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Chapter 14 - Food Production.docx

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Heather Miller

CHAPTER 14 – FOOD PRODUCTION The Neolithic Revolution  The change from hunting and gathering to agriculture is often called the Neolithic Revolution o Coined by archaeologist V. Gordon Childe (1951) o To acknowledge the fundamental changes brought about by the beginnings of food production o Neolithic: period of farmers  Consequences: new settlement patterns, new technologies, and significant biocultural effects o Childe argued that maintaining fields and herds demanded a long-term commitment from early farmers  Neolithic people became more or less settled, or sedentary  Craft specialization: an economic system in which some individuals do not engage in food getting, but devote their labor to the production of other goods and services o Cloth weaving, pottery production, and metallurgy  We now recognize that sedentism actually preceded farming in certain locations where permanent settlements were sustained solely by gathering and hunting or fishing  It is now widely accepted that sedentism could often stimulate food production, rather than the other way around o Even Upper Paleolithic hunter-gatherers were perfectly capable of understanding how to manipulate the life histories of plants and animals to their advantage  Neolithic lifeways evolved independently in several places around the world o Less agreed on how and why it spread from one region to another o Some see it as the culmination of local cultural sequences o Other argue for migrations and the diffusion of agriculture from “heartlands” in which such cultural changes first took place  Diffusion is the idea that widely distributed cultural traits originated in a single center and were spread from one group to another through contact or exchange Explaining the Origins of Domestication and Agriculture  Mesolithic/Epipaleolithic and Archaic hunger-gatherers had a wealth of practical everyday knowledge and understanding about the natural world around them  When we search for the earliest evidence of agriculture in a region, the most important goal is not being able to say “ah, here’s where draw the line on our chronological chart”  A much more fundamental motivation is simply to understand why these people became farmers: “Why then? Why there? What conditions brought about these changes? Why these crops?”  In recent centuries, many of the remaining hunter-gatherers on every continent resisted the efforts of societies based on food production to convert them to peaceful, tax-paying farmers, voters, and consumers of mass-produced goods o Such attitudes call into question the inevitability of agriculture in biocultural evolution o Ironically, it was the hunter-gatherers who developed man of the innovation we usually credit to Neolithic  Lifestyles of early Holocene hunter-gatherers anticipated many of the developments we associate with agriculture  Neolithic farmers were mostly the recipients of the domesticated species and agricultural ways from their predecessors  Domestication: state of interdependence between humans and selected plant or animal species. Intense selection activity induces permanent genetic change, enhancing a species’ value to humans o Domestication is an evolutionary process o Interdependency between an organism and humans depends on human intervention o To achieve and maintain this relationship, requires the genetic transformation of a wild species by selective breeding or other ways of interfering, intentionally or not, with a species’ natural life processes o Is not inevitably associated with an economic emphasis on food production  Agriculture: cultural activities associated with planting, herding, and processing domesticated species; farming o Agriculture is a cultural activity o Involves propagation and exploitation of domesticated plants and animals by humans o All activities associated with both farming and herding o True agriculture would be unthinkable without domesticated plants and animals o Domestication makes agriculture possible o Symbiosis: mutually advantageous association of two different organizations  Also known as mutualism  Origins of domesticated plants and animals and beginnings of agriculture are preceded by one or more natural mechanisms (such as climate change or human population growth)  Least disruption to everyday life can be achieved by reducing the population, extending the territory, or making more intensive use of the environment o Farming represents a more intensive use of the environment o Through their efforts, farmers attempt to increase the land’s carrying capacity by harnessing more of its energy for the production of crops or animals that will feed people  Environmental determinism: notion that certain cultural outcomes can be predicted from – or are determined by – a combination of purely environmental causes  Environmental Approaches: o Childe’s Oasis Theory:  Humans and domesticable plants and animals concentrate around oases  Wheat, barley, sheep, and goats  Oases: permanent springs or water holes in an arid region  Eventual result was the spread of sedentary village communities across the Near East  Desertification: any process resulting in the formation or growth of deserts  Horticulture: farming method in which only hand tools are used  Demographic: pertaining to the size or rate of increase of human populations o Binford’s Packing Model:  Regional “packing” of population leads to broadened staple diet in marginal environments  Involves demographic  Demographic: pertaining to the size or rate of increase of human populations  As modern climatic conditions became established in the early Holocene, people resided in every prime habitat in the temperature regions of Eurasia  Foraging areas became confined as territories filled, leading to increased competition for resources and a more varied diet  Hunter-gatherers applied their Mesolithic technology to a broader range of plant and animal species  Evidence can be found on many Mesolithic/Epipaleolithic sites (sickles, baskets, etc.)  