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Thread: Is agriculture synonymous with civilization?

  1. #1 Is agriculture synonymous with civilization? 
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    Without worrying a precise definition of "civilization", I wonder if we haven't been a little agro-centric? I find that most focus is given to the people working land, as farmers. Hunting and foraging are seen as modes that must shift to agriculture for civilization to advance. Maritime people, herders, and traders appear as aloof from civilization or dependent on it, not as civilized or civilizing in themselves.

    So in that view civilization grows from the peasant farmer, who grows from fertile land.

    Contradiction: Natives of the Pacific Northwest had no agriculture. They planted absolutely nothing. Yet they had towns, massive orchestrated fishing and whaling industries, flotillas of traders, settlements and regions specialized in different manufacture, serfs, slaves, craft guilds, and aristocracy. I cant' see how their progress was restricted by the hunter-gatherer economy. Neither can I see how planting onions in the river delta would catalyse a great leap in their civilization.

    As well many times in history agricultural societies have been dominated by non-agricultural groups, from outside or within, who were more civilized. We also see agricultural nations that remained relatively backward, apparently ploughed themselves into a rut.

    I propose our view of history is coloured by sedentary landlubber historians.


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  3. #2 Re: Is agriculture synonymous with civilization? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Without worrying a precise definition of "civilization", I wonder if we haven't been a little agro-centric? I find that most focus is given to the people working land, as farmers. Hunting and foraging are seen as modes that must shift to agriculture for civilization to advance. Maritime people, herders, and traders appear as aloof from civilization or dependent on it, not as civilized or civilizing in themselves.

    So in that view civilization grows from the peasant farmer, who grows from fertile land.

    Contradiction: Natives of the Pacific Northwest had no agriculture. They planted absolutely nothing. Yet they had towns, massive orchestrated fishing and whaling industries, flotillas of traders, settlements and regions specialized in different manufacture, serfs, slaves, craft guilds, and aristocracy. I cant' see how their progress was restricted by the hunter-gatherer economy. Neither can I see how planting onions in the river delta would catalyse a great leap in their civilization.

    As well many times in history agricultural societies have been dominated by non-agricultural groups, from outside or within, who were more civilized. We also see agricultural nations that remained relatively backward, apparently ploughed themselves into a rut.

    I propose our view of history is coloured by sedentary landlubber historians.
    Hi Pong, interesting topic

    The Neolothic 'revolution' was, in my opinion, what defines being civilized. The previous eras, particularly the Old Stone Age Paleolithic) lasted unimaginably (sp?) longer - for millions of years progress was at a virtual stand-still.

    When humans began to learn to control their own food source, whether by planting and harvesting crops, or harvesting sea food, we finally had time to develop advanced concepts such as expressing abstract thought, improving tools needed to survive, etc. Until farming came along, ALL our time was spent surviving by hunting and gathering. Farming gave us 'leisure time'.

    By the way, as far as I know, there was no hunter-gatherer economy. I'm sure people traded from day 1, but trading does not (by itself) define an economy. Once we stopped spending all out time hunting, we started to produce 'goods', such as better tools, baskets, pottery, nets, weaving, and so on. These things would allow for a proper economy, and at the same time, would for the first time, allow people to be trades-people and not food gatherers. The farmers or fishermen who wanted a nice pot to cook with would pay for a person who knew how to make it, thus supporting them.

    As for an agricultural based society being overrun by warriors, duh! If someone wanted something, and they were stronger, they took it. Greed has been around since day-1 as well. Agriculture was not the means of the farmer's being conquered, that is, you can't blame farming for loosing a battle. While some people were buiding a better plow, others were working on sharper spears and swords...


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  4. #3  
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    Quote Originally Posted by CShark
    as far as I know, there was no hunter-gatherer economy. I'm sure people traded from day 1, but trading does not (by itself) define an economy.
    Yeah, trade in seashells doesn't count here. I think we call it an economy where basic survival depends on division of labour and ongoing transactions: If I make reed blankets that keep you from freezing, and you make dried fish that keep me from starving, then we have a serious economy.

    Quote Originally Posted by CShark
    Until farming came along, ALL our time was spent surviving by hunting and gathering. Farming gave us 'leisure time'.
    I'll agree that sedentary lifestyle includes a lot of waiting, watching figs ripen or whatever. And obviously nomadic people, even when they have a moment, lack a fixed workplace where tools, materials, and unfinished projects are gathered. So the farmer is well positioned to manufacture.

    I was sceptical about farming being a first cause though. I guessed rather something caused farming (and something caused that, etc). So I've looked into it and I'll outline what I think sparked and supported agriculture until agriculture got its feet. This includes much speculation as I haven't read much. Maybe it's old hat, maybe it's plain wrong.



    We begin pre-mesolithic. At this time we planted nothing, and had no domestic animals except perhaps the self-domesticating ancestors of dogs that would have scavenged in the wake of hunting parties. Humans probably lacked strong long-term social memories, or sense of property. We see evidence of those developing in graves, accompanied by signs of longing for the departed, and laying possessions in the grave. I think that in this pre-mesolithic "headspace" real economy is impossible because division of labour would be ad hoc, agreements soon forgotten, and all goods up for grabs.

