There are also lessons that contemporary city dwellers can learn from the ancient metropolises of the global south. Put simply, these ancient settlements are a proof of concept, demonstrating that people can live sustainably for thousands of years in fragile environments. In the tropics, our ancestors did it by living in low-density communities, with local farms feeding neighbourhoods and families. Instead of widespread slash-and-burn agriculture, there was a patchwork of cleared areas at the edges of forests.
These are the relatively recent remains of an ancient temple in the tropical forest of Cambodia.
Paleolithic pastimes —
Evidence that ancient farms had very different origins than previously thought.
Dramatic new hypothesis could change the way we understand human history.
Annalee Newitz - 8/3/2017, 6:30 PM
It's an idea that could transform our understanding of how humans went from small bands of hunter-gatherers to farmers and urbanites. Until recently, anthropologists believed cities and farms emerged about 9,000 years ago in the Mediterranean and Middle East. But now a team of interdisciplinary researchers has gathered evidence showing how civilization as we know it may have emerged at the equator, in tropical forests. Not only that, but people began altering their environments for food and shelter about 30,000 years earlier than we thought.
For centuries, archaeologists believed that ancient people couldn't live in tropical jungles. The environment was simply too harsh and challenging, they thought. As a result, scientists simply didn't look for clues of ancient civilizations in the tropics. Instead, they turned their attention to the Middle East, where we have ample evidence that hunter-gatherers settled down in farming villages 9,000 years ago during a period dubbed the "Neolithic revolution." Eventually, these farmers' offspring built the ziggurats of Mesopotamia and the great pyramids of Egypt. It seemed certain that city life came from these places and spread from there around the world.