The Origins of Agriculture - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

1 / 53
About This Presentation

The Origins of Agriculture


... the Near East where a 'constellation of wild progenitors of potentially ... that the specific hills and valleys of the Zabros-Taurus mountains would ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

Number of Views:4014
Avg rating:4.5/5.0
Slides: 54
Provided by: Scott9


Transcript and Presenter's Notes

Title: The Origins of Agriculture

The Origins of Agriculture
  • Anthropology 101
  • Dr. Scott A. Lukas

  • Goudie describes the development of agriculture
    as one of the most significant human impacts in
    the course of human history (Goudie 1990 2).
    Redman concurs and suggests that "no development
    has had a greater effect than the introduction of
    agriculture" (Redman 1978 89). Additionally,
    the discussion of agricultural origins has
    important ramifications in many areas of study

  • Alexander von Humboldt (1807) "The origin ... of
    the plants most useful to man and which have
    accompanied him from remotest epochs, is a secret
    as impenetrable as the dwellings of our domestic
    animals. "

Agriculture Defined
  • Agriculture, in general, refers to "a reliance on
    domesticated plants or animals or both with the
    specific conditions.

Agriculture Defined
  • (1) propagation the selective sowing of seeds
    or breeding of animals, what Goudie refers to as
    the genetic changes brought about through
    conscious or unconscious human selection (Goudie
    1990 15)
  • (2) husbandry the care of plants and animals
    while they are growing
  • (3) harvesting collection of the food
    resources, and
  • (4) storage and maintenance of seeds and
    select animals to assure adequate reproductive
    success for the subsequent year (Redman 1978

A Real Revolution
  • The period in which agriculture received its
    impetus is described by Childe as the Neolithic
    Revolution (ibid 89) the term revolution has
    been applied due to the relatively quick speed
    during which agriculture developed, and for its
    significant effect on human life (ibid).

A Real Revolution
The Time
  • We are generally speaking of the Upper
    Pleistocene, about 12,000 - 10,000 b.p. During
    this time we can note a number of interesting
    cultural and intellectual advancements of our
  • (1) Regional differences
  • (2) Population increase
  • (3) Social stratification
  • (4) Broad Spectrum Resource Use
    (Intensification) the ranking of resources by
    costs and benefits

The Place
  • The centers of agriculture included
  • The Near East
  • China
  • Asia

The Big Debate
  • How and Why did it happen?

The Big Debate
  • Although the definition of agriculture is
    generally accepted, there has always been
    speculation about the origins of agriculture
    (Binford 1983 195). The debate over the origins
    of agriculture is a recent one (Flannery 1973
    271), as "only since 1950 has the origin of
    agriculture become a field of inquiry of its own"
    (Redman 1978 89). The variety of theories
    regarding this debate reflects both the changing
    epistemic climate within archaeology and its
    growing utility as a discipline capable of
    holistic explanation.

Criteria Necessary for Agriculture to Occur
  • Harold Peake and HJ Fleure (1927)
  • Natural Area must provide abundant annual
    harvests and annual wild harvests
  • Topography must constrict population movement so
    people would be forced to stay in one place and
    develop agriculture (geographical isolation)
  • (3) Ecosystem no forests or swamps
  • (4) Cultural Contact people must have cultural
    contact with other people in the area. Why?
    Encouragement of the breakdown of old ideas and
    the acceptance of new ones (the idea of

The Theories
  • Since the 1950s a number of archaeologists have
    offered theories to explain how and why
    agriculture became all the rage with our early
    human ancestors. Like seeds themselves, the
    theories of agricultural origins have continued
    to propagate themselves.

The Seed Genius
  • In the 19th century an idea circulated that
    offered one early yet simplistic explanation for
    the rise of agriculture. It suggested that one
    individual was a literal seed genius, he or she
    discovered seeds and eventually circulated the
    idea to others.

This particular theory emphasizes knowledge,
note that some of the subsequent ones emphasize
Darwins Notion
  • Darwin was convinced that agriculture represented
    a better way of life.

The Oasis / Propinquity Hypothesis (V. Gordan
  • Childe's belief is that the invention of
    agriculture resulted from a climatic crisis
    adversely affecting those communities in which
    the earliest farming was conducted.

Propinquity nearness in space proximity
The Oasis / Propinquity Hypothesis
  • Childe's theory, lacking in archaeological
    evidence, is based on evidence from early
    agricultural theories, such as those of Pumpelly
    in 1908, and the understanding of paleoclimates
    (Redman 1978 93). . Before the retreat of the
    glaciers and the subsequent drying up which took
    place, Childe argued that much of the Near East
    had been "fertile and well-watered" (Redman 1978
    93). As a result of the glacial movement and
    climatic shifts, the hunter-gatherers who had
    taken residence in the now drying areas had to
    take refuge in the few remaining well-watered
    areas, the river valleys of the Nile, Tigris, and
    Euphrates, or near oases that had not dried up

The Oasis / Propinquity Hypothesis
  • Because of this climatic shift (from a cool-wet
    climate to a hot-dry one) in the Near East,
    people and animals were forced to "gravitate
    toward locations having permanent water" (Redman
    1978 94).

