Origins of Agriculture

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  • Created by: Lauriie
  • Created on: 03-04-17 14:04
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  • Arc1 Development of Farming
    • Why is agriculture and sedentism an impactful development?
      • Enables much greater population, as it is a far more efficient method of food provision than foraging. Way of life with large implications for social structure – economic chains, social relations, population size, communal eating.
        • Demography: population increase, changes in fertility (higher, closer together birth rate but potential higher child mortality rate) and mortality, changes in genetic structure.
      • Farming changing people biologically – developmental plasticity – initially smaller, less robust, changes in long bones to less mobile, dental and facial reduction.
        • Pathologies – dental disease, infection load – sedentary allows disease and waste to build up, higher populations - , pathogens, parasites, zoonoses.
    • Incorrect/ undeveloped perceptions of the transition to agriculture
      • Colonial era – doctrine of “terra nullius” – uncultivated land is unowned, and colonisers have the right to appropriate it to cultivate (e.g. the Americas, Australia) –
        • Hunter-gatherers often actively modify landscapes – making clearings, placing fish traps, burning areas to encourage new vegetative growth.
      • Childe argued that Neolithic was a revolution – Man Makes Himself – farmers are the first food producers, controlling nature rather than being part of it – transformed us by gaining control over our own food supply. Same principles as biblical account – fast, dichotomous, unilineal, normal state of humanity.
        • Little evidence for how farming began until the 1950s – combination of “common sense” and mythological accounts assumed as correct. Examples – Near East, highland Mesoamerica, Eastern USA, South America, New Guinea.
    • Domestication of species
      • morphological change in response to human use, not just gathering of a resource, e.g. Teosinte spikes evolving into maize cobs.
      • Flannery’s model of unconscious domestication – human manipulation of wild animals and plants creates selection pressures which lead to changes in them, leading to domesticated varieties, requiring plants and animals which respond to manipulation. Can be 1000s of years of human-resource interaction before visible morphological change. Sedentism -> More selection pressure -> more productive resources -> Sedentism.
        • Pos. correlation between intensity of maize use and productivity – originally unimportant snack food at season sites, larger cobs preferentially selected and replanted, feedback loop leading to increased productivity, more growth and reliance. Gradual transition over thousands of years.
      • Wild grains – intensive revisiting of same stem means varieties that respond well to collection survive preferentially and undergo morphological changes making them respond even better.
    • Agriculture – social way of life and of economic production reliant upon domesticates rather than hunting and gathering.
      • Evidence for agriculture – macrofossils, microfossils, phytoliths, ancient pollen, preserved starch grains on tools/pots, faunal remains, food residue on pottery (esp. lipid & protein residue, mass spec.), technology (grindstones, digging tools, cooking), geoarchaeology sediments, site features, ancient animal and plant DNA (modern cattle, sheep, goats & pigs all come from same Near East domesticated populations.)
    • Origins I: Near East
      • Natufians occupying the Levant – Israel, Jordan, Lebanon – hunter-gatherers living in base camps and villages, exploiting fish with predictable migration patterns, wild grains and hunted grain, using storage facilities such as pits, but without pottery. Grain processing technology – pestles, mortar, bins, hearths.
        • Pre-pottery aceramic Neolithic – PPNA and PPNCB – 10000-8500 B.C, 8500-6000 B.C. More cults and rituals – plastered skulls.
          • Grain domesticated 9500 B.C, population increase 9000 B.C, animal domestication 8500 B.C, consolidated agricultural economies 7500 B.C. Migration follows once package of domesticates viable in a range of non-desert environments established.
      • the Levant, Central Anatolia, and the Fertile Crescent.
      • Catalhuyuk, Central Anatolia: full farming economy, diversified ecologies, very large sites, heavily ritualistic, pottery from 7500 onwards. Productive ability of plants to furnish surplus. -
        • No evidence that farming was due to population pressure: resource hardship or stress.
          • Binford – climate warmed up, large animals went extinct – pushing people towards plants instead of animals. -     however no univariant cause.
    • Origins II: MesoAmerica
      • Gourd and squash by 8000 B.C, maize and beans by 5000 B.C. in Mexico.
      • Guila Naquitz, Oaxaca, Mexico. Microband camp, archaic foragers growing corn and squash. Macroband camp, with several microband camps for cooking, hunting, farming, quarrying.
        • – crops not used as main staple, but for resource diversification, adding variety and buffer risk – Flannery’s model.
