Acta Anthropologica Sinica ›› 2022, Vol. 41 ›› Issue (06): 1097-1108.doi: 10.16359/j.1000-3193/AAS.2022.0013

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The origin, spread, and impact of agriculture

LI Xiaoqiang1,2()   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Vertebrate Evolution and Human Origins of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100044
    2. College of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049
  • Received:2021-08-13 Revised:2021-11-17 Online:2022-12-15 Published:2022-12-19


The origins of agriculture is one of the most significant events in human prehistory and the foundation of ancient cultures. At 10000 BP, agriculture emerged almost independently in western and eastern Asia and Central America at the same time. Mesopotamia in western Asia was thought to be the origin of wheat, barley and oats, while corn, potato, peanuts, etc. were firstly cultivated in Central America. China was featured by two independent agricultural systems, namely rice in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River and millet in the Yellow River Basin. During the process of early crop development, agriculture spread widely from its origin centers to most parts of the world, building an important bridge for cultural exchange and integration in the Eurasia. After Columbus discovered the Americas at the end of the 15th century, the opening of new shipping routes and emergence of numerous trade routes accelerated the spread and integration of crops in the New and Old worlds. The origin of agriculture has changed the ability of human beings to transform or adapt to our environment, and has made an significant impact on human society and the natural environment. Agriculture not only promoted the emergence of a settled lifestyle, but also led to major changes in population structure, division of labor and commodity exchanges. Agriculture improved production efficiency, provided a stable food supply and storage, and increased the intensity and scope of human activities, largely impacting the global ecology and natural environment.

Key words: archaeology, agriculture, Homo sapiens

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