View Full Version : The history of agriculture (in a nutshell)


Sodak
Jan 08, 2002, 10:59 PM
It is accepted that agriculture sprang up independently in several regions of the world, altho each area had its own techniques, plants, and domesticated animals. Some good works have been done to determine what plants or animals originated where.

Where
Many places can be cited as probably sources of major crops. These are identified in different ways. For any plant, genetics is often a key. Most every domesticated plant has wild relatives. Where these grow, and in what conditions, often can narrow down a plant origin to a general geographic area. With seed crops, pollen can tell where a certain plant has grown. Other clues involve cropping techniques and linguistics. Contrary to armchair ideas, agriculture most likely did not begin on floodplains or river valleys. Later techniques allowed these areas to become the most productive, but not at the start. Rather, hills and open woodlands provided both the ideal locations and plants for agriculture to begin. The earliest techniques were probably the use of cuttings to grow a new plant. Seed agriculture followed.

Animal domestication can be pinpointed by archaeological and historical records. However, rapid dispersal can muddle any real conclusions. Some traits add clues to how domestication dispersed. For instance, most southeast Asian domestics were household animals, while those from the middle east were herding animals. Where such practices differ tells whence the domestication came.

For plants, southeast Asia and eastern India, Central America, the highlands from Turkey thru Iran, and Ethiopia are all prime areas considered to be centers of origin. The former two for cutting agriculture, the latter two for seed agriculture. Ethiopia is also a staging point into which many Asian domestics found their way into Africa.

The QUIZ!
Plants
1) This perennial seed plant from India has been harvested in Asia for eons using cutting techniques. The plant adapts fine and is now the world's primary grain (I think...). It has been found in neolithic settlements as far from its origin as northern China.
2) This medicinal plant originated in the Andes, and was used primarily for shamanism and ceremony, as drinking it caused hallucinations. A milder species has been cultivated for many centuries for less serious use.
3) 3 of the oldest Mediterranean domesticates are all trees. All 3 are reproduced with cuttings, not seeds. What are they? (Hint: The fruit of one is my favorite dessert, and originated in either India or Arabia.)
4) Bananas are now grown around the world. Where was this tropical fruit originally domesticated?
5) This central american grain spread quickly throughout North America, likely due to its hardiness and high nutritional value. It became so important to the sedentary Indians that it took a place in most pantheons, playing a key role in creation stories. Today it is one of the world's most important crops, producing food, fuel, and materials for a dizzying array of uses.
6) This central or south american bean was originally used as a special beverage. Europeans added sugar, et voila! The world's most popular non-nutritive food. What is it? (It is technically not domesticated, but is controlled and harvested)
7) Rubber is a naturally occurring sap of the rubber tree (duh). Tho guarded, it was eventually smuggled from its original extents to another, equally hospitable place, which surpasses the source as a rubber producer. Whence does rubber come, and where is it now primarily produced? (Bonus ?s: Who smuggled it? What color is it?)
8) Sorghums and lentils are grown throughout the old world, and have several origin areas. However, most of both types of plant come from one region. Where?
9) Wheat, originating in Syria, was one of the earliest grain crops. Two other plants grew with it in southwest Asia, but dispersed as weeds. Once wheat was brought to northern europe, where it does not grow well, the former weeds found themselves the dominant plants in agriculture. What two important grains are former wheatfield weeds?
10) What would the world be like without booze? Wine comes from grapes, beer usually from barley. In what 2 highland areas were these originally domesticated?

If there is interest, I will make a follow up quiz about spices...

Knight-Dragon
Jan 08, 2002, 11:36 PM
1) This perennial seed plant from India has been harvested in Asia for eons using cutting techniques. The plant adapts fine and is now the world's primary grain (I think...). It has been found in neolithic settlements as far from its origin as northern China.Rice.
3) 3 of the oldest Mediterranean domesticates are all trees. All 3 are reproduced with cuttings, not seeds. What are they? (Hint: The fruit of one is my favorite dessert, and originated in either India or Arabia.)Grapes, olive.
4) Bananas are now grown around the world. Where was this tropical fruit originally domesticated?The Americas.
5) This central american grain spread quickly throughout North America, likely due to its hardiness and high nutritional value. It became so important to the sedentary Indians that it took a place in most pantheons, playing a key role in creation stories. Today it is one of the world's most important crops, producing food, fuel, and materials for a dizzying array of uses.Maize.
6) This central or south american bean was originally used as a special beverage. Europeans added sugar, et voila! The world's most popular non-nutritive food. What is it? (It is technically not domesticated, but is controlled and harvested)Coffee.
7) Rubber is a naturally occurring sap of the rubber tree (duh). Tho guarded, it was eventually smuggled from its original extents to another, equally hospitable place, which surpasses the source as a rubber producer. Whence does rubber come, and where is it now primarily produced? (Bonus ?s: Who smuggled it? What color is it?)Comes fr Brazil; stolen by the British and transplanted to West Malaysia. Now Msia is one of the biggest producers of natural rubber. I think the rubber sap is white in color. (I'm Malaysian! ;))
10) What would the world be like without booze? Wine comes from grapes, beer usually from barley. In what 2 highland areas were these originally domesticated?Earliest wine and beer found in Mesopotamia. The highlands north of Mesopotamia (i.e. Iraq)?

