A real cultural explosion had brought us to the point of civilization where people sought to live together in larger and larger numbers with a measure of happiness.
A bout 12000 years ago, climatic shifts created open woodlands with nuts that could be harvested and grasses that had the potential to be manipulated and eventually domesticated - dependent upon human influence. Warmer winters would have made year-round settlement in lower areas where grasses grew in abundance possible. Technology toward plant processing equipment such as sickle blades and grinding stones were adopted. At this time, permanent settled hamlets and villages began to spread as well paving the way for the emergence of agriculture. The earliest settlements were found in the Levant and the western foothills of the Zagros Mountains in Turkey. Wild wheat and barley grew particularly well in these regions.
By 9000 years ago people in these regions subsisted on a variety of plants and nuts. These increasingly became more important in the diet and the dependence upon these resources was well established. The transitional phase during which people lived in small yet settled villages is considered to the Natufian Culture. Villages with circular, stone-walled structures with increasing populations were typical. Circular houses and circular arrangements of houses can indicate an egalitarian society. Kent Flannery has addressed the significance of circular architecture in contrast to rectangular types of buildings. Yet, some of the latest and largest Natufian sites and cemeteries contained considerable evidence for the emergence of hierarchical structures. Seashells, obsidian and stone bowls were apparently part of an emerging trade system in the region as well.
By 7600 B.C. to 6000 B.C. sites with evidence of horticulture were present in an ever expanding geographic range. Sites such as Mureybet and Tell Abu Hureyra as well as Jericho can be thought of as the earliest known truly agricultural villages. The remains of domesticated einkorn wheat at Mureybet are of particular note. Hunting of animals such as gazelles was still important at sites such as Abu Hureyra until 6500 B.C. when people there began to herd sheep and goats and rely heavily upon cereal crops.
The earliest farming community in the Zagros Mountains was Jarmo in northeastern Iraq. Barley, wheat and several large-seeded annual legumes were cultivated and sheep and goats were herded. Dating at Jarmo is problematic but it appears to be relatively around the same time as that for the previous two sites.