POSTED 22 NOV 2000
is one of the largest crops in the world. It can be grown in dry fields,
or flooded fields like the paddies shown here.
A blacksmith in Senegal demonstrates one of the many crafts that
flourished after the dawn of agriculture.
Mad cow disease is causing a mini-panic in France.
Europeans are stewing about the discovery of genetically modified corn in their food -- despite assurances that "Frankenfood" would not reach food stores.
Consumers aren't swallowing red delicious apples -- the rot-proof fruit that, after years of intensive crop breeding, tastes better'n, well, cardboard. With the market gone bust, some farmers in Washington State, United States, are burning their orchards.
Thanksgiving has arrived in the United States, and the gobbling of turkey is heard across the land.
We don't know about you, but here at The Why Files, we're feeling intense food-related intellectual hunger pangs. Where, when and why did people quit hunting and gathering wild food and start raising it instead? As the Europeans fret about genetically engineered food, we wonder about the genetic changes caused by our ancestors when they began planting and harvesting plants and animals.
This process of "domestication" happened first in the Middle East, then in China, the Sahel region of Africa and elsewhere. (This being the season, we should mention two New World contributions to Thanksgiving: turkey and cranberry.)
However it spread, you can't exaggerate agriculture's impact:
For myriad reasons, farming proved a compelling lifestyle, adds T. Douglas Price, a professor of anthropology at University of Wisconsin-Madison, who has studied the origin of agriculture for decades. Over the millennia since farming was invented, "Essentially everybody buys into this. Virtually everybody adopted agriculture in lots of cultures around the world."
Shoulder your flint hoe. Grab your digging stick. The Why Files is gathering the goods on the first farmers.
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5 6 pages in this feature.
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