Early agricultural cultures were the true forerunner of ancient civilizations
Archaeological discoveries made after the Second World War, first in the Old World, and then on the American continent, have proved that the origins of civilization go back to ancient times, during the existence of early agricultural cultures.
The formation of an economy based on agriculture and animal husbandry, and thus associated with the production of food, was a cardinal milestone in the history of mankind. Archaeological finds allow us to assert that this turning point falls on the Neolithic period. Back in the 30s. XX century English archaeologist Gordon Child suggested calling the transition of human society to agriculture and pastoralism the Neolithic Revolution. At the same time, he meant qualitative changes in the economy, similar to the industrial revolution of the 18th-19th centuries.
Transition to agriculture, development of tools and domestication
The transition to agriculture based on the cultivation of highly productive varieties of cereals (wheat, barley, corn, rice), led to sustainability in the provision of food for human collectives, and contributed to population growth. The cyclical nature of agricultural labor limited the time required to provide society with food, laid the foundation for social welfare. With a sedentary lifestyle and the development of specialized industries, living conditions have improved. Huts and semi-dugouts are replaced by solid houses – adobe in the arid zone and frame in the temperate zone. Numerous ornaments made from shells and semi-precious stones are now more and more common in ancient burials. They also contain the first mirrors made of shining obsidian – volcanic glass, and stone palettes, used for the preparation of various cosmetic lapping, which was stored in elegant sea shells. Everyday life is increasingly adorned with richly ornamented earthenware.
The achievements in the intellectual sphere were no less impressive. Spontaneous selection, which changed plant varieties and animal breeds, was gradually consolidated in traditionally repeated techniques, while the agrarian cycle required the systematization of astronomical observations. As a result, positive knowledge was accumulated empirically.
In the field of artistic creation, applied arts are widespread, especially the manufacture of variously decorated ceramics. Many patterns reflect ideas of a cosmogonic nature, illustrating various kinds of myths. On the whole, with the entry into the agricultural era, the spiritual world of man became richer and more diverse.
The transition to new forms of economy, which was followed by cardinal changes in culture, lifestyle and the spiritual sphere, was prepared by a number of reasons. Of paramount importance were the factors that arose in the environment of human society itself. These included, for example, a fairly high level of technology, which distinguished primarily the tools of labor. In this sense, tools were especially effective, in which the working blade formed thin sharp plates of flint or obsidian, inserted into a wooden or bone handle. They became widespread during the Upper Paleolithic and especially the Mesolithic and could be adapted to various types of work.
It was on the basis of the insert technique in the Middle East that such an important tool of farmers, such as the reaping knife or sickle, was created. An indispensable condition for further progress was the presence of a highly developed economic system aimed at appropriating food products by hunting, fishing or gathering. The high density of the population was also significant, at which its further growth based on traditional forms of obtaining food products was either hampered or completely excluded. Finally, the rudiments of positive knowledge were a necessary prerequisite for such a decisive intrusion into the environment as agriculture and cattle breeding became.
Of course, any most successful combination of these factors could become the driving force of progress only under conditions of a favorable natural situation, and above all in the presence of the initial forms of potentially domesticated animals and plants. This factor was decisive in the early stages of the formation of a new type of economy. In the future, conditions favoring the rapid development of highly productive forms of agriculture and animal husbandry began to play an increasing role.
Social and natural factors manifested themselves in different ways in different parts of the world, which, in particular, gave rise to significant differences in the nature of societies and in the cultural complexes they created. However, behind the motley mosaic of archaeological sites, the main trends and patterns are noticeably visible. Both in the Old and New Worlds, highly efficient economic systems are gradually taking shape, the societies that created them begin their rapid ascent along the steps of progress. Now, in the endless world of hunters, fishermen and gatherers, who have mastered almost all natural and climatic zones of the Earth, societies of farmers and farmers-cattle breeders are moving to the forefront of history. It is in their environment that a significant surplus product is created and material and spiritual values are accumulated accordingly. Early agricultural societies,
Centers for the formation of early agricultural cultures
Despite the undoubted and convincing recent discoveries in the field of archeology in the countries of the New World, East and Southeast Asia, the bulk of information that allows us to sufficiently comprehensively study the formation of early agricultural cultures is still supplied by the Middle East and some regions that resort to it.
For Asia Minor itself, at present, we can talk about the three most significant centers of the formation and development of early agricultural cultures.
