NewsNEOLITHIC AGRICULTURE

The Slow Birth of Agriculture

Science  20 Nov 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5393, pp. 1446
DOI: 10.1126/science.282.5393.1446

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Summary

New techniques for tracing the rise of farming are contradicting the view that cities and agriculture emerged together in a single "Neolithic Revolution." Tiny plant fossils are allowing archaeologists to spot the first signs of crop domestication thousands of years earlier than had been thought, and to find them in unexpected places, such as the South American rainforest. In many regions, settlements came thousands of years after crops, while in others, villages appear long before intensive agriculture (see p. 1442), implying a long, slow transition to the agrarian way of life. To many researchers, the timing suggests that worldwide environmental change--climate fluctuations at the end of the Ice Age--may well have prompted cultivation.