Back to Our Roots: How Learning from Prehistoric Agriculture Can Help Grow the Future

Prehistoric Agricultur Edited by Stuart Struever

A healthy, productive agriculture relies on LIVING SOIL – truly the most important resource in the world. We live in a time of when healthy, living, farmable soil—as well as farming nutrients in organic and synthetic fertilizer form, fresh water, and energy—are all diminishing in quality and quantity.

Historically, farmers have had to adapt to the conditions that prevailed where and when they lived – they learned to farm in ways that fit their terrain, soil, and climate. In the face of the growing agricultural crisis (no pun intended, well, maybe just a little bit), as we work to bring our soil and our agriculture back into a harmonious cycle, knowing more about how

agriculture developed and was performed traditionally can provide key insights on how farming can be more effective, sustainable and adaptive in our modern world, on a local-global level.


Prehistoric Agriculture edited by Stuart Struever and published by The Natural History Press in 1971, is a collection of thirty-three articles discussing the worldwide study of agricultural evolution in Europe, the Near East, and North and South America, including pre-irrigation and irrigation forms of farming, covering research done on these subjects from the 1950s-1970.



Key topics that covered include:

  • The Domestication of Plants and Animals
  • Explanations of the Initial Shift to Agriculture
  • The Beginnings of Agriculture and its Consequences in Various World Areas
  • The Natural Scientist Views the Beginnings of Agriculture
  • The Role of Agriculture in the Development of Civilization

All these lessons – as well as their opposites – can guide us to create thriving, productive, local ecosystems with fertile soils. There is much work to be done to effectively develop the detailed contexts and practices needed to make this possible. This isn’t a “one-stop book” for all the solutions: are some gaps, not unexpectedly –Africa, India, the Far East, and Oceania and such food plants as rice, millet, taro, and soybean are not covered adequately in this book – but these topics are not difficult to find in other books, such as those mentioned in my posts hereherehere, and here. Other publications I’ll be covering in future posts will review how North Africa, Rome’s granary, became a desert and how the Sahara Desert used to be a forest, which I mentioned here.

Other useful books include:

Don’t hesitate to delve into the rich soil that our collective agricultural traditions provide – this is how GROW BIOINTENSIVE originated! The history of the “already beaten paths” can enable us to create a flourishing future!


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: