Text 4. The Transition to a Sedentary Way of Life

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Text 4. The Transition to a Sedentary Way of Life

Still nomads, the same people most likely would have been content to gather their grain and other foods forever. But since grain could be stored particularly well, some groups of grain gatherers may have come gradually to rely on it more and more. In such cases the would have been adversely affected by a poor growing year or by gradual depletion caused by excessive harvesting. Then, paying more attention to keeping their wild grain growing profusely, they would have noticed that the grain would grow better if rival plants (weeds) were removed, still better if the soil were scratched so hat falling seeds could take root more easily, and still better if they themselves sprinkled some seeds into sparser patches of soil. The people who did these things were more influential discoverers and explorers in terms of the origins of our own modern existence than Columbus or Copernicus, yet from their point of view they were merely adjusting some of the details of their ongoing hunting and gathering way of life.

Imperceptibly, however, they became “hooked” and surrendered their nomadic ways for sedentary ones. Already having small herds as “insurance policies,” they must have decided at some point that it would be equally sensible to be able to count on having patches of planted grain awaiting them when they reached a given area on seasonal nomadic rounds. And then they would have learned that planting could be done better at a different time of year than harvesting, and then that their livestock might graze well on harvested stubble, and then that they might grow more than one crop a year in the same place. Meanwhile they would have become more and more accustomed to storing and would have seen less and less reason to move away from their fields and their stores. And so sedentary plant-food production, or agriculture, was invented.

The Emergence of Villages, Trade, and Civilization

Focusing here on developments in western Asia after the switch from food-gathering to food production, the next steps in the region’s accelerating evolution toward civilization were the emergence of villages, the rise of long-distance trade, and the onset of bitter warfare. Villages constituted the most advanced form of human organization in western Asia from about 6500 to about 3500-3000 B.C.E., when some villages gradually became cities. Village organization inevitably brought about long-distance trade, and it just as inevitably provoked the growth of war. No doubt warfare has been the bane of human existence, with famine and disease, at least since the appearance of agricultural villages, but since the growth of warfare in ancient times stimulated the growth of economic and social complexity it nonetheless must be counted as a step toward the emergence of civilization.


1. How did people learn to till the soil?

2. What significance did it have in their lives?

3. Why did the people see less and less reason to more away from their fields and stores?

4. What was the next step toward civilization?

5. What did village organization bring about?



Ex. 1.Translate the text into English.

Начальное приручение животных и земледелие могли возникнуть лишь в условиях такой производительности труда и в охоте и в собирательстве, которая обеспечивала относительно регулярную добычу средств существования, давала возможность длительного пребывания в определенных местах, упрочивала общественное домашнее хозяйство. Тут важно учесть деятельность всей группы в целом, а не только мужчин (в приручении животных) и женщин (в земледелии): это – совместная деятельность в разных сферах труда, но приводившая к общему результату – к развитию прочных общественных поселений, в пределах которых при наличии соответствующей географической обстановки развились и земледелие и скотоводство.

Скотоводство на первых этапах его развития не могло заменить охоты и рыболовства, эти занятия надолго сохраняют свое значение.

Как позволяют судить археологические и этнографические данные, довольно рано были одомашнены свиньи, козы и овцы.

Использование скота в качестве запасов мяса предшествовало использованию его с целью получения молока.

У скотоводов Африки первоначально было широко распространено разведение коз и овец, а впоследствии стало преобладать разведение крупного рогатого скота.

Ранее мы указали, что создавшиеся прочные родовые группы развили новые отрасли производства: земледелие и скотоводство, что развитие общественного домашнего хозяйства было условием упрочения этих родовых групп. А в общественном домашнем хозяйстве решающую роль играла женщина, и ее первоначальная роль в земледелии и раннем скотоводстве довольно значительна.

Однако необходимо учитывать, что появление скотоводства и земледелия, в частности одомашнение животных, было результатом совместных, коллективных усилий всей группы в целом


Ex. 2. Translate the text into Russian.

Early humans probably settled all the continents except Antarctica within the short span of about 50,000 years. Initially, humans lived in tropical areas, which contained diseases and parasities. As populations spread outward from the tropical areas, mortality rates declined, causing fast population growth. Over a long period of time this resulted in a large population that could no longer be supported simply by finding additional hunting grounds. Thus began a transition from migratory hunting and gathering to migratory agriculture, causing a swift spread of crops across the Middle East and all of Eurasia within only 5,000 years.

About 10,000 years ago a new and more resourceful way of life, involving static agriculture practices, became the primary life style of human societies. These new practices permitted a greater investment of labour and technology in crop production, which substantially increased the food supply. Despite this development, occasional migrations persisted.

The next wave of migration began around 4000 B.C.E. It was encouraged by the development of seagoing boats using sails, and by innovative farming practices. The Mediterranean Sea was the center of a maritime culture that settled the offshore islands and inspired the development of long-distance trade. At the same time, creative farming practices altered animals, which were tamed for human use. These changes allowed humans to use animals for physical tasks and to consume the meat of most male newborn animals and the milk produced by the females.

Both sea merchants and farmers were inherently migratory, and both struggled for power over vast regions. The farmers were able to populate the extensive grasslands of the Eurasian Steppe and Middle Eastern savannas. Yet the influence of the merchants was also expanding quickly. Their superior nutrition and mobility gave them clear military advantages over the farmers they encountered.



1. Speak about the early accomplishments of humans giving examples of specialization and differention of labour.

2. “As the last glaciers receded northwards, many cold-loving species retreated with them. Some humans may have moved north with the game but others stayed behind, creating an extremely different sort of world in comparatively short order”. Which one of these groups remained hunters?

3. The humans who stayed behind and became sedentary, that is, settled in one place, are the humans who created “an extremely different sort of world in comparatively short order”, In what ways do you think the world they created might have been different from their previous way of life? Why do you think so?

4. Discuss how people made the transition from food gathering to food-producing, that is, to farming; give possible reasons for this transition.

5. Speak about the emergence of villages and further evolution towards civilization.



Summarize the information from the Unit and be ready to speak on First Steps Towards Civilization. Use the following prompts as a plan.

1. The early accomplishments of humans.

2. The origin of food production: hunting, gathering, farming. Examples of implements the humans used.

3. The transition to a sedentary way of life, the emergence of villages and trade.



Unit III


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