An A-Z Guide To The Search For Plato's Atlantis

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Archive 3344

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Reassessment of Atlantean Agriculture

I had entered this map last time without making extensive comments: the truth is the piece was running too long and so I thought I should break it in half. The connection lines are mine and it seemed to me that several experts were consistently missing a pattern of cultigens arising first in Africa and then moving outward. After all, there was a culture in Egypt already on a par with the Naftufians of Palestine when they arose, and the Egyptian culture had relatives in the Saharan area.
It begins to look as if consistent plant food gathering and processing was going on in Africa as far back as over 100,000 years ago and that part of what humans were consuming at the time were later well-known domesticated plants-not only yams but also cowpeas, sorghum and (in the Middle East) barley.Furthermore, it turns out that there is a fragment of flax twisted into thread for fabric and dyed found in a cave in Georgia and dated to before 30,000 years ago, aaccording to the Wikipedia.

Spread of Agriculture since the Glacial Maximum (shown), including to the Naftufian area of the Near East, India and Sundaland: the centers in Eastern Europe and Northern China are actually descendant cultural centers and are POST-Glacial.

What results from this is that we have a movement of cultivated crops out of Africa ( specifically out of the Saharan region) on a timescale comparable to the “Cattle Out of Africa, Too” scenario, which has cattle developing in Northern Africa since before 20,000 years ago. This movement went primarily through Southern Asia, but part of it also deflected Westward into Atlantis along with the Solutrean Crossing. And food-production in Atlantis was going on at least concurrently with the Egyptian Sebilian, probably using many of the same food plants.Atlantis in the stages when it was developing agriculture might well be envisioned as using primarily crops borrowed from Northern Africa as of the Solutrean age, and that the agricultural element stayed behind as a home base while the more venturesome population continued on to America.
The following is a Wikipedia map of the Neolithic spread, amended to include the Atlantis area.

Map of the world showing approximate centers of origin of agriculture and its spread in prehistory: the Fertile Crescent (11,000 BP), Sundaland with the Yangtze and Yellow River basins (11000-9000 BP) and the New Guinea Highlands (9000–6000 BP), Central Mexico (11000–4000 BP), Northern South America (10000–4000 BP), Sahara,sub-Saharan Africa and Upper Egypt (15000–4000 BP, exact boundaries unknown), eastern USA (9000–3000 BP).
Excerpting the Wikipedia article, full text at end of the article.
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, ???? (nèos, “new”) and ????? (lithos, “stone”): or New Stone era, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 10200 cal. BCE according to the ASPRO chronology in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world.[1] It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age. The Neolithic followed the  Epipaleolithic period, beginning with the rise of farming, which produced the “Neolithic Revolution”, and ending when metal tools became widespread in the Copper Age (chalcolithic) or Bronze Age or developing directly into the Iron Age, depending on the geographical region. The Neolithic is a measured progression of behavioral and cultural characteristics and changes, including the use of wild and domestic crops and the use of domesticated animals.[2]

New findings put the beginning of a culture tentatively called Neolithic back to around 10,700 to 9400 BC in Tell Qaramel in northern Syria, 25 km north of Aleppo.[3] Until those findings are adopted within the archaeological community, the beginning of the Neolithic culture is considered to be in the Levant (Jericho, modern-day West Bank) about By 10200-8800 cal. BCE. It developed directly from the Epipaleolithic Natufian culture in the region, whose people pioneered the use of wild cereals, which then evolved into true farming. The Natufian period was between 12000-10200 cal. BCE and the so called “proto-neolithic” is now included in the PPNA between 10200-8800 cal. BCE. As the Natufians had become dependent on wild cereals in their diet, and a sedentary way of life had begun among them, the climatic changes associated with the Younger Dryas are thought to have forced people to develop farming. By 10200-8800 cal. BCE, farming communities arose in the Levant and spread to Asia Minor, North Africa and North Mesopotamia. Early Neolithic farming was limited to a narrow range of plants, both wild and domesticated, which included einkorn wheat, millet and spelt, and the keeping of dogs, sheep and goats. By about 6900-6400 cal. BC, it included domesticated cattle and pigs, the establishment of permanently or seasonally inhabited settlements, and the use of pottery.[4]
The area I highlighted in red print answers the 64 million dolar question: I have previously indicated on this blog my belief that the onset of largescale agriculture in Atlantis had to do with the sudden worseniong of climate at the end of the last Ice ages, in the Dryas complex of climatic zones and especially in the vicinity of 12000-11000 BC. My guess is that this is what forced the development of an Atlantean expansion in search of more resources and was the real reason for the Atlantean Empire itself.-DD

Domesticated Plant and Animal tables below
[Tables are from, amended and updated].

Plant Domestication

Plant Where Domesticated Date
Fig trees Near East 9500 BC
Rice East Asia 10000 BC
Barley North Africa,Near East 15000 BC
Einkorn wheat Near East 8500 BC
Emmer wheat Near East 8500 BC
Chickpea Black-eyed Pea Subsaharan Africa 8500 BC
Bottle gourd Africa 15000 BC
Potatoes Andes Mountains 10000 BC
Squash (Cucurbita pepo) Central America 10000 BC
Maize Central America 7000 BC
Broomcorn millet East Asia 6000 BC
Bread wheat Near East 6000 BC
Coconut Africa, India b.4500 BC
Tobacco South America 1500 BC
African yams Africa, India, South America 100000 BC
Asiatic yams Sundaland, New Guinea 10500 BC
Manioc/Cassava South America 8000 BC
Chenopodium South America 8000 BC
Avocado Central America 5000 BC
Cotton Africa, South America 9000 BC
Bananas Africa, Southeast Asia 10000 BC
Chili peppers South America 4000 BC
Amaranth Central America 4000 BC
Watermelon Subsaharan Africa b.6000 BC
Olives Near East 4000 BC
Cotton India 4000 BC
Pomegranate Iran 3500 BC
Hemp East Asia 3500 BC
Linen (Flax) N. Africa, SW Asia 30000 BC
Coca South America 3000 BC
Squash (Cucurbita pepo ovifera ) North America 6000 BC
Sunflower Central America 2600 BC
Sweet Potato Peru 5000 BC
Pearl millet Africa b.2500 BC
Marsh elder (Iva annua) North America 4000 BC
Sorghum Africa 30000 BC
Sunflower North America 2000 BC
Saffron Mediterranean 1900 BC
Chenopodium China 1900 BC
Chocolate Mexico 2600 BC
Coconut Africa, India b.4500 BC
Taro Sundaland, New Guinea 25000 BC


