one harrow, manure hampers and baskets, three packsaddles, and three pads for the asses. Required tools included eight heavy spades, four smaller spades, shovels, rakes, scythes, axes, and wedges. Some 13 people, including an overseer, a housekeeper, five labourers, three teamsters, a muleteer, a swineherd, and a shepherd responsible for 100 sheep, would do the work. Other livestock included three yokes of oxen, three donkeys to carry manure, and one for the olive-crushing mill. The farm was also to be equipped with oil presses and containers for the oil.

Farm implements
      Most Roman-era hand tools were similar in shape to their modern counterparts. The wooden plow was fitted with an iron share and, later, with a coulter (cutter). Though it had no moldboard to turn the soil over, it was sometimes fitted with two small ears that helped to make a more distinct rut. Though it could not turn a furrow, it could invert some of the soil if held sideways. It was usually followed by a man with a mattock who broke up clods and cleared the row so seed would fall into it. Two or three such plowings were given each year to land intended for cereals. Manure was spread only after the second plowing. If spread earlier, it would be buried too deep to do any good. The farm included a compost pit where human and animal excrement were placed along with leaves, weeds, and household waste. Water was added from time to time to rot the mass, and an oak pole was driven into the middle to keep snakes away. Various animal and bird droppings were believed to have different effects on growing plants. Pigeon's dung was valued, but that of aquatic birds was avoided. Marl—earth containing lime, clay, and sand—was used in Gaul and possibly in Britain.

      Seeds were sown by hand, broadcast, or dropped. They were covered with a harrow, which may have had iron teeth or may simply have been a thornbush. A more complex plow, fitted with a wheeled forecarriage, may have been used in Cisalpine Gaul (northern Italy) as early as the 1st century CE. Traction normally was supplied by a pair of oxen; the Roman historian Pliny the Elder (23–79 CE) mentions as many as eight being used on heavy land. In light soil, only one was necessary, and sometimes asses were used.

Cropping systems
      Olive groves and vineyards were permanent; grain and pulses were annuals. Although it was realized that different soils were better suited to some crops than to others, the same piece of land was used for all crops. A specific crop, however, was grown in alternate years in what is known as the two-field (two-field system), or crop-and-fallow, system. The fallow land was plowed two or three times during the fallow year to kill the weeds, which typically accumulate where cereal crops are continuously cultivated. Wetland was drained by digging V-shaped trenches, the bottom of which, usually 4 feet (1.2 metres) deep, was paved with loose stones, willow branches, or bundles of brushwood placed lengthwise and covered with the replaced soil. Soil was judged by colour, taste, smell, adhesion to the fingers when rubbed, and whether it filled up a hole from which it had been dug or proved too loose.

      Then as now, wheat was mostly sown in autumn, though a species known as Triticum trimestre was sometimes planted in spring; it ripened in three months. Barley was a spring-sown crop, as were most others. Though the Romans knew that growing alfalfa and clover was in some way good for the succeeding crop, they did not know why. Similarly, a crop of lupines was sometimes planted for plowing in as green manure, and occasionally a crop of beans was used in the same way.

Harvesting and processing
      The harvest was reaped with a curved sickle, a tool that has changed little since Roman times. In some places, the ears of grain were cut and carried in wicker baskets to the threshing floor. The straw was cut and stacked later. In other areas, the plant was cut lower down, and the grain was threshed from the straw. Another set of tools was used, consisting of a short-handled sickle held in the right hand, with the blade at right angles to the handle. A short-handled hooklike implement held in the left hand was used to draw together enough grain to be cut at one stroke. In Gaul a reaper was used, a cart with an open back pushed by an animal reversed in the shafts. On the edge of the back, a comblike device was fixed to tear off the ears as the vehicle was pushed through the crop. The grain was threshed in the long-established way, by animals treading it on a firm floor, or by an implement known as a tribulum, a wooden framework with bits of flint or metal fixed to the underside, hauled over the grain by an animal. Winnowing was still done by tossing in the air from a winnowing basket when there was a favourable wind to blow away the chaff.

      Grain was ground with a quern, a hand implement made of two stones, a concave base with a convex upper stone fitted into it. Some querns turned in a circle, while others merely rubbed up and down on the grain. Though designed before the end of the Roman period, water mills were uncommon.

