Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2012
Some 15,000 to 10,000 years ago, humans started seeding and harvesting plants and maintaining animals in order to augment the food they obtained from wild-growing plants and hunting. These seemingly simple activities set in motion a long-term process that has led to the dominance of agriculture as we know it today. With the exception of a few remaining hunter–gatherer groups, agriculture has now become the most important source of food for most people. Agriculture is also a major source of feed for animals and of fiber.
This transition from hunting–gathering to agriculture was without a doubt one of the most significant eras in the evolution of humans. It allowed food production on a more intensive and efficient scale than ever before, eventually leading to population increases, labor specialization (and especially a nonagricultural sector), the formation of villages, cities, and states, and the rise of more hierarchical societies and states (MacNeish 1991, Barker 2006).