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BRITARCH  July 2010

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Subject:

Re: Why Agriculture?

From:

Dave Tooke <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Sat, 17 Jul 2010 00:40:33 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

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Agriculture is a construct of anatomically modern humans and there is little 
evidence of physiological changes as a result.

The Neolithic revolution is however very often held to be a behavioural 
revolution, with significant changes to society as part of the package. This 
may involve cultivated foodstuffs being seen as higher status, and may for 
example involve the rejection of seafood as a dietary component.

Territorial demarkation and symbols of ownership seem to have been another 
part of the European package, perhaps due to growing investment in the 
land - working it rather than just using it?

There is a huge amount of literature but try
Richards and Hedges  A Neolithic Revolution - Antiquity 73:891-7 (1999)
Thomas Rethinking the Neolithic  - Antiquity 77: 67-74 (2003)
Bruck Monuments Power and Personhood in the British Neolithic Jnl Ryl Anth 
Inst 7(4): 649-67 (2001)
and perhaps Kinnes Monumental function in the British Neolithic - World 
Archaeology 7(1) (1975)

Dave
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Steve" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, July 16, 2010 11:40 PM
Subject: Re: Why Agriculture?


> Many thanks for that Dave, I think I am slowly getting there.. lol.
>
> Would you say that the move to agriculture is purely a 
> social/environmental
> act, or could there be any human physical/mental evolution at play as a
> contributing cause? (as in Darwinian evolution).
>
> Steve
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: British archaeology discussion list [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
> On Behalf Of Dave Tooke
> Sent: 16 July 2010 10:51
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: [BRITARCH] Why Agriculture?
>
> Steve
>
> For much of human history hunting and gathering has been able to provide 
> the
>
> requisite amount of food, and ethnographically agriculture is attested as 
> a
> harder way of life in terms of labour investment. Many groups have 
> see-sawed
>
> between the two modes, using agricultural techniques when required and
> reverting to Hunting and Gathering when they can - as a preference.
>
> From our perspective Agriculture seems like the sensible option and one
> which would be adopted as a "no-brainer" as soon as society had "advanced"
> to the point where it was possible.
>
> That may well not be the way that it was seen in antiquity. As one
> Hunter-Gatherer representative put it, "Why should I grow crops when there
> are so many Mongongo nuts in the world?"
>
> Foodstuffs have different calorific return rates, and the preferred foods
> are this which are easy to obtain and process, and which provide a high,
> usable, calorific return (eg a diet consisting of only lean meat will lead
> to starvation regardless of calorific value).
>
> If these are available for collection then that will be that preferred
> option.
>
> If not then agriculture may be necessary, either as a supplement or as a 
> way
>
> of life.
>
> Taken together then I would see adoption of agriculture as a response to
> localised food shortages when the ability to move elsewhere is impaired.
> This may happen due to increased population locally , or it may be caused 
> by
>
> a deterioration in local food supply - either way an imbalance is created,
> which people cannot move away from
>
> Why not move to agriculture earlier? It is likely that until a specific
> regional population level was reached that mobility would be the preferred
> option. But if the local conditions mean the food supply is inadequate and
> there is inward pressure from surrounding populations, who are also 
> starting
>
> suffer and thus guarding territory and resources then agriculture may be 
> the
>
> option.
>
> This of course begs the question of how people learned agricultural
> techniques. There may be evidence of some herding and forest clearance /
> ground preparation in the Mesolithic, which could have led to a gradual
> understanding of what to do, even before the conditions locally made such
> behaviour the optimal one for survival.
>
>
> Dave Tooke
>
>
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "Steve" <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Friday, July 16, 2010 12:13 AM
> Subject: Re: Why Agriculture?
>
>
>> Hi Everyone
>>
>> Many thanks for the very interesting replies..
>>
>> Yes Merryn I do mean globally and in respect of all types of grain, but
>> yes
>> specifically in relation to the fertile crescent which seems to be the
>> world
>> wide starting point for an agricultural society (this is how it comes
>> across
>> to me anyway).
>>
>> Dave, I am seriously trying to find a personal understanding here so I
>> wouldn't dream of shooting you down in flames...  in fact your reply