A special cultural zone in the Middle East was formed by the Jordanian-Palestinian complexes, which are an example of the gradual transformation of the hunting and fishing culture into a society of early farmers and pastoralists. Already in the X-IX thousand BC. here lived the tribes of the so-called Natufian culture. In the foothill areas, they were mainly engaged in hunting and settled their camps in caves and under rock shelters. Fishing played an important role for those living on the shores of lakes. Among the flint implements, a comparatively high percentage were knife inserts intended for harvesting cereal crops. There is no doubt that we are facing a society “on the eve of agriculture.”
Apparently, these innovations were most widespread during the period under review. So, in Syria, 80 km south of Aleppo, the settlement of Muraibit was excavated, where oval dwellings with walls made of stone and plastered with clay were discovered. Inhabitants of Muraibit in the late 9th – early 8th millennia BC were engaged in the collection of wild wheat and barley – during excavations, grains of these plants were found in large quantities.
In the Eastern Mediterranean, a qualitative leap was also made associated with the transition to artificial cultivation of cereals. This led to dramatic changes in culture and lifestyle. Vivid evidence of such changes is the so-called pre-pottery Neolithic of Jericho. To the north of the Dead Sea, in the Jordan Valley, lies the Tell es-Sultan Hill, which is the ruins of the city of Jericho mentioned in the Bible. However, Tell es-Sultan contains not only the remains of a settlement of the 2nd millennium BC. e. Systematic excavations have uncovered here a number of successive layers, combined into two complexes – the pre-ceramic Neolithic A (VIII millennium BC) and the pre-ceramic Neolithic B (VII millennium BC). They are “underlain” by the ruins of the camp of the Natufian community. The collected materials confirm the thesis about the genesis of local culture based on Natufian traditions. The pre-ceramic Neolithic A settlement occupied an area of about 4 hectares and was surrounded by a bypass wall made of stone. Near the wall was a massive round stone tower with a diameter of 7 m and a height of 8 m. Initially, it was assumed that this was a tower of the fortress wall. But obviously, it was a special-purpose structure that combined many functions, including the function of a sentry post to control the surroundings. Behind a stone wall were houses built of adobe bricks. including the function of a sentry post for monitoring the surroundings. Behind a stone wall were houses built of adobe bricks. including the function of a sentry post for monitoring the surroundings. Behind a stone wall were houses built of adobe bricks.
Jericho A, with its strong settlement and developed construction business, is already a typical early agricultural settlement. This, of course, is not yet the “first city”, as it seemed to some researchers when it was discovered, which became an archeological sensation in the 50s. XX century Neither the size nor the poorly differentiated production supports this conclusion. The presence of fortifications speaks not only of a difficult situation of confrontation between different tribes, but also of the accumulation of certain material values.
Further progress is observed in the period of Jericho B. The successes in housebuilding are especially remarkable. Houses acquire a rectangular layout, more appropriate for such building material as mud brick. The main type of housing is now a large rectangular room of about 40 square meters. The floor of the living quarters was covered with lime plaster, often painted red or cream. In one place on the floor, archaeologists even found traces of a simple painting in the form of a plant branch. The walls were also painted in red: up to a meter height there was a red panel, and above the wall had a cream color. Thus, one of the characteristic features of the new era is evident – an increased level of well-being, concern for the improvement of dwellings.
Small figures of people and animals were molded from clay. There were also larger human sculptures, almost life-size. They were molded from clay that covered the frame formed by bundles of reeds and were painted red.
Development also took place in the field of nutrition. Two-grain wheat was spreading more and more, apparently obtained by exchange from more northern regions. Hunting continued to play a significant role, as indicated by the significant number of gazelle bones found during excavations. The bones of a sheep, a goat, a pig, and a donkey were also found (about a goat we can say that this animal was domesticated at that time). The dog, which was a companion of the Palestinian tribes during the time of the Natufian culture, accompanied the inhabitants of Jericho. The third pet was a cat. Its appearance should be directly related to the creation of grain reserves, which needed protection from numerous rodents.
Farmers’ Centers in Asia Minor
Asia Minor should be singled out as a special center of the early agricultural culture of the Middle East, where some features in common with the Jericho tradition can be traced. By the end of the VIII – the beginning of the VII millennium BC. include the lower layers of the Khadzhilar settlement in the southwest of Asia Minor. Here, adobe houses have been excavated, the floors and walls of which are carefully smoothed and polished.
