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I imagine most people in the world today obtain their daily sustenance from local food markets as opposed to everyone relying on themselves to hunt and or grow food. Around what periods in time did most the peoples of the world make this general transition to mass reliance on others?

Thank you!

Dave Lampton


Dear Mr. Lampton,

It is not easy to place a universal time or location on the transition from daily subsistence to commercial intercourse between specialists, but as a general rule it evolved with the enlargement of social gatherings from little hunting bands to permanent agricultural communities and later, towns and cities. By their very nature these communities discouraged everyone from scouring the countryside for meat and wild edible flora, while encouraging various members of the community who demonstrated individual talents in farming or craftsmanship to focus on their fortes—to the mutual benefit of everyone in the community. China dates its first agricultural communities to as early as 10,000 BCE, and over the next few thousand years humans around most of the world had followed suit—in the Indus Valley around 7,500, Mesopotamia between 10,000 and 6,000, and Egypt by 5,500 BCE.



Jon Guttman

Research Director

World History

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