Agriculture and Civilization


Only with agriculture did humans really become humans. It is when Man lifted himself out of the savage life of foraging: living in caves, searching for food from dawn until dusk, chasing beasts or being chased by them, always hungry and worried where to find the next meal. Thanks to agriculture, we can now devote our abundant free time and energy to erecting great cities, creating art and literature, musing about religions. Agriculture is the defining characteristic of humans and all our achievements followed this one. By controlling and containing our food source, civilization began.

Civilizations rose and fell time and again, in different places at different times, some lasting much longer than others. The two prerequisites for civilization were the human ability to organize and produce food in large quantities. Large amounts of food made large populations possible, but only if they could be effectively organized. From 8000 BCE to 3000 BCE, the earliest settled villages grew into full civilizations in the Middle East, Anatolia, China, India, Iran, and Pakistan. Among the important steps in the movement toward civilization were irrigation, the city-state, trade, metalworking, and writing.

It is not accident that the cradles of civilization were river valleys such as the Nile, Tigris, Euphrates, Indus, and Yellow. The land around these rivers must have been recognized as being rich, but the source of their richness was new soil deposited each year when the rivers flooded. The valleys were not useful to the earliest farmers until they learned to control flooding or adapt to it. The rise of civilization was partly the story of learning to control these rivers and realizing the potential of the land. More is known about the history of the Tigris, Euphrates, and Nile civilizations than others because these areas have been extensively excavated.

The fact that irrigation was accomplished and is a proof that governments and organizations were in place; although it was accomplished before writing appears. Once irrigation was understood and in place, food production soared along the rivers, making these valleys the richest and most populous places on Earth. The relative riches of the area made possible specialization of labor, leisure time, the development of the arts, and the necessity of defense.

Many excavated plants played major roles that changed the history, and that we might be aware of. Some interesting examples are:

  • Trade in black pepper created a need for banking.
  • Hemp was used to manufacture the paper used to write the American Declaration of Independence.
  • Fire-resistant uniforms are manufactured using Eucalyptus.
  • 4.000 kilograms of mulberry leaves are needed to feed silkworms to supply enough yarn to make one blouse.
  • The French Revolution may be traced to the significance of bread and a poor wheat harvest.
  • The opium poppy transformed the history of China.
  • Agave is used in the manufacture of bullets.


About Us

SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
Continue reading

Contact Us

P.O. Box 138, Chatby 21526, Alexandria, EGYPT
Tel.: +(203) 4839999
Ext.: 1737–1781

Become a member

© 2022 | Bibliotheca Alexandrina