Hattusas, capitol city of the ancient Hittite
civilization of northern Mesopotamia/Anatolia.
The Oasis / Propinquity Hypothesis
The Oasis / Propinquity Hypothesis
  • Again due to the climatic conditions, plants
    only grew near these oases or sources of water
    as a result, people, animals and plants existed
    in the same general proximity. In turn, people
    "had opportunities to observe the behavior and
    year-round life cycles of those plants and
    animals that were subsequently domesticated"
    (Redman 1978 94).

The Oasis / Propinquity Hypothesis
  • According to Childe, plants were first
    domesticated in the Nile River Valley later,
    early agriculturists dug channels to irrigate
    artificially sowed seeds, thus increasing "the
    density and distribution of the harvestable
    grain" (ibid). After the hunter became a
    cultivator, it became easy for the cultivator to
    domesticate various animals - as the stubble from
    the harvested fields offered the herds food
    (Redman 1978 94-5). Having been domesticated,
    animals were then protected from predators by the
    early farmers as a result the animals soon
    became completely dependent on the farmers and
    unable to survive on their own these
    domesticated animals in turn attracted other herd
    animals to the farming areas (ibid 95).

The Oasis / Propinquity Hypothesis
In short (1) Climates dry up (2) People and
animals try to find water(3) People and animals
come together to create domestication (4)
Agriculture was inevitable
  • The theory assumes that plants (spread from the
    Nile Valley) had already been domesticated.

The Oasis / Propinquity Hypothesis Problems
  • Although Childe's theory was influential on many
    of thinkers, including historian Arnold Toynbee
    (ibid), his hypothesis has been generally
    disproved in light of recent archaeological
    evidence (Redman 1978 93). Childe's model
    offers insight into the effects of climatic
    fluctuation and environmental pressures, however,
    his model misrepresents the nature of Near
    Eastern climate additionally, the propinquity
    model offers no explanation of cultural variables
    which may have effected the development of
    agriculture in the Near East. The theory also
    wrongly assumes that hunter-gatherers had no
    extensive knowledge of plants and animals after
    the Ice Age.

The Nuclear Zone / Natural Habitat Zone
Hypothesis/ Hilly Flanks Theory(Robert Braidwood)
  • Braidwood, a pioneer in gathering data relating
    to the introduction of agriculture (Redman 1978
    95), was inspired to archaeologically investigate
    the origins of agriculture due to the varied
    evidence presented by Childe and Peake Fleure.
    Braidwood sought out to challenge Childes

The Nuclear Zone / Natural Habitat Zone
Hypothesis/ Hilly Flanks Theory
  • Braidwood's research began in the lower foothills
    of the Zagros Mountains in northern Iraq in
    these hilly flanks, "the wild progenitors of
    potentially domesticable animals were found in
    their natural state, and conditions would have
    been favorable for early experimentation with
    agricultural techniques" (Redman 1978 95).

The Nuclear Zone / Natural Habitat Zone
Hypothesis/ Hilly Flanks Theory
  • Thus, the author assumes that the present-day
    conditions in the Near East in many ways parallel
    the conditions which existed some 12,000 years
    ago (ibid 96).

The Nuclear Zone / Natural Habitat Zone
Hypothesis/ Hilly Flanks Theory
  • His hypothesis is that there existed an area of
    the Near East where a "constellation of wild
    progenitors of potentially domesticable plants
    and animals coexisted at the end of the last Ice
    Age" (Redman 1978 96) he then speculated that
    the specific hills and valleys of the
    Zabros-Taurus mountains would have been an ideal
    location for the practice of agriculture - as the
    rainfall of this area is between the optimum 250
    - 500 millimeters per year.

The Nuclear Zone / Natural Habitat Zone
Hypothesis/ Hilly Flanks Theory
  • His archaeological research led him to the
    conclusion that contrary to Childes hypothesis,
    there had been no drying after the Ice Age in
    this particular part of the world. He found
    that the environment was better, not worse, and
    that a small amount of environmental change had

The Nuclear Zone / Natural Habitat Zone
Hypothesis/ Hilly Flanks Theory
  • Braidwood named this optimum area the "hilly
    flanks of the Fertile Crescent" (ibid), and he
    spent thirty years in an effort to investigate
    areas of the region for evidence of early
    agricultural communities (ibid).