An important monument depicting the gradual formation of an agricultural and cattle-breeding economy is in Asia Minor Cheyunu-Tepesi, dated 7250-6750. BC. and located in Eastern Turkey. As in the Jericho culture, it is characterized by well-appointed houses with finished interiors. The floors of the houses are covered with an even plaster of lime and painted orange-pink. There are clay animal figurines, but no pottery.
The evolution of the economy can be traced quite definitely. The first two phases are characterized by an agricultural and pastoral economy. The only domestic animal was a dog, the main prey of hunters – bison and deer. In the later phases of Cheyunu-Tepesi, the economy becomes more complex. Hunting is being replaced, although not completely replacing it, by the breeding of small ruminants – goats and sheep. The farmers of Cheyunyu-Tepesi cultivated exclusively wheat – both two-grain and one-grain.
The settlement of Cheyunyu-Tepesi, archaic in its appearance, located in the depths of the mountain ranges, demonstrates gradual changes in the methods of obtaining food, the flourishing of early agricultural cultures is best represented by the settlement of Chatal-Huyuk on the fertile Konyan plain, 11 km north of Chumra, dating the second half of the 7th – the first half of the 6th millennium BC At that time, there were more than 20 small settled settlements on the Konya Plain, but it was Chatal-Huyuk, which occupies an area of 13 hectares, that most likely played the role of the capital for the Konyan group of early agricultural tribes.
The basis of his economy was cattle breeding and agriculture. 14 types of plants were cultivated, with preference given to various kinds of wheat, as well as naked barley and peas. Pistachio and almond seeds may indicate that they are derived from vegetable oils. Many seeds of the nettle tree have also been found. It is possible that wine was made from it, which was later spread in Asia Minor. The herd consisted of small and large livestock. But as a kind of legacy of the archaic era, the hunt for the bull and red deer was preserved, often depicted on wall paintings. Notable features of Chatal Huyuk are the flourishing of art and a high level of well-being, reflected both in the decoration of houses and in a set of objects not directly related to production activities.
The settlement was closely built up with small houses built of rectangular mud bricks. Low platforms and benches were made of clay. A number of such houses, with story-related wall paintings and clay reliefs, were sanctuaries. Funeral rites provided for the connection of living and deceased relatives. The remains of the deceased were placed under the floors of dwellings with preliminary cleaning of bones from soft tissues. The parts of the skeleton, processed in this way, were wrapped in mats or fabrics. The items placed in the grave were varied. They reflected a high level of prosperity, which is reflected, in particular, in the almost ubiquitous distribution of personal jewelry. Necklaces, various bracelets, stone hoes, bone spatulas and spoons were placed in women’s burials, stone tops of clubs, daggers,
The main tools of Chatal Huyuk were made of stone. The main raw material for them was obsidian. The inhabitants of the settlement were also familiar with the forging of metal – copper and lead beads speak about this, but this innovation had not yet affected the main weapon complex. There are also bone tools. Earthenware, usually devoid of ornamentation, is relatively scarce. Only in the upper layers does ceramics appear painted with red stripes. The need for utensils was largely satisfied by wooden products, which were found in large quantities in ancient burials. Their forms are varied: flat dishes with curly protrusions-handles, and cups and boxes of various types with tight-fitting lids. The shape of wood and wickerwork also influenced the shape of the clay vessels of Chatal-Huyuk.
The care of the ancient inhabitants of the settlement about their appearance was not limited to decorations alone – it is on Chatal-Huyuk that we find indisputable examples of ancient cosmetics. These are baskets with blush, cosmetic spatulas, obsidian mirrors, fixed in the handle with a lime mass. Ocher was widely used for the toilet. In women’s graves, for example, she is placed in graceful Mediterranean shells mixed with some kind of fatty substance.
Chatal-khuyuk sanctuaries reveal the rich world of early agricultural culture. Along with the painting, the walls were adorned with relief figures sculpted from clay on a reed frame, as in Jericho, or made of wood. Sometimes in these figures (if they depicted animals) skulls of a bull or a ram were mounted. Rows of such horned bullheads were placed on special elevations, giving the sanctuary a rather intimidating look. Stylistically, the murals of Chatal-Huyuk combine the ancient cultural traditions of Stone Age hunters and new trends. Murals that recreate hunting scenes, where numerous figures of beaters surround a bull caught in a trap or overtake a racing deer, are distinguished by lively expression. However, most of the murals in Chatal Huyuk are conditional and schematic.
