Currently, am reading a book called Guns, Germs and Steel. The book gives a history of almost everything for the last 13,000 years. The book contains surprising facts like:
a) None of the big mammals Africa is so much famous for, originated there. Their origins lie in eurasia.
b) The people of Madagascar are similar to those in New Guinea and this has baffled archeaologits. There are theories that all the continents were one land mass, which kep onb drifting apart resulting in creation of continents. However, what is not explained is if New Guienans mixed with natives of Madagascar, what stopped them from mixing with the inhabitants of East Africa.
c) Aborigines of Australia were still hunter gatheres when europeans arrive in Australia.
d) The direction of the spread of continent is an important factor. If the spread is more from north to east, like Africa then climatic conditions will vary significantly making the survival of things in North difficult in South and vice versa. This was the reason that so many plants and animals which thrived in North Africa could not survive in South Africa. On the other hand in eurasia, the spread is more east to west, therefore climatic conditons remain same making the movement of plants and animals much easier.
e) All domesticated crops like wheats, barley, rice have a wild ancestor which could have been posinous. Humans have changed the crops in thousands on years making them suitable for them. The latest fruit to be domesticated is apple because the process of change from wild to domestic was an extremely complex one. Have we ever realised its difficult to trace apple orchards. In India, only Kashmir and Himachal are famous for apples, I dont know of any other place.
f) Surplus food production is the bed rock of all human development. It leads to settlement at one place. Post that a certain section of society thinks that benefits are larger by controlling the production of food grains than by growing them themselves. This section become the rulers and beureaucrats. This is not possible with hunter gatheres, though they too have leaders but those leaders have to find food on their own and have too little time to rule.
g) Fertile Crescent is the name of the place where today we have countries like Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Israel, Palestine and etc. This was the place which had plants and animals of different varities. Hard to imagine today!