The Nuclear Zone / Natural Habitat Zone
Hypothesis/ Hilly Flanks Theory
  • Unlike Childe's hypothesis, which is reliant
    almost exclusively on environmental and climatic
    factors, Braidwood's theory is also dependent on
    the "presence of innovative cultural mechanisms
    for the introduction of agriculture" (Redman
    1978 96), such as the development of grinding
    stones, the refinement of weapons, the relaxation
    of cultural norms and other aspects of sedentary

The Nuclear Zone / Natural Habitat Zone
Hypothesis/ Hilly Flanks Theory
  • In Short
  • In the Middle East agriculture represented a
    natural settling down process--as people became
    more sedentary they developed greater knowledge
    of agriculture.
  • (2) Agriculture was likely to develop in the
    fertile hilly flanks areas.

The Nuclear Zone / Natural Habitat Zone
Hypothesis/ Hilly Flanks Theory Problems
  • Braidwood's hypothesis, dealing a strong blow to
    Childe's theory (ibid 97), relies upon the
    interaction of a favorable environment, the
    proper plants and animals, and a sufficient level
    of cultural development (ibid). Unfortunately,
    Braidwood's model does little to answering the
    question as to "why was agriculture invented at
    this time" (Redman 1978 97)? Wright also has
    offered that the hilly flanks are not great areas
    in which to grow food.

Chidles and Braidwoods Theories
  • Both lead archaeology to an evolutionary
    understanding of agriculture and its impact on

Population Growth
Demographic Pressure Hypotheses (Smith Young,
  • The influence of the thinking and re-thinking of
    the ideas of Malthus has had an impact on
    demographic studies as well as on theories of the
    development of agriculture.

Demography--the study of the nature of
Demographic Pressure Hypotheses
  • Many scholars have begun to regard demography and
    population growth as "an independent variable
    affecting other cultural and environmental
    factors, as well as being affected by them"
    (Redman 1978 99). Boserup, for example,
    regarded population growth as an independent
    variable solely responsible for the initiation of
    agriculture (Sept 1988) thus, she saw the reason
    for shifts to agricultural production as
    resulting not from voluntary decisions, but need
    (Redman 1978 99).

Demographic Pressure Hypotheses
  • Smith and Young relate the limited knowledge of
    paleodemography and "knowledge of agricultural
    tools to developing subsistence systems" (ibid).
    They assume that, due to a number of
    environmental and cultural factors, the
    population of the Near East fluctuated at some
    points this fluctuation resulted in a population
    to large for the limitations of its food
    procurement systems as a result additional food
    supplies had to be secured (ibid 100).

Demographic Pressure Hypotheses
  • Hence, "population grew rapidly with the advent
    of sedentism" (ibid). However, some have argued
    that a population, confronted with demographic
    pressures and food shortages, would not have
    likely taken the important step of saving a
    portion of a given harvest to be used as seeds
    for the subsequent year (Redman 1978 100).
    Cohen, in much the same manner, argued that at
    the time of the agricultural revolution
    population was growing worldwide.

Demographic Pressure Hypotheses
  • Due to "saturation" (Sept 1988) (no one could
    move anywhere), and the fact that people could
    not look elsewhere for food, people were forced
    to adopt new food-producing techniques.
    Demography, again, is seen as the prime-mover
    behind agriculture.

Demographic Pressure Hypotheses Problems
  • Unfortunately, both Smith Young's and Cohen's
    models fail to move beyond the simplistic level
    of deterministic explanation. It seems unlikely
    that a complex development like agriculture could
    be the result of one factor--population increase.

Marginal Zone Hypothesis (Demographic
Shift)(Binford And Flannery)
  • The theory associated with Lewis Binford, and
    later refined by the work of Kent Flannery, is an
    attempt to explain the origins of agriculture in
    the Near East as a result of "a response to
    cyclical demographic pressure on the margins of
    the optimal environmental zone for wild
    progenitors of domestic plants and animals"
    (Redman 1978 101).

Marginal Zone Hypothesis
  • Binford assumed that Late Pleistocene hunting and
    gathering societies would have been in a state of
    relative equilibrium, and that humans would not
    look for methods of increasing their food supply,
    as doing so would have potentially placed the
    populations above the limitations of their
    environment's carrying capacity (ibid) - hence
    Binford's "Slug Principle" (Binford 1983 200).

Marginal Zone Hypothesis
  • Only under two conditions is a change in
    adaptation advantageous according to Binford (1)
    a change in the physical environment which would
    reduce the biotic mass, (2) a change in the
    demographic situation in a region that "brings
    about the impingement by one group on the
    territory of another" (Redman 1978 101). The
    introduction of agriculture was an attempt to
    meet the food crisis when human groups were
    forced into a tension zone (between successful
    hunter-collectors and more nomadic
    hunter-gatherers) and "artificially produced the
    dense stands of grain that characterized tracts
    of the optimal zone" (Redman 1978 102).