      Some forage crops were necessary to feed the plow animals and the cattle, sheep, and pigs. Grass was cut for hay, and many hours must have been spent in the woods collecting acorns for winter feed for the swine. Alfalfa was the best fodder; it helped fertility as well. Lupines and a mixed crop of beans, vetch, and chickpeas and another mixture of barley, vetch, and legumes were also employed. Turnips were grown for human and animal consumption in some regions, notably Gaul.

      The methods of the Roman farmer produced only limited yields, and cereals were regularly imported to Italy from lands more naturally favourable to grain growing: Egypt, Sicily, Sardinia, and Gaul. Yet the Roman methods were basically sound and, with the help of modern mechanical aids, remain to a large extent in force today.

      Little attempt was made at selective breeding, and little was possible, for most of the animals spent their time at open range or in the woods. Nevertheless, different breeds of cattle were recognized as native to particular places. They were bred between the ages of 2 and 10 years; 2 bulls to 60 or 70 cows was the usual proportion. Greek shepherds garbed some of the very fine-wooled sheep in skin coats to keep their fleece clean. Ewes were bred at three years old, two if essential. They fed on the stubble after harvest. Transhumance, or seasonal migration in search of pasture, was normal. A supply of clear water near the grazing ground was necessary. Goats were kept in large herds, 50 to 100 being the optimum.

      Swine were also important. Very fat animals were preferred, and large numbers of these, whose meat was frequently seen on the Roman table, were kept. Sows were covered (bred) at 12 to 20 months of age; it was desirable for them to pig in July or August. The best proportion of boars to sows was 10 to 100. Herds of 100 to 150 ranged the woods. The bacon produced in Gaul had a reputation for quality; swine also flourished in northern Italy and eastern Spain.

The medieval period (Middle Ages): 600 to 1600 CE
      In 1,000 years of medieval history, many details of farming in the Western world changed. The period falls into two divisions: the first, one of development, lasted until the end of the 13th century; the second, a time of recession, was followed by two centuries of recovery.

Agricultural advances
      The most important agricultural advances took place in the countries north of the Alps, in spite of the large population changes and warfare that accompanied the great migrations and the later onslaughts of Northmen and Saracens. Agriculture had, of course, been practiced regularly in Gaul and Britain and sporadically elsewhere in Europe both before and during the Roman epoch. The climate and soils and, perhaps, the social organization compelled different arrangements of land division and the use of more-complex tools as more and more farmland was converted from forest, marsh, and heath to meet the needs of a rising population.

      The precise origin of the open-field arrangement, which involves long strips of arable land separated from each other by a furrow, balk (ridge of land left after plowing), or mere (boundary), is obscure. The earliest examples of this system date from roughly 800, the year Charlemagne was crowned emperor of the West. Usually these strips of land, normally about 1 acre (0.4 hectare) in size, were laid out in two or three large fields. Each farmer in the village worked a number of these acres; the units forming his holding were scattered among those of other men. The open-field system continued as more land was reclaimed and lasted for many centuries—longer, of course, in some places than in others. It has been suggested that the length of each strip was determined by the distance a draft animal, usually an ox, could haul a plow before stopping for a rest. The intermingling of the strips was said to have been the result of a jointly owned plow team and plow supplied by a number of farmers working together, each being allotted a strip in turn. A subsequent theory holds that in some places the division of fields, which may have originally been rectangular or square, among a number of heirs led to the creation of long, narrow acres. In theory each person's holding totaled 30 acres (12 hectares), comprising strips equally divided between the three arable fields. With the passage of time, wide variations in the size of holdings came about; many became very small.

Plows (plow) and plowing
 Besides the different arrangement of the plowland, there were other changes, some of them important. Though Pliny the Elder claimed a wheeled plow was used in Cisalpine Gaul about the time of Christ, there is a good deal of doubt about that. A wheeled asymmetrical plow was certainly in use in some parts of western Europe by the late 10th century. Illuminated manuscripts and somewhat later calendars show a plow with two wheels fitted with a rudimentary moldboard and a coulter. This plow could invert the soil and turn a true furrow, thus making a better seedbed. Its use left high ridges on the land, traces of which can still be seen in some places.

      The horse collar, which replaced the old harness band that pressed upon the animal's windpipe, severely restricting its tractive power, was one of the most important inventions in the history of agriculture. Apparently invented in China, the rigid, padded horse collar allowed the animal to exert its full strength, enabling it to do heavier work, plowing as well as haulage. Many peasants continued to use oxen, however, because horses were more expensive to buy and to keep. Some plowing was done by two oxen as in former times; four, eight, or more were occasionally necessary in very difficult land.

