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A global movement for localised food and farming: The beginning of agriculture in Europe

Image: Kelly Reed, Reconstructed Neolithic house at Sopot, Croatia

Image: Kelly Reed, Reconstructed Neolithic house at Sopot, Croatia

The world we inhabit today has changed dramatically since we first began farming thousands of years ago. Yet the challenge to provide food security to all is not new and has been a common struggle throughout our past. By looking back, we can see how things have developed and use our knowledge to think in different ways and open up new possibilities for the future of our food system.

This blog starts at the beginning, when early immigrant farmers moved into Europe from southwest Asia, gradually replacing and assimilating mobile hunter-gatherers who lived in this region. A new sedentary farming lifestyle provided greater control and stability over food supplies, which in turn allowed people to have more children and join together in larger, denser communities. This global movement allowed for demographic expansion of people across the globe, the formation of denser villages and eventually cities, and ultimately the accumulation of wealth and the formation of political and craft specialties. These features enabled the development of early states and empires, which engaged in increasingly more complex food procurement activities at varying scales across the globe.

How did the advent of farming change the scale of food production in Europe?

Agriculture originated in several small hubs around the world. The earliest started in the Fertile Crescent, a region of southwest Asia that includes parts of modern-day Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan. The factors that drove people to first settle in one place and then more intensively focus on a few wild resources is widely debated, but between 15,000 and 12,000 years ago early Natufian people started to adopt a handful of key behaviours, notably sickle harvesting, grain grinding, seed saving, seed sowing, and tilling (e.g. Arranz-Otaegui et al. 2018)…

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