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Agriculture the First Step towards Civilization-Probably Originated with Women-Antiquity of Cereal Agriculture-Native Names-Maize-Was it known in the Eastern Hemisphere prior to Columbus ?-Turkey Corn-Ancient Cultivation in America-Food of Ancient Egyptians-Roots and Fruits preceded Cereals - Chinese Agriculture Moon-Worship among Agriculturists-Lunar Influence on Plants-Agricultural Implements-Bushman Digging-Sticks The Primitive Plough—The Tribulum of the East-Women as Agriculturists-Terraced Agriculture in China and Peru.


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IT has been justly remarked by Mr. Crawford that no people ever attained a tolerable degree of civilization who did not cultivate one or other of the higher cereals," and yet, strange to say, the subject of Primitive Agriculture is enveloped in mystery. We know, indeed, that the cultivation of bread-stuffs dates from a most venerable antiquity; that, as the author before quoted says,- 'The architectural monuments and the letters of Egypt, of ancient Greece, and of Italy, of Assyria, of Northern India, and of Northern China, were all produced by consumers of wheat. The monuments and letters of Southern India, of the Hindu-Chinese countries, of Southern China, of Java, and of Sumatra, were the products of a rice-cultivating and rice-consuming people. The architectural monuments of Mexico and Peru, and we have no doubt also of Palenqué, were produced by the cultivators and consumers of maize." 2 But when 1 See Journal of Anthropological Institute, May 1877. 2 Plants in Reference to Ethnology. Trans. Eth. Soc., vol. v. p. 190.


we ask, as we very naturally do, to what people are we indebted for the origin of agriculture, and where is the native land of the cereals thus so early known, so widely spread, and so successfully cultivated in pre-historic times? we are met with vague and uncertain responses, even from the most accomplished of ethnologists and botanists.

Archæological records prove that man in his earliest condition was no cultivator of the soil, no keeper of herds and flocks, but a wild and savage hunter, flitting from place to place continually in pursuit of his prey; but, judging from the habits of modern savages, as tribes multiplied it must soon have been found inconvenient to allow the women and children to accompany the men in all their hunting expeditions; these, therefore, were probably left encamped in some convenient spot, to await the return of the hunters from distant raids upon the wild denizens of the forests.

That agriculture originated with these watchers and waiters, seems at least probable, for amongst them food must have been often scarce, and in time of famine strange diet becomes both necessary and acceptable, and fish, bird, and insect must often have been supplemented by wild fruits and roots, and at last by the grasses, the seeds being eaten without preparation. But as savages and animals, both wild and domesticated, learn by experience what to eat and what to avoid, so experience must have taught these primitive peoples that the seeds of the various grasses which they found growing wild, were not only good and sustaining food, but might be improved by being pounded and deprived of their husks, and by being either parched or mixed with water and baked or boiled; and doubtless they soon learnt by observation that these seeds, scattered over the land, would reproduce their kind, and furnish them with food for another season of scarcity. The almost universal employment of women exclusively, in agricultural pursuits among the lower races, may, perhaps, be adduced in confirmation of this conjectural origin of agriculture, which certainly could never have

originated with nomadic tribes, because they could not have remained long enough in one spot to sow the seed and reap the harvest.

It is evident that the discovery of this eminently useful art, would be a powerful aid to the formation of settled tribes, and eventually of civilized communities and powerful nations; because the necessity for a wandering life would thus by degrees be done away with; the long journeys in search of food would be gradually abandoned for the cultivation of the soil, and herds would be kept to supplement the uncertain products of the chase, rendered yet more uncertain by the multiplication of man in one spot, and the consequent withdrawal of wild animals to a safe distance from their enemies. Thus man would become more and more dependent upon agriculture and upon the rearing of tame cattle, and from a hunter would become a husbandman.

Taking this to have been the origin of agriculture, it is of course possible, nay probable, that the cultivation of the soil may have originated in many unconnected countries, and at various times; but it is remarkable that many peoples, some living in fertile countries, have yet remained in total ignorance of this earliest of the arts to the present day; but then such tribes have either continued to be houseless, wandering savages, whose simple wants are supplied by natural products, or, like the Esquimaux, the climate in which they lived has prevented any successful attempt at agriculture.

