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Food Security: Rethinking The Agricultural Revolution

Food Security: Rethinking The Agricultural Revolution

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The Agricultural, or Neolithic (New-Stone Age) Revolution , marks the birth of modern civilization. Traditional wisdom says that is when we started to become us. That is when we began to grow crops, build cities, develop trade routes, practice specialized crafts and skills, and start the process of becoming the fully evolved species that we have become. That is when we began to move away from being primitive, perhaps even brutish, hunter gatherers who lived on a subsistence diet, constantly on the brink of starvation. That is when we began to conquer and subdue our environment. It was the beginning of a time of great progress and enlightenment. Or was it?

Detail of a miniature of a man ploughing with oxen. Image taken from Bestiary. Written in Latin and French. (Public Domain)

Which Came First Building Or Agriculture?

Is it time to re-examine what we have all been taught for so long that it is now fully ingrained in our thinking to the point where we scarcely question it anymore? Dare we re-examine such a basic, underlying “fact” of anthropological history? And, to take the idea one step further, did the Agricultural Revolution represent a step forward in our evolution, or was it instead a detriment — a dead end path that, so far at least, has kept us from our real goal of becoming fully evolved, spiritual beings?

This is a radical, but increasingly important, way of thinking that is gathering momentum among serious academics who are increasingly worried about out-of-control population growth. The current, traditional, and generally accepted academic opinion states: When our ancestors joined together to build great megalithic complexes around the world, such as Göbekli Tepe in Anatolia, Eridu, Uruk, and Ur in Mesopotamia, Luoyang on China’s central plain, and other ancient cities in various eras, they needed to provide a stable food supply for what soon became a burgeoning population. The debate continues as to which came first, building or agriculture. In other words, did the development of agriculture lead to a sedentary population who soon graduated to an urban civilization? Or did urban civilization create the necessity of agriculture?

From the royal tombs of Ur, the Standard of Ur mosaic, made of lapis lazuli and shell, shows peacetime. (Public Domain)

Most academics are inclined to theorize the former, rather than the latter, explanation. It seems logical to assume that the change to large-scale agriculture led to the growth of cities. But it is important to remember that this became the accepted theory because it seems logical, not because it is necessarily deduced from the archaeological record.


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Jim Willis is author of several books on religion and spirituality, he has been an ordained minister for over forty years while working part-time as a carpenter, the host of his own drive-time radio show, an arts council director and adjunct college professor in the fields of World Religions and Instrumental Music. He is the author of Hidden Histories: Ancient Aliens and the Secret Origins of Civilization

Top Image: The Harvesters by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1565) Brussels (GattoCeliaco /CC BY-SA 4.0)

By Jim Willis



Warwick Lewis's picture

The concept that primitive people have a greater spiritual connection is hard to justify.
So is the assertion that superstition and magic are more evolved than modern science and logic.
When you get sick do you consult a shaman to drive out the evil spirits ??
Or do you go to a modern hospital for science based treatment ??
Everywhere I see this criticism of western culture.
Would you really prefer to live at the mercy of nature ??
Living on the seasonal whims of the environment.

Archeology finds that primitive people suffered periodic malnourishment, painful wounds, infections and parasitic infestations.
Shamans and witchdoctors used ineffective and sometimes even detrimental cures.
Chasing out demons or noxious vapours without addressing the real cause of distress.

The propaganda that primitive people had some kind of perfect knowledge that allowed them to live in a harmonious symbiotic relationship with nature is completely not true.
Most foods were only available for a short season.
A good meal was hard won the stakes were life or death.
Much of what was eaten was flavorless or unpalatable.
Nature is an unreliable provider.
In good years there was plenty but in bad years the people starved.
In season you got enough fresh greens out of season you subsisted on dried or smoked meat and fish.
This was not a healthy diet or a particularly tasty one.

Romantisizing about the hard unpredictable life of our ancestors does not alter the facts.
We have got here because our forebears learned better ways of doing things.
They did not give up the life of nomadic hunters without good reason.


jim willis's picture


After graduating from the Eastman School of Music, Jim Willis became a high school band and orchestra teacher during the week, a symphony trombonist on the weekends, a jazz musician at night and a choral conductor on Sunday mornings. ... Read More

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