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Unit 5

5.3 Agricultural Origins and Diffusions

2 min readfebruary 13, 2021

Pooja Kalyan

AP Human Geography 🚜

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How has agriculture changed over time? 

As we become more technologically advanced and as our beliefs and cultures diffuse across the globe, we develop new agricultural practices. For this section, you should know the earliest and most significant places where plants and animals were first domesticated and understand how these domesticated crops and livestock came to other regions around the world. 

Early Hearths

*Note: You don’t need to memorize everything that came out of these regions, but do remember Mesopotamia and choose a few bullets to memorize (so that you can use them as examples on the AP HUG FRQ section). 
  1. Fertile Crescent/Mesopotamia 
  • Located between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers 
  • Crops: Bread grains, grapes, apples, olives, and a variety of others 
  • Animals: Cattle, pigs, sheep, and goats 
  • Hearth of the First (Neolithic) Agricultural Revolution 
    • People transitioned from hunting and gathering to planting and harvesting food, allowing for the first civilizations
2. Nile River Valley 
  • Second urban hearth 
  • Lentils, beans, flax
  • Cattle, sheep, goats, pigs 
3. Indus River Valley 
  • Third urban hearth 
  • Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro
    • wheat, barely, peas, lentils, mustard, cotton 
    • Sheep, goats, chickens, pigs, cattle, dogs 
4. East Asia 
  • China : rice and millet 
5. Southwest Asia (mostly Iraq and Saudi Arabia) 
  • Barley, wheat, lentil, olive 
  • Largest number of animals domesticated : pigs, goats, cattle, sheep, dog 
6. Central America 
  • Mexico and Peru were major hearths of crop domestication 
  • Mexico : beans and cotton 
  • Peru : potatoes 
  • Maize was one of the most important crops that came from the Americas 
7. Sub-Saharan Africa 
  • Sorghum, Yams 
🎥 Watch: AP HUG - Agricultural Regions


The Diffusion of Plants and Animals 

There were many ways that newly domesticated plants and animals reached other parts of the globe, but the best ones to know about are the Columbian Exchange and the agricultural revolutions*.  *I have only provided details of the First Agricultural Revolution in this section because the other two revolutions (the Second Agricultural Revolution and the Green Revolution) will be discussed in the following sections.
1. First (Neolithic) Agricultural Revolution 
  • Transition from hunting and gathering to growing plants and raising livestock -> people began to understand seeds, watering, and plant/animal care 
  • The practices developed overtime and diffused globally largely through contagious diffusion 
    • First spread to Central Asia and eventually across Europe 
2. Columbian Exchange 
  • A variety of plants, animals, diseases, and technologies were exchanged between the Americas and the Eastern hemisphere 
    • People became familiar with new plants and animals as the exchange continued
🎥 Watch: AP HUG - Agriculture Types and Locations


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