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The interesting thing about the Neolithic Revolution is that it happened all over the Earth, among people who could have no idea that others in distant places were doing precisely the same things. Farming was independently invented at least seven times – in China, the Middle East, New Guinea, the Andes, the Amazon basin, Mexico and west Africa. Cities likewise emerged in six places – China, Egypt, India, Mesopotamia, Central America and the Andes. That all of these things happened all over, often without any possibility of shared contact, is on the face of it really quite uncanny. As one historian has put it: ‘When Cortés landed in Mexico he found roads, canals, cities, palaces, schools, law courts, markets, irrigation works, kings, priests, temples, peasants, artisans, armies, astronomers, merchants, sports, theatre, art, music, and books’ – all invented quite independently of similar developments on other continents.

Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life, 2010

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