Introduction be attributed to five main factors including topics


            The shift from a lifestyle reliant on hunting and
gathering to one of practicing agricultural competencies began approximately “10,000
years” (p.103) ago according to Brown, Jones, Powell and Allaby. This
transition can be attributed to five main factors including topics such as
availability of wild resources, development of technology, population
influence, and geography. While these factors were a driving force in the
transition of an individual enacting the role of hunter-gatherer to the role of
agriculturalist they did not impact all areas of the globe on an independent scale
nor did they impact them all at the same time. Factors such as climate,
availability of wild ancestors, and cultural ideals all played a role in the
independent development of agriculture in the different areas of the world. The
following explores in greater detail the many factors in the shift from
hunting-gathering to agriculture and the locations in which this shift
independently emerged.

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Exploration of Key Terms

            To better understand aspects of the shift from hunting
and gathering to agriculture it is important to understand the definitions for
these terms in context of the topic. Agriculture or “food production” (p. 84)
as Jared Diamond also refers to it in his book Guns, Germs, and Steel, is “domesticating wild animals and plants
and eating the resulting livestock and crops” (p. 82). Hunting and gathering in
contrast mainly relates itself to killing wild animals, catching fish and other
water specimens and foraging for wild berries, vegetables and roots to eat.
These two terms are also described as “alternative strategies competing with
each other” (p. 105).



The BIG Five

            As explored by Diamond (1997) the first two significant
factors in the shift from hunting and gathering to agriculture are very closely
related. These two factors are the decline of available wild food and the
depletion of wild game. The depletion of wild game is thought to have occurred
due to climate change and highly effective hunters killing many of the big
mammals. Being able to obtain less from hunting made the role of hunter and
gatherer less appealing and less reward was being reaped. Climate change
although thought to harm wild animals is related to a positive movement for
agriculture as it allowed for more desirable growing conditions and made
farming more rewarding (p. 105-106).

            The third factor in “the shift” is the development of
technologies. Such technologies allowed for more efficient harvesting,
processing and storage of wild food items. The most noteworthy technologies
included the sickle for grain harvesting, baskets for transporting grain,
mortars and pestles for processing grain so that it did not germinate, and
underground storage either waterproof or not. This factor was an unconscious
act on behalf of hunters and gathers towards the domestication of wild plants
(Diamond, 1997, p. 106).

            The “two-way link” (p. 107) as termed by Diamond
describes how the rise of human population and the rise in food production go
hand in hand. He also uses the term “autocatalytic process – one that catalyzes
itself in a positive feed back cycle” (p. 107) to describe how the rise in
population causes the need to obtain more food and those who were unconsciously
participating in agricultural practices were rewarded with the needed food,
these people became “sedentary” ( Bennett, ND, p.3) and produce more people and
thus again required more food.  All of
these steps on the loop play a role in what we define as agriculture.

            The final factor in the shift from hunting and gathering
to agriculture is geography. The large population of those settled individuals,
who were participating in agriculture, allowed them to attack hunter gatherers
keeping them off the land. Technology and advances in agricultural practices
gave producers advantages in creating food. And as a result, hunter-gatherers
were left with the choice to become displaced or adopt food production as their
new mean to provide themselves with food, fuel and fiber (Diamond, 1997, p.

Independent Development

            To answer the question of why agriculture arose
independently in some areas and then later in other areas Diamond (1997)
reviews the two observations of either there were problems with the wild plants
of the land or that there were problems with the people of the land (p. 126). These
two explanations depend on the location of the land, lands with prime climate
and many easily domesticated wild resources were thought to have a cultural
issue and those lands with subpar climate were thought to have a wild resource

            There are five areas that were considered to have
developed agriculture independently and they include the Fertile Crescent, China,
Mesoamerica, the Andes of South America and the eastern United States. (Diamond,
1997, p. 94). These locations all had a climate that was supportive of
different wild crops that could be domesticated. While some of these crops were
more readily domesticated than others, for example the readily domesticated
wild strains of wheat domesticated much faster than the wild ancestors of corn.
This eagerness or lack there of is one explanation for why some lands developed
agriculture faster than others.

            It should be noted that many lands did not reach the
ability to develop agriculture on their own because they did not have the wild
resources present to domesticate although they did have fertile lands. Many
regions relied on the introduction of founder crops from other agricultural established
regions to begin their journey towards agriculture and away from hunting and



            The many factors that drove the transition from hunting
and gathering to agriculture did so in a way that they made hunting and
gathering less rewarding and made agricultural practice more rewarding. The
factors of less available wild resources, technology, geography and linkage
made sure that humans developed a system that was more reliable in feeding, clothing
themselves and producing other goods. The independent development of agriculture
relied heavily on the climate, available wild resources and peoples of the
region. All together the combined factors of shift and the independent development
of agriculture assured that the regions around the world adopted agriculture.



Bennett, B.C. (N.D.) Plant domestication and the origins of
agriculture. Miami, FL: Florida


Brown, T.A., &
Jones,M.K., & Powell, W., & Allaby, R. G. (2008) The complex origins of

crops in the fertile crescent. Trends in
Ecology and Evolution, 24, 103

Diamond, J. (1997) Guns, germs, and steel. New York, London : W.W. Norton & Company