Hand tools (hand tool)
      Modifications, slight but important, had been introduced into the design of hand tools. A more effective ax made forest clearance easier and faster. The jointed flail supplanted the straight stick. The scythe was more frequently in use for mowing grass, reaping barley, and performing similar tasks. Wind power was applied to the grinding of grain by the earliest windmills. All these changes and adaptations helped expand the cultivated area and supply food for the growing population.

New lands and crops
      Not only were forests cleared and heavy land cultivated, but, in the Netherlands, reclamation from marshland and from the sea was extended. Terps, artificially made patches of higher land on which houses and barns could be built, were made at a very early date in the midst of the marshes. Ditches to drain the fens were dug in the 10th century. Polders, land reclaimed from the sea, are first recorded in the 12th century.

      In Spain the Moors (Moor) introduced new crops and a new breed of sheep, the Merino, that was to make Spanish wool famous throughout Europe. New crops included sugarcane, rice, cotton, and some subtropical fruits, especially citrus. Grapevines and olive groves flourished in the south, as did the vines the Romans had introduced to the valleys of the Moselle and Rhine rivers. In the 12th century Venice became a major cotton-manufacturing city, processing cotton from the Mediterranean area into cloth for sale in central Europe. Germany also became a cotton-manufacturing centre in the Middle Ages.

      Widespread expansion of farmed land occurred throughout western Europe between the 10th century and the later years of the 13th. German and Dutch settlers were encouraged to take up holdings eastward toward the Baltic countries and south to the Carpathians. In France, new villages were built and new farms carved out of the forest, while in England a great deal of land on the boundaries of the open fields was taken in and cultivated. All this new cultivation was carried out with the same old implements and tools; the same crops were cultivated and the same animals bred as before. In remote and desolate places, monastic organizations created great estates. These estates were formed to feed growing populations rather than to improve technical skills. A new literature of farming arose, directed to the attention of great lords and ecclesiastical magnates rather than to the illiterate majority of husbandmen. These bright prospects, however, were dimmed in the 14th century by a combination of calamities.

Agricultural recession
      What is now called a recession began toward the end of the 13th century. The disasters of the 14th—climatic, pestilent, and military—followed. Famine resulted from excessively bad weather in 1314, 1315, and 1316; a small recovery followed in 1317. Yields, never high (from 6 to 10 bushels of wheat per acre [about 500 to 900 litres per hectare] and a little more for barley, rye, and oats), were reduced to nothing by the weather. Floods wiped out the reclaimed land in the Netherlands. Plague followed famine, bringing suffering to both animals and humans. The Black Death broke out in 1347 and is estimated to have killed approximately one-third of the population of Europe. Renewed outbreaks followed throughout the remainder of the century. The Hundred Years' War desolated much of France; other conflicts, accompanied by similar pillage and destruction, broke out elsewhere. The result of all these misfortunes was to be seen in the landscape throughout western Europe. Much of the arable land could not be cultivated for lack of labourers; in some regions the countryside was inhabited by a few scattered peasants grubbing a scanty living in the grimmest isolation. Many of the newer settlements and some of the established ones were abandoned and became deserted villages.

The Netherlands (Netherlands, The)
      The Netherlands was not as seriously affected as most other countries. The flood destruction was repaired, and a system developed that was to become an example to all of Europe. Leguminous and root crops were introduced into the rotation at least as early as the 15th century, and long continuous rotations almost without fallow breaks were employed. Town refuse was added to the supplies of animal manure. The size and milk yield of the Dutch cattle became famous, though possibly exaggerated. Some say that they owed part of their distinction to crosses with animals from Lombardy and Piedmont, which also enjoyed a great reputation. Flemish horses were already renowned for size and strength.

      In England, when agricultural recovery began in the 15th century, there was no immediate improvement in technique. During this period, England became known as the home of most medium- and long-wooled mutton breeds. The profits of the wool trade induced landowners to increase the size of their flocks. This led to some difficulties. Not only had some arable land fallen down to rough grazing because of labour scarcity after the diseases and bad seasons of the 14th century, but the profit of wool encouraged enclosure of formerly open fields for grazing; some villages were even destroyed to increase the area of grazing land. Though there was a considerable outcry against enclosure in the 16th and early 17th centuries, the practice was too profitable to halt. At the same time, farmers began exchanging their scattered plots of land in order to consolidate individual holdings. These consolidated plots were then enclosed with a hedge or fence to prevent them from being subjected to the regulations that governed the use of the remaining strips. Land was also acquired by purchase for this purpose. None of these changes, however, involved any technological advances in farming.

