Settled agriculture replaced hunting and gathering slowly; the transition was neither immediate, nor obvious. Doesn't that seem counterintuitive?
from chapter 6 of Gun, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
At the beginning of Chapter 6, Diamond talks about how this would seem counterintuitive when it really is not.
Diamond says that we only think that farming is great because most of us don't do it (and even when we do it's not hard physical labor for farmers in the rich world). He says that in prehistoric times farming was not a lifestyle that was clearly superior to that of hunter-gatherers.
Diamond points out that there are even hunter-gatherers today (or recently) who have chosen not to become farmers. He also says that archaeologists have found out that the first people to start farming in a given area were smaller, less healthy, and tended to live a shorter life than the hunter-gatherers who used to live in the area.
So -- while we can see the benefits of farming today, they wouldn't have been all that obvious back then and so people wouldn't have rushed to have agriculture as soon as they heard about it.
The pace of development of agricultural practice, to replace hunting gathering activities were determined by three factors.
- Extent of efforts required in the two type of activities. Here it should be realized that in the initial period of development of agriculture, it was not necessarily easier than hunting gathering.
- Availability of sufficient and assured supply of food through hunting gathering.
- Availability of suitable crops for cultivation and knowledge of cultivation techniques.
These factors varied from place to place and accordingly the pace of development of of agriculture was different from in different regions. Also, the the agriculture technology developed at relatively slow pace in initial period, accounting for slow adoption of agriculture.