There are also large reliefs of schematic female figures with arms and legs outstretched in the sanctuaries. They undoubtedly indicate that one of the dominant places in the ancient pantheon was occupied by the deity of fertility in a female form. Sometimes it was emphasized in the reliefs that this figure, as it were, gives life to the head of a bull or a ram. It is possible that the image of a bull was already associated with a male deity. Later, this was traced in a number of ancient Eastern religions. The picture of the cult of the goddess of fertility is complemented by stone and terracotta figurines. Among them, there are many who depict naked women. In one stone relief, the figure of a woman is reproduced standing behind a leopard, possibly considered a sacred animal. There is also a relief showing two leopards facing each other. Also found was a statuette made of marble. He is a seated man with bracelets on his forearms and a headdress made of leopard skin. The special significance of this feline predator in ancient cult beliefs is undoubted.
The Catal Huyuk culture has generated significant debate about its origins. Various interpretations were also given to her. Many Western European researchers call Chatal-Huyuk itself a “neolithic city” or “agro-city”. However, having a significant number of inhabitants (according to different systems of calculation – from 2 to 6 thousand people), Chatal-Huyuk, meanwhile, was not a center of trade or handicraft production. Various types of crafts, with all the perfection of their products, were nothing more than a primitive craft, not related to commodity production. There is no reason to exaggerate the commercial function of this primitive settlement.
At the same time, the middle position in the system of small settlements indicates that Chatal-Huyuk, as the center of an agricultural district, could carry out organizational functions, even play the role of an ideological leader. Settlements of this type stand at the origins of the formation of ancient Eastern cities – a process associated with a long cultural and socio-economic evolution. In Asia Minor, after the desolation of Chatal Huyuk, significant centers appeared only in the 4th-3rd millennia BC. Nevertheless, the Chatal-Huyuk phenomenon is quite indicative as an example of the truly enormous opportunities that the transition to agriculture opened up.
Early agricultural cultures of Northern Mesopotamia and Western Iran
The third important center of the early agricultural cultures of Western Asia was Northern Mesopotamia with the adjacent mountainous regions of Western Iran. Here in the 7th-6th millennia BC. a culture like Jarmo develops. Among its monuments is the Jarmo settlement itself, the opening of which in 1950 marked a new stage in the study of the early agricultural era, as well as Tell Shamshira in the Iraqi part of the Zagros mountains and Tepe-Sorab and Tepe-Guran in the Iranian one.
These were early agricultural settlements with solid adobe houses, the foundations of which were sometimes laid out of stone. Only at the later stages do earthenware, decorated with simple painted ornaments, appear. On the other hand, stone vessels are extremely numerous and varied, which do not disappear even with the appearance of ceramics. Clay was used to make cones and other pieces, most likely intended for games, as well as various animal figurines. Figurines depicting seated obese women with massive hips are also realistic.
The agricultural and pastoralist character of the economy of the inhabitants of the mountain settlement of Jarmo is beyond doubt. Grains of two types of cultivated wheat and one type of barley were found here. There are also wild varieties of barley, peas and lentils. Domestic animals include a goat, in the later stages – and a pig. The relatively constant supply of food provided the Jarmo community with a stable settled life. As a result, seven-meter-thick cultural layers were formed here.
Relatively small settlements of mountain farmers and pastoralists were located in an area where the natural environment facilitated an early transition to new forms of economy, but did not ensure their rapid rise. Thus, the presence of extensive thickets of wild-growing grasses did not stimulate active selection searches for new breeds.
The situation was different on the plain, where there are settlements with a more expressive culture. One of these settlements is Tel Magzaliya in northern Iraq, near Mosul (on the Sinjar Plain), discovered by a Soviet expedition. The cultural layers of this monument are almost 8 m thick. The adobe houses were built on stone foundations. In conditions of a flat relief, defense acquired special significance. Therefore, the settlement of Tel-Magzaliya was surrounded by a wall made of massive stones, it had a tower and specially designed gates. Thus, with the onset of the agricultural era, a special branch of the construction business was formed – the primitive fortification.
