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Lecture 6

Lecture 6 -- The Neolithic Revolution.docx

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Department
Anthropology
Course
ANT 2000
Professor
Elyse Anderson
Semester
Fall

Description
The Neolithic Revolution  Neolithic Period = o Also known as the New Stone Age (began 10,000 years ago) o A prehistoric period in which peoples possessed stone-based technologies and depended on domesticated crops and/or animals for subsistence o Transition not smooth or instantaneous (or inevitable; some people never developed) o Old World centric narrative, ignores all the people not engaging in this behavior; nevertheless, the most widely accepted timeline o Horticulture = the cultivation of crops carried out with simple hand tools such as digging sticks and hoes o Pastoralism = the breeding/managing of migratory herds of domesticated grazing animals o Domestication = a process whereby humans modify, intentionally or unintentionally, the genetic makeup of a population of wild plants or animals; often to the extent that they depend on human assistance to survive and reproduce!  Domestication characteristics in plants = o Increased size of edible plants o Reduction or loss of natural means of seed dispersal o Loss of delayed seed germination o Development of simultaneous ripening of seed or fruit  In animals = o Reduction in body size o Change in body proportions especially in skull = shortening of snout, crowding of teeth o Behavior changes = more submissive o Physical changes in anatomy allows domestication to be identified in the archaeological record  Theories about how humanity developed the mastery of domestication  The Oasis Theory = o Major climatic changes at end of the Pleistocene resulted in widespread desiccation (drying) that forced people and animals to cluster around oasis; led to domestication o Argued by V. Gordon Child, 1936 o Doesn’t make much sense = goes from huge drought to suddenly domestication  The Hilly Flanks Theory = o Agriculture developed in upland areas with sufficient rainfall and natural habitat for the wild ancestors of the first domesticates; specifically the Zagros Mountains (chickpeas, wheat, barley, goats, sheep, pigs); had proper technology and level of intelligence to take advantage o Argued by Robert Braidwood, 1940s o Doesn’t do a sufficient job of explaining how agriculture developed in other parts of the world  Demographic theories = o Environmental changes at end of Pleistocene encouraged exploitation of resource-rich zones, led to over-exploitation as populations grew; had to move to less productive areas and cultivation was developed in response o Argued by Robert Binford, 1968 o Widely adopted  The Feasting Hypothesis = o Agricultural development driven by ostentatious displays of wealth and power, through feasting, to ensure social obligations o Argued by Brian Hayden, 1995 o Looks like everyone gave feasts and banquets for everyone else, but really just tallying up major resource debts; theory is that people used this system to become chiefs of society (all these people owe me stuff so I get more and more power)  Agricultural innovation developed independently in different areas of the world at different times  Fertile Crescent: The Natufians = o Major climatic change (12,000-6,000 years ago) marked seasonality (meaning actually had seasons that were distinct from each other; e.g., really hot summers and really cold winters) o Two practices = burning landscape to attract deer and collection of wild seeds to eat during dry season o Methods of collection, unintentionally selected for tough stem cereals, which were brought back to camp; germinated on dump heaps (basically learned they could control production themselves) o Large herds of goats and sheep in Zagros Mountains; altered hunting practices (less juveniles and females) so that the herd could survive and reproduce; encouraged/changed reproductive success; began practicing of culling, selected for desirable traits (getting rid of the too aggressive ones, got rid of the males)  The Three Sisters: Corn, Beans, Squash = o Earliest domesticated corn dates to more than 7,000 years ago in Mexico o Three sisters essential to Mesoamerican and North American cultures o Maize provides structure for beans, beans provide N for soil, squash blocks sunlight (lessens evaporation; acts like mulch) and prevents weed growth; grows better in combination o Most Mesoamerican groups have some sort of legend of the three sisters and include reasons why the three sisters need to be grown together and how to raise them properly/most efficiently o Corn alone is a really bad diet  Agriculture in the Amazon = o Amazon = newest addition to the list of places that first started domestication/agriculture o Long thought the Amazon was a pristine habitat, untouched by humans o Betty Meggers called it a “counterfeit paradise” arguing the soils could never support large populations o Discovery of Terra Preta =  Amazon soils nutrient poor and acidic  Discovered nutrient rich soils from agricultural sites; indicates presence of pre- contact Amerindian farmers  Charcoal dense  Nutrient rich soil = dark; Amazon soil = yellow (not so nutrient rich) o The Lost City of Z =  About British explorer, Heck, who went into the Amazon to find the lost city of Z where supposedly lost Amazonian civilization is; he disappeared and over 100 people have gone in looking for what happened to him and disappeared as well  Did Heck find Z??? = documented dozens of ancient, densely packed towns,villages, and hamlets in an organized pattern; placement
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