>> actually re-enforces my question of Why?... I appreciate the how's of the
>> situation, I just don't understand the why...  if as in your quote of
>> Binford, the suggestion is that certain Factors, such as population 
>> growth
>> and ET etc... why at this particular point in human history... there must
>> have been umpteen times since Mans development that conditions suited the
>> development of agriculture.. forgive my ignorance, but surely, wouldn't
>> the
>> norm have always been for there to be a mixture of a hunter
>> gatherer/agricultural societies dependant on differing locations as to
>> their
>> suitability for sustaining the two types of existence?
>>
>> If not, then why that speficic time in our history did Mankind start
>> changing to agriculture.. there surely must have been another catalyst
>> other
>> than environmental factors as they have always existed throughout time.
>>
>>
>> Steve
>>
>>
>>
>>
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: British archaeology discussion list 
>> [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
>> On Behalf Of Dave Tooke
>> Sent: 15 July 2010 23:10
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Subject: Re: [BRITARCH] Why Agriculture?
>>
>> It would seem an obvious correlation to say that population density is
>> largely dependent on the availablity of food. However food availability
>> may
>> vary throughout the year, and this seasonality is largely a co-efficient
>> of
>> latitude.
>>
>> Where there is variation in food supply the the response may be to
>> migrate,
>> or at least follow a seasonal round, or to store food. As soon as storage
>> is
>>
>> adopted as a strategy then the population begins to be tied to that 
>> place.
>>
>> Successful storage requires seasons of glut, and processable food. 
>> Storage
>> combined with sedentism has been a succsessful strategy deployed by many
>> groups of Hunter Gatherers, most noticably in the American North West.
>>
>> In a region that begins to become well-populated, perhaps over-populated,
>> then groups may find it impossible to follow food resources - perhaps
>> other
>> groups claim them, or will not allow access over what they consider as
>> their
>>
>> lands.
>>
>> Agriculture, at least in Europe seems to have originated in what is now
>> modern Turkey. The effective temperature (ET) in that region is/was about
>> 14
>>
>> degrees, and the climate is failrly seasonal, and indeed localised due to
>> the topography.
>>
>> Binford (In Pursuit of the Past) mentions that the human repoductive rate
>> is
>>
>> at its highest at an ET of around 14 degrees - so it may be that in this
>> region the human population grew to such an extent that mobility was
>> restricted, and the strategy of agriculture was developed in response,
>> enabling an artificially created seasonal glut of storeable produce.
>>
>> Feel free to shoot down in flames.
>>
>> Dave Tooke
>>
>> ----- Original Message ----- 
>> From: "Steven Burch" <[log in to unmask]>
>> To: <[log in to unmask]>
>> Sent: Thursday, July 15, 2010 1:35 PM
>> Subject: Why Agriculture?
>>
>>
>>> Guys
>>>
>>> I was wondering if anyone could help explain something to me.
>>>
>>> Over the years I have read many articles on man changing from hunter
>>> gatherers to a more settiled argricultural system.
>>>
>>> I doubt anything I have read has been too indepth, but it is a subject
>>> that
>>> interests me...  more specifically the why of it...  I can know the
>>> theories
>>> on where, and how it started etc, but have never seen a plausible
>>> explaination of why.
>>>
>>> I have read that hunter gatherers had a hiugher protein diet and indeed
>>> had
>>> a more leisure time with food sourcing taking uip and average of 2-4
>>> hours
>>
>>> a
>>> day, whereas, farming was a lot more labour intense, food lower in
>>> protein
>>> leading to poorer health boith in humans and scrawnier domesticated
>>> animals,
>>> certainly initially.
>>>
>>> I cant see agriculture being a more seciure source of food than hunting
>>> gathering, given that the early farmers were as much, if not more at the
>>> mercy of weather/pests.. so what was the driving force that instigated
>>> agriculture as the leading way of life..
>>>
>>> I cant see it being soley as a means to escape a nomadic lifetsyle.
>>>
>>> Is there a generally held opinion on the catalist for this reformation 
>>> of
>>> society?
>>>
>>>
>>> Off at a tangent, I have even heard that in the book of Genesis, when
>>> Adam
>>> and Eve are thrown out of the Garden of Eden may well be a folk memory 
>>> of
>>> changing from hunter gathering to farming.. and wasnt necessarily a good
>>> thing.
>>>
>>> Thanks
>>>
>>> Steve
>>>
>> No virus found in this incoming message.
>> Checked by AVG - www.avg.com
>> Version: 9.0.830 / Virus Database: 271.1.1/2965 - Release Date: 07/15/10
>> 12:09:00
>>
> No virus found in this incoming message.
> Checked by AVG - www.avg.com
> Version: 9.0.830 / Virus Database: 271.1.1/2965 - Release Date: 07/15/10
> 19:35:00
> 

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