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On the origins of agriculture, researchers uncover new clues

The invention of agriculture changed humans and the environment forever and over several thousand years, the practice originated independently in a least a dozen different places. But why did agriculture begin in those places, at those particular times in human history? Using a new methodological approach, researchers have uncovered evidence that underscores one long-debated theory: that agriculture arose out of moments of surplus, when environmental conditions were improving, and populations lived in greater densities. The first-of-its-kind study lends support to existing ideas about the origins of human agriculture. In contrast, the researchers found little support for two other longstanding theories: One, that during desperate times, when environmental conditions worsened and populations lived at lower densities, agriculture was born out of necessity, as people needed a new way of getting food. And two, that no general pattern exists, but instead the story of agriculture's origins is tied to unique social and environmental conditions in each place.

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