Animal Domestication Table

Animal Where Domesticated Date
Dog Ethiopia, South Asia 150,000 BC?
b. 50,000 BC
Sheep Western Mediterranean,
Near East
b. 8500 BC
Cat NW Africa, Egypt 8500 BC
Goats Western Mediterranean,
Near East
b. 8500 BC
Pigs East Asia, Sundaland b. 10000 BC
Cattle Circum-Sahara 20,000 BC
Chicken East Asia, Sundaland 10,000 BC
Guinea pig Andes Mountains 5000 BC?
Llama and Alpaca Andes Mountains 5000 BC?
Donkey/ Ass Northeast Africa, Spain b. 8000 BC
Horse Spain, Kazakhstan b. 8000,3600 BC
Silkworm China b. 8500 BC
Bactrian camel Southern Russia/Mongolia 3000 BC
Dromedary camel Saudi Arabia 3000 BC
Honey Bee Spain, Egypt b. 7000 BC
Banteng Thailand 3000 BC
Water buffalo Pakistan/India 4500 BC
Duck Egypt,Western Asia b. 3500 BC
Yak Tibet 2500 BC
Goose Megalithic Europe Ending 1500 BC
Reindeer Siberia 1000 BC?
Turkey Mexico 1000 BC?

Clicking the links will take you to an article on the subject. The information will be standard stuff and likely outdated by more recent finds.
Among the first recognised domesticated crops, we already have TransAtlantic families, genera and even species. Firstly and most notably we have the melons, gourds, squashes, pumpkins and cucumbers: and out of this lot we have the Bottlegourd showing up in various sites in America from at least 9000-10000 BC, from which it was estimated it was derived from African sources before 15000 BC (Hence the West African Neolithic center has to be at least that old) Out of the same family came many varieties of squashes and gourds that were nearly as old, and the most important one today is the pumpkin. Cucmbers originated in either Africa or India and the West Indian representative species is the gherkin (Pickled like cucumbers but only when very young) The Wikipedia entry also mentions melons as being domesticated nearly as far back as squashes in both Mexico and in Africa: and the typical melons would be the cantelopes of Europe (such as the casaba melon) and those of North America (the musk melons or what Americans think of as the canteloupe)-both are the same species but of different types. Bitter gourds are also used both in Old and New Worlds, mostly for flavouring during cooking.
African yams are documented as being preColumbian in Eastern Brazil, along with development of native yams and other roots and tubers following. The Taro is a special case. It was grown in the Classical Mediterranean and Romans used it in place of the potato under the name of Colocassa. But its origins lie further East and its introduction into the Mediterranean came about the same time as domesticated fowl (chickens): and other types of Arrowroots were used in Europe before its introduction. Taro is still widely gre Azores, in the Canary Islands and in The West Indies, but in all such cases it is thought to be a more recent introduction and replacing other, older types of Arrowroots. The mere fact that all of these places used similar arrowroots at all is probably significant. I usually refer to the West Indies native species as being the exemplar of the type, but there could also have been more than one species involved originally. the beginnings of Taro use are fearfully old however (The Wikipedia entry quoted below would indicate BEFORE 25000 BC ) and so it is also posstble that Taro was grown in the Atlantis area, Africa and the Mediterranean, from the Later Pleistocene as well and we simply have no records of it. And while we are at it, Lotuses or Waterlillies probably fall into the same category, and similar flour can be made out of lotus roots.There is basically NO literature for how long humans have been consuming waterlillies.


Cucumbers to the Left and Gherkins to the Right. Cucumbers are credited with an origin in India but there could be older ones in use in Africa: africans use several similar and related plabnts for a number of purposes, including medicinally.

zucchini is an american-derived squash that is much like a cucumber. presumably this represents the primitive type.


Left, old world and right, new world melons of the same species. (Cassaba and Muskmelon “Canteloupes”)

Left, Bitter Gourd and Right, Gourd Seeds

Asphodel Fields, remembered in Clasical times as indicating the Elysian fields or the Isles of the Blessed in the West (Hesperides)the lower stems of these plants form edible bulbs, but these were not much esteemed as food at the time the myths were written down.

Opium Poppies, source for both the poppyseeds and the drugs contained in in the “Gall” (as the Bible called it)Poppyheads are found in a funerary context in Neolithic Spain in a context suggesting it had religious usages: although it was widely used in later times, I believe that is the oldest usage on record.

Purple Concord Grapes. The Atlantean area seems to have been fortunate in at least one other way: it was one of the few places where grapes were tasty or even actually edible. That was the only reason we have wine today-had it been someplace where some other kinds of grapes grew and humans would not have wanted to drink the juice. Atlanteans also not only invented beer, they doted on beer and had it at every meal. Like the later Egyptians, Sumerians, Romans and Barbarians all did universally.

Domesticated fig (Female cloned fig)The Wikipedia article suggests these have been domesticated since at least 9500 BC

Blackeyed peas on the Left, green peas on the Right. Not only are blackeyed peas of African origin, green peas were known first in Egypt and spread outward from there.

Pinto beans native to the Basque region at Left, and Red Kidney Beans as traditionally grown in India

The bean plant (Phaseolus)

Lupins, an ornamental pulse crop favoured by the Romans, and at right the lupin seed

Mandrake plant on the Right and the roots on the Left. The mandrake plant is ful of dangerous toxins and hallucinogens. For this reason it has many “Magical” and medicinal uses. Yet it is closely related to potatoes and can be looked upon as similar to what potatoes would be before humans bred all of those toxins out so they could be safely eaten.

“Male and Female Mandrakes”

common potatoes, derived from the Andes mountain area of Peru and Bolivia.

Sweet potato, actually not related to the common potato and originating in a different area, North near the Carribean and Mesoamerica. Yams were important there and although sweet potatoes are not actually yams either, they have been domesticated with the idea in mind that they were supposed to be “Another kind of Yams”

Peanuts, found commonly in both South America and in Africa prior to Columbus. These might also have had a West African origin and came across along with the yams and other African cultigens.

