The historical expansion of agriculture
Chart Hatchet
5000 av. J. – C. – XVIe century

Appearance of agriculture

It is between -10 ‘ 000 and -8 ‘ 000 that humanity discovers, simultaneously in several areas, agriculture, then the breeding. Agriculture is the result of handling, conscious or unconscious, of wild plants gathered and selected for their nutritional qualities. The Middle East chose several corn species and the barley, Asia rice and the millet, Africa the sorghum and the millet. New tools (sickles, hoes, sticks to be excavated, grinding stones, serrated rollers and later swing-plow) accompany these changes. The ceramics, appeared towards -6 ‘ 000, forms also part of the Neolithic panoply. The breeding is the result of an increasing familiarity with animal species which were the subject hitherto of a preferential hunting: in the Middle East, they are initially the goats and the sheep, then the ox and the pig. The dog, domesticated individually as of -12 ‘ 000, could play a part not only for hunting, but also for the lowering of the herds. The breeding allows the use of the dairy products and the exploitation of the fleeces transformed into fabrics.

This “Neolithic revolution” which transforms the man into Master of nature is accompanied by other changes, of a psychological or social nature: the half-sunken round houses of the hunters-gatherers make place at the large rectangular houses, built on an arranged basement. The urban areas are structured: a “Community building” (meeting room, house of the men, houses of deaths?) is distinguished from the ordinary houses. A couple of “divinities” settles: a female divinity, represented naked, the hands supporting the chest, is associated to a male divinity initially represented in an animal form (the bull), then soon, human. All let us panthéons them Eastern posterior will be resulting from this couple founder. The whole of these “inventions” definitively acquired in the whole of the Middle East towards -7 ‘ 000 are transmitted then to the whole of Europe.

Since the north of the Middle East (Raising, high valleys of the Tiger and Euphrate) these populations conquer also new grounds where agriculture is not possible that thanks to an artificial contribution of water (irrigation by channels) making up the deficit in rain: Mésopotamie Southerner becomes from -4 ‘ 000 the crucible of the first urban companies whose major contribution with the history of humanity is represented, in particular, by the invention of the writing.


The wild cereals which, in the Middle East, pushed with the feet of the forests of oak then covering the piémonts of Taurus and Zagros, initially were the subject of a gathering before being sown in the fields near the villages. The barley, the corn engrain and the corn starch manufacturer are the oldest cereals put in culture towards -8 ‘ 000. The starch manufacturer is the ancestor of the durum wheat which, today still, is consumed in the form of semolina or of pasta products. The common wheat, which is used to manufacture the bread, is, him, the result of a probably involuntary crossing of durum wheat with weeds.

The cereals were and remain the base of human food (pulps, wafers), but also of the first pets (straw, ball).

The breeding

The first pet is the dog, as of -12 ‘ 000. Later towards -8 ‘ 000, after having vainly tried to convince the gazelle, the man domesticates the goat, then the sheep. Then the ox comes. These three species live in herds, provide dairy produces and, for the two first, their fleece which can be woven. The third offer of the possibilities of bearing and traction, in particular for the swing-plow. Moreover, these ruminants are complementary to the man, because they are satisfied for their food with the parts of the cereals (straw, ball) that the man does not consume itself (grains).

Agricultural tools

Even if some of them are also used for the gathering, the first agricultural tools are the knives to be harvested, with rectilinear handle, replaced soon by the sickles, with curved sleeve. In all the cases, the sharp elements are end to end put flint blades.

To work the ground, one uses the stick to be excavated, ballasted of a block of stone threaded at the base, or the hoe with handle out of wooden and flint blade which makes it possible moreover to dig irrigation canals. The swing-plow, out of wood, appears only later. The treatment of the cereals (crushing) requires the use of grinding stones and serrated rollers.


It is towards -6 ‘ 000 that the first terra cotta containers make their appearance. Several techniques allow working of the argillaceous paste made malleable by a water addition: digging of a mound, assembly with the wad. The potter’s wheel probably does not appear before -3 ‘ 000. The cooking of the vases is done in open surface (piled up vases covered with fuel), then, very quickly, in a furnace where the control of the temperature is easier.

The first vases are used for the conservation, the preparation or the consumption of food. They replace in these uses of the perishable material containers (goatskin bottles in skin, vases out of wooden).

Weaving and basket making

The domestication of the first animal species (goats, sheep) allows the transformation of the fleeces by spinning (spindle) then weaving (horizontal trade) of wool. The first woven vegetable fibers are the flax. The seam is carried out using needles with eye in bone, known since the end of paleolithic to sew the skins. Basket making transforms other vegetable fibers (reeds, snap rings) into plaits or baskets.


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