Why was the New World So Underdeveloped when Europeans arrived? Zahra Haidari March 4 2013
Eurasia has an east-west orientation
– Climate is broadly similar across much of the landmass
– crops domesticated in the Fertile Crescent spread rapidly
to other areas
– Would later spread to the “neo-Europes”: New Zealand,
Australia, Canada, United States, South Africa, Chile
Eurasia – 19/20 were engaged in producing food
China had faster development occurring
Fortunate endowments- we see early developments of agriculture and civilization.
Farming in the New World
● Corn was the leading crop of North America
● The ancestors of modern corn were much less
productive in the wild
– Less seed, and the seeds were enclosed in hard
– Had to be selectively cultivated for hundreds or
thousands of years to attain high productivity
Development of corn took place in central America
It has a north south orientation therefore the climate would not allow the crop to be grown everywhere
It took a long time to adopt crops because of geographical location, technology spread a lot slower
● North America has north-south orientation, with
many natural barriers (mountains or deserts) that
separate it into isolated regions
– The transfer of crops was slow and difficult ● “Foundation” crops of eastern North America ● Squash, sunflower, sumpweed, goosefoot: all grown
for their edible seeds
● Crops are domesticated around 2000 B.C.
– Supplements only: people continued to be huntergatherers.
Growing food was a hobby instead of a primary source of food.
● Mexican crops eventually arrive: corn in 200 A.D.,
beans in 1100 A.D.
– Eastern North Americans begin to rely on farming after
the arrival of these two crops
– Large population develop along Missouri River
● Great climate, but originally nothing to work with
● Compare: the first cities were in existence in Mesopotamia (in the
Fertile Crescent) by 3500 B.C.
Complimentary proteins: corn and beans complete each other’s proteins
Man power was extremely important in Europe
North America was thousands of years behind Europe. Most plants weren’t even available in North
America. The plants that were available required a lot of domestication.
Food Supply: Animals
● successfully domesticated large mammals are almost exclusively of Eurasian origin
● Important for meat, milk products, fertilizer, leather, wool, transport, power
Eurasia was fortunately endowed by animals that could easily be domesticated.
The manoeuver of animals was used to fertilize crops- this was VITAL for progressing in agriculture.
Large Domesticated Mammals of Global Importance
(a) Most large mammals became extinct 13,000 years ago, possibly hunted to extinction
(b) Humans hunted