In which it is shown that agriculture was not the result of a great intellectual breakthrough but rather the result a switch from I-adaptation to M-adaptation leading to sedentism. Resulting in a positive feed back loop:
Increase in population -> Depletion of local wild plants and animals –> Increased perception of scarcity–>Increase in agriculture/domestication ->Increase in population ->
Continuing until all resources are domesticated plants and animals.
From the work of the last chapter we know that hunting and gathering is a good way of life – an Eden.
In addition, paleo-pathologists tell us, from examining skeletons of early agriculturalists and hunter/gatherers, of various times and places, that agriculture produced a decline in health and quality of life.
This generates the question of, why people suddenly, between eight and nine thousand years ago, changed their life ways from hunting and gathering to agriculture. The following seems most probable:
- The extinctions at end of the ice age changed people’s perceptions of the world from plenty to scarcity
- People changed their survival strategy from immediate return hunting and gathering to delayed return hunting and gathering – they felt the need to store material goods
- Storage needs led to sedentism so sedentism is a response to scarcity
- Sedentism generally results in the depauperization of the ecosystem so there are fewer animals to hunt and fewer wild plants to gather
- Lack of mobility combined with softer foods reduces birth spacing which increases birth rates even while the quality of food is decreasing.
- Higher birth rates means more people, necessitating more food, leading to more scarcity, leading to agriculture as a supplement to hunting and gathering
- Continued population pressure combined with decreasing wild resources makes agriculture more and more necessary until hunting and gathering is abandoned
These dynamics are the same in different parts of the Mid-East.
The relationship is as follows:
- Extinctions –> Perception of scarcity–> Storing material goods–> Sedentism –>
This sets up a positive feedback loop:
- Increase in population -> Depletion of local wild plants and animals –> Increased perception of scarcity–>Increase in agriculture/domestication ->Increase in population ->
Until all resources are domesticated plants and animals.
These dynamics are illustrated in the archeological remains of three sites in the mid east Abu Hureyra, ‘Ain Ghazal and Çatalhöyük.
- First, scarcity thinking, not scarcity per se, eventually leads to agriculture.
- Second, scarcity is a novelty – even though we are almost incapable of conceiving of a world of where everyone thinks they have everything they need – it is an effect of the extinctions rather than a “natural instinct” and
- Third, that people started using their existing knowledge to plant and husband – agriculture was not a great intellectual breakthrough but rather a consequence of the switch from I-adaptation to M-adaptation.