When did humans first engage in agricultural practices? The answer to this question is important for understanding human pre-history. It also holds significance for RTB’s stance on human origins. The emergence of agriculture has been a bit of a sticking point for the RTB model, but new work by scientists from Europe loosens things up, helping to reconcile the scientific record and the biblical creation account.1
RTB Human Origins Model
The RTB model maintains that:
- Humanity traces back to a single woman and a single man.
- Humanity’s original population size was relatively small.
- Humanity originated in a single location at or near the Middle East.
- Humanity’s origin dates back to between 10,000 to 100,000 years ago.
- Humanity spread around the world, recently, from near the Middle East.
In light of RTB’s model, studies on the genetic diversity of people groups from around the world prove provocative. This area of research indicates that modern humans did indeed originate at a single location (at or near the presumed site of the Garden of Eden), recently (around 100,000 years ago), and from a small initial population that traces back to a single man and woman. The archeological and genetic evidence shows that by 50,000 to 60,000 years ago humans had spread from near the Middle East into Asia and Europe. Moreover, the migration pattern that fits with descriptions in the biblical text. For details, see Who Was Adam?
The genetic data powerfully affirms the biblical description of humanity’s origin, but the dates trouble some people in light of the timing of agriculture’s appearance. The scientific evidence indicates that wide-scale agricultural practices emerged around 10,000 years ago—well after humanity’s origin and migration around the world.
In contrast, the RTB model predicts that some type of farming and animal husbandry were in use close to the time of humanity’s beginning. Genesis 4:1–4 teaches that Adam and Eve’s sons, Cain and Abel, “worked the soil” and “kept flocks,” respectively. This model also maintains that farming and animal husbandry spread from the Middle East to different locations around the world as a consequence of human migrations.
On the surface, the scientific evidence seems to contradict the RTB human origins model. Yet recent studies indicate that proto-agricultural practices appeared much earlier than wide-scale plant and animal domestication. It seems the beginning of agricultural practices predates the Neolithic revolution. (Go here and here for articles on agriculture’s early appearance.)
Adding to these earlier studies is a survey of archeological sites in Italy, Russia, and the Czech Republic that uncovers evidence for the processing of plant matter and maybe even evidence for the production of flour around 30,000 years ago. The researchers recovered grindstones and pestles from these sites that were coated with starch grains derived from grasses, cattails, and moonworts (a fern with roots rich in starch). They believe it is reasonable to conclude that the ground-up starch was used as flour and cooked because that’s the only way for the starch to provide sufficient calories.
This latest study indicates that the first humans did not follow a meat-dominated diet. Instead they made use of both meat and processed vegetable matter. This would have given these ancient humans greater independence over their environment. This work also suggests that the beginnings of agricultural practices were already in place at least 20,000 years before they emerged on a wide-scale basis, closer to the time when humans first appear on the scene.
1. Anna Revedin et al., “Thirty Thousand-Year-Old Evidence of Plant Food Processing,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA (2010). Published electronically October 18, 2010, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1006993107.
Other related resources you may enjoy:
Origins of Life (book)
10 Breakthroughs of 2010 (booklet)