        • Annual foraging cycle – rainy season of growing domesticates of corn & squash, mesquite harvesting, dry season of wild acorn and pine nut harvesting. Maize and gourds planted casually in course of annual mobility cycle
      • Social sedentism as final trigger in shift to domesticates and agriculture between 2000 and 1000 B.C
        • shift to maize, beans and squash trinity, sedentary life, pottery, possible village elites (prestige model/feasting hypothesis), stratification and ritualism.
          • Lure of aggregation – attractiveness of living in larger groups – strength in numbers, genetic diversity, stronger ritualism, but in-group conflict. Ritualism as set of institutions to work through conflict without physical violence?
          • Not in context of starvation, climate change, massive pop growth, but sedentary shift and pottery was shift to predominant reliance on domesticates
    • Origins III: Eastern United States
      • hunted animal protein (deer, rabbits, fish) and farmed Mexican trinity – second round of domestication that had spread from Mesoamerica.
        • Domesticated bottle gourds as containers in 8000 B.C, squash, sunflower, chenopodium, marsh elder 5000-3500 B.C.
        • River valleys in oak/hickory forests – more intensive phase of annual round – temporary sedentarism to make use of resources - allows more selection. Domesticated foods originating as a seasonal supplement – protein-rich & allowed more diversification
          • Maize arriving from Mexico late, around 0 AD, slotted into same pattern as other domesticates, supplementary
            • – strong reliance associated with political change, village/political formation from 900-1200 AD. Full-scale sedentism happened late, after domestication, as part of set of political and social choices.
            • Isotopes of carbon monitored in people’s bones – estimate of how much maize/millet type grasses in people’s diets.
    • Origins IV: Amazonian agriculture
      • Range of extracting starches from tubers and roots rather than small seeds or grains – manioc/cassava in Brazil.
        • Don’t need to harvest at particular time – don’t need to build granaries or storage. Range of tropical crops domesticated – Piperno 2011 – yams, palm, Chile pepper, squash, manioc, peanuts, coca, jackbeans, cotton, potatoes.
          • Tubers & squash 8200, maize 7500 Mexico, 6500 Panama, Yam 6500 Panama Colombia, Manioc 600 Panama Peru, Beans 5500 Peru, Potato later, highland Peru
            • 8500-5000 B.C. – mostly foraging & supplementary horticulture, but domesticates contributing much or most of carbohydrates by 6000 B.C.
              • Basecamps or seasonal camps, “dooryard” gardening, intense “swidden” slash and burn cultivation – palm, arrowroot, legumes, grasses.
                • Most domestication happened in humid dense lowland forests – part of increasing spectrum of intensive plant use –
                • Early and rapid spread from centre of domestication to other areas – within and cross biomes – maize to highlands, manioc through tropics. Long-standing part of mixed economy, not rapid transition to farming.
    • Origins V: New Guinea
      • Highland New Guinea – Pacific/Indian oceans. Wide range of ecological subsistence strategies – pigs, sweet potatoes, hunting, foraging, bananas.
        • Kuku Swamp project – 1500 metres a.s.l. – earliest occupation 8200 B.C – Microfossils of starch granules of taro, bananas from 6000 B.C.
          • Denham, 2009 – range of agricultural practices and the years at which they emerged in New Guinea – burning, forest disturbance, digging, tuber exploitation, plot preparation, planting, fence construction etc.
            • Gradual process – more energy put into plant preparation from 50’000 to 1000 years B.P – more intensive investment in agriculture, but no binary “transition” moment. Movement inside envelope of mixed economies.
          • Basis in sweet potatoes and pigs.
    • farming comes to Europe
      • Earliest Balkans ca, 6500 BC, lates Ireland/ Scandinavia ca. 3800 BCAverage 1km/year, but not regular steam-roller advance, spread very quickly around med coast
        • Neolithic of the Central Med (Italy); Impressed Ware CultureVillage lifeStrong reliance on domesticated animals
        • ? leapfrog movement across adriatic, then to other coastal enclaves? coastwise and inland infilling, gradually moves in towards the centre
        • ‘Mosaic’ solution; different things happening everywhere‘Enclave’ migrations; small, highly mobile groups of people targeting narrowly defined landscape niches, often rapidly over long distancesForager adoption for social and ideological reasons
  • Catalhuyuk, Central Anatolia: full farming economy, diversified ecologies, very large sites, heavily ritualistic, pottery from 7500 onwards. Productive ability of plants to furnish surplus. -
    • No evidence that farming was due to population pressure: resource hardship or stress.
      • Binford – climate warmed up, large animals went extinct – pushing people towards plants instead of animals. -     however no univariant cause.

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