Muukkonen Martti: Emergence of Agriculture - Abstract

Martti Muukkonen (martti.muukkonen (at)

University of Joensuu, Finland



The Classical theory of V. Gordon Childe states that agriculture was born due to the Neolithic revolution that emerged in Near East some 11-10,000 years ago. New data shows, however, that it was rather a long process than a revolution.
First evidence of utilisation of wild crops comes from Levant some 15.000 years ago. With the cooling of the climate during the Younger Dryad people returned to moving hunter-gatherer lifestyle. When the climate again warmed, people started again utilise wild crops. This started the slow try and error domestication process when the new skill spread from Jordan Valley to the rest of the Fertile Crescent. First marks of irrigation agriculture are from the Samarra culture in Mesopotamia circa 5,000 BC and after thousand years it was widely utilised.
Theoretically, there is disagreement why this happened. Competing theories claim for environmental stress, social factors and biological symbiosis. One of the major problems is that hunter-gatherers were better fed and got their food easier than agriculturalists. So why to make life more difficult? In this paper I review existing data on the birth of agriculture and existing theories that explain this data.