Entrepreneurs and the Agricultural Revolution (Neolithic Revolution)

The first entrepreneurs were hunters and gatherers. But as agriculture continued to grow, people began to settle in one place, taking advantage of trade and all of its benefits. 

From hunting to agriculture

The Neolithic Revolution, also called the Agricultural Revolution, was a period of time around 10,000 BC when there was a transition from hunting and gathering to developed civilizations.

Prior to the Agricultural Revolution and the first entrepreneurs, there were hunters and gatherers. Hunting and gathering was how humans survived, but it made settling in a specific area impractical. It wasn’t until the development of agriculture that humans started creating permanent civilizations, paving the way for early entrepreneurs.

Like many other inventions and developments throughout history, this transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture was a means of increasing productivity, and often, a response to the demands of cultural, climate, and population changes in many regions.

At this time, many cultures began to abandon hunting and gathering for farming. The first farmers were recorded in the Middle East, specifically in the Fertile Crescent, where some of the earliest civilizations lived. Due to the incredibly fertile soil near the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, this region is where humans first began experimenting with various plants and grains before transitioning fully to agricultural societies.

The original entrepreneurs

The original entrepreneurs were traders and merchants. Over 10,000 years ago, these early entrepreneurs exchanged goods with other locals to obtain what they needed. 

The development of agriculture quickly advanced society as people were able to stay in one place, which influenced the creation of the first towns and cities. From there, trade routes were created, and civilizations went from bartering to developing a money system.

Before towns and cities were developed, these entrepreneurs traveled around, looking for places to hunt, gather, and ultimately trade. One of the first instances of this was around 17,000 BCE, in New Guinea, when some of the earliest entrepreneurs traded some goods for others. For instance, the people in New Guinea traded obsidian, a black volcanic glass used to make arrowheads for hunting, for other necessary goods such as pigs and root crops.

Domestication of plants and animals

The first domestication of plants started around 10,000 BCE, and the first domestication of animals was recorded around 15,000 BCE. This was a major step towards a more developed society. The Agricultural Revolution had begun. 

The domestication of plants, and later animals, significantly influenced everyday life during the Neolithic Era. Once people began to domesticate plants and animals, they were able to stay in one place rather than move around looking for new goods. This started the development of towns and cities.

Prior to the Agricultural Revolution, tribes obtained resources for their community only. But the development of permanent civilizations led to the specialization of skills within each tribe. As individuals began specializing in areas such as tool-making or pottery, there was a possibility for entrepreneurship for the first time. Not only could someone trade their handmade pottery for something more valuable, if they developed a new technique, they could become more efficient, making time for innovation and the development of new ideas. The key to successful entrepreneurship during this period was anticipating a need to obtain goods worth trading. 

Agricultural in Asia

Over 5,000 years ago, Southeast Asia was full of hunters and gathers. But the agricultural revolution pushed this region towards farming and trading.

Farmers during the Agricultural Revolution took on the role of entrepreneurs by turning their knowledge into practical goods and services. Farmers faced many risks, such as unpredictable seasons and weather patterns. But despite the risks involved, agriculture in Asia continued to grow. In many cases, the increase in food production led to an increase in the population. The rise of agricultural production encouraged both local trade and the development of trade with other areas.   

Farming wasn’t the only development that came out of Southeast Asia in the Neolithic Era. For instance, pottery was a significant part of Chinese culture, and eventually influenced European pottery, as well. The most well-known pottery during the Neolithic period was a type of painted pottery called ‘Banshan ware.’ Hand-painted with geometric patterns, these large urns were discovered in the Gansu province in China.

Agriculture in Europe

It was the specialization of skills during the Agricultural Revolution that led many Europeans down an entrepreneurial path. Farmers in Europe took on an entrepreneurial role in the same way farmers in Asia did. As modern entrepreneurs do, the farmers in Neolithic Europe took on risks to develop wealth. One example is how they expanded their farming to diverse areas and locations, not knowing whether their crops would be successful.

But farming in Europe also drove the development of agricultural technology forward, creating opportunities for innovation in regard to both technology and infrastructure. The design of the dugout canoes from the Mesolithic Era was likely improved upon during this time because the expansion of agriculture made it necessary to travel across lakes and streams.      

In addition to farming, many entrepreneurs began to specialize in areas such as pottery. The ceramics in Europe during this time were called ‘Linear Pottery,’ or ‘Linear Ware,’ due to their distinctive decorations involving numerous lines.

Agriculture in Africa

10,000 years ago in Central Africa, people were forced to develop means of entrepreneurship other than hunting and gathering as it became more difficult for early entrepreneurs to travel across the desert.

Due to these changes, especially in a dry period, these hunters and gatherers started settling beside bodies of water, developing different skills and building more permanent civilizations. During this time, the development of agriculture began in Central Africa.

Naturally, domesticating plants created a need for new tools. In this area, tools used specifically for digging were developed. The purpose of these tools was to increase efficiency, especially when digging up wild roots. This development created new opportunities for trade, as well as opportunities for the innovation of more sophisticated tools. Around the same time, the development of farming began as men and women started clearing plots of land and planting roots and tubers, the parts of a stem that provide nutrients for other plants.

Out of all the crops domesticated in Africa, the most famous was coffee, believed to have originated in Ethiopia. But the cultivation and trade of coffee didn’t begin until the crop reached the Arabian Peninsula. The roasted coffee we’re familiar with today originated in Arabia, but how entrepreneurs profited off coffee has changed over time.

Progress from the Agricultural Revolution

With the development of farming during the Agricultural Revolution, it no longer made sense for each tribe or community to do everything on their own. Specialization of skills is what led to successful societies and settlements.

Previously, each tribe would hunt and gather their food, taking care only of their own community. But with the development of agriculture and advancements in these societies, each tribe and member started learning skills they could share with others. Ultimately, the specialization of skills allowed entrepreneurs to introduce new methods and ideas, giving each society the opportunity to progress.

As these early entrepreneurs began to improve their skills, they were able to pass their knowledge onto others, as well. Many of the early entrepreneurs worked in areas such as pottery, carpentry, and masonry. Much like modern entrepreneurs, the early entrepreneurs were problem-solvers. When new carpentry tools were needed, entrepreneurs found a way to benefit from the creation of more efficient tools. They helped society progress by making a profit off solving problems. 

[1]  “University of Chicago Press Journals: Cookie Absent.” RCNi Company Limited, www.journals.uchicago.edu/action/cookieAbsent?mobileUi=0&. Accessed 9 Aug. 2022.

[2] History.com Editors. “Neolithic Revolution.” HISTORY, 10 Sept. 2021, www.history.com/topics/pre-history/neolithic-revolution

[3] Higham, Charles. “First Farmers in Mainland Southeast Asia.” University of Otago, journals.lib.washington.edu/index.php/JIPA/article/view/15014/12535#:~:text=It%20was%20during%20the%20Neolithic,coastal%20habitats%20and%20inland%20plains. Accessed 8 Aug. 2022

[4] The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (1998, July 20). Banshan ware. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/art/Banshan-ware

[5] Central Africa | History, Countries, Climate, & Facts. (1998, July 24). Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/place/central-Africa/The-agricultural-revolution

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