Wild Onions, much the same on both sides of the Atlantic.

Arrowroot Ryzomes. These are West Indian Xanthosoma examples, similar to Taro but always distinguished from it by Natives. Taro was universally distributed in older days, but more modern experts prefer to say much of this is since the European age of discovery. Since they absolutely cannot say the wide distribution of sweet potatoes is postcolumbian any more, there is still some hope for the idea hat Taro was world-wide in Precolumbian times.


Common African Yams, the “African Potato”


Left, the  Quinoa Plant (Chenopodium) and the seeds at Right.


Sorgum. A type of sorgum is found native to Mexico ans Sorghum is documented to have been harvested and processed as food for more than 100,000 years ago.

Finger Millet and Foxtail millet also turn out to have forms in Mexico since ancient times. Which brings up the spectre of New World civilisations running on millets and sorghum Of African origin for thousands of years until corn (Maize) was developed enough to bypass them in popularity and productiveness.Since there is a very good chance Atlantis existed before maize was well-developed, we can think in terms of such alternatives as millets and quinoa. That would give Atlantis more of a North-Chinese flavor than what we might have been expecting.

Foxtail millet of the genus Setaria and ion the right, specimen from Mexico as catalogued.

Cultivated Barley

Though at least three species of wild barley have long been known in the Americas, evidence for ancient cultivated barley was not widely known until 1983, when professional archaeologists announced the discovery of pre-Columbian domesticated barley found in Arizona (see the Dec. 1983 issue of Science 83,) This was a New World species of cultivated (unhulled) barley. Further, it has been known for years that there are several kinds of wild barley native to the Americas. You can partially verify this yourself on the new USDA Plants Web site, where a search on barley (enter the search string “*barley*”) reveals that “foxtail barley” and “dwarf barley” are native plants in the United States – along with “Arizona barley,” “California barley,” “Stebbins’ barley,” and others. . “Fox-tail millet” or “setaria” is a Central American grain that may have been used by Mesoamericans
See also Foxtail Millet, also African Finger Millet,


I fully expect that all of those canals in Atlantis would have been lined with Wild Rice such as is still found around Lake Superior. It would not actually be cultivated, but it would be encouraged to grow as a bonus harvestable crop.

At Left, Flax Plant which produces linen. At right the seeds of the flax plant.

Neolithic Revolution

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Neolithic Revolution was the first agricultural revolution. It was the wide-scale transition of many human cultures from a lifestyle of hunting and gathering to agriculture and settlement. Archaeological data indicates that various forms of plants and animal domestication evolved independently[?] in six separate locations worldwide circa 10,000–7000 years BP (8,000–5,000 BC). The earliest known evidence exists in the tropical and subtropical areas of southwestern/southern Asia.[1]
However, the Neolithic Revolution involved far more than the adoption of a limited set of food-producing techniques. During the next millennia it would transform the small and mobile groups of hunter-gatherers that had hitherto dominated human history into sedentary societies based in built-up villages and towns, which radically modified their natural environment by means of specialized food-crop cultivation (e.g., irrigation and food storage technologies) that allowed extensive surplus food production. These developments provided the basis for high population density settlements, specialized and complex labor diversification, trading economies, the development of non-portable art, architecture, and culture, centralized administrations and political structures, hierarchical ideologies, and depersonalized systems of knowledge (e.g., property regimes and writing). The first full-blown manifestation of the entire Neolithic complex is seen in the Middle Eastern Sumerian cities (ca. 3,500 BC), whose emergence also inaugurates the end of the prehistoric Neolithic period.
The relationship of the above-mentioned Neolithic characteristics to the onset of agriculture, their sequence of emergence, and empirical relation to each other at various Neolithic sites remains the subject of academic debate, and seems to vary from place to place, rather than being the outcome of universal laws of social evolution.[2][3]


Agricultural transition


Knap of Howar farmstead on a site occupied from 3500 BC to 3100 BC

The term Neolithic Revolution was coined in the 1920s by Vere Gordon Childe to describe the first in a series of agricultural revolutions in Middle Eastern history. The period is described as a “revolution” to denote its importance, and the great significance and degree of change affecting the communities in which new agricultural practices were gradually adopted and refined.
The beginning of this process in different regions has been dated from perhaps 8000 BC in Melanesia[5][6] to 2500 BC in Subsaharan Africa, with some considering the developments of 9000–7000 BC in the Fertile Crescent to be the most important. This transition everywhere seems associated with a change from a largely nomadic hunter-gatherer way of life to a more settled, agrarian-based one, with the inception of the domestication of various plant and animal species—depending on the species locally available, and probably also influenced by local culture.
There are several competing (but not mutually exclusive) theories as to the factors that drove populations to take up agriculture. The most prominent of these are:

