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Subject:

Re: Why agriculture?

From:

Beatrice Hopkinson <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

British archaeology discussion list <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 18 Jul 2010 12:52:53 -0700

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I so agree with Prof.Watkins,

     There are so many microcosmic effects such as population growth due
to better food balanced by death due to disease, climatic effects which  
vary from region to region that can affect the growth of agricultural 
activity or progress in any one region, I have seen micro-climates 
develop at fault lines where plant growth can vary almost daily.   Early 
advances were experimental - and good ideas that worked in one place 
might not in another.  Necessary support resources  were also important 
for settled comunities.   

     To quote Jarad Diamond (Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human 
Societies, 1997)  sees "two big environmental advantages of Eurasia over 
other areas in which farming apparently developed independently. The 
various Eurasian inventors of farming and especially those in "Southwest 
Asia" (roughly Mesopotamia and Turkey), had by far the best natural 
endowment of crops and of domesticable animals in the size from goats or 
dogs upwards. The superiority in domesticable animals was the more 
notable as other areas had at most two and often no such animals. 
Eurasia's other big advantage is that its mainly East-West axis provides 
a huge area with similar latitudes and therefore climates. As a result it 
was far easier for migrating Eurasian populations to adapt those plants 
and animals to which they had become accustomed (that had acclimatized?)  
to new areas. By contrast the Americas' North-South axis forced migrating 
Native Americans to adopt new crops and animals as they migrated from 
North to South because of the wide variation in climates."

     The archaeological record, as valuable as it is, cannot reveal all 
and, as we have seen in the past few decades, we continue to make new 
discoveries which disprove earlier  beliefs based on new exccavations, as 
is happening now in Armenia.  Or put another way as new excavations 
become possible it opens up more exciting evidence of the way it was.

Bea



Trevor Watkins 

>It's interesting that Andy Norfolk has come up with the 'rubbish heap'  
>model for the origins of cultivation. He isn't the first. It goes back  
>to the early years of the 20th century, but is most often associated  
>with the name of Carl Sauer, whose 1952 book renamed it the 'dump- 
>heap' hypothesis. If you want a modern review of the idea and its  
>history, try Abbo, S., A. Gopher, B. Rubin & S. Lev-Yadun, 2005. On  
>the Origin of Near Eastern Founder Crops and the ëDump-heap  
>Hypothesisí. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution, 52(5), 491-5.
>
>And that makes me think of another issue. I think that there is a  
>difference between accounts that attempt to explain how and why people  
>who harvested cereals and pulses in southwest Asia moved on into  
>cultivating the wild plants, and accounts of how and why people (in  
>Britain, for example, since several contributions have focused on  
>Britain) may have adopted farming practices. These are two quite  
>different kinds of account for two quite different kinds of process.  
>In that context, Hilary Stuart-Williams is clearly thinking about the  
>second kind of process when she imagines someone who has seen  
>something that people in a neighbouring community are doing and  
>decides to adopt that behaviour, or make such an artefact. But Hilary  
>is more concerned with the archaeologists' analysis of processes at  
>the population scale, and the lack of interest in human agency in the  
>process. I don't know about the piecemeal or wholesale adoption of a  
>'Neolithic package', but in southwest Asia the evidence shows us that  
>the switch from hunting and gathering to farming was not in fact a  
>switch but a long process that we can trace across more than ten  
>thousand years. That process was no doubt made up of many micro- 
>innovations made first by some individual somewhere. But what we see  
>as archaeologists, archaeo-botanists or archaeo-zoologists is the  
>result of the widespread take-up of just a few of all those micro- 
>innovations that were thought up. In other words, the innovator is  
>invisible to us, and we don't even know how many innovations were  
>tried but never took off. What we can now say, however, is that  
>larger, more socially coherent communities - the kind of new social  
>organization that came into existence over the time-period that  
>brought mixed farming into common practice - are more likely to  
>generate, take up and institutionalize innovations (see Steve Shennan  
>(2000), Population, culture history, and the dynamics of culture  
>change. Current Anthropology, 41(5), 811-35).
>
>Prof Trevor Watkins
>Archaeology,
>School of History, Classics and Archaeology,
>University of Edinburgh
>
>
>
>
>The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in
>Scotland, with registration number SC005336.
>


Beatrice Hopkinson,
Hon. Secretary Los Angeles Branch, Oxford University Society
Board Member, Archaeological Institute of America
President, Droitwich Brine Springs and Archaeological Trust, U.K
Affilliate, Cotsen institute of Archaeology, UCLA
([log in to unmask])

818 766 7780

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