ANTA01 Introduction to Anthropology
Lecture 11 Origins of Agriculture
At Pleistocene/Holocene boundary, increasing diversity of both plants and animals.
First thing you may notice is while new species may come around; other species go extinct because
they are not adapted to the new environment.
Embrace change and include diet of new foods.
In some regions where there is extreme resources, very high diversity and productivity region, you
can have sedentary behavior, remaining in one spot.
If you have enough food patches where you can stay in one area, what ends up happening is this idea
of becoming territorial.
Transition to new type of diet is mark of Mesolithic period in Europe and Archaic period in North
This is important, this is the first time we see regionalization of cultures.
Couldn’t let go of the past and maintained big game hunting with the focus on Bison.
Drove Bison off of cliffs, thus producing Bison bed head.
The Desert West
Notice they were focusing on vegetation, because we see predominance of baskets and grinding
Populations divided into kin groups and people were mobile, believe they were trying to get to water.
Eastern North America
Bounty allowed them to be much more sedentary
Inuits & Aleuts
Became highly specialized in marine mammal hunting.
90% of diet is from marine mammal flesh.
Have been around for 4,000 years.
The most recent but the most specialized.
Meanwhile in Africa & Middle East
Having to rely on more grasses as the environment is getting drier.
Same pattern seen in North America is happening in Africa and the Middle East
Is not something that happens very quickly at all, takes up to 10-20,000 years.
There is the development of agriculture (domestication of plants) and pastoralism (domestication of
Reduces the risk of going on a landscape hunting every day, do not have to deal with dangerous
But there is a unexpected social change.
Domestication – range of species
Domestication did not happen in one place only, it happened earliest in the Fertile Crescent (Iraq)
There are independent sources of domestication of particular species.
The first species to be domesticated was dogs, we think there was interaction between wolves and
hunters and this led to the domestication.
Wolves are naturally selected for being big, aggressive, and large teeth so they can out-compete.
As animals get bigger, they need to get bigger as well. In evolution there is variation in every population, as aggression was selected for, there would also
be timid individuals.
It is likely that if pups were left behind or orphaned if they were not aggressive enough, and it was
likely hunters took care of them, and they were a great hunting partner and became domesticated.
There is no difference between a wild species and domesticated species in terms of genetics, they can
still interbreed with each other.
If animals of artificial human selection were left in the wild, they would not survive.
Think domestication started by Latrine effect, humans would go out and select the biggest berries
while gathering. Then you find a bush not too far from your house and carry out your business and
then there is a raspberry bush in your village and you don’t have to go very far to get your berries,
and the average berry will be big because you are selecting the biggest berries.
Plants have gotten bigger because we are selecting bigger plants and bigger seeds.
Wild strawberries are quite small. There is no difference between wild an domestic strawberry, just
that the ones we grow are larger.
Signs of domestication
o Seeds will get bigger
o One humans are intentionally trying to have a garden plot, size of seeds are increasing
because larger seeds germinate first. Once plants come out of the ground, humans will weed
so that the smaller plants are not getting in the way.
o Secondary plants are going to be the ones from the smallest plants and we are removing the
genes of the smaller plants.
o We look after the first seedlings by nature.
Seed coat thickness
o Have gotten thinner because the smaller seeds have thick coats. Thick seed coat is
advantageous in nature. But being we are only picking up larger seeds, they also have thin
coat so we are selecting for thin coat.
Seed dispersal mechanism
o Once the seeds are ready to harvest, humans do not like to pick up seeds from the ground,
we have selected for plants that hold on to their seeds tightly. But in nature, they want the
wind to pick up their seeds, they want animals to bump into them and scatter the seeds.
If you are looking in a region where a species is not native to that region, someone had to take it
Once agriculture occurred, people moved around, and took species with them introducing them into
Domestication of animals
o We do not domesticate tigers or lions, not tamable.
Tethered or penned
o Need to be a group; it is useless to try to domesticate a solitary species.
Acclimatize to human presence
Have to have a leader, because then it easier to tame animals.
Example: goats are wild and mean in nature, but tamed of domestication. Recognizing domesticated animals
Any difference in size is a hint that humans have been selecting for domesticated animals. (measure
skulls and look at size of teeth)
Wolves and cattle get smaller.
If you find a bunch of donkeys in Africa, it is obvious someone brought them there.
In pastoralism, they are not only good for meat, but also secondary products such as milk.
When you are a hunter gatherer and you can hunt anything you want, you are trying to maximize the
size of the animal you hunt, so yo