  • The Oasis Theory, originally proposed by Raphael Pumpelly in 1908, popularized by Vere Gordon Childe in 1928 and summarised in Childe’s book Man Makes Himself.[7] This theory maintains that as the climate got drier due to the Atlantic depressions shifting northward, communities contracted to oases where they were forced into close association with animals, which were then domesticated together with planting of seeds. However, today this theory has little support amongst archaeologists because climate data for the time actually shows that at the time, the climate of the region was getting wetter rather than drier.[8]
  • The Hilly Flanks hypothesis, proposed by Robert Braidwood in 1948, suggests that agriculture began in the hilly flanks of the Taurus and Zagros mountains, where the climate was not drier as Childe had believed, and fertile land supported a variety of plants and animals amenable to domestication.[9]
  • The Feasting model by Brian Hayden[10] suggests that agriculture was driven by ostentatious displays of power, such as giving feasts, to exert dominance. This required assembling large quantities of food, which drove agricultural technology.
  • The Demographic theories proposed by Carl Sauer[11] and adapted by Lewis Binford[12] and Kent Flannery posit an increasingly sedentary population that expanded up to the carrying capacity of the local environment and required more food than could be gathered. Various social and economic factors helped drive the need for food.
  • The evolutionary/intentionality theory, developed by David Rindos[13] and others, views agriculture as an evolutionary adaptation of plants and humans. Starting with domestication by protection of wild plants, it led to specialization of location and then full-fledged domestication.
  • Peter Richerson, Robert Boyd, and Robert Bettinger[14] make a case for the development of agriculture coinciding with an increasingly stable climate at the beginning of the Holocene. Ronald Wright’s book and Massey Lecture Series A Short History of Progress[15] popularized this hypothesis.
  • The postulated Younger Dryas impact event, claimed to be in part responsible for megafauna extinction, and which ended the last ice age, could have provided circumstances that required the evolution of agricultural societies for humanity to survive. The agrarian revolution itself is a reflection of typical overpopulation by certain species following initial events during extinction eras; this overpopulation itself ultimately propagates the extinction event.
  • Leonid Grinin argues that whatever plants were cultivated, the independent invention of agriculture always took place in special natural environments (e.g., South-East Asia). It is supposed that the cultivation of cereals started somewhere in the Near East: in the hills of Palestine or Egypt. So Grinin dates the beginning of the agricultural revolution within the interval 12,000 to 9,000 BP, though in some cases the first cultivated plants or domesticated animals’ bones are even of a more ancient age of 14–15 thousand years ago.[16]
  • Andrew Moore suggested that dawn of the neolithic revolution originated over long periods of development in the Levant, possibly beginning during the Epipaleolithic. In “A Reassessment of the Neolithic Revolution”, Frank Hole further expanded the relationship between plant and animal domestication. He suggested the events could have occurred independently over different periods of time, in as yet unexplored locations. He noted that no transition site had been found documenting the shift from what he termed immediate and delayed return social systems. He noted that the full range of domesticated animals (goats, sheep, cattle and pigs) were not found until the sixth millennium at Tell Ramad. Evidenced by arguments such as those by Maria Hopf regarding cultivated emmer and barley at Jericho, along with the earliest emmer suggested by Willem van Zeist at Tell Aswad, Hole concluded that “close attention should be paid in future investigations to the western margins of the Euphrates basin, perhaps as far south as the Arabian Peninsula, especially where wadis carrying Pleistocene rainfall runoff flowed.”[17]

In contrast to the Paleolithic (2.6 million years ago to 10,000 BC) in which several hominid species existed, only one (Homo sapiens) reached the Neolithic.

Domestication of plants

Neolithic grindstone for processing grain

Once agriculture started gaining momentum, human activity resulted in the selective breeding of cereal grasses (beginning with emmer, einkorn and barley), and not simply of those that would favour greater caloric returns through larger seeds. Plants that possessed traits such as small seeds or bitter taste would have been seen as undesirable. Plants that rapidly shed their seeds on maturity tended not to be gathered at harvest, thus not stored and not seeded the following season; years of harvesting selected for strains that retained their edible seeds longer. Several plant species, the “pioneer crops” or Neolithic founder crops, were the earliest plants successfully manipulated by humans at sites such as Tell Aswad. Some of these pioneering attempts failed at first and crops were abandoned, sometimes to be taken up again and successfully domesticated thousands of years later: rye, tried and abandoned in Neolithic Anatolia, made its way to Europe as weed seeds and was successfully domesticated in Europe, thousands of years after the earliest agriculture.[18] Wild lentils present a different challenge that needed to be overcome: most of the wild seeds do not germinate in the first year; the first evidence of lentil domestication, breaking dormancy in their first year, was found in the early Neolithic at Jerf el-Ahmar (in modern Syria), and quickly spread south to the Netiv HaGdud site in the Jordan Valley.[18] This process of domestication allowed the founder crops to adapt and eventually become larger, more easily harvested, more dependable in storage and more useful to the human population.

A Sumerian harvester’s sickle dated to 3000 BC

Figs, barley and, most likely, oats were cultivated in the Jordan Valley, represented by the early Neolithic site of Gilgal I, where in 2006[19] archaeologists found caches of seeds of each in quantities too large to be accounted for even by intensive gathering, at strata dateable c. 11,000 years ago. Some of the plants tried and then abandoned during the Neolithic period in the Ancient Near East, at sites like Gilgal, were later successfully domesticated in other parts of the world.
Once early farmers perfected their agricultural techniques, their crops would yield surpluses that needed storage. Most hunter gatherers could not easily store food for long due to their migratory lifestyle, whereas those with a sedentary dwelling could store their surplus grain. Eventually granaries were developed that allowed villages to store their seeds longer. So with more food, the population expanded and communities developed specialized workers and more advanced tools.
The process was not as linear as was once thought, but a more complicated effort, which was undertaken by different human populations in different regions in many different ways.

Agriculture in Papua New Guinea

Evidence of drainage ditches at Kuk Swamp on the borders of the Western and Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea, shows evidence of the cultivation of Taro and a variety of other crops, dating back to 9,000 BC. Two potentially significant economic species, taro (Colocasia esculenta) and yam (Dioscorea sp.) have been identified dating at least to 10,200 calibrated years before present (cal BP). Further evidence of Bananas and Sugar Cane date to 6,950 to 6,440 BP. This is the altitudinal limits of these crops, and it has been suggested that cultivation in more favourable ranges in the lowlands may have been even earlier. The Australian CSIRO has found evidence that Taro was introduced into the Solomons for human use, from 25,000 years ago, making taro cultivation the earliest crop in the world[20] It seems to have resulted in the spread of the Trans New Guinea language phylum from New Guinea east into the Solomon Islands and West into Timor and adjacent areas of Indonesia. This seems to confirm the theories of Carl Sauer who in “Agricultural Origins and Dispersals” suggested this region was a centre of early agriculture as early as 1952.

Agriculture in Asia

The Neolithic Revolution is believed to have become widespread in southwest Asia around 8000 BC–7000 BC, though earlier individual sites have been identified. In China, foxtail millet, broomcorn millet and rice were important domesticated crops.
Although archaeological evidence provides scant evidence as to which of the genders performed what task in Neolithic cultures, by comparison with historical and contemporary hunter-gatherer communities it is generally supposed that hunting was typically performed by the men, whereas women had a more significant role in the gathering. By extension, it may be theorised that women were largely responsible for the observations and initial activities that began the Neolithic Revolution, insofar as the gradual selection and refinement of edible plant species was concerned.[citation needed]
The precise nature of these initial observations and (later) purposeful activities that would give rise to the changes in subsistence methods brought about by the Neolithic Revolution are not known; specific evidence is lacking. However, several reasonable speculations have been put forward; for example, it might be expected that the common practice of discarding food refuse in middens would result in the regrowth of plants from the discarded seeds in the (fertilizer-enriched) soils. In all likelihood, a number of factors contributed to the early onset of agriculture in Neolithic human societies.

