Settled Agriculture: Definition & Explanation

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

Settled agriculture began around 8-10,000 B.C. Define and explain settled agriculture, examine the world before farms, the development of settled agriculture, and the ramifications for human development. Updated: 09/12/2021

Before Farms

When you hop on the interstate and travel in one direction for several hours, you often spend the majority of your time passing long rows of crops. Whether it is corn fields in the Midwest, orange groves in Florida, or vineyards in Northern California, large fields of crops cover great swathes of the American countryside. Large-scale farming is a fixture of the American landscape, something so commonplace many people never think twice about it. What many people don't realize, however, is that even the ability to plant a few crops, let alone the billions planted in America each year, is a relatively recent skill of humankind, when considering our approximately 2-million-year history.

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  • 0:02 Before Farms
  • 0:46 Development of Settled…
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Development of Settled Agriculture

Prior to the development of agricultural practices, most communities of humans were hunter-gatherer societies. They were smaller, largely nomadic groups of people who roamed the land foraging for wild berries, fruit and nuts, while also hunting whatever animals they could find for protein. Around 8-10,000 B.C. humans began planting and growing the wild plants which they had been foraging, allowing for more reliable and predictable food sources. Historians and archaeologists have proposed numerous theories as to how, why and where this first occurred, with the main point of contention being whether humans ended their nomadic lifestyle before domesticating crops or vice versa.

However, settled agriculture and the proper domestication of crops likely occurred first in Mesopotamia, in an area in the Middle East called the Fertile Crescent. The development of agriculture came at different times in different parts of the globe. For example, agricultural practices advanced enough for sustained settlement did not develop in the Americas until much later than it had in Mesopotamia, approximately 3,000 B.C.

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