How did humans stop wandering and start farming? It’s a crucial question, because farming allowed our ancestors to move beyond itinerant lifestyles into more permanent cultures. When farming was adopted, and people saw the benefits of having food at the ready, early humans put down roots (pun intended), established long-term structures, and began to defend their territory and protect their possessions. Civilization as we know it was the ultimate result.
There are two competing theories. One is that early farmers migrated from their home area and brought their seeds, tools, and farming concepts with them. The other posits that hunter-gatherers saw the benefits of farming and decided to adopt the farming lifestyle. The latter theory seems a bit far-fetched, because it’s hard to imagine hardy hunter-gatherers appreciating the benefits of farming and radically changing their transient ways.
Now DNA studies have lent support to the former theory and indicate that farming was spread through Europe by migrants. The study found that a Stone Age farmer was genetically distinct from hunter-gatherers of that era, and suggests that farming began in the area now known as Turkey and spread north and west, as farmers looked for tillable acreage where their crops could thrive. The study also suggests that modern Europeans have more genes of the early farmers than they do of the hunter-gatherers.
In short, the farmers won the Darwinian contest. Their lifestyle might have been boring compared to that of the hardy hunter-gatherers, but with their steady diets, domesticated animals, and focus on building for a better harvest next year, they were more likely to survive and pass down their genes.