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Stone Age Farming & Farm Equipment

Instructor: Tommi Waters

TK Waters has a bachelor's degree in literature and religious studies and a master's degree in religious studies and teaches Hebrew Bible at Western Kentucky University.

Farming is a relatively new invention for humanity, but the creation of the agricultural lifestyle is relatively recent for human history. You can learn more about how farming developed, what it was like, and what tools were used in this lesson.

The First Farmers

Farms may seem to have always been around from the beginning of humanity: even ancient civilizations like Egypt had farms. But farms did not always exist. In fact, out of several millennia, farming only started around 12,000 years ago! In the Stone Age, the first period of human history, humans began as scavengers, then hunter-gatherers. It was not until the Mesolithic Age (the middle period of the Stone Age) that there was a transition from this early nomadic lifestyle, moving from place to place and living in non-permanent settlements, to a more settled lifestyle. The Neolithic Age, the final period of the Stone Age, saw the true birth of civilizations and farming. This was the so called ''Neolithic Revolution'' as it drastically changed the way of life for most of humanity. Let's take a look at how farming developed during this period and what tools farmers used.

The Rise of Agriculture

Why did farming start in the first place? While humans could hunt and gather for their food, it was not always reliable. Eventually, people started planting some of the goods they foraged in their villages so they could ensure their reproduction. This idea took over and as villages transitioned to full-fledged cities and civilizations, actual farms were created by cutting down forests. Cultivating crops was not the only way farming took place though - the Neolithic people also domesticated and raised animals. We call the cumulative of all of these things (preparation of soil, planting crops, and raising animals) agriculture, and the Neolithic Age saw the rise of agricultural based societies.

Though later than the Stone Age, this Egyptian tomb painting of agricultural practices exemplifies Stone Age farming well
Egyptian tomb painting of agricultural practices

Farming Around the World

Just like today, farming in the Stone Age had the same basics, but varied in crops and animals in different places. In the ancient Near East, grains and cereals, like barley and wheat, were common. There is archaeological evidence of this with the grinding stones used to process the grains into flour, used for bread. In an area called the Fertile Crescent of the ancient Near East, a variety of animals were raised for food, milk, and clothing. Goats and sheep, of course, were abundant, but there were also cattle and pigs in the Fertile Crescent as well.

In other areas of the world, different crops were cultivated. The association of China with rice dates all the way back to this time period as Stone Age people in this region learned how to grow rice in mass using early forms of paddies that are partially filled with water. Across the hemisphere in Mexico, people were growing very different crops. Stone Age people in this area grew food quite specific to South and North America: beans, squash, and corn (at least an early form of corn).

Rice paddies being cared for in Japan
Picture of worker in rice paddies

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