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DO NOW: Imagine the whole class is stranded on a big island, far away from civilization and supermarkets. Luckily, there are lots of plants around. Which plants will you decide to eat, and which ones will you not bother with? How will you make your decision?
Question: How do wild plants become delicious crops? How can you become a farmer if you don’t own any seeds?
Example: In the wild, strawberries come in many different shapes, sizes and tastes. You wouldn’t want to waste your time picking most wild strawberries if you had supermarket food around. They’re wild plants – not crops yet.
But let’s say you didn’t have any supermarket food around. You’d pick the largest, reddest, sweetest strawberries you could find, even though these still wouldn’t be so good.
Now you have the seeds from the best wild strawberries around in your stomach
When you go back home and digest the fruit, your body surrounds the seeds with a wonderful natural fertilizer. And when you bid your meal adieu, you’ve become a regular Johnny Appleseed, quite by accident.
Over time, people can unintentionally make plants evolve to produce bigger, better tasting, more nutritious fruits and seeds. This is what biologists call “artificial selection,” as opposed to natural selection.
This is how wild plants become delicious crops by accident, and how people become farmers without owning any seeds.
In fact, early humans might not even have known what they were doing when they domesticated the first crops. They were just gathering the best plants from the wild and bringing them back home to eat.
THINK – PAIR – SHARE: What do you think happened first, humans learning to farm or people living in villages?
Remember in the Fertile Crescent, 32 of the 56 biggest, most nutritious wild plants were already growing. It seems like a good enough place to hang around for a while if you’re a hunter-gatherer.
As soon as people starting pooping in one place for a few hundred years, they became the world’s first accidental farmers. Remember, people in the Fertile Crescent weren’t smarter than people anywhere else – they just lived in a lucky part of the world. Around 5000 BC the first Neolithic farmers appeared in the Fertile Crescent. By 3000 BC they developed what is called the Sumerian civilization.
The Sumerians lived in city-states, which are independent cities with their own kings and armies. Quick Write: What else do you already know about the Sumerians?
The Sumerians were the first people to use wheels in human transport. They also were the first to develop writing. Their script, called cuneiform, was written on clay with wedged sticks.
Cuneiform is a pictographic script with over 700 symbols.
The Sumerian religion was polytheistic, which means they worshipped many gods. The Sumerians built temples called ziggurats to worship their gods. They were the first culture known to develop the arch and the dome in architecture. Gilgamesh is the oldest known recorded story. It is the Sumerian epic poem (you already read it).
They also developed the concept of a 360 degree circle, a 60 minute hour, and a 60 second minute.
The Sumerian city-states were ultimately conquered in 2330 BC by a king named Sargon from Akkad. The Akkadian Empire lasted just 150 years before a new people, the Babylonians, came to power.
So I told you that the Sumerians weren’t that smart just because they developed farming first. They were just lucky. But then why were they also the first people to build temples, write poems, develop bronze weapons and work numbers? What do you think?