The emergence of agriculture is one of the most prominent things that led to the rise of the state. In order for a state to arise, there must be an adequate availability of resources to support a sedentary lifestyle. Part of the emergence of agriculture was irrigation, which helped to support higher density populations. With the rise of intensive agriculture, people no longer needed to go out on hunting or gathering trips. The higher number of people living in a designated place meant that specialized tasks could be handed out, not only advancing agricultural technology, but also providing a foundation from which to advance the understanding of architecture, science, and math. Another cultural development that led to the emergence of agriculture is described through the Feasting Model theory. This states that development of agriculture was largely driven by ostentatious displays of power, like giving feasts to exert dominance. In order to do this, there was the need to be able to assemble large quantities of food. The need for agricultural technology to accomplish this successful display of dominance and power may also be linked to the rise of the state.
States emerge through similar means. Things linked to agriculture that also supported the rise of the state include irrigation, urbanization, technology, and trade. Through irrigation, communities are able to sustain themselves through the cultivation of plants. This leads to economic interdependence; when one community has a surplus of a certain good, it may be mutually beneficial to trade with other communities who are willing to trade for it. This economic interdependence led to the creation of large urban centers and trading hubs. Sometimes, instead of peaceful trade, warfare ensued. This occurred when communities raided each other for limited resources. The winners would generally preside over larger tribes, which would eventually become a state.
There are many archaeological materials used to identify the emergence of agriculture. In animals, evidence is their appearance outside of their natural range (evidence of cattle herding), morphological changes (suggesting domestication, such as goats being bred to have smaller horns), and changes in the age or sex distribution of animals within a population (if humans were raising animals until a certain age for slaughter, a normal age curve would not be seen). In addition to this, we also see plant evidence of the emergence of agriculture, such as the human decision to make einkorn plants retain their seeds. Some secondary evidence includes sickle sheen found, providing evidence that sickles were repeatedly used to cultivate plants, and grinding stones which suggests the intense processing of plant material. Archaeological materials that identify the rise of the state include urbanism (finding large and dense population settlements that are non agricultural), and evidence of complex economies, stratification, and state authority as seen through public works and writing.
As we have learned this week, the emergence of agriculture is closely linked to the rise of the state, and without it, states probably wouldn’t have risen. Agriculture provides the foundation of safety and security that a community needs before dominance and authority can be exerted.