Before farming, people lived by hunting wild animals and gathering wild plants. When supplies ran out, and they often did, these hunter-gatherers moved on. Farming meant that people did not need to travel to find food. Instead, they began to live in settled communities, and grew crops or raised animals on nearby land. Living in settled communities with which humans indisputably rose to the top of the food chain.
Although anatomically modern humans emerged 200,000-300,0000 years ago, we estimate that human ancestors began farming 15,000-20,000 years ago. Evidence suggests before the development of agriculture, modern humans strictly hunted or foraged for food, without replenishing their food sources.
Undomesticated banana fruit.
When their food sources depleted our ancestors moved to areas where they would have access to meat and vegetation. Sometimes they had a big kill and had more food than they knew what to do with. Other times they did not know how many days it would be until their next meal.
Famine was a constant threat to human ancestors. Therefore pre-agricultural societies spent a good portion of their daily time and energy on foraging and hunting for their food.
In addition, humans had to spread in large areas because every location could support a limited amount of people. As a result, a tribe of 100 hunter-foragers would have needed 50 to 500 square kilometers to survive.
Historians estimate the world population was around six to ten million 10,000 years ago. To put this world population into perspective; without agriculture, Earth can only support about 10 million people.
You Reap What You Sow
Soon after our ancestors started to plant their own vegetation, and farm animals they realized if the sources of the plants or animals have the traits they find favorable, most times do their offspring too. Therefore they become picky about what seed they planted, which cows and bulls they kill for their meat etc. With this, the domestication of plants and animals started for human use began.
Domesticating plants, and animals marked a major step for humans. It was the beginning of an agricultural way of life and more permanent civilizations. Humans no longer had to wander to hunt animals and gather plants for their food supplies, which used to take an important portion of their awake time.
Agriculture allowed fewer people to provide more food. The stability that came with regular, predictable food production led to increased population density. Farming gave humans the opportunity to do more than hunt for each day’s food—they could travel, trade, and communicate. The world’s first villages and cities were built near fields of domesticated plants.
Natural Selection vs Artificial Selection
Natural selection, the process that results in the adaptation of an organism to its environment by means of selectively reproducing and passing on favorable traits from one generation to another.
In natural selection, only the fittest individuals in a population live long enough to have their own offspring. Therefore nature “selects” fit individuals of the population. This way the organism develops favorable traits that help it adapt to its habitat better.
In artificial selection, only the individuals that best serve a purpose are selected by humans, and only those individuals are allowed to have offspring. This way the organism gradually improves those traits that humans find favorable. Thanks to artificial selection roses get visually more appealing, kettles and sheep become more subservient and provide more milk, and wool, etc.
Artificial selection (domestication) resembles natural selection so much that it was frequently used as an example by Charles Darwin in his first book “On the Origin of Species”
In summary, humans are not where we are not only thanks to natural selection but also artificial selection that they performed. It is difficult to imagine a world with 7.6 billion people and largely peaceful if humans never discovered domestication.
First and foremost is the change from nomadic to sedentary life. A sedentary society is one that does not move around and is permanently settled in one place. When early humans began farming, they were able to produce enough food that they no longer had to migrate to their food source. This meant they could build permanent structures, and develop villages, towns, and eventually even cities
Closely connected to the rise of settled societies was an increase in population. The ability to farm also meant a greater ability to control the amount of food produced, which meant that, for the first time in human history, there was a surplus of food. This, along with the lower rates of fatal injuries that were common amongst nomadic societies, led to population booms. For the first time, there was enough food to sustain larger populations, and those small settlements turned into some pretty sizable cities.