Chapter 14-Food Production (ANTA01: Pg.340-372)
The change from hunting and gathering to agriculture is often called the Neolithic
revolution, a name coined decades ago by archaeologist V. Gordon Childe (1951).
This idea is to acknowledge the fundamental changes brought about by the beginning of
Neolithic revolution: Childe’s term for the far-reaching consequences of food
Neolithic: New Stone Age; period of farmers.
Craft specializations: An economic system in which some individuals do not engage in
food production, but also devoting their labour to the production of other goods and
Archaeologists would still accept his general characterization of the Neolithic revolution;
we can recognize that sedentism actually preceded farming in certain locations where
permanent settlements were sustained solely by gathering and hunting or fishing.
INSERT FIGURE 14-1 Pg.341 HERE.
Archaeologists also know that Neolithic lifeways evolved independently in several places
around the world.
Diffusion: The idea that widely distributed cultural traits originated in a single center
and spread from one group to another through contact or exchange.
Consider the difference between the domestication, and agriculture, as these terms are
often found together in discussions of the beginnings of food production, although they
mean different things.
Domestication: A state of interdependence between humans and selected plant or
animal species. Intense selection activity induces permanent genetic change, enhancing
a species’ value to humans.
Agriculture: Cultural activities associated with planting, herding, and processing
domesticated species; farming.
A useful way to view this fundamental change in the relationship between humans and
other animal and plants is as symbiosis.
Symbiosis: Mutually advantageous association of two different organisms; also known
In most extreme forms, environment approaches call to mind environmental
determinism, the notion that certain cultural outcomes can be predicted from-or are
determined by-a combination of purely environmental causes.
Humans, animals and vegetation in the drought areas concentrated into shrinking zones
around a few permanent water sources.
Oases: Permanent springs or water holes in an arid region. Chapter 14-Food Production (ANTA01: Pg.340-372)
Desertification: Any process resulting in the formation or growth of deserts.
Horticulture: Farming method in which only hand tools are used; typical of most early
It was the economic commitment that eventually led to the emergence of true farmers.
Demographics: Pertaining to the size or rate of increase of the human populations.
As local populations continued to grow and other groups tried to expand 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.
READ “AT A GLANCE” Pg.347.
We have no reason to believe that the origins of domestication and agriculture can be
explained only by natural forces or only by cultural factors.
Rachis: The short stem by which an individual seed attaches to the main stalk of a plant
as it develops.
Cutigen: A plant that is wholly dependent on humans; a domesticate.
Archaebotanical: Referring to the analysis and interpretation of the remains of ancient
plants recovered from the archaeological records.
Plant macrofossils: Plant parts such as seeds, nutshells, and stems that have been
preserved in the archaeological record and are large enough to be clearly visible to the
The major shortcoming of macrofossil-based interpretations of past human plant are
due to potential preservation biases.
Modern archaeologists can turn to several other important sources in their research on
prehistoric human plant use.
Plant microfossil: Small to microscopic plant remains, most falling in a range of 10 to
100 micrometers, or roughly the size of individual grains of wheat flour in the bag from
your grocer’s shelf.
Pollen: Microscopic grains containing the male gametes of seed-producing plants.
Phytoliths: Microscopic silica structures formed in the cell of many plants.
Starch grains: Subcellular structures that forms in all plant parts and can be classified by
family or genus; particularly abundant in seeds and tubers.
Microfossil analyse complement and greatly extend the valuable insights that
archaebotanists have achieved through the study of macrofoss