      In Spain the shepherds, whose organization, the Mesta, was a powerful body with great political influence, came into conflict with the farmers. The annual journey of sheep from their northern grazing area to the south carried them along an established route; this route steadily broadened, with the sheep trespassing upon the farmers' lands and consuming crops. At the same time, the Mesta successfully opposed any expansion in the amount of arable land until the mid-16th century.

      In the 14th century the city-states of Italy were devoted to commerce. There was little emphasis on farming, though some attempts at draining marshes were made, and, in spite of the introduction of rice culture in the north, Italian farming on the whole remained much as it had been in Roman times. In the south great flocks were kept and moved up to the mountains for the summer along well-defined paths.

      In the 15th century French farmers made substantial progress toward recovery, but even in France there was little advance in technology. The open-field system was prevalent in the north, and a type of Roman farming suited to the environment was practiced in the south, with alfalfa, clover, lupines, and other legumes grown for fodder and to maintain fertility. A fodder crop called Burgundy grass was grown in Burgundy toward the end of the 16th century.

      Many of the German villages depopulated by the disasters of the 14th century were never resettled. Some of them had been established on marginal land, such as sandy heaths or places high in the mountains. By the middle of the 16th century, the advanced farming of the Netherlands penetrated into the north at the mouth of the Rhine and in Schleswig-Holstein. This is clear from one of the earliest printed books on farming, by Conrad Heresbach, a German. Heresbach described and recommended many of the methods used by the Romans, including raising lupines for green manure and rotating fallow-manured, winter-sown rape with wheat, rye, and spring barley. For the preparation of the seedbed, the destruction of weeds, manuring, sowing, and harvesting, implements that derived from the Roman pattern were used.

      Heresbach's book followed somewhat the pattern of Crescentius, who wrote in the 13th century, and in that respect was similar to the growing number of agricultural treatises that appeared in Spain and France. These were often encyclopaedias of rural life presumably intended for the landowning public. In the late 16th century, Henry IV of France and his minister, Sully, tried to stimulate interest among the lesser nobility in the management of their estates. In England, translations were made of Continental works.

George Edwin Fussell

Additional Reading

Origins of agriculture and early agricultural societies
A.B. Gebauer and T.D. Price (eds.), Transitions to Agriculture in Prehistory (1992); and T.D. Price and A.B. Gebauer (eds.), Last Hunters, First Farmers: New Perspectives on the Prehistoric Transition to Agriculture (1995), are overviews of events leading to agriculture around the world. B.D. Smith, The Emergence of Agriculture (1995), is an integrated overview of research methods, theoretical considerations, and archaeological sites pertinent to the development of agriculture. M. Woods and M.B. Woods, Ancient Agriculture: From Foraging to Farming (2000), discusses agricultural technology in various cultures from the Stone Age to 476 CE, including China, Egypt, Mesoamerica, and Greece. David Rindos, The Origins of Agriculture: An Evolutionary Perspective (1984), concentrates on agriculture as a natural biological process not unique to people; J. Desmond Clark and Steven A. Brandt (eds.), From Hunters to Farmers: The Causes and Consequences of Food Production in Africa (1984), analyzes economic changes in prehistoric society; T.D. Price, Europe's First Farmers (2000), gives an account of the development of farming in Europe. D.R. Piperno and D.M. Pearsall, The Origins of Agriculture in the Lowland Neotropics (1998), is the first assessment of the history and significance of tropical lowland agriculture in the Americas. Two excellent volumes that consider the designation of a fourth agricultural regime in North America are Douglas Deur and Nancy J. Turner (eds.), Keeping it Living: Traditions of Plant Use and Cultivation on the Northwest Coast of North America (2005); and Kat Anderson, Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California's Natural Resources (2005).Yoshinori Yasuda, The Origins of Pottery and Agriculture (2002), explores developments in East Asia and emphasizes rice cultivation and early pottery. Peter S. Bellwood, First Farmers: The Origins of Agricultural Societies (2005), assesses the beginning and diffusion of agriculture around the world. C.Wesley Cowan, Patty Jo Watson, and Nancy L. Benco, The Origins of Agriculture: An International Perspective, new ed. (2006), is a region-by-region review of current data, particularly plant and animal remains from archaeological sites. Sue Colledge and James Conolly, The Origins and Spread of Domestic Plants in Southwest Asia and Europe (2007), collects original articles on early agriculture in those regions. John E. Staller, Robert H. Tyko, and Bruce F. Benz (eds.), Histories of Maize: Multidisciplinary Approaches to the Prehistory, Linguistics, Biogeography, Domestication, and Evolution of Maize (2006), compiles the best available information on Zea mays.

