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- [Sal] This timeline
here covers 200,000 years,

from 200,000 years into
the past, to the present.

And just to get a sense
of the scale of this,

if we were to go 2,000 years ago
to the time of the Roman Empire,
that would be roughly
here on the timeline.

If I were to say, when
were the pyramids built?

That would be roughly
there on the timeline.

So by human standards this is
a very long period of time.

And I didn't choose this
time span arbitrarily.

200,000 years is about how long we believe
anatomically modern humans
have been on our planet,

our sub-species of Homo sapiens sapiens.
Now the reason why I
show these stone tools

is because the ages, the
periods, of modern humanity,

or even pre-modern humanity,
are named after the types of tools
that have been found
in archaeological digs.

So most of even pre-human,
or near pre-human,

and human history,
has been the Paleolithic
period, or old stone age.

Paleo, paleo for old,
lithic coming from lithos for stone.
So Paleolithic.
The old stone age is the
great bulk of human history.

And there's also a Mesolithic
that comes about 15,000, 20,000 years ago.
But then around 10,000 years ago,
the stones have a much more
polished appearance to them.

Things like this.
And so that period from
about 10,000 years,

starting with about 10,000, 15,000 years,
depending on what part
of the world you look at,

is referred to as the Neolithic period.
Neolithic,
referring to new stone.
And on top of this timeline,
I have also shown what's happening
at a very large scale, climactically,
on the Earth.
So these blue periods are ice ages,
and these reddish orange periods
are the periods in between ice ages.
And so you can see the last ice age ended
roughly 15,000 years ago,
and it began roughly 110,000 years ago.
Now I'm giving you all this context
about these Paleolithic,
Neolithic, and the ice ages,

because we're gonna talk about probably
the most important series of events,
or innovation, in all of human history.
And that is agriculture.
Agriculture.
For most of human history,
over this Paleolithic period,
over most of this timeline
going up until about
10,000 or 15,000 years ago,

our ancestors were hunter gatherers.
They would have to chase the
game wherever it might be,

they couldn't settle down in one place.
Maybe there were a few that were near
some sources of fish where
they might be able to do

some basic fishing.
But they would have
done hunting like this.

They would have done gathering,
which means getting berries or mushrooms
where they could find it.
It probably was eating a
lot of things like insects,

and that is most of human history.
But then around 10,000
or 15,000 years ago,

we have the advent of human beings
taking nature into their own hands.
Instead of saying, let's
just follow the game

wherever the game might migrate to,
let's actually domesticate these animals.
Let's take some of them,
start breeding them

so they're more suitable
for human consumption,

so that they are easier to
raise, maybe more robust,

and we will breed them,
and we will raise them for milk, for meat.
We also started to domesticate plants.
Instead of saying, okay let's just gather
those berries there where
it happens to emerge,

oh let's actually start to plant things.
And on a very predictable
way, be able to harvest them,

and so be able to have a
more predictable food supply.

Both of these things allowed human beings
to have a higher population density,
to start to settle down, to
have a more sedentary life.

And this is a huge, huge, huge deal.
Just to get a sense.
We believe that the carrying capacity
for the planet,
for human beings as hunter gatherers,
is 10 million people.
And that is what we estimate
the world population was

around the time of the last
ice age, or shortly afterwards.

And that's because a tribe
of 100 hunter gatherers

is going to need 50 square kilometers
to 100 square kilometers
to hunt and gather from,
or actually 500, from some
of the estimates I've seen.

And it might seem like a lot of area
that you would need to
hunt and gather from,

but imagine that you and your family
had to go live in the woods now.
How much food could you actually find?
You'd have to walk
miles and miles per day,

if you're trying to hunt,
you'd have to walk miles and miles per day
to get whatever wild grains
or berries, or whatever,

or mushrooms, or whatever, or insects,
that you might consume.
But then with the advent of agriculture
it allowed for a much, much
higher density population.

In fact, going from the
birth of agriculture,

which happens in the Neolithic period,
the dawn of agriculture coincides
with the Neolithic period,

they're often used
somewhat interchangeably.

Going from that period
10,000, 15,000 years ago,

to the time of ancient Rome,
so we're on the order of 10,000 years,
the world population
with agriculture exploded

from 10 million to roughly 250 million.
And that's 25x.
And we know that from the
time of Rome 'til now,

another 2,000 years with agriculture,
our population has gone up 28x,
it's growing exponentially,
to seven billion.

