Origins of Agriculture
❖ The origins of Agriculture
o One of the three great transformations in human prehistory (along with the origins of material culture and the origins of social complexity)
■ Change over to food production from food collection is a recent event
• Humans as hunter-gatherers for over 99% of our history, but now very few o Origins of agriculture occurred independently at various places between 12-7 KYA
❖ What is Agriculture?
1. Domestication: relationship between humans and plants/animals
a. Cultivation: a deliberate cultural process involving the activates of preparing fields, sowing, weeding, harvesting, and storing which requires new ways of thinking about subsistence and new technologies
b. Agriculture: modification of the environments of plants and animals to increase their productivity and use
2. Technology: the tools used for the daily tasks associated with food production (ex. harvesting, processing, storing)
3. Community: the development of settled villages (sedentism) and a constructed landscape (agro ecology)
❖ Origins of Agriculture: Models
o The Neolithic Revolution (V. Gordon Childe)
o Most explanations concentrate on one foo fur basic factors:
■ Rising human population densities
■ Climate change
■ Risk aversion and ecological models
■ Social inequalities
o Populations and resources (Ester Boserup)
■ Food productions are flexible and respond to population densities by intensifying resource use
■ When territory is limited, food shortages result and new food storage strategies appear
■ Domestication was another form of storage (ex. meat on the hoof)
o Emergence of farming on extension of past strategies
o Broad-Spectrum Foraging: hunter-gatherers seek to maintain stability and resource flexibility (Brian Hayden)
■ Late Pleistocene - Halocene shift from megafauna to broad spectrum resources
• Diversification means of risk reduction/strategy to increase resource stability
• Shift from k-selected species (long-lived, log maturation periods with few offspring/reproductive cycle) to r-selected species (rapid reproduction, large numbers of offspring) - both in terms of plants (annuals) and animals (ex. sheep and goats)
o Climate Change
■ Richerson, Boyd, Bettinger, McCorriston, Hole, Moore, and Hillman
• Weather more "seasonal" = hotter summers, cooler winters
• Exploitation of seasonal grains but seeing decreasing availability
• Planting crops strategy to get through food shortages
o Agricultural intensification driven by socio-political competition (Barbara Bender)
■ Production, storage and transformation of surpluses
■ Competition between ambitious individuals within societies requires surplus resources
■ The earliest plant domesticates were flavourings (ex. chili peppers) given away at feasts as prestige items
■ Agriculture develops to provide more of these high status foodstuffs
❖ Problems with Models
o No one theory or model fits every instance where domestication occurred
o Cultures adapted to specific local conditions and selective pressures
o Several options for how to change might be available, and in some areas, agriculture was impossible or not chosen as pattern to pursue
o Often make plant domestication appear as if it was incidental or accidental
■ Denies importance of human agency, in particular that of women (feminist archaeology critique)
■ Ignores environmental modifications that depended on conscious, active human intention
Domestication and Domesticates
❖ The Essence of Domestication
o Mutualisms (David Rindos)
■ Domestication is co-evolutionary process
• Taxon diverges from original gene pool, establishing symbiotic protection and dispersal relationship with animals feeding upon it
• Humans interfere with life cycles, producing plants and animals that are less "fit"
■ Indehiscence, seed dispersal mechanisms, dormancy cycles, chemical defenses
• "Wild" vs. "domesticated"
❖ Domestication
o Process of domestication is a hallmark of complex settled societies
o Domestication often produces significant changed in a plant due to intensive selection imposed by farmers
o Neolithic revolution is one of the most important times in prehistory
❖ Characteristics of Domesticated Plants
o Indehiscence
■ Seeds remain on stalk (tough rachis)
■ Pods - so not burst and scatter seeds
o Gigantism
■ Larger seeds
o Synchronous maturation
■ Beneficial for harvesting
o Do not pertain to all crops
■ Forage, feed
❖ Animal Domestication
o Involves capture and taming of animals, removal from natural habitats, control of breeding conditions
o Domestication of animals followed plants
o Neotony
■ Selection for reduces aggression
o Selection for desirable traits which, by their character render animal less “fit”
■ Ex. fat-tailed sheep; milk production; wool that requires shearing
❖ Wild vs. Domestic Animals
o The analysis of faunal remains can give insight into when domestication occurred and the form it took
■ Presence outside of "normal" range
■ Age and sex distribution
• Large numbers of young animals suggest culling
• Different ratios of male to female can identify milking versus meat herds
■ Teeth: crowding is more common in domesticates but not reliable measure though
• In domestic pigs can see a gradual decrease in tooth size
■ Overall size: may see a decrease in size between wild/domesticate (ex. cattle), but may have climate/environmental factors
■ Changes in features like hair/wool can be preserved
❖ Sheep and Goats
o Small, easily handled herd animals who prefer to follow a dominant individual
o Can be raised in a confined environment
o Multi-purpose: milk, meat, wool, hides
o Breeding produced wool in domestic sheep
o Domestic goats about 8000 BCE in Iran
❖ Cattle
o Cattle were much more difficult to tame
o They were probably domesticated from Bos primigenius (sp) in Southwest Asia where their movements could be controlled
o Domestic cattle produce surplus milk and have been bred for that characteristic OR to produce larger amounts of meat than their wild ancestors
❖ Chicken
o Wild chickens do not lay surplus eggs, and normally stop laying once a certain number of eggs are in the nest
o The domestic hen is probably from the Gallus sp. (wild Indian and south-east Asian Red Jungle fowl)
o Early evidence for domestic chickens has been found in
■ India (3200 BCE)
■ China (1400 BCE)
■ Egypt (1400 BCE)
❖ Six stages in continuum of animal-human-environment relationship
o Jarman (1982) - p. 187-188
1. Random hunting
2. Controlled hunting
3. Herd following
4. Loose herding
5. Close herding
6. Factory farming
❖ Consequences of the Rise of Food Production
o Accelerated population growth
o Declining health
■ The food supply might appear to be more stable, by foragers had better diets and worked less hours
■ Life expectancy dropped and malnutrition was a problem
• Growth in population = higher population density
• Disease transmission becomes easier, social stresses intensify
• Transmission of infection from animals occurred (TB), also parasites from close contact (hookworm)
• Problem with waste disposal in sedentary environment
o Land issues
■ Farmers typically cultivate specific areas of land unless they are pastoralists
■ Herdsmen require much more pastur for their animals
■ Disputes can arise over property right and inheritance of land
■ When land becomes scarce, a village might fission (one group leaves to find new land to work)
What is Social Complexity?