Agriculture in ancient Asia
Hiuen Tsiang, Si-yu-ki: Buddhist Records of the Western World, 2 vol., trans. by Samuel Beal (1884, reprinted 1981), offers travel accounts of early Chinese Buddhist pilgrims to India in the 1st millennium, including those of Shi Fahian, Song Yun, and Hiuen Tsiang; Mabel Ping-Hua Lee, The Economic History of China (1921, reprinted 1969), is a history of Chinese agriculture with emphasis on soil depletion; Kwang-Chih Chang, The Archaeology of Ancient China, 4th rev. ed. (1986), is a modern text interpreting prehistoric and protohistoric archaeological evidence in the historical framework of cultural development until 221 BCE (illustrated, with bibliography); Ping-Ti-Ho, Studies on the Population of China, 1368–1953 (1959, reprinted 1967), is a scholarly study of population growth and of interacting variables, such as migrations, land utilization and tenure, and food-production techniques, with extensive data tables, bibliography, and notes; N.I. Vavilov, The Origin, Variation, Immunity, and Breeding of Cultivated Plants (1951), presents selected writings of one of the world's outstanding contributors to the theory of genetics, plant breeding, and study of plant variation, systematics, and evolution (illustrated, with selected bibliography); J.W. McCrindle, McCrindle's Ancient India: As Described by Megasthenes and Arrian (1877, reissued 1984); Ifran Habib, The Agrarian System of Mughal India (1556–1707) (1963), is an informative text that covers cultivation techniques, crops, land tenure, village communities, and revenue administration; and Andrew M. Watson, Agricultural Innovation in the Early Islamic World (1983), is a systematic, informative overview.

Agriculture in Europe from 200 BCE to 1600 CE
G.E. Fussell, Farming Technique from Prehistoric to Modern Times (1966), is a general review of the history of agricultural tools and techniques, with many illustrations and an extensive bibliography; David Grigg, The Dynamics of Agricultural Change (1982), is a survey of historical sources. Jean Philippe Lévy, The Economic Life of the Ancient World (1967; originally published in French, 1964), describes the various economies of the Greco-Oriental world in the time before Alexander, during the Hellenistic Age, in the early Roman Empire, and also in the later Roman Empire; Fritz M. Heichelheim, An Ancient Economic History, rev. ed., 3 vol. (1958–70; originally published in German, 1938), contains extensive and detailed information on ancient agriculture; see also standard editions of such Classical authors as Cato, Columella, Hesiod, Pliny, Varro, and Xenophon. Georges Duby, Rural Economy and Country Life in the Medieval West (1968, reprinted 1976; originally published in French, 1962), is a classic work on agriculture from the 9th to the 15th century. Also useful are Robert Latouche, The Birth of Western Economy, 2nd ed. (1967, reprinted 1981; originally published in French, 1956); Lynn White, Jr., Medieval Technology and Social Change (1962, reissued 1980); B.H. Slicher Van Bath, The Agrarian History of Western Europe, AD 500–1850 (1963; originally published in Dutch, 1960); and Marc Bloch, French Rural History (1966; originally published in French, 1952–56). Broader surveys include Jerome Blum (ed.), Our Forgotten Past: Seven Centuries of Life on the Land (1982), a well-illustrated collection of essays; and Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie and Joseph Goy, Tithe and Agrarian History from the Fourteenth to the Nineteenth Centuries, trans. from the French (1982), a comparative description of agricultural production in several countries.Lord Ernle (Rowland D. Prothero), English Farming Past and Present, 6th ed. (1961), is a classic work describing six centuries of British agriculture; Christopher Taylor, Village and Farmstead: A History of Rural Settlement in England (1983), analyzes the density of population in Britain in the late Iron Age; and Cesare Longobardi, Land-Reclamation in Italy, trans. from the Italian (1936, reprinted 1975).

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