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Threshold 7: Agriculture | Big History Project

August 9, 2019

The last Ice Age ended a little
over 10,000 years ago. At that point, human communities in
different parts of the world began using a range
of new technologies to increase the
energy and resources they could extract
from their environments. We call these new technologies
agriculture, and its development is
our seventh threshold. What ingredients
led to this threshold? Well, first, thanks
to collective learning, humans had accumulated vast knowledge
about their environments over many generations. Second, by the end
of the last Ice Age, humans had also settled
all parts of the world. And some began to live
in denser communities. Populations increased and some regions
such as Mesopotamia began to have
about as many people as foraging techniques
could support. Now, more people meant
you had to try to get more food from a given area. So some groups started using
simple forms of irrigation, or they planted wheat, or they herded goats
and cattle for their meat. These experiments were the
beginning of agriculture. Global climates also got warmer and more stable
than ever before. These conditions
made it possible to plant and tend crops
with some confidence that they would yield
abundant harvests. Within a few generations, some
plants and even some animals became domesticated,
or more dependent on humans. And as animals became tastier or more nutritious
or more docile, they became more
attractive to farmers. Farming took off and began
to spread around the world. Agriculture was really a way to increase the
amount of the sun’s energy that was used
by our own species. So humans began
changing the plants, the animals and the
landscapes around them so that they could
use more and more of the products
of photosynthesis. This energy bonanza led
to the creation of villages, of cities and of huge
agrarian civilizations. Eventually, an even
bigger energy bonanza would steer human history
towards threshold number eight, the modern revolution.


  • Reply diam911 October 24, 2013 at 1:47 am

    I would add the information re domesticable animals and domesticable plants from "guns, germs and steel" to goldilock conditions

  • Reply Talal Alshihabi February 28, 2017 at 10:34 pm

    whats gucci

  • Reply Noah Willheim January 19, 2018 at 1:22 pm

    AIS where you at?

  • Reply R.a.w Wood March 6, 2019 at 9:41 pm


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