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Science

Prehistoric Human Populations Began To Surge Before Agriculture, Probably The Cause Of Agriculture, New Research Says

New research is showing that the human population began rapidly expanding before the development of agriculture, not after as has been previously argued. With the larger human population being the cause of agriculture being adopted, likely as a result of increasingly available slave or ‘peasant’ labor.

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Evidence of agriculture dates back to about to around 12-11,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent of West Asia. And it has been argued that it was then developed independently over the next few thousand years in other regions. The only reason that researchers believe that it developed independantly is because they assume that no long distance travel or interaction could have occurred during this time. (It wouldn’t surprise me at all if long distance travel and trade did occur during this time.)

In order to compare global patterns of population growth, researcher Li Jin and his colleagues “analyzed over 900 mitochrondrial genomes generated by the 1000 Genomes Project, representing 11 populations in Africa, Europe and the Americas. They identified the expansion lineages and were able to reconstruct the historical demographical variations. On all three continents, most of the major lineages coalesced before the first appearance of agriculture.”

“The data imply that major population expansions took place after the Last Glacial Maximum (the peak of the last ice age) but before the Neolithic period. The authors suggest that the milder climate after the Last Glacial Maximum may have offered a more amiable environment and may have been an important factor in prehistoric human expansions. The increase in population size was probably one of the driving forces that led to the introduction of agriculture, turning it from a supplementary food source to the primary one.”

The new research was just published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Source: Nature Publishing Group

Image Credits: Paddy via Wikimedia Commons




2 comments
  1. JohnF

    This really isn’t anything new. We’ve long known the human population expanded into new areas before agriculture. In North America, for instance, Clovis artifacts predate agriculture.But the numbers were still quite small. Only after agriculture did they start to really take off. If you look at the whole of human history there is really no question agriculture was the dominant force in enabling a growth of population far beyond anything before it. It pushed our numbers hugely, from only a few million or so all the way into the billions.

  2. JohnF

    This really isn’t anything new. We’ve long known the human population expanded into new areas before agriculture. In North America, for instance, Clovis artifacts predate agriculture.But the numbers were still quite small. Only after agriculture did they start to really take off. If you look at the whole of human history there is really no question agriculture was the dominant force in enabling a growth of population far beyond anything before it. It pushed our numbers hugely, from only a few million or so all the way into the billions.

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