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Maura Bennett Origins of Agriculture
by Maura Bennett, click here for bio

Program: Colorado Ag Today
Date: June 12, 2018

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Anthropologists have long believed that human domestication of plants and animals began independently in several parts of the ancient world.

New research by Colorado State and Washington University may have finally answered the question of why agriculture first began.

Michael Gavin, an associate professor in CSU’s Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, says researchers looked at 12 centers of early human agriculture from China to Africa to what is now the southeast US.

Gavin says as they developed a model of these ancient populations they learned that a lot of the variables at the time when foragers became cultivators were environmental.

“What we found in every single one of those centers, even though the time period in which it occurred differed by thousands of years, at the point in time in which it happened in those locations, the environmental conditions were improving. And the population density was increasing. That lends support to what is called the “surplus hypothesis” the idea that conditions were getting better.

Gavin says this study is exciting in that it establishes a method to study deep human history in lots of other ways.

The first-of-its-kind study, “Hindcasting global population densities reveals forces enabling the origin of agriculture,” published in Nature Human Behaviour

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