Evolution of agriculture: the origin of our food crops

Published on March 31, 2021   23 min
0:00
Hi. I'm Mona Schreiber. I'm an anthropologist working at the IPK in Gatersleben, a plant research institute, and my interest is in the evolution of agriculture. In this lecture, I want to take you on a journey through the origin of our food crops. I don't know what comes to your mind when you think about food.
0:23
I always think about the incredible diversity of cultivated plants we have. It is estimated that we have around 30,000 crops, and, of course, not all of them are for food, but also there are medicinal plants, fiber suppliers, or ornamental plants, and many, many more. But, still, the majority of crops are for food. What you see here in this picture is only a tiny little subset of this incredible diversity. Now, I want to go with you to have a look at where all our crops come from.
0:59
If we want to understand the evolution of agriculture, we need to travel back in time, and in order to really understand where our food comes from, we begin with a look into our own human evolution.
1:13
We go as far back as to the appearance of the first hominins, the split of the most recent common ancestor of our own lineage and the one that leads to modern chimpanzees which happened about 5-7 million years ago. Around three million years ago the first members of the genus Homo appeared, and only about 300,000 years ago the species Homo sapiens came to the scene. In the beginning, they had more robust physical features, but at least for 200,000 years, we see the anatomically modern humans. I hope this picture gives you a first impression of the short-time our direct ancestors existed. But, in this lecture, we will deal with an even more recent phenomenon, the so-called Neolithic transition.
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Evolution of agriculture: the origin of our food crops

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