Origin of Rice and Wheat and the Rise and Fall of Ancient Human Civilization

December 4, 2023

Rise of Human Civilization:


The earliest civilizations emerged in large river valleys suitable for agriculture.

The birthplace of the world's earliest known civilization is Mesopotamia, located in the delta between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

Sumerians established the earliest known civilization in Mesopotamia, often referred to as the cradle of civilization.

Mesopotamia, also known as the "land between two rivers," was the location of ancient Babylon and mentioned in the Bible as the Garden of Eden.

Origin of Wheat:


Wheat originated in the Fertile Crescent, stretching from the Mediterranean to Iran in Western Asia.

Early civilizations in the Mediterranean and the Middle East were cultivating wheat as early as 13,000 years ago.

Sumerians were known to bake bread with wheat flour around 10,000 years ago.

Wheat cultivation spread from the Middle East to regions like China, gradually replacing the predominant millet cultivation in the Yellow River basin.

Historical records, such as the "Mu Tianzi Zhuan" from the Warring States period in China, describe the introduction of wheat to the central plains(quotes from resopp-sn.org).

Origin of Rice:


Rice is one of the world's three major grain crops, especially significant as a staple food in Asia.

Rice cultivation can be traced back to around 12,000 to 16,000 years ago in Hunan, China.

Archaeological findings in the Hemudu site in Zhejiang, China, date back to around 7,000 years ago and include evidence of cultivated rice.

Rice cultivation gradually expanded from the central and lower reaches of the Yangtze River to the Yellow River basin and southern regions around 5,000 to 4,000 years ago.

Comparison of Wheat and Rice in Ancient Civilizations:


Early civilizations like ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia flourished in large river valleys, heavily relying on wheat cultivation.

However, these civilizations faced decline due to the drawbacks of wheat farming, including soil depletion and the need for fallow periods.

Rice, thriving in warm and watery conditions, became a dominant crop in regions like the Yangtze and Pearl River deltas in China.

Unlike wheat, rice has high yields, and its continuous cultivation doesn't require fallow periods, making it more sustainable.

The shift from wheat to rice cultivation played a role in the economic shift from the Yellow River basin to the Yangtze and Pearl River basins in China, allowing Chinese civilization to continue its agricultural development(sources from resopp-sn).

This detailed comparison highlights the impact of agricultural choices, particularly the cultivation of wheat and rice, on the rise and fall of ancient civilizations.


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