At the same time, the cultural traditions of the East and West crossed on the Sinjar Plain. This can be seen already from the materials of the early agricultural complex of the Umm Dabagiya – Tel Sotto type, dating back to the end of the 7th – beginning of the 6th millennium BC. The adobe houses with alabaster floors reflect the beautification trend common to the era as a whole. Earthenware is very peculiar. It is decorated with simple painting with moldings, often made in the form of figures of people and animals. This unusual tableware differs markedly from the ceramics of the cultures of both the Zagrossian and Asia Minor areas.
The transition to new forms of economy, which gave such a significant effect, took place among tribal groups with different cultural traditions. With the discovery of more and more new monuments, archaeologists have the opportunity to consider this most important event in world history not only as a general pattern, but also as a concrete historical process. Thus, in the mountainous regions of Western Iran, monuments have been discovered whose culture is very different from Jarmo. Such is, for example, Ganji-Depe, 37 km from the city of Kermanshah, dating back to the second half of the 8th – early 7th millennium BC. Its inhabitants have already moved to a firm settledness, as evidenced by the thickness of cultural layers – 8 m. Figures of people, animals and a kind of pottery, not at all reminiscent of Jarmo’s ceramics, were made from clay.
Another direction of cultural development in the VII-VI millennium BC established for Southwest Iran by excavations of such a multi-layered village as Ali-Kosh. It, like Tel Magzalia, is located in the foothill zone. Houses, starting from the lowest layers, were erected from adobe bricks, and their interior was often enlivened by coloring in red. The process of economic evolution is interesting, depicting a gradual change in the agricultural and cattle-breeding economy, developing forms that are optimal for a given natural environment. Already in the lower layers, along with the collection of wild-growing cereals, the cultivation of cultivated species – wheat and barley, as well as the breeding of goats are practiced. Agriculture is gradually replacing gathering and becomes irrigated. Changes in the flora and the appearance of massive stone hoes indicate channeling.
Early farmers of Europe
The early agricultural cultures of Europe in the light of new discoveries look as ancient as the agricultural centers of the Middle East. True, the stages of the gradual emergence of food production through the cultivation of cereals and the raising of livestock, which we observe in the Eastern Mediterranean, are not yet traced here. Moreover, there is reason to believe that small ruminants and a number of wheat and barley varieties entered the Balkans through early agricultural crops in Asia Minor. In any case, in the south of the Balkans already in the VI millennium BC. villages of sedentary farmers and pastoralists with adobe houses are represented, such as Nea Nicomedia west of Thessaloniki in Macedonia and Karanovo in southern Bulgaria. The physical world of the early agricultural Balkan cultures of the 6th-4th millennium BC is distinguished by a special richness of ornamented ceramics and expressive terracotta sculpture. The Balkan Center undoubtedly played a stimulating role in the spread of agriculture on the European mainland. But he himself, for a number of reasons, in the 4th millennium BC. experienced a significant internal crisis and, apart from Crete and the Peloponnese, there was no formation of civilization as a natural result of the economic and cultural evolution of early agricultural communities.
Early farmers in the former USSR
In the territory of the former USSR, there are three centers of early agricultural and pastoral cultures:
- southwestern, covering the territory of Moldova and southwestern Ukraine,
- Central Asian.
Along with local traditions, there is a close connection with the most ancient centers of Western Asia – the North Mesopotamian and partially, through the Balkan medium, with the Asia Minor.
Then the typical settled agricultural culture of Central Asia was the Dzheytun culture, covering the southern regions of Turkmenistan and partly northeastern Iran. It belongs to the VI millennium BC. e. and characterizes the society of sedentary farmers, herders. Barley and two varieties of wheat were sown in the fields located in the lower reaches of the foothill rivers and streams. Agriculture was almost the main occupation of the Dzheytun people. In any case, in every house there were sickles with flint inserts, the number of which in some villages was up to 30-40% of the total number of found stone bone tools. Domestic animals included goats, which were then added to sheep and cattle.
The houses of the Dzheytun settlements have much in common with the dwellings of the settled farmers of Western Asia. Square in plan, they occupied from 14 to 40 sq. m. each of them adjoins a small utility yard and outbuildings. House floors were usually covered with lime plaster and painted red or black. The walls were sometimes painted in the same colors. There was a large wall hearth inside the house.