Agriculture in the Fertile Crescent

Generalised agriculture apparently first arose in the Fertile Crescent because of many factors. The Mediterranean climate has a long dry season with a short period of rain, which made it suitable for small plants with large seeds, like wheat and barley. These were the most suitable for domestication because of the ease of harvest and storage and the wide availability. In addition, the domesticated plants had especially high protein content. The Fertile Crescent had a large area of varied geographical settings and altitudes. The variety given made agriculture more profitable for former hunter-gatherers. Other areas with a similar climate were less suitable for agriculture because of the lack of geographic variation within the region and the lack of availability of plants for domestication.

Agriculture in Africa

Nile River Valley, Egypt

The Revolution developed independently in different parts of the world, not just in the Fertile Crescent. On the African continent, three [Adjacent]areas have been identified as independently developing agriculture: the Ethiopian highlands, the Sahel and West Africa.[21]
The most famous crop domesticated in the Ethiopian highlands is coffee. In addition, khat, ensete [A variety of banana plant necessarily deriving from a more ordinary bananalike predecessor-DD], noog, teff and finger millet were also domesticated in the Ethiopian highlands. Crops domesticated in the Sahel region include sorghum and pearl millet. The kola nut, extracts from which became an ingredient in Coca Cola, was first domesticated in West Africa. Other crops domesticated in West Africa include African rice, African yams and the oil palm[Actually a type of coconut palm-DD].[21]
A number of crops that have been cultivated in Africa for millennia came after their domestication elsewhere. Agriculture in the Nile River Valley developed from crops domesticated in the Fertile Crescent. Bananas and plantains, which were first domesticated in Southeast Asia, most likely Papua New Guinea, were re-introduced into Africa possibly as early as 5,000 years ago. Asian yams and taro were also cultivated in Africa.[21]
Prof. Fred Wendorf and Dr. Romuald Schild, of the Department of Anthropology at Southern Methodist University, originally thought to have found evidence of early agriculture in Upper Paleolithic times at Wadi Kubbaniya, on the Kom Ombos plateau, of Egypt, including a mortar and pestle, grinding stones, several harvesting implements and charred wheat and barley grains—which may have been introduced from outside the region. Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) dating since their first reports has invalidated their hypothesis. This objection has been disputed also.[22]
Many such grinding stones are found with the early Egyptian Sebilian and Mechian cultures and evidence has been found of a neolithic domesticated crop-based economy dating around 15000 BC.[23] Philip E. L. Smith[24] writes: “With the benefit of hindsight we can now see that many Late Paleolithic [actually MESOLITHIC-DD] peoples in the Old World were poised on the brink of plant cultivation and animal husbandry as an alternative to the hunter-gatherer’s way of life”. Unlike the Middle East, this evidence appears as a “false dawn” to agriculture, as the sites were later abandoned, and permanent farming then was delayed until 5000 BC with the Tasian and Badarian cultures and the arrival of crops and animals from the Near East.[the gap in Egypt may be more illusionary than real in that we only have so many archaeological sites explored so far and none in the interval in between. One new discovery strategically placed could upset this applecart once again-DD]

Agriculture in the Americas

Further information: New World Crops, Ancient Pueblo Peoples, Oasisamerica, and Proto-Uto-Aztecan

Corn, beans and squash were among the earliest crops domesticated in Mesoamerica, with maize beginning about 7500 BC, squash, as early as 8000 to 6000 BC and [diversified types of]beans by no later than 6000 BC. Potatoes and manioc were domesticated in South America. In what is now the eastern United States, Native Americans domesticated sunflower, sumpweed and goosefoot  [sometime before] 2500 BC. At Guilá Naquitz cave in the Mexican highlands, fragments of maize pollen, bottle gourd and Cucurbita pepo squash were recovered and variously dated between 9000 to 10000 BC. [DD has revised these dates upwards to match the documents referenced earlier on this blog In this area of the world people relied on hunting and gathering for several millennia to come. Sedentary village life based on farming did not develop until the second millennium BC, referred to as the formative period.[25]

Domestication of animals

When hunter-gathering began to be replaced by sedentary food production it became more profitable to keep animals close at hand. Therefore, it became necessary to bring animals permanently to their settlements, although in many cases there was a distinction between relatively sedentary farmers and nomadic herders. The animals’ size, temperament, diet, mating patterns, and life span were factors in the desire and success in domesticating animals. Animals that provided milk, such as cows and goats, offered a source of protein that was renewable and therefore quite valuable. The animal’s ability as a worker (for example ploughing or towing), as well as a food source, also had to be taken into account. Besides being a direct source of food, certain animals could provide leather, wool, hides, and fertilizer. Some of the earliest domesticated animals included dogs (about 150,000 years ago),[26] sheep, goats, cows [by 25000 years ago, as with dogs, in Africa], and pigs [Unknown antiquity, but in the Oriental realms, probably in Sundaland and the oldest examples would now be lost underwateramended dates and additions by DD].

Domestication of animals in the Middle East

Dromedary Camel caravan in Algeria

The Middle East served as the source for many animals that could be domesticated, such as sheep, goats and pigs. This area was also the first region to domesticate the Dromedary Camel. Henri Fleisch discovered and termed the Shepherd Neolithic flint industry from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon and suggested that it could have been used by the earliest nomadic shepherds. He dated this industry to the Epipaleolithic or Pre-Pottery Neolithic as it is evidently not Paleolithic, Mesolithic or even Pottery Neolithic.[27][28] The presence of these animals gave the region a large advantage in cultural and economic development. As the climate in the Middle East changed, and became drier, many of the farmers were forced to leave, taking their domesticated animals with them. It was this massive emigration from the Middle East that would later help distribute these animals to the rest of Afroeurasia. This emigration was mainly on an east-west axis of similar climates, as crops usually have a narrow optimal climatic range outside of which they cannot grow for reasons of light or rain changes. For instance, wheat does not normally grow in tropical climates, just like tropical crops such as bananas do not grow in colder climates. Some authors, like Jared Diamond, have postulated that this East-West axis is the main reason why plant and animal domestication spread so quickly from the Fertile Crescent to the rest of Eurasia and North Africa, while it did not reach through the North-South axis of Africa to reach the Mediterranean climates of South Africa, where temperate crops were successfully imported by ships in the last 500 years.[citation needed] The African Zebu is a separate breed of cattle that was better suited to the hotter climates of central Africa than the fertile-crescent domesticated bovines. North and South America were similarly separated by the narrow tropical Isthmus of Panama, that prevented the andes llama to be exported to the Mexican plateau.