Then again, neither Australia, New Zealand, nor the numerous Pacific Islands would seem to possess any indigenous species of grain, although some of the wild barleys and oats are found in New Zealand, Easter Island, and the West Indies; and in Australia a grass abounds which they say is neither good for man nor beast, but which yet resembles so much in outward appearance some of our cultivated grasses, that one is tempted to believe that this also might be developed into corn, and even to wonder whether here, in this

ancient land, we may not trace the origin of some of our cereals.1

It is, however, generally agreed that we must not look to the southern hemisphere for that development of agricultural skill resulting in the cultivation of the cereals; for throughout all these scattered lands, agriculture, where it does exist, consists in the cultivation of roots and trees indigenous to those lands. The growth of the cereals requiring greater skill, represents also a higher stage of development in the races who, from wild originals, brought them into a state fit for the nourishment of man. That all our cereals sprang either spontaneously, or by cultivation from wild originals, cannot be doubted; but when we find that in the lake dwellings of Switzerland, belonging to the Stone Age, three kinds of wheat, two of barley, and two of millet were certainly known, we are forced to believe that the wild originals of wheat and barley must have merged into the cultivated at an extremely early period in the history of our race, and that the art of agriculture must be of extreme antiquity.2 This fact is, indeed, testified, not only by the knowledge of the art possessed by the lake dwellers, but by discoveries of corn with Egyptian mummies of vast antiquity, by traces which have been found, not only of corn, but of the furrows made for the cultivation of it, beneath bogs and peat mosses of great depth, and by the discovery of maize by Mr. Darwin on the coast of Peru, in a raised beach eighty-five feet above sea-level, and in tombs belonging to a race long anterior to the Incas. But the countries producing the wild originals of our cultivated cereals, and therefore by inference the races also to whom we are indebted for their cultivation, remain unknown.3

1 We find, indeed, that the seeds of this grass (Panicum lavinode) are used by the natives of the interior to make a sort of paste, which is described as sweet and palatable. See Tropical Australia, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. L. Mitchell, p. 98.

2 See Belt's Naturalist in Nicaragua, and Rennie on Peat Mosses. 3 General Pitt-Rivers, in his carefully-conducted excavations at Rushmore, found wheat of the Romano-British period, which in

Mr. Crawford, in pointing out the fact that the names for wheat and barley vary in almost all languages, and that this variation in the names given to the cereals points to their having been independently cultivated in many different localities, says, that in Basque, the names for wheat, barley, and oats are purely Basque, while those for rye, rice, and maize are of Spanish origin. "The inference is," he says, "that the firstnamed plants were immemorially cultivated by the Basques, and the last only introduced into their country after the Roman conquest of Spain." The mention of oats among the earlier list would seem to be a confirmation of the theory of most archæologists of the present day, that the Basques are the remnant of that preAryan race to whom we are indebted for the introduction of bronze, since we are told, that oats do not appear in the Swiss lake villages before the age of bronze. Rice would seem to have originated in tropical Asia, and never to have found its way in any considerable quantity into Europe in primitive times, either as an article of commerce or of agriculture.2 Even now it is very little cultivated, except in Asia, where it forms the food of millions, and in tropical America, where it has been introduced in modern times.

It has been commonly accepted as an indisputable fact, that maize is indigenous to America, and was unknown to the eastern hemisphere before the time of Columbus. Whilst, however, allowing, in the absence of proof to the contrary, that America was the native land of this most useful cereal, I cannot think that the date of its introduction to the Old World has,

size tallied exactly with some grown on the adjoining land at the present day; whilst other grains found in British pits on the top of the hill, and evidently grown in an exposed situation, were so long and thin as to be mistaken by farmers to whom they were shown for an admixture of wheat and oats; but on closer examination they proved to be genuine wheat, though of very poor quality. See Excavations at Rushmore by General Pitt-Rivers, F.R.S. Vol. I. p. 176.

1 Plants in Reference to Ethnology. Trans. Eth. Soc., vol. v. 2 See Observations as to the probability of its thriving in France, and the Imperial Wheat in Huc's China.

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