Knight-Dragon
Jan 08, 2002, 11:43 PM
8) Sorghums and lentils are grown throughout the old world, and have several origin areas. However, most of both types of plant come from one region. Where?I think this would be China.

Sodak
Jan 09, 2002, 08:44 AM
Originally posted by Knight-Dragon
1) Rice.
Correct!
Originally posted by Knight-Dragon
3) Grapes, olive.
The olive is one of the three. The grape is not a tree, and was domesticated later, as shown by dietary remains/clues in Greece and Turkey.
Originally posted by Knight-Dragon
4) The Americas.
Sorry, they were brought to the americas by way of the Pacific, which might help narrow down possibilities...
Originally posted by Knight-Dragon
5) Maize.
Yes!
Originally posted by Knight-Dragon
6) Coffee.
No! Coffee is a bush that originated in east Africa. Some suspect the name comes from the Ethiopian city of Kaffe, tho this is just speculation, as far as I know.
Originally posted by Knight-Dragon
7) Comes fr Brazil; stolen by the British and transplanted to West Malaysia. Now Msia is one of the biggest producers of natural rubber. I think the rubber sap is white in color. (I'm Malaysian! ;))
...and I'm impressed that you knew all four answers! :goodjob:
Originally posted by Knight-Dragon
10) Earliest wine and beer found in Mesopotamia. The highlands north of Mesopotamia (i.e. Iraq)? [/B]
Yes! Grapes come from the mountains of eastern Turkey/NW Iran. Barley, however, originated elsewhere.
Originally posted by Knight-Dragon
8) I think this would be China.
Not the answer I sought, but a good guess. Some millets did originate in north China, but no lentils. This may be tricky, as neither type was exclusive to one area...

Still to be answered:
2, two thirds of 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, half of 10.

Nahuixtelotzin
Jan 09, 2002, 11:16 AM
1) This perennial seed plant from India has been harvested in Asia for eons using cutting techniques. The plant adapts fine and is now the world's primary grain (I think...). It has been found in neolithic settlements as far from its origin as northern China.

rice

2) This medicinal plant originated in the Andes, and was used primarily for shamanism and ceremony, as drinking it caused hallucinations. A milder species has been cultivated for many centuries for less serious use.

coca?

3) 3 of the oldest Mediterranean domesticates are all trees. All 3 are reproduced with cuttings, not seeds. What are they? (Hint: The fruit of one is my favorite dessert, and originated in either India or Arabia.)

Cherry, Apple, Olive??


5) This central american grain spread quickly throughout North America, likely due to its hardiness and high nutritional value. It became so important to the sedentary Indians that it took a place in most pantheons, playing a key role in creation stories. Today it is one of the world's most important crops, producing food, fuel, and materials for a dizzying array of uses.

corn

6) This central or south american bean was originally used as a special beverage. Europeans added sugar, et voila! The world's most popular non-nutritive food. What is it? (It is technically not domesticated, but is controlled and harvested)

Cacao

8) Sorghums and lentils are grown throughout the old world, and have several origin areas. However, most of both types of plant come from one region. Where?

Mesopotamia?

10) What would the world be like without booze? Wine comes from grapes, beer usually from barley. In what 2 highland areas were these originally domesticated?

Persia/Anatolia?

Sodak
Jan 09, 2002, 12:07 PM
Originally posted by Nahuixtelotzin
1) rice
Yes!
Originally posted by Nahuixtelotzin
2) coca?
No, but you are one the right track. Another hint: Nobody really drinks it any more except for the few remaining shamans. It is consumed another way...
Originally posted by Nahuixtelotzin
3) Cherry, Apple, Olive??
Olive is one of the three, but not cherry or apple...
Originally posted by Nahuixtelotzin
5) corn
Correct!
Originally posted by Nahuixtelotzin
6) Cacao
Yes! Chocolate (Xoco-latl in Nahual, IIRC) is derived from the beans of this plant.
Originally posted by Nahuixtelotzin
8) Mesopotamia?
No, southwest Asia is not the source, either. A hint: It is the same place as the answer to 10.
Originally posted by Nahuixtelotzin
10) Persia/Anatolia?
Yes for grapes! Again, barley hails from elsewhere, tho it was quickly adopted in the middle east.