And there's no way that we could have had
this level of density
without agriculture.
Now a key question is,
is why did agriculture emerge right then?
Well one theory is is,
well it seems to be only,

and I'll say only in quotes,
only a few thousand years
after the end of the ice age.

Maybe you had positive climate change,
at least from a human point of view,
that allowed land to support agriculture.
That seems like a reasonable theory.
Although you might say,
well we've had other periods

where we didn't have an ice age,
how come we see no evidence
of agriculture then?

And one counterargument or
explanation I've heard for that

is, anatomically modern humans
started to emerge around
200,000 years ago,

but that doesn't mean
that the way they thought,

or that their brains were
the same as modern humans.

And so maybe in this
period the human brain

just wasn't capable of performing,
or thinking of agriculture.
Other theories are is
that the human population

through hunter gathering
kept increasing over time,

and it was right after the last ice age
that you really got close to this
critical mass of population,
at which point, for every
extra human to be born,

another human would not be able to live,
or not be able to be born,
because there was a fixed supply of food
as hunter gatherers.
And so you could say out of necessity,
maybe a tribe here or
a little group there,

started to say hey, well
what if we started to

domesticate some of this cattle?
Or if we started to plant crops?
All of a sudden they would
start to have a higher density

and their population could increase.
And not only would they
be able to survive,

but they could also be very dominant
in things like conflict.
Once you start having agriculture,
and as agriculture advances,
as I mentioned, these people
could be more sedentary.

They wouldn't have to move around.
They wouldn't have to move
around all of the time.

That allows them to
create even defensive structures.
You could have specialization,
where not everyone is
having to worry about,

specialization,
not everyone is having to worry
about food all of the time.

And so you could develop warriors,
you could have technology
developing, especially weapons,

and so not only would
that tribe or that group

be able to get higher density,
but they would be able
to defend their property.

In fact they would
probably care a lot more

about property,
because they use it to farm,
versus hunter gatherers
might just view that as their territory
that they wander over
in order to find food.
Now whatever the actual cause
of the birth of agriculture,

it has had profound
implications on our society.

You would not have had
the birth of city-states,

without agriculture.
City-states had high density populations.
They could not have been
supported with hunter gathering.

You could not have had the
development of technology,

which, people needed more time,
you needed specialization,
in order to have that.

It's, I would say, fair to say,
we wouldn't even have our modern,
our modern civilization
would not have been possible

without agriculture.
I would not be making this
video to you right now.

In fact most of us wouldn't even have been
around on the planet
because the planet wouldn't
have been able to support

our really immensely large population
without not only agriculture,
but an ever advancing,

technologically advancing agriculture.
So it might seem like a small thing.
You go from hunter
gatherer to agriculture,

but it's been one of the
most, maybe the most profound,

well it's probably up there
with language and writing,

things that have defined
what makes humans humans.
And to get a sense of where
this agriculture was born,

here's the various regions that we believe
agriculture emerged from.
The Levant right over here
in the eastern Mediterranean,

modern day Middle East,
Syria, Israel, Palestine, Iraq,
southeastern Turkey,
this is one of the areas where we think
agriculture first emerged
on the order of 10,000
to 15,000 years ago.

We believe rice came from China.
I've seen estimates anywhere
from 6,000 to 13,000 years ago.

You have the potato and other crops
coming from the Andes
thousands of years ago,

and this is just a sample of the areas
where we see agriculture,
both domestication of crops
and animals first emerging.

And what's interesting is,
over time we're likely
to discover other places

as we have more archaeological digs
and we find more fossil evidence of
ancient agriculture and ancient peoples.
And even the time frame where
we believe this happened,

the 10,000, 12,000, 15,000 years ago,
that's likely to maybe
move back a little bit

as we discover older and older evidence.
So I'll leave you there,
but the big takeaway is
most of human history
we were not only making rough stones
for our weapons and our tools,
but we were chasing animals
wherever we could find 'em.

We didn't have predictable food sources.
We were gathering fruits and grains,
and insects wherever we could
to support our families,
and there was a limit on how
many humans could be around.

But shortly after the end of
the ice age, it all changed.

You had a population explosion,
and we think that is due to agriculture.
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Origins of agriculture | World History | Khan Academy

53 Folder Collection
Liang Chen published on April 9, 2019
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