Social change

It is often argued that agriculture gave humans more control over their food supply, but this has been disputed by the finding that nutritional standards of Neolithic populations were generally inferior to that of hunter gatherers, and life expectancy may in fact have been shorter, in part due to diseases. Average height, for example, went down from 5′ 10″ (178 cm) for men and 5′ 6″ (168 cm) for women to 5′ 3″ (165 cm) and 5′ 1″ (155 cm), respectively[for Europeans-DD], and it took until the twentieth century for average human height to come back to the pre-Neolithic Revolution levels.[29] The shift to agricultural food production supported a denser population, which in turn supported larger sedentary communities, the accumulation of goods and tools, and specialization in diverse forms of new labor. The development of larger societies led to the development of different means of decision making and to governmental organization. Food surpluses made possible the development of a social elite who were not otherwise engaged in agriculture, industry or commerce, but dominated their communities by other means and monopolized decision-making.

Subsequent revolutions

Domesticated cow being milked in Ancient Egypt.

Andrew Sherratt has argued that following upon the Neolithic Revolution was a second phase of discovery that he refers to as the secondary products revolution. Animals, it appears were first domesticated purely as a source of meat.[30] The Secondary Products Revolution occurred when it was recognised that animals also provided a number of other useful products. These included:

  • hides and skins (from undomesticated animals)
  • manure for soil conditioning (from all domesticated animals)
  • wool (from sheep, llamas, alpacas, and Angora goats)
  • milk (from goats, cattle, yaks, sheep, horses and camels)
  • traction (from oxen, onagers, donkeys, horses, camels and dogs)
  • guarding and herding assistance (dogs)

Sherratt argues that this phase in agricultural development enabled humans to make use of the energy possibilities of their animals in new ways, and permitted permanent intensive subsistence farming and crop production, and the opening up heavier soils for farming. It also made possible nomadic pastoralism in semi arid areas, along the margins of deserts, and eventually led to the domestication of both the dromedary and bactrian camel. Overgrazing of these areas, particularly by herds of goats, greatly extended the areal extent of deserts. Living in one spot would have more easily permitted the accrual of personal possessions and an attachment to certain areas of land. From such a position, it is argued, prehistoric people were able to stockpile food to survive lean times and trade unwanted surpluses with others. Once trade and a secure food supply were established, populations could grow, and society would have diversified into food producers and artisans, who could afford to develop their trade by virtue of the free time they enjoyed because of a surplus of food. The artisans, in turn, were able to develop technology such as metal weapons. Such relative complexity would have required some form of social organisation to work efficiently, so it is likely that populations that had such organisation, perhaps such as that provided by religion, were better prepared and more successful. In addition, the denser populations could form and support legions of professional soldiers. Also, during this time property ownership became increasingly important to all people. Ultimately, Childe argued that this growing social complexity, all rooted in the original decision to settle, led to a second Urban Revolution in which the first cities were built.[citation needed]
Other “agricultural revolutions” occurred in later millennia:

  • The Arab Agricultural Revolution (8th–13th centuries), a term coined by the historian Andrew Watson postulating a fundamental transformation in agriculture arising from the diffusion of crops through the Islamic world
  • The British Agricultural Revolution (17th–19th centuries), an increase in agricultural productivity in Great Britain which helped drive the Industrial Revolution
  • The Scottish Agricultural Revolution (18th–19th centuries), the British Agricultural Revolution in Scotland specifically, which led to the Lowland Clearances
  • The Green Revolution (1943–late 1970s), a series of research, development, and technology transfer initiatives that increased industrialized agriculture production in India and other countries in the developing world


Llama overlooking the ruins of the Inca city of Machu Picchu

Throughout the development of sedentary societies, disease spread more rapidly than it had during the time in which hunter-gatherer societies existed. Inadequate sanitary practices and the domestication of animals may explain the rise in deaths and sickness following the Neolithic Revolution, as diseases jumped from the animal to the human population. Some examples of diseases spread from animals to humans are influenza, smallpox, and measles.[31] In concordance with a process of natural selection, the humans who first domesticated the big mammals quickly built up immunities to the diseases as within each generation the individuals with better immunities had better chances of survival. In their approximately 10,000 years of shared proximity with animals, Eurasians and Africans became more resistant to those diseases compared with the indigenous populations encountered outside Eurasia and Africa.[32] For instance, the population of most Caribbean and several Pacific Islands have been completely wiped out by diseases. According to the Population history of American indigenous peoples, 90% of the population of certain regions of North and South America were wiped out long before direct contact with Europeans. Some cultures like the Inca Empire did have one big mammal domesticated, the Llama, but the Inca did not drink its milk or live in a closed space with their herds, hence limiting the risk of contagion.
The causal link between the type or lack of agricultural development, disease and colonisation is not supported by colonization in other parts of the world. Disease increased after the establishment of British Colonial rule in Africa and India despite the areas having diseases for which Europeans lacked natural immunity. In India agriculture developed during the Neolithic period with a wide range of animals domesticated. During colonial rule an estimated 23 million people died from cholera between 1865 and 1949, and millions more died from plague, malaria, influenza and tuberculosis. In Africa European colonisation was accompanied by great epidemics, including malaria and sleeping sickness and despite parts of colonised Africa having little or no agriculture Europeans were more susceptible than the Africans. The increase of disease has been attributed to increased mobility of people, increased population density, urbanisation, environmental deterioration and irrigation schemes that helped to spread malaria rather than the development of agriculture.[33]


In his book Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond argues that Europeans and East Asians benefited from an advantageous geographical location that afforded them a head start in the Neolithic Revolution. Both shared the temperate climate ideal for the first agricultural settings, both were near a number of easily domesticable plant and animal species, and both were safer from attacks of other people than civilizations in the middle part of the Eurasian continent. Being among the first to adopt agriculture and sedentary lifestyles, and neighboring other early agricultural societies with whom they could compete and trade, both Europeans and East Asians were also among the first to benefit from technologies such as firearms and steel swords. In addition, they developed resistances to infectious disease, such as smallpox, due to their close relationship with domesticated animals. Groups of people who had not lived in proximity with other large mammals, such as the Australian Aborigines and American indigenous peoples were more vulnerable to infection and largely wiped out by diseases.
During and after the Age of Discovery, European explorers, such as the Spanish conquistadors, encountered other groups of people who had never or only recently adopted agriculture, such as in the Pacific Islands, lacked domesticated big mammals such as the people of the New Guinea Highlands.


