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The Origins of Food Production.docx

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Anthropology 2100
Peter Timmins

Nov, 19, 2012 The Origins of Food Production Thinking About Food Production: -Hunting and gathering is productive and efficient and Richard Lee showed that the !Kung San have more leisure time than farmers and Marshall Sahlins said hunter-gatherers were “the original affluent society” and that farmers have poorer nutrition, more disease, and shorter life expectancy compared to hunter gatherers -People turned to food production only when other subsistence alternatives were no longer viable -Hunter-gatherers are food extractors and do little to influence the food supply where as food producers play a direct role influencing the food supply and they must work harder to produce their food -Domestication is a relationship between humans and plants and animals wherein humans play an integral role in the protection and reproduction of the plants and animals -Domestication is also a co-evolutionary process in which a species diverges from its original gene pool and establishes a symbiotic (mutually beneficial relationship) protection and dispersal relationship with humans -Agriculture is a way of life relying on the domestication of plants and animals that involves human efforts to modify the environments of plants in animals to increase their productivity and usefulness -Incipient agriculture involves modification of the environment to manage the food supply and reduce risk (ex: burning vegetation to encourage growth) and the replanting tops of yams after harvesting and weeding stands of wild plants to encourage growth Changes in Plants with Domestication: -There are changes in seed dispersal systems with tougher rachis in wheat (stem that attaches the grain seed) -There were more flexible pods in beans that allowed harvesting and there were larger and more seeds Changes in Animals with Domestication: -Smaller size -More docile -Changes in skeletal morphology -Large faunal assemblages represent herds -Determine age and sex of animals -Develop herd profiles as we look for evidence of herd management -Changes in age or sex composition of the herd might indicate captivity and reproductive control (ex: more young males in a herd profile suggest domestication, as breeding females are not slaughtered but the faunal assemblage may not reflect the living assemblage) New Technology in the Search for Agricultural Origins: -Flotation for recovery of seeds and AMS Carbon-14 dating of small samples like seeds (ex: AMS dating of 2 chenopodium seeds weighing less than .03 grams) -Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) that allows recognition of subtle changes in seed morphology (ex: thin seed coats on domestic chenopodium) -Molecular biology used by John Doebley who conducted genetic research on several sub-species of teosinte and determined that one sub-species, Zea mays parviglumis, is the common ancestor for many varieties of maize found southwest of Mexico City Changes in Human Behaviour Related to Food Production: -Humans started to see themselves as being outside the environment rather than as being an integral part of it and food producers try to control the environment Changes in Technology Related to Food Production: 1. Control of land (axes for clearing) with Swidden (slash and burn) cultivation and digging sticks, hoes, and ploughs 2. Control of water with pot irrigation, canal irrigation, and terracing 3. Harvesting (refinement of the sickle) 4. Storage (pots, granaries, corrals) 5. Processing (milling stones, mortars and pestles) Changes in Communities, Settlement Patterns, and Social Organization: 1. Organization of labour into larger work groups 2. Increased sedentism and population increase leading to food surpluses and decreases in birth spacing 3. More complex levels of political organization with village and tribal councils with chiefs 4. Differential access to resources leading to more trade 5. Increased hostilities leading to warfare -A 35-year-old man from Porsmose Denmark shows evidence of warfare with the projectile in his face Nov, 19, 2012 Early Theories to Explain Agricultural Origins: V. Gordon Childe: -Was a proponent of the “Neolithic Revolution” also known as the Oasis hypothesis which says there were warmer, drier climates at end of Pleistocene and this forced plants and animals into close association at “oases” leading to agriculture developed but climatic changes at the end of the Pleistocene varied from place to place -This failed to identify a causal mechanism and bringing plants, animals and humans into close association does not “cause” food production Robert Braidwood: -Believed in the Nuclear Zone hypothesis where agriculture began in areas that were natural habitats for cereals as a result of experimentation and we have evidence for early agriculture in the foothills of the Zagros Mountains but others found earlier evidence for agriculture outside the “nuclear zones” Population Pressure: -Ester Boserup and Mark Cohen say agriculture developed as a response to world-wide population pressure -Also argued that population pressure was an underlying cause rather than an effect of agriculture but there is no widespread evidence of this and it is too simplistic Multivariate Theories: Social Theory: -Barbara Bender argued for an increase in social complexity that put pressure on societies to begin producing food surpluses and this is evident in grave offerings, indications of increased trade, and more political alliances but this ignores environmental change Marginal Zone Mode
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