Thursday, October 6, 2016

Antiquity"s Agricultural Revolution

Our enthusiasm for our contemporary agricultural bounty is well merited. We offer thanks to God for record breaking 21st century crop production and its fascinating diversity. The quality and abundance of fresh and frozen fruits, vegetables, and meats in our modern food stores have inspired my personal tongue in cheek characterizations of supermarket visits as “worship experiences.” Compared with food shopping in the mid-20th century or earlier, we are startled by progress in agriculture and agricultural technology.

We recently posted about the Green Revolution of the mid-20th century, credited with saving humanity from widespread hunger and famine. The Agricultural revolutions of the 16th-19th centuries helped trigger the Industrial Revolution and resulted in enhanced human population growth. Much farther back in human history we call attention to the Neolithic Revolution of approximately 10,000 BC. It is also known as the Neolithic Agricultural Revolution. Humanity transitioned from a hunter-gatherer society to an agriculture based society. The move toward agriculture resulted in a human population explosion. Humanity’s population may have expanded by a factor of ten.

The Neolithic Agricultural Revolution overlapped with the melting of the last great ice sheet about 12,000 to 10,000 BC. The last advance of glacial ice is called the Wisconsin glaciation event, the last of four major glaciation events of the Pleistocene, or Quaternary geologic era which began about 2.58 mya. Earth is still in a late stage of the Ice Age. We are currently in an interglacial stage with another glacial advance possible for our planet in the far distant future.

In our last post we referenced humanoid creatures, defined as having an appearance resembling that of a human. They appeared 2.3 mya. These include many species of creatures that evolutionists wish to include on the human evolutionary tree. Even evolutionists make a distinction between ancient hominids falling far short of full humanity and fully modern humans. Ancient hominids used simple, undifferentiated tools. For many eons, however, there was little advance in their tool making technology.

From 500-200,000 BC evolutionary scientists have described archaic homo sapiens as our immediate predecessors. From 150-120,000 BC the more advanced and well publicized homo sapiens neanderthalensis appeared and roamed the earth. Finally, anatomically modern humans appeared at roughly 140,000 BC as contemporaries of Neanderthals. Some scientists call modern humanity homo sapiens sapiens to distinguish them from Neanderthal homo sapiens and other homo sapiens species now extinct.

The last Pleistocene glaciation event was termed the “Wisconsin.” It occurred from 110,000 to 10,000 BC. Thick ice covered northern sections of the US Midwest and much of northern Europe. The Earth’s climate was variable, often cold and dry in areas of human habitation in Asia, Africa, and Europe. We posit that the first humans described in Genesis scripture were responsible for a Cultural Explosion with its appearance of art, musical instruments and significantly more complex technologies in the manufacture and use of advanced stone tools such as microliths. These people were “fully human.”

Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe has just published a new volume—Improbable Planet. He discusses the benefits of the disappearance of glacial ice from the Wisconsin event. That glacial event roughly coincided with the presence of several representatives of the genus homo including Neanderthals and modern humans. We quote two significant passages from Improbable Planet:

“The melting away of the great ice sheets—except those over Antarctica, Greenland, and the North Pole—helped to stabilize global mean temperatures. Until then, climate variability prevented widespread enduring agricultural and manufacturing specialization, trade, and construction of towns, roads, and ships. The climate from 120,000 to 12,000 years ago varied so radically as to render the launch of extensive cultivation and global civilization impossible.

“Then, for reasons still unknown, the climate suddenly entered a stable phase shortly after the beginning of the last warm interglacial period. Within a brief period, large-scale agriculture emerged, as did sophisticated expressions of human ingenuity and cooperation, for example towns, specialization of industry, and organized trade. These factors, in turn, made possible the exponential expansion of civilization, technology, and human population.” 

We mention two brief preludes to large-scale agriculture mentioned in the paragraph above. First there was Kebaran culture from 18000 to 12500 BC. Several thousand years before there was a small scale attempt to cultivate wild cereals along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The Kebarans were highly nomadic. Then there appeared the Natufian Culture, characterized by descendants of the earliest farmers on our planet from 12,500 to 10,800 BC. Natufians were protoagrarian hunter/gatherers. They appeared during the Mesolithic, a short period between the Paleolithic and Neolithic. These two groups existed prior to the Neolithic—The New Stone Age. In the Neolithic Agricultural Revolution which followed, man learned to selectively alter plants to benefit humanity. Artificial selection has been a way of life in human agriculture since the Neolithic Revolution.