Vrylakas
Jan 09, 2002, 12:11 PM
GREAT quiz Nahuixtelotzin!

1) This perennial seed plant from India has been harvested in Asia for eons using cutting techniques. The plant adapts fine and is now the world's primary grain (I think...). It has been found in neolithic settlements as far from its origin as northern China.

Gotta be rice.

2) This medicinal plant originated in the Andes, and was used primarily for shamanism and ceremony, as drinking it caused hallucinations. A milder species has been cultivated for many centuries for less serious use.

Out on a limg here. Coca/chocolate? ("chocalatl")

3) 3 of the oldest Mediterranean domesticates are all trees. All 3 are reproduced with cuttings, not seeds. What are they? (Hint: The fruit of one is my favorite dessert, and originated in either India or Arabia.)

Grapes?

4) Bananas are now grown around the world. Where was this tropical fruit originally domesticated?

Central America?

5) This central american grain spread quickly throughout North America, likely due to its hardiness and high nutritional value. It became so important to the sedentary Indians that it took a place in most pantheons, playing a key role in creation stories. Today it is one of the world's most important crops, producing food, fuel, and materials for a dizzying array of uses.

Corn.

6) This central or south american bean was originally used as a special beverage. Europeans added sugar, et voila! The world's most popular non-nutritive food. What is it? (It is technically not domesticated, but is controlled and harvested)

Coffee.

7) Rubber is a naturally occurring sap of the rubber tree (duh). Tho guarded, it was eventually smuggled from its original extents to another, equally hospitable place, which surpasses the source as a rubber producer. Whence does rubber come, and where is it now primarily produced? (Bonus ?s: Who smuggled it? What color is it?)

Central or northern South America, methinks.

8) Sorghums and lentils are grown throughout the old world, and have several origin areas. However, most of both types of plant come from one region. Where?

Gaa! Blech! Guess: Middle East? (I know of several Arab dishes involving lentils.)

9) Wheat, originating in Syria, was one of the earliest grain crops. Two other plants grew with it in southwest Asia, but dispersed as weeds. Once wheat was brought to northern europe, where it does not grow well, the former weeds found themselves the dominant plants in agriculture. What two important grains are former wheatfield weeds?

(Gulp!) Oats & Barley?

10) What would the world be like without booze? Wine comes from grapes, beer usually from barley. In what 2 highland areas were these originally domesticated?

Highland? I know the Sumerians made their own beer, but I don't think Mesopotamia counts as a highland area. Regardless, I'll say Sumeria and Egypt.

If there is interest, I will make a follow up quiz about spices...

Emphetically, yes!

Nahuixtelotzin
Jan 09, 2002, 01:59 PM
Vrylakas: It is not my quiz, I just tried to answer some q's and got most of 'em wrong...

Vrylakas
Jan 09, 2002, 09:28 PM
Nahuixtelotzin wrote: Vrylakas: It is not my quiz, I just tried to answer some q's and got most of 'em wrong...

D'oh! And I was following the worst example to boot.... ;)

Credit where credit's due Sodak: good job!

kobayashi
Jan 09, 2002, 10:54 PM
Originally posted by Knight-Dragon


Comes fr Brazil; stolen by the British and transplanted to West Malaysia. Now Msia is one of the biggest producers of natural rubber. I think the rubber sap is white in color. (I'm Malaysian! ;))


We have Mad Jack Riddley to thank for that (the Johhny Apple seed of Rubber)

Sodak
Jan 09, 2002, 11:02 PM
Vrylakas, thanks for the enthusiasm. Your answers...
1) Rice is correct!
2) If by chocolate you mean cocoa (coca is the plant from which cocaine is made), you are... wrong! :p It's not coca, either, btw.
3) As I responded above (thanks for not peeking!), the grape is not a tree, and was domesticated later, as shown by dietary remains/clues in Greece and Turkey.
4) No, they were brought to the americas by the polynesians.
5) Corn, a.k.a maize, is correct!
6) Just as Knight-Dragon guessed... alas, here is where you should have guessed chocolate.
7) Correct! See Knight-Dragon's response for the whole story.
8) No!
9) Yes, oats is one of the two! The other you should know if you are familiar with northern european breads.
10) Almost - the highlands of Turkey and Iran and the Caucasus are where grapes were domesticated.

