World History



domesticate to tame a wild animal (such as a horse, cow, cat, or pig) so that it can be used as a work animal, food source, or pet. By selective breeding, such animals have become notably different from their wild ancestors.
agriculture farming and raising livestock. The Latin roots of the word agriculture mean “cultivation of the fields.”
surplus a quantity much larger than is needed.
job specialization the practice of dividing the work of a community into specific jobs and assigning these jobs to different individuals.

Before the Neolithic period, most humans made their living by hunting and gathering, which meant that humans were constantly on the move following wild game herds. This began to change about 12,000 years ago when people in the Middle East discovered they could plant and harvest a wheat plant they found growing wild. At about the same time, people began to domesticate wild animals, raising them for food and as a source of power that could pull wagons and plows. (Agriculture means farming and raising livestock.)

People no longer had to follow the wandering animal herds; they could settle in one place, grow crops, and eventually build towns and cities. With permanent homes, people could collect more possessions, which encouraged the invention of new technologies such as pottery making and looms for weaving. Because agriculture could support more people per square mile than hunting and gathering, human population jumped from about two million people during the early Stone Age to about 60 million during the late Stone Age.

Farmers learned to grow more food than they needed for their own use, resulting in a surplus. Agricultural surpluses made it possible to accumulate wealth, and they led to job specialization because not everyone had to raise food to make a living. Some people could specialize in non-agricultural work—like making pottery, or becoming priests or government officials—and be supported by others from the agricultural surplus. Agriculture became the main source of wealth in most societies until the industrial age.

Instructions for the Quiz

Answer the questions.