The dispersal of Neolithic culture from the Middle East has recently been associated with the distribution of human genetic markers. In Europe, the spread of the Neolithic culture has been associated with distribution of the E1b1b lineages and Haplogroup J that are thought to have arrived in Europe from North Africa and the Near East respectively.[34][35] In Africa, the spread of farming, and notably the Bantu expansion, is associated with the dispersal of Y-chromosome haplogroup E1b1a from West Africa.[34]

E1 Y-DNA distribution map from Wikipedia article

[The derivation of the E1b1 YDNA series is from Western Subsaharan Africa and its greatest concemntration is in Mali. It differentiated between 3500 and 25000 years ago (Wikipedia article on the E1 strains especially noting E1b1a and E1b1b, each of which also has a separate entry) and it is especially associated with Neolithic expansions in The Near East into Eastern Europe and throught Africa, Including Egypt.(Many locations persisting only in small concentrations) The presence in the Iberian peninsula is traceable to the recent occupancy of the area by MOORS. There is thus a possible argument to be made that the Mid-East and North African Neolithics had their cradles here about 20000-30000 with a latency period during the Upper Pleistocene, during which the Naftufuian of Palestine was typical,but which burst out of the Near East at the beginning of the Holocene and radiating out in all directions, as if expanding into a power vaccuum. The expansion into the Danubian area after 6000 BC and its modern genetic residue as represented on the map is especially instructive. –DD]

See also

  • Çatalhöyük, a Neolithic site in southern Anatolia
  • A??kl? Höyük, in Anatolia, one of the earliest agricultural communities (ca 8200 BC)[citation needed]
  • Natufians, a settled culture preceding agriculture
  • Original affluent society
  • Haplogroup G (Y-DNA)
  • Haplogroup J2 (Y-DNA)
  • Haplogroup J (mtDNA)
  • Agricultural Revolution
  • Neolithic tomb
  • Surplus product
  • Göbekli Tepe
  • Mehergarh


  1. ^ “Origin of agriculture and domestication of plants and animals linked to early Holocene climate amelioration”, Anil K. Gupta*, Current Science, Vol. 87, No. 1, 19 October 2010
  2. ^ “The Slow Birth of Agriculture”, Heather Pringle*
  3. ^ “Zawi Chemi Shanidar”, EMuseum, Minnesota State University
  4. ^ Diamond, J.; Bellwood, P. (2003). “Farmers and Their Languages: The First Expansions”. Science 300 (5619): 597–603. Bibcode ..300..597D. doi:10.1126/science.1078208. PMID 12714734. edit
  5. ^ Denham, Tim P.; et al. (2003). “Origins of Agriculture at Kuk Swamp in the Highlands of New Guinea”. Science 301 (5630): 189–193. doi:1126/science.1085255. PMID 12817084.
  6. ^ The Kuk Early Agricultural Site
  7. ^ Gordon Childe (1936). Man Makes Himself. Oxford university press.
  8. ^ Scarre, Chris (2005). “The World Transformed: From Foragers and Farmers to States and Empires” in The Human Past: World Prehistory and the Development of Human Societies (Ed: Chris Scarre). London: Thames and Hudson. Page 188. ISBN 0-500-28531-4
  9. ^ Charles E. Redman (1978). Rise of Civilization: From Early Hunters to Urban Society in the Ancient Near East. San Francisco: Freeman.
  10. ^ Hayden, Brian (1992). “Models of Domestication”. In Anne Birgitte Gebauer and T. Douglas Price. Transitions to Agriculture in Prehistory. Madison: Prehistory Press. pp. 11–18.
  11. ^ Sauer, Carl O. (1952). Agricultural origins and dispersals. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  12. ^ Binford, Lewis R. (1968). “Post-Pleistocene Adaptations”. In Sally R. Binford and Lewis R. Binford. New Perspectives in Archaeology. Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company. pp. 313–342.
  13. ^ Rindos, David (December 1987). The Origins of Agriculture: An Evolutionary Perspective. Academic Press. ISBN 978-0125892810).
  14. ^ Richerson, Peter J.; et al. (2001). “Was Agriculture Impossible during the Pleistocene but Mandatory during the Holocene?”. American Antiquity 66 (3): 387–411. doi:2307/2694241.
  15. ^ Wright, Ronald (2004). A Short History of Progress. Anansi. ISBN 0-88784-706-4).
  16. ^ Grinin L.E. Production Revolutions and Periodization of History: A Comparative and Theoretic-mathematical Approach. / Social Evolution & History. Volume 6, Number 2 / September 2007 [1]
  17. ^ Hole, Frank., A Reassessment of the Neolithic Revolution, Paléorient, Volume 10, Issue 10-2, pp. 49-60, 1984.
  18. ^ a b Weiss, Ehud; Kislev, Mordechai E.; Hartmann, Anat (2006). “Autonomous Cultivation Before Domestication”. Science 312 (5780): 1608–1610. doi:1126/science.1127235. PMID 16778044.
  19. ^ “Tamed 11,400 Years Ago, Figs Were Likely First Domesticated Crop”.
  20. ^ Denham, Tim et al (received July 2005) “Early and mid Holocene tool-use and processing of taro (Colocasia esculenta), yam (Dioscorea sp.) and other plants at Kuk Swamp in the highlands of Papua New Guinea” (Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 33, Issue 5, May 2006).
  21. ^ a b c Diamond, Jared (1999). Guns, Germs, and Steel. New York: Norton Press. ISBN 0-393-31755-2.
  22. ^ DR Harris, HE Gove, P Damon “The Impact on Archaeology of Radiocarbon Dating by Accelerator Mass Spectrometry” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London A323, 23–43 1987 [2]
  23. ^ The Cambridge History of Africa
  24. ^ Smith, Philip E.L., Stone Age Man on the Nile, Scientific American Vol. 235 No. 2, August 1976.
  25. ^ Graeme Barker (25 March 2009). The Agricultural Revolution in Prehistory: Why Did Foragers Become Farmers?, p. 252. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-955995-4. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  26. ^ McGourty, Christine (2002-11-22). “Origin of dogs traced”. BBC News. Retrieved 2006-11-29.
  27. ^ Copeland; P. Wescombe (1966). Inventory of Stone-Age Sites in Lebanon: North, South and East-Central Lebanon,. Impr. Catholique. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  28. ^ Fleisch, Henri., Notes de Préhistoire Libanaise : 1) Ard es Saoude. 2) La Bekaa Nord. 3) Un polissoir en plein air. BSPF, vol. 63.
  29. ^ Shermer, Michael (2001) The Borderlands of Science, Oxford University Press p.250
  30. ^ Sherratt 1981
  31. ^ Furuse, Y.; Suzuki, A.; Oshitani, H. (2010). “Origin of measles virus: Divergence from rinderpest virus between the 11th and 12th centuries”. Virology Journal 7: 52. doi:1186/1743-422X-7-52. PMC 2838858. PMID 20202190. edit
  32. ^ Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies – Jared Diamond, 1997
  33. ^ Marshall, P. J. Ed. (1996), Cambridge illustrated History: British Empire, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-00254-0, p. 142
  34. ^ a b Semino et al, O; Magri, C; Benuzzi, G; Lin, AA; Al-Zahery, N; Battaglia, V; MacCioni, L; Triantaphyllidis, C et al (2004). “Origin, Diffusion, and Differentiation of Y-Chromosome Haplogroups E and J: Inferences on the Neolithization of Europe and Later Migratory Events in the Mediterranean Area”. American journal of human genetics 74 (5): 1023–34. doi:1086/386295. PMC 1181965. PMID 15069642.
  35. ^ Lancaster, Andrew (2009). “Y Haplogroups, Archaeological Cultures and Language Families: a Review of the Multidisciplinary Comparisons using the case of E-M35”. Journal of Genetic Genealogy 5 (1).