In the center of one of the Dzheytun settlements – Pessedzhik-Depe – a structure has been excavated, twice the size of the largest houses. Its walls are covered with multicolored murals depicting ungulates and felines, possibly leopards. There are also geometric shapes. Most likely this is a communal sanctuary. An extensive courtyard and a granary adjoined it. It is possible that already at this stage the priesthood began to perform the function of economic leadership, and the reserve seed fund of the community was concentrated at the sanctuary. Yielding in wealth to Chatal-Huyuk, the Jeytun settlements, at the same time, carry the same features of cultural development, which speak of an increase in prosperity. There are numerous beads and pendants in the form of animal figurines, small clay figurines of animals and puffy matrons. True, the stage of stone and wooden dishes is left behind – in everyday life, pottery decorated with paintings, mainly geometric motifs, is widespread. The traditions of the Dzheytun culture formed the basis for the further development of the early agricultural society in the south of Central Asia. Sometimes the Dzheytun monuments reveal connections with the Jarmo culture.
A number of early agricultural complexes were discovered by Soviet archaeologists in the Caucasus. Excavations of the Chokh cave in Dagestan show that here already in the 7th-6th millennia BC. the first steps were taken to cultivate local cereals, the harvest of which was harvested with reaping knives with flint inserts. In the VI-V millennium BC. Central Transcaucasia along the Kura valley was developed by sedentary farmers and herders, whose culture was named Shomu-tepe-Shulaveri. Small villages consisted of adobe buildings, usually round. This archaic tradition, enshrined in raw architecture, was preserved in Transcaucasia for several millennia. Earthenware has a well-known originality: small moldings were used for ornamentation, less often – scratched lines. Sometimes elegant painted vessels came from the southern regions. Figures of animals and anthropomorphic figurines were made of clay and stone. Copper products were gradually produced. In any case, there is now no doubt that an independent center of early agricultural cultures has developed in the Caucasus, although it is distinguished by a certain archaism.
Centers of civilizations in South and East Asia
Discoveries of the 70s and early 80s XX century showed that the named cardinal changes, albeit in varying degrees, but in a relatively early period also occurred in South, East and Southeast Asia.
So, on the northwestern outskirts of the Indo-Pakistani subcontinent, in the mountainous regions of Baluchistan, the settlement of Mehrgarh was discovered (VI millennium BC). In the early stages, there was an economy of farmers and hunters, partially supplemented by the gathering of wild-growing cereals. It is noteworthy that it was hunting that delivered the bulk of the protein product. Among the animals caught were a gazelle, a ram, a goat, a water buffalo, an onager and even an elephant. Perhaps the first domesticated animal, as almost everywhere, was the goat. In the layers of the middle of the 6th millennium BC. the main domestic animals are already presented – a goat, a sheep and a zebu-shaped bull. The inhabitants of Mehrgarh lived in solid adobe houses. Large storage facilities were also discovered, possibly concentrating grain. Widespread beads made here, in the settlement, from semi-precious stones, for example turquoise, and from shells. Among the latter are shells taken from the Indian Ocean and brought to Mehrgarh. Earthenware appears relatively late, but, as in Western Asia, it is decorated with colorful patterns.
Now we have to consider the history of the tribes that lived in the 6th-5th millennia BC in a new way. in the Ganges valley. At that time, there were small villages of hunters and gatherers who used flint tools and made rough pottery decorated with relief ornamentation. But in clay shards, imprints of grains of cultivated rice were found (they are found along with wild varieties). In the context of specialized gathering, when villages consisting of huts were located near flooded low-lying areas with thickets of wild rice, the first steps were taken to cultivate this crop in fields created by nature itself. However, with a low level of development of tools and social organization, complex irrigated agriculture, which could provide high yields of rice, did not develop here. The economic complex of the tribes of the Ganges valley of the 6th-5th millennium BC can be considered as a hunter-gatherer with an agricultural way.
Apparently, the most ancient agriculture in Southeast Asia could function in the role of such an economic structure within the framework of the traditional archaic economy. It was not based on cereal varieties, but on the cultivation of so-called full vegetation plants. During the excavation of the “Cave of the Spirits” in Thailand in the layers of the X-VII thousand BC. together with rough stone tools, plant remains were found, some of which have clear signs of artificial cultivation. These are beans, peas, plums, betel nut, and later – beans, peppers, cucumbers, and bottle gourd. Wild varieties predominate, but domestication has begun.
