(How to teach)
The University of Massachusetts campus is a beautiful place to learn. We’ve gotten much better at offering excellent instruction in the past couple administrations (and I’ve heard from alumni that many are planning to attend), but still, there’s no denying that it does sometimes be a little less than ideal (and I do mean ‘a little more than ideal’, just a little).
This is the world we’re living in.
One of the key elements of a good university is its research program, which seeks to answer fundamental questions — such as: how did we live prior to the advent of agriculture and agriculture evolved into farming?
This is the question that lies squarely at the heart of a study conducted by researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
It’s an ambitious project.
“Our research focuses on how early human civilizations arose and how they eventually collapsed. And we’re doing that through archaeology,” stated Dr. David Archer (left). “What we’re doing is excavating the sites that provide evidence of human habitation and subsistence practices. We’re looking at what’s present on these sites, not what was there when humans became dominant.”
Dr. Archer and his colleagues are conducting excavations of five distinct prehistoric periods dating between 3,600 B.C. and 200 A.D.
The oldest artifacts uncovered so far are dated to 50 to 70 thousand years ago. This represents a significant expansion of human habitation from a relatively primitive level that was first described in 1450 years ago. Archaeologies suggest that the first populations living in the Near East and in the southern Levant before 7,000 B.C. were probably hunter-gatherers.
The Middle East is thought to have been a cold-climate region where early humans lived. “We believe that early humans lived between the Levant and eastern North Africa. We think that early humans lived in eastern North Africa and they then spread from there to the New World.”
Another notable feature is the development of agriculture around the same time period. Archer said:
We have three major sites in the Near East that provide evidence of what we think early agricultural societies looked like. The oldest is the village of Nippur in Mesopotamia. That site is dated to 35 thousand B.C. and shows an early agricultural society with pottery-making, charcoal production in clay vessels, and some evidence of animal-herding.
Another site in the Near
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