For at least three million years, various hominins, including homo sapiens, had sustained themselves by carrying out two tasks; hunting/fishing for prey and gathering edible items such as fruits, nuts or insects. Homo sapiens are one of few species who combined the two tasks, with men often exclusively hunting and women prominently gathering (History World , n.d.).
However, in approximately 10,000 BCE, Homo Sapiens became the first human species that discovered how to cultivate crops and domesticate animals, in what has become known as the Neolithic Revolution, or The New Stone Age, arguably the most significant single development in human history.
The Neolithic revolution was most likely triggered by the Earth entering a warming trend about 14,000 years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age. However, the revolution officially began in what is known as the Fertile Crescent, a boomerang-shaped area, spanning from The southern edge of Turkey to modern-day Iraq, Syria, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt, and Jordan as well as the western fringes of Iran, where wild barley and wheat began to grow, likely as a result of the warming climate.
The residents of the area subsequently cultivated the land and began building permanent residences in the region. In the Fertile Crescent, flint sickles have been found, dated to around the same time as the beginning of the New Stone Age (History.com Editors, 2018).
The practice of farming slowly spread across the inhabited world, with wild emmer and barley being grown and bred in Palestine and southern Turkey in 9000 BCE.
At approximately the same time, farming was appearing in China, with the north of the country growing millet and the south growing rice. In 2007, scientists discovered archaeological remnants of Stone Age rice paddies in Chinese swamps dating back at least 7,700 years (History.com Editors, 2018).
Similarly, in Sub-Saharan Africa, several species of wild tropical plants were being domesticated. As the crop fields became a reliable source of food for tribes, farming villages and communities were set up nearby to the new permanent food sources. Another area of mass cultivation was in Guinea, which at the time was quite isolated, with areas with large peas, cucumbers, water chestnuts and beans being grown (timemaps.com, n.d.).
Whilst the domestication of various plants was taking place, a similar phenomenon was occurring with animals.
It is believed that the first animal to be domesticated was the wolf, anywhere from 15,000 to 30,000 years ago and some gradually evolved to become the modern-day pet dog (Stregowski, 2019 ).
Until the Neolithic Revolution began, wolves were used by humans predominantly during hunting, to help humans catch prey but also to help defend themselves from large and carnivorous predators. The earliest evidence for a fully domesticated dog is a jawbone that was found in a cave in Iraq in 1975, which was dated to around 12,000 years ago. The dog’s jaw structure differs from wolves as a result of selective breeding, where it has been bred to have a smaller jaw and teeth (historyworld.net, n.d.).
The first animals to ever be domesticated as food sources were sheep, first domesticated around 9000 BCE in the Middle East, with goats following soon after. These two animals became the staple for Middle Eastern nomadic farmers, who constantly moved with their flocks, searching for fresh grass.
It is important to remember that humanity’s transition from being entirely nomadic to keeping gardens, farming animals and living in permanent farming villages may have taken hundreds or even thousands of years, depending on the tribe and their approximate area (History World , n.d.). Cattle and pigs were domesticated later, in approximately 7000 BCE, once Homo Sapiens began to fully settle and create small towns and later cities.