The center of early agriculture in the middle reaches of the Yellow River, wherein the 4th-3rd millennia BC, is distinguished by its deep originality. the cultures of the early farmers, known from the 1920s, flourished. XX century under the general name “Yangshao culture”. Well-maintained frame houses, elegantly painted ceramics, and various decorations testify to a new way of life. The rich diversity of the composition of cultivated crops, where the main role was played by the millet of the chumiza, testifies to the independent development of this center of ancient agriculture. The earliest stages in the development of early agricultural cultures in China have now been discovered, dating back to the 6th-5th millennium BC.
Early American civilizations
The origins of early agricultural culture were also discovered in the New World. In pre-Columbian America, as you know, two groups of society reached the stage of civilization – in Mesoamerica and ancient Peru, where the Inca empire was only a legacy of earlier traditions. In both of these centers, successive stages of the birth and development of early agricultural societies are now found.
Already at the end of the 3rd – beginning of the 2nd millennium BC. In Central America, a number of local groups of early agricultural communities are being formed, within which intensive development is taking place. Earthenware is becoming more perfect and more diverse, it is increasingly decorated with ornamentation – applied art is firmly entering the life and everyday life of the early farmers of Mesoamerica. Clay figurines appear mainly reproducing naked women, whose images, like in other early agricultural centers, were associated with the cult of fertility. There are also figurines depicting birds and animals. Artistic culture is becoming one of the important achievements of the new era of Mesoamerican civilizations.
Archaeological research carried out in the mountainous regions of Peru since the end of the 60s. XX century, clearly showed that here, too, a gradual formation of the agricultural economy and the early agricultural complex takes place relatively early. Cultural layers in caves in the Ayacuch regions made it possible to trace the introduction of cultivated plants into everyday life in the 7th-3rd millennium BC.
Initially, these were varieties that were not essential for the diet – pepper, gorlyankovy tree, the fruits of which were used as vessels, and a shrub containing a red pigment, which is widely used in everyday life. We can talk about a kind of technological “discovery of agriculture”, which did not yet play a significant role in the food balance of the ancient population. But in the second half of the VI millennium BC. already there are plants that have nutritional value, in particular quinoa and edible pumpkin. Finally, from the end of the 5th millennium BC. e. maize begins to be cultivated, which becomes one of the main crops of agriculture in Peru.
Research by specialists has shown that maize is a special kind of corn, widespread in Peru and markedly different from the plants cultivated by Mesoamerican farmers. This fact is important evidence of the independent origin of the two main centers of ancient agriculture in the New World. In addition to corn, beans and cotton were grown. Apparently, the hill tribes also bred llamas, which served as an important help in the economy, but, unlike the Old World, cattle breeding did not play a particularly significant role in the economic and cultural evolution of local societies in the pre-Columbian era.
The origins of our civilization
Even a brief overview shows how diverse was the movement of human society along the path of progress. Various economic systems took shape, but this does not obscure the general laws of development. The transition to food production, and primarily to agriculture, was an important milestone in the history of mankind. It was in the zone of early agricultural cultures that the centers of the first civilizations were formed, and many of the successes of early agricultural communities became harbingers of the achievements of subsequent eras. In the environment of early agricultural societies, effective economic systems are created that provide a significant surplus product. This system was primarily irrigated agriculture.
In areas where artificial irrigation of fields developed, there was a noticeable cultural and social progress. Agricultural labor in general and irrigated agriculture, in particular, contributed to the consolidation, development, and strengthening of such a form of the social organization of society as a community. At the same time, the complication of the social structure, the specialization of activities, the accumulation of wealth were prerequisites for social and property differentiation. For the history of world culture, intellectual development was especially important, the intensity of which sharply increased with the onset of the agricultural era.
However, by no means everywhere in the zone of early agricultural cultures, there is a direct transition to the next most important milestone in world history – civilization, which is closely related to the development of early class society and the state. Only in those centers where the productivity of agriculture was especially significant, and the rates of social development are high, we observe this process. In the arid zone, irrigated agriculture has become a highly efficient system of food production, and we see how, with the development of irrigation, civilization is being born in the valleys of great rivers, primarily in Egypt and Mesopotamia. Complex economic systems, large population centers that are turning into cities, require more and more development of managerial functions. The emergence of social inequality, primarily the emerging institution of hereditary leaders-rulers and priests, necessarily led to the assertion of social inequality, consolidated by both ideological and violent means. The primitive equality of early agricultural communities, which created outstanding works of applied art and actually began to climb the steps of civilization, is being replaced by inequalities affirmed by everyday life and in funeral rites. The complex and contradictory path of historical progress is approaching a new qualitative milestone.