❖ A note about Complexity
o When anthropologists (and particularly archaeologists) talk about complexity, we are NOT saying anything about intelligence (ex. the complexity of the mind)
o What we are trying to understand is differences in social organization and technology
■ There are fewer options available to a foraging society than a state and fewer decision to be made
■ These are degrees of difference
■ Complexity typically means there is:
• Surplus production
• Occupational specialization
• Social stratification
❖ Bands
o Foragers
o Are highly mobile, small-scale societies
o Tend to be groups of kin-related people, who occasionally merge into larger groups (ca. 100) o Largely egalitarian
■ Exchange via reciprocity
■ Division of labour based on sex and age
o All human societies before 10KYA
o BUT not all are alike (have different strategies)
❖ Tribes
o Segmentary societies
o Small-scale farmers
o Smaller groups integrated into larger community via kinship
■ Approximately 1000 people
o Settlement patterns of villages
■ No central places dominate settlement pattern
o Tendency toward ritualistic redistribution system
o Nominal leader who redistributes food and performs a few minor ceremonial activities
■ Does not have any privileged access to wealth or power (leads by example)
❖ Chiefdoms
o Not very common
o Based on ranking where lineages are socially ranked
o Leaders or chiefs
■ Have preferential access to wealth
■ Normally controls the redistribution system
■ Hereditary inequality (ascribed status)
o Associated wit permanent virtual centers and see the beginnings of dominance of one center over others
o Also begin to see craft specialization
❖ (Early) States
o A single ruler has authority to establish laws
o Social stratification no longer only kinship based but rather class based
o Settlement patterns based on the dominance of a central place
o Market economy with redistribution through taxation
o Clear craft specialization
o Complex architectural structures
❖ Origins of Complexity: Models
1. The Urban Revolution (V. Gordon Childe)
2. Irrigation (Wittfogel)
3. Population Pressure
4. Bloodwealth (Hayden)
5. Warfare (Carniero)
❖ The Urban Revolution
o V. Gordon Childe (1936)
■ His second 'revolution'
■ Marked by the emergence of metallurgy, full-time artisans, and cities
■ Artisans were supported by surpluses obtained through the use of intensive agriculture
■ An elite emerged to organize and control system
■ Taxation and tribute lead to the acquisition of wealth
❖ Irrigation Agriculture
o Julian Steward (1955) and Karl Wittfogel (1957)
■ Irrigation (canals) allowed for larger crop surpluses to be grown
■ Irrigation was also behind the stratification of societies
■ A elite (hydraulic bureaucracy) emerged to control larger scale water diversion projects and the people building/using them
❖ Trade
o Colin Renfrew (1972)
■ Rise of the Minoans was attributed to their trading contracts
■ Olive trees and vineyards impacted communities
■ From this arose complicated inter-relationships and redistributive systems on Crete which were controlled by the elites based in palaces
■ While trade was important, palynology shows olives and grapes were not a primary factor
❖ Environmental Circumscription and Warfare
o Robert Carniero (1970)
■ Areas with limited land (ex. river valleys in otherwise arid regions such as coastal Peru, the Nile Valley)
■ Start with small autonomous villages
■ Population increase, leads to budding off and filling an arable land
■ Population growth and restricted resources drove warfare and expansion to obtain more land
■ Eventually, when there is no more land, had to intensify agriculture or conquer and/or enslave the neighbours
■ Leads to social stratification, need for administration and ultimately to a state society
❖ Consequences of State Formation
o Positive
■ Allowance of larger and denser populations
■ Increased efficiency of agricultural production and distribution
■ Labour outside of food production activities
■ Large scale trade and exchange networks
o Negative
■ Police and military forces
■ Differential resource access
• Development of classes
■ Health issues
■ Warfare and conquest
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