Further reading

  • Bailey, Douglass. (2000). Balkan Prehistory: Exclusions, Incorporation and Identity. Routledge Publishers. ISBN 0-415-21598-6.
  • Bailey, Douglass. (2005). Prehistoric Figurines: Representation and Corporeality in the Neolithic. Routledge Publishers. ISBN 0-415-33152-8.
  • Balter, Michael (2005). The Goddess and the Bull: Catalhoyuk, An Archaeological Journey to the Dawn of Civilization. New York: Free Press. ISBN 0-7432-4360-9.
  • Bellwood, Peter. (2004). First Farmers: The Origins of Agricultural Societies. Blackwell Publishers. ISBN 0-631-20566-7
  • Cohen, Mark Nathan (1977)The Food Crisis in Prehistory: Overpopulation and the Origins of Agriculture. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-02016-3.
  • Diamond, Jared (1999). Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York: Norton Press. ISBN 0-393-31755-2.
  • Diamond, Jared (2002). “Evolution, Consequences and Future of Plant and Animal Domestication”. Nature, Vol 418.
  • Grinin, L. (2007). Periodization of History: A theoretic-mathematical analysis. In: History & Mathematics. Moscow: KomKniga/URSS. P.10–38. ISBN 9785484010011.
  • Harlan, Jack R. (1992). Crops & Man: Views on Agricultural Origins ASA, CSA, Madison, WI.
  • Wright, Gary A. (1971). “Origins of Food Production in Southwestern Asia: A Survey of Ideas” Current Anthropology, Vol. 12, No. 4/5 (Oct.–Dec., 1971) , pp. 447–477
  • Bartmen, Jeff M. (2008). Disease.
  • House of Anansi Press page for the book[dead link]
  • CBC Radio, Ideas, page on the Massey Lectures 2004 also includes streaming audio of Chapter 1 of 5[dead link]
  • Chapter I – Gauguin’s Questions
  • Stu’s Notes #11 a useful summary of many selected passages from the book
  • Civilization is a Pyramid Scheme an online copy of Wright’s earlier short article
  • Chapter I podcast at (note this site is notoriously unreliable but it does come back up eventually)
  • Chapter II podcast at
  • An Interview with Ronald Wright, April 10, 2005, EcoTalk on Air America podcast at
  • Evidence for food storage and predomestication granaries 11,000 years ago in the Jordan Valley [3].
  • Co-Creators How our ancestors used Artificial Section during the Neolithic Revolution

Posted by Dale Drinnon at 11:43 AM

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Labels: Ancient African Neolithic, Arrowroots, Bananas, Barley, Beans, Bottlegourds, Cotton, Cucurbits, Cultigens, Finger Millet and Foxtail Millet in Mexico, Yams

1 comment:

Dale DrinnonMarch 7, 2012 at 11:33 AM

Essentially, this is a new theory but it is an extension of the older idea that tropical root-crops began in the tall-equatorial-rainforests area (Jungles) in very ancient times. It seems that during the Middle Stone Age in Africa, reular exploitation of plant foods such as yams (but not limited only to them) was going on in the area on the outskirts of the jungles and soon radiated out in all directions, eventually to be carried along on the journeys Out Of Africa. Later on (post-Toba and about the time of the Pleistocene eruption of Thera)the big Agricultural area had moved out into the Sahel and the Northern savannah area, and into the Sahara in the more hospitable times: and out of this area came domesticated sheep, goats and cattle, and regular use of barley, sorghum and other seed crops, in the vicinity of 20000 BC and best known from later cultures established in Egypt and Palestine (the latter evolving eventually into the Naftufian): AND subsequent to the end of the Plesitocene/during the Early Holocene, the center had relocated to the Near East and satellite areas, where the derived-Neolithic is commonly recognised as “The” Neolithic where it all began. But that Mideast version turns out not to have been the original stage in Agriculturalization: rather that version was about the third step down from the original MSA agriculturalization beginnings.

Best Wishes, Dale D.


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