Marginal Zone Hypothesis
  • Agriculture developed in the marginal areas (Sept
    1988), as there would be no reason to develop in
    the "Gardens of Eden" (Binford 1983 201). The
    Marginal Zone Hypothesis is important for its
    emphasis on changes within demographic structure,
    the equilibrium of local subsistence systems, and
    local environmental factors (ibid 103). As one
    criticism, it has been noted that this theory
    minimizes the importance of the actual onset and
    invention of agriculture, and instead
    concentrates on the behavior of population
    systems and conditions of adaptive behavior

Marginal Zone Hypothesis
  • Binford had problems with Braidwoods

Population Growth
In fact, Binford points our that this order does
not occur in the archaeological record.
Agriculture is a risk--it is more labor intensive
than hunting and gathering. And, as the !Kung
show us, a hunter-gatherer lifestyle leaves more
time for leisure.
Marginal Zone Hypothesis
  • Binfords query is why did humans want to become
    farmers? He answers by offering that they must
    have been forced to as a result of living in
    marginal areas.

Population Growth
Coevolutionary Model (David Rindos)
  • In 1984 David Rindos offered a coevolutionary
    model of agricultural origins. He based his
    notions on Darwins concept of natural selection.
    He suggested that the development and evolution
    of domesticated plants and animals occurred
    simultaneously with human cultural evolution.
    Domestication is seen as a natural outcome of
    human and animal interaction. He termed his
    general evolutionary theory, Cultural

CO2 Model
  • Sage suggests it is possible that the increase in
    CO2 at the global scale may have played a key
    role in explaining the synchrony of agricultural
    origins around the globe.
  • Sage, R.F., 1995, Was low atmospheric CO2 During
    the Pleistocene a Limiting Factor for the Origin
    of Agriculture? Global Change Biology, 1, 93-106.

Agriculture is a Drug Model
  • The ingestion of cereals and milk, in normal
    modern dietary amounts by normal humans,
    activates reward centres in the brain. Foods that
    were common in the diet before agriculture
    (fruits and so on) do not have this
    pharmacological property. The effects of
    exorphins are qualitatively the same as those
    produced by other opioid and / or dopaminergic
    drugs, that is, reward, motivation, reduction of
    anxiety, a sense of wellbeing, and perhaps even
    addiction. Though the effects of a typical meal
    are quantitatively less than those of doses of
    those drugs, most modern humans experience them
    several times a day, every day of their adult
    lives. (Greg Wadley Angus Martin)

The Theories
  • The discussion of these various theories of
    agricultural development among early humans
    leaves many questions unanswered. Many theorists
    have failed to answer the most basic questions
    concerning the impetus of agriculture. After
    all, why would anyone want to take-up agriculture
    in the first place (Redman 1978)?

  • Bender, Barbara
  • 1978 "Gatherer-Hunter to Farmer a Social
    Perspective." World
  • Archaeology 10204-222.
  • Binford, Lewis R.
  • 1983 In Pursuit of the Past Decoding the
    Archaeological Record.
  • NY Thames and Hudson.
  • Davis, Simon J.M.
  • 1987 The Archaeology of Animals. New Haven
    Yale University Press.
  • Flannery, Kent V.
  • 1973 "The Origins of Agriculture." Annual
    Review of Anthropology
  • 2271-310.

  • Goudie, Andrew
  • 1990 The Human Impact on the Natural
    Environment. Third Edition.
  • Cambridge The MIT Press.
  • Harlan, J.R.
  • 1976 "The plants and animals that nourish man."
    Scientific American
  • 235(3)88-97.
  • Keeley, Lawrence H.
  • 1977 "The Functions of Paleolithic Flint Tools."
    Scientific American
  • 237(5)108-128.
  • Lewin, Roger
  • nd. "A Revolution of Ideas in Agricultural
    Origins." Science 240
  • 984-986.

  • Redman, Charles
  • 1978 "The Origins of Agriculture A Giant Step
    for Humankind." In
  • The Rise of Civilization from early farmers to
    urban society in the
  • ancient Near East. Pps. 88-140. Redman, C.
  • Renfrew, Colin Bahn, Paul
  • 1991 Archaeology Theories, Methods and
    Practice. London Thames
  • and Hudson, Ltd.
  • Sears, P.B.
  • 1957 "Man the newcomer the living landscape and
    a new tenant."
  • In Man's Natural Environment, A System Approach.
    Pps. 43-55.
  • Russwurm, L.H. E. Sommerville, eds. North
    Scituate Duxbury.
  • Sept, Jeanne
  • 1988 "The Preshistory of Europe and Asia."
    Lecture. 11-88. Bloomington Indiana University.

(No Transcript)
Write a Comment
User Comments (0)