Agriculture, the raising of domesticated plants and animals, changed human societies forever. Agriculture provided a reliable food source. In fact, agriculture allowed farmers to grow more food than they needed. This extra amount could be traded for other resources the farmers needed or wanted.
As early people turned to agriculture, the size of their communities began to grow. With more food available, more people could live in one place.
As the size of societies increased, not everyone needed to spend the day farming. Because of this, a division of labor began. Different members of a society were able to do different tasks based on their abilities and the group's needs. Some people still farmed, but others made tools, sewed hides for clothing, or built shelters. Still others served as leaders.
The leaders of farming societies made important decisions for the community. Duties may have included deciding what crops to plant, where to plant them, and who would care for them. Leaders may have also been responsible for deciding how much food would be used at certain times. Leaders might have also come up with ways to protect their community against the dangers of nature or other people.
One common means of protection was the building of walls. Some societies built walls around their villages to prevent attacks from other societies. Others built walls to keep floodwaters from reaching their settlements. One of the oldest known walled villages was built at a site in southwestern Asia known today as Jericho. The people lived in mud-brick huts grouped inside stone walls. The village walls were 20 feet (6.1 m) high and 6 feet (1.8 m) thick.
The ruins of another early farming community can be found in present-day Turkey. This community is known today as Catal Huyuk (chat»AHL hoo»YOOK). As many as 6,000 people lived side by side in ancient Qatal Huyuk. The community of Qatal Hiiyiik looked more like a sprawling apartment complex than a village. Its people built mud houses right next to each other. They came into and left their homes through holes in the roof. To reach the holes, residents used ladders. Outside the village in every direction lay the farmers' fields.
Agriculture made more food available, but it also brought new concerns. Farmers faced threats to their crops such as insects, plant disease, and flooding. When crops failed for any reason, the whole community suffered. In addition, the need for fertile soil on which to grow crops caused some fights over land.
Sometimes the ways in which early people farmed had consequences for their environment, or surroundings. For example, many farmers cleared land for crops by cutting and burning the wild plants that grew there. Although new crops could be grown, wild plants that supported herds of wild animals were lost. Also, after years of growing the same crops, the land was no longer fertile. It could not be used for a period of time. Many early societies were often unaware of such consequences. It took farming communities a long time to learn the best ways to farm and to raise livestock.
What were some advantages and disadvantages of agriculture?