The origins of agriculture cannot be documented with certainty, because it began before recorded history. Scholars try to reconstruct a logical sequence of events based on fragments of information about ancient agricultural practices and historical environmental conditions. Determining the origin of agriculture first requires a definition. Agriculture is deliberate modification of Earth’s surface through cultivation of plants and rearing of animals to obtain sustenance or economic gain.

Agriculture thus originated when humans domesticated plants and animals for their use. The word cultivate means “to care for, and a crop is any plant cultivated by people.

Hunters and Gatherers
Before the invention of agriculture, all humans probably obtained food they needed for survival by being either a hunter or a gather in the society. Hunters and gatherers lived in a small group, usually fewer than 50 people, because a larger number would quickly exhaust the available resources within walking distance. As with having to migrate often for food resulted in migrant mothers having to carry around their children and generally having longer birth intervals and lower birth rates than settled people.

Hunters Gatherers
Men hunted animals and fishWomen collected berries, nuts and roots

- Up to 80% of the food is obtained by gathering

They survived by collecting food, perhaps daily. The food search might have taken the whole day depending on the local conditions. The division of labor sounds like typical gender roles from the past when the men do a certain job as well as the females and not being mixed. However, this is based on evidence from archaeology and anthropology.

The direction and frequency of migration, depended on the movement of game and the seasonal growth of plants at various locations. We can assume the groups communicated to each other concerning hunting rights, intermarriage, and other subjects. For the most part, they kept the peace by steering clear from each other’s territory.

Contemporary Hunting and Gathering
In today’s society less than 0.005 percent of the world’s population still survives by hunting and gathering rather than agriculture. These societies are isolated groups living on the periphery of world settlement. Hunter gatherers are in fact, taller, better nourished, suffered less disease and live longer than farmers. This is the result of the gathering of wild grains which produces more calories of food for each calorie of energy invested than any form of agriculture. Hunter gatherers provide an insight to human customs that prevailed in prehistoric times and before the invention of agriculture.

Invention of Agriculture
Over thousands of years, plant cultivation probably evolved a combination of accident s and deliberate experiments. Hunters probably observed that damaged or discarded food produced new plants. Then they may have deliberately cut plants and dropped them on the ground to see if they new plants. Subsequently generations learned to pour water over the site and introduced manure along with other ways to improve the soil. Meanwhile, animals were originally domesticated for noneconomic reasons, such as sacrifices and other religious ceremonies. Other animals were domesticated as household pets, surviving on the group’s food scraps.

Two Types of Cultivation
Vegetative planting is according Carl Sauer the earliest form of plant cultivation. Vegetative planting is the reproduction of plants by direct cloning from existing plants such as cutting stems and dividing roots.

Coming later, according to Sauer, was seed agriculture, which is the reproduction of plants through annual planting of seeds that result from sexual fertilization. This type of agriculture is most practiced by farmers today.

Note: several areas started farming independently of one another.