Sodak
Jan 09, 2002, 11:14 PM
Correct answers thus far are in CAPS.

1) RICE

2) Not coca, not chocolate. Hint: Nobody really drinks it any more except for the few remaining shamans. It is consumed another way...

3) The OLIVE tree is one of the three. Hint: The fruits of the other two are typically eaten dried.

4) Not the americas, where bananas were introduced from across the pacific.

5) MAIZE, a.k.a. CORN

6) CACAO, a.k.a. CHOCOLATE

7) Rubber comes from the AMAZON BASIN, was smuggled out by the BRITS, brought to MALAYSIA/Indonesia, and the raw rubber is WHITE.

8) Not the middle east. Hint: This place is famous in modern days for having too little food to go around.

9) OATS and one other grain. Hint: It is often baked with a particular herb seed.

10) GRAPES were domesticated in eastern Turkey and Iran. Barley hint: It was introduced very early into the middle east via one of the Civ3 civs.

Good luck!

Knight-Dragon
Jan 09, 2002, 11:43 PM
More wild guesses ..... :D

2) Marijuana? Opium?

4) Gotta be South-east Asia; bananas are tropical fruits.

8) Central Asia? Afganistan?

10) The Persian highlands?

Simon Darkshade
Jan 10, 2002, 12:12 AM
2.) Tobacco?
10.) Egypt?

muppet
Jan 10, 2002, 01:27 AM
Hey.

Cocoa may be more nutritious than we give it credit for. There's some research indicating it's our use of cocoa (sugar added) that is bad, but it naturally contains lots of anti-oxidants and other good stuff. See site:

http://www.icco.org/questions/japan.htm

Sodak
Jan 10, 2002, 08:44 AM
muppet:
Yes, you are right that cocoa contains healthy substances, namely the anti-oxidants. Chocolate can actually be beneficial to the heart, as well. I called it non-nutritive because it is almost never consumed for nutritional purposes.

Simon Darkshade:
2) Tobacco is correct! The two domesticated species differ in their nicotine content. South American shamans preferred the potent stuff, which is strong enough to bring hallucination - or coma and death if you have ill intents. The lighter version is what North American Indians preferred for ceremonial and casual use. Europeans were equally impressed, and now tobacco is smoked all over the world.
10) Egypt is the Civ3 civ thru which barley was brought to the middle east. This should be clue enough to finish the answer...

Knight-Dragon:
2), 8), 10) No!:p A clue for 8 is that it is also the origin place of barley.

4) Close enough! Bananas were originally domesticated in eastern India, which is generally considered part of the same origin area as southeast Asia.

We still need answers for:
3) Two trees whose fruit is usually eaten dried...
8) Same place of origin as 10...
10) Same place of origin as 8...

Simon Darkshade
Jan 10, 2002, 09:19 AM
Barley: Oldest cultivated types associated with humans date to 6,000 to 7,000 BC in present day Syria and Iraq.Dominant cereal for Near East civilizations by 2,500 to 2,000 BC.

Israelites?

Nahuixtelotzin
Jan 10, 2002, 11:49 AM
3. Dates and Figs!:king:

Sodak
Jan 10, 2002, 08:19 PM
Nahuixtelotzin:
3) Yes! Dates originated in either India or Arabia. Figs are native to the eastern Mediterranean, iirc. They and olives are all started from cuttings, their seeds are ignored. This tells of very early borrowing from India (via Arabia?), as most middle eastern domesticates are seed crops. Dates are my favorite dessert, figs are my son's.

Simon Darkshade:
10) Barley was commonly thought to be a grass from the fertile crescent, and that idea has not been completely debunked. However, it seems to have been first domesticated in Ethiopia. Evidence points to that having been an earlier site, there are also more close relatives native to the ethiopian highlands.

That gives away the answer to 8): Sorghums and lentils, tho native to much of eurasia, were cultivated most extensively in Ethiopia. They spread from there to the middle east and India.

O - we still need the second half of 9), the important north european grain that was formerly a wheatfield weed.

Nahuixtelotzin
Jan 11, 2002, 04:11 PM
9. Rye?

Sodak
Jan 11, 2002, 04:21 PM
Originally posted by Nahuixtelotzin
9. Rye?
Yes! Rye and oats were weed grasses that were dispersed with wheat. Because the wheat was continually selected for seed quality and length of growing season, particularly as it was brought north, these two plants were inadvertently domesticated at the same time. Eventually they proved hardier in shorter, cooler growing seasons.

Thanks for participating!