As local populations continued to grow and other groups expanded their territory, their only choice would be to move into the marginal habitats that lay at the edges of the optimal, resource-rich parts of their territory  Grain and roots became increasingly important in the Mesolithic/Epipaleolithic diet o Flannery’s Broad-Spectrum Foraging:  Differed with Binford over specific causes, but agreed that staple diet choices broadened in marginal environments  Agreed with the basic thesis because it explained why the earliest archeological evidence of plant domestication should be found in what would have been marginal environments  Increasing breadth of the Epipaleolithic diet as a “broad spectrum revolution” in which hunter-gatherers turned to many kinds of food resources in order to make up for local shortfalls  Promoted the development of domesticates and the origins of true agriculture o Henry:  Climate change first promoted the development of resource-rich regions; subsequent changes in climate encouraged increases in diet breadth  Colder and drier climate of the Younger Dryas (13,000 – 11,500 ya) created relatively resource-rich regions of the Levant that attracted human hunter- gatherers  As climate shifted again, populations experienced the same stresses envisioned in the other approaches  Primary cause was the flexibility of human populations in dealing with the changes  Outcomes would be the same  Cultural Approaches: o Some contend that social and ideaological factors (competitive feasting, tribute payments) may have pushed societies to come up with more food than could be readily obtained on a regular basis from natural sources  Reasoning is human agency and culture alone may be insufficient and necessary to explain many of the fundamental changes documented in the archaeological record o Braidwood’s “hilly flanks” or “nuclear zone” hypothesis  Domestication and agriculture happened when culture was ready to receive it  It developed in the foothills of the mountains of the Near East as hunter- gatherers gradually appreciated the potential value of plant and animal domestication  Domestication and agriculture happened when “culture was ready”  Braidwood never answered why and why then was culture “ready” o Cauvin’s revolution of symbols  Building on Braidwood’s hypothesis, Cauvin reasoned that a symbolic transformation of the pre-Neolithic world promoted the development of human agency and, ultimately, of domestication and agriculture  Primary symbols are the Goddess and the Bull, which represent the cultural creation of the divine and a fundamental symbolic transformation of the pre- Neolithic world  Birth of God created a sense of self and promoted the development of human agency and agriculture o Hodder’s transformation of nature into culture  Domestication was the product of both the effects of environmental changes and the exercise of human agency to turn “nature into culture”  More evenhanded approach than Braidwood  Both social and natural factors as possible pressures in bringing about the transition from foraging to agriculture at the end of the Pleistocene  Strength rests in his assignment of considerable weight both to human agency and culture and to the widely accepted effects of environmental factors  If we chose an explanation for the origins of domestication and agriculture, we would choose one that considers cultural factors and assigns the greatest weight to the forces of nature o For us, that’s their greatest appeal  Let’s now consider that hunter-gatherers became farmers from the Near East o As Epipaleolithic gatherers in the Levant region harvested natural stands of wild cereal grasses (wheat, barley), their movements would cause many of the ripened seed heads to shatter spontaneously, with considerable loss of grain o Rachis: this short stem by which an individual seed attaches to the main stalk of a plant as it develops o While the embryonic seed develops, the rachis serves as an umbilical that conveys the nutrients to be stores and later used by the germinating seed o Once the seed reaches its full development on the stalk, the rachis normally becomes dry and brittle, enabling the seed to break away easily o Wild cereal grasses tended to be particularly susceptible to natural genetic modification since the plants grew together in dense patches, were highly polytypic, and were quick to reproduce o A stand of wild grasses was like an enormous genetic laboratory  Human manipulation became an evolutionary force in modifying the species, a process Darwin labeled unconscious selection  With the cereal grasses (barely, wheat), the human-influenced varieties typically came to average more grains per seed head than their wild relatives had o Rachis became less brittle in domesticated forms, making it easier for people to harvest the grain with less loss because the seed head no longer shattered to disperse its own seed o At the same time, individual seed coats or husks became less tough, making them easier for humans to process or digest  Changes would have been harmful to the plant o Consequence of domestication is that the plant species becomes dependent on humans to disperse its seeds  Symbiosis is a mutual, two-way relationship  Whenever favourable plant traits developed, hunter-gatherers could be expected to respond to these improvements by quickly adjusting their collecting behaviour to take the greatest advantage o In turn, stimulating further genetic changes in the subject plants and eventually producing a cultigens, or domesticate, under human control  Cultigens: a plant that is wholly dependent on humans; a domesticate  These unconscious selection pressures constitute an evolutionary force in their own right Archaeological Evidence for Domestication and Agriculture  Accumulated evidence reveals that humans independently domesticated local species and developed agriculture in several geographically separate regions relatively soon after the Ice Age ended  Yet to explain how and why agriculture spread dominated economic life  Old World cereal grasses (barley and some wheat) were native throughout the Near East and perhaps into Southeastern Europe o Wild varieties of these plants still flourish today over parts of this range o Therefore, barely or wheat domestication could have occurred anywhere in this region o The same is true for maize and beans in Mexico Old World Farmers  Independent invention accounts best for the diversity of domesticates and the distinctiveness of Neolithic lifeways in the Far East, Southeast Asia, India, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Near East, and the Americas  The Near East: o Neolithic lifeways and their consequences appeared throughout the Near East and adjacent areas, but not necessarily because farming was a superior way of life o Epipaleolithic foraging cultures such as Kebaran and Natufian apparently took the first steps toward agriculture in the Near East o Preservation of plant remains at Ohalo II shows that small-grained grass and wild cereal seeds were important in hunter-gatherer diets in the Levant by 23,000 ya o Diverse, staple diet of these earl Epipaleolithic hunter-gatherers also offers important support for Flannery’s conception of a broad-spectrum revolution that preceded the development of domestication and agriculture o Between 11
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