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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: August 2009



One of humanity's most important inventions is agriculture. This decisive step freed people from the quest for food and released energy for other pursuits. No civilization has existed without an agricultural base, whether in the past or today. Truly, agriculture was the first great leap forward by human beings.

Richard S. MacNeish, The Origins of Agriculture and Settled Life


As we have seen, save in northern Europe, the Neolithic Revolution did not bring abrupt change. But it did bring profound change to every aspect of human existence in no small part because of the more rigorous demands of an agricultural way of life. The original impulse for animal taming and domestication was not so much a desire for the meat, milk, eggs, and hides that came later as it was a perceived need for sacrificial animals. This, of course, suggests that the uncertainties inherent in planting and harvesting crops had led to religious rituals aimed at removing some of those uncertainties. The production of agricultural surpluses meant that not everyone was needed for agricultural labor and most likely those first freed from it were individuals with explanations for the forces of nature and the gods. Formalized religion, then, grew out of the Neolithic just as surely as the crops it gave rise to.

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A Movable Feast
  • Online ISBN: 9780511512148
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