    We know that groups of (probably exclusively) men made hunting expeditions, often tracking migratory herds over a considerable distance. So where were the pregnant women, children, and elderly? Preferably they stayed in one place, while their men hunted game for weeks or months at a time. I think that for these separated groups recollection of social & economic obligations and "keeping to the program" was not so easy. Hunters could get sidetracked and conveniently shack up at another settlement. Mothers could move camp to easier pickings if they forgot the meat due back.



    Iconic to the mesolithic, are the prolific paintings and especially figurines. These show an artist's attention to memory, and would have repeatedly jogged the memories of people at the time. In pouring through them, I've noticed consistent differences: the parietal images (immovable images, associated with sedentism, like cave paintings) include the widest variety of subjects, but characteristically depict scenes of men hunting; while the mobiliary images (movable, often small figurines, sometimes pierced as though worn on a cord) never depict hunting, never depict able-bodied men, but most famously depict fat mamas or stylized feminine shapes. I think these two artforms belonged to different genders, both serving as social memory aids. They were tokens of fidelity, and also tangible provisions of the crudest gender contract: "you slay bison, I give hips."

    The smaller figurines are so common they're almost coinage (we don't wanna go that route). I'm guessing the typical mesolithic man kept a token or two in his travels. That would be like modern men keeping family portraits in their wallets. So this art, rather than being objects of shamanic worship, was practical equipment. It was technology supporting the further ...farther... division of game hunting from sedentary foraging.



    In good years foragers may accumulate a bounty, because foods like nuts, berries, and roots keep pretty well. Hunters have two problems though on their part of the bargain. Firstly, game animals do not keep well. Unless frozen or painstakingly cured, meat taken far afield won't last the trek home. Secondly, a hunter can only pack so much as he can carry. We don't have beasts of burden yet.

    I have one solution for those two problems: Bring the animal back alive, walking under its own power. This is not domestication. This is driving a stunned and wounded aurochs, with spears still attached, and possibly ropes also, towards a settlement. The meat will keep. We distribute it all. We waste nothing.

    I'll try to prove that hypothesis by showing how weapons changed to allow live capture, and by finding slaughter waste like heavy bones and skulls in middens far from hunting grounds. Uh, later.



    I think we're ready for the neolithic. We've got a sedentary population set, because they stick around expecting hunters to return with livestock, and we've got highly mobile hunters herding massive nutrient supplements to the settlement. This seems like a good interval to develop baskets and pots and a lot of other technologies requiring leisure time.

    With regular meat, our vegetable diet can shift to starchy, nutrient-poor foods like maize, wheat, rice.

    I'm still unsure if agriculture will appear. The case of West Coast Natives shows that even large thousand-year-old villages may plant nothing. So it takes more than just occupying a place and having protein flow in. What else is different about the coast Natives? They kept no live animals. They either killed animals on sight or left animals alone. How could bringing live animals like aurochs, sheep, and goats to a settlement relate to agriculture?

    I've read the suggestion that we grew crops to feed animals. That seems insanely wasteful of grain and farmer energy, early in the game. And unintuitive. I dislike theories that require human foresight.

    I think we can blunder into agriculture like so: Sometimes hunters captured more animals than a settlement wished to slaughter. That would happen after extinctions forced us to herd in multiple smaller animals instead of single large ones. So surplus animals would hang around (no choice, 'cause we pen them, tie them, or break their legs). In this case settlements that offered suitable forage (i.e. cereal plants) would fair better, because the livestock might keep indefinitely. Like into the winter, when we really need it. So we began to grow settlements no longer where the best human forage was, but precisely where the best potential for agriculture was.

    Conveniently, we reap grain for our own consumption, because reliable meat covers most other nutrients. Having some hobbled goats around might suppress weeds, and fertilize the soil.

    I still don't get how we jump to planting seeds though.
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    be careful with your theories - remember that they will need hard evidence to be taken seriously - but its good for general discussion - i do like your opening point.

    yep - history is definitely colored by sedentary landlubber historians - the victors in this case seem to be historians who write what they love rather than what might be real.

    its difficult to generalize humanity into a nice category of neolithic to agricultural etc - I'm sure there may have been many people who were working on things that were far more 'advanced' than we might currently be able to appreciate. There are indeed many unsolved mysteries of ancient technology and methods that we cannot replicate today and without modern forms of communication to influence in any way otherwise there would be a very localized approach to these things.

    The hunter gatherer - humanity in its most 'animal' and natural state - would need shelter to protect him from cold and other dangers. The house or dwelling is easily a synthetic replication of what a cave would serve in these respects, and if a person could replicate this at their will it only serves to aid the survival of the animal - not too different in this respect from a rabbit for example. As a result i could speculate that in this light it is a bit more 'natural' that the human animal would wish to peruse this end rather than fight for a cave that is currently being used by someone else who would offer a fight for it.

    Working beyond the artificial boundaries to distinguish milestones in human development as it unfolded planting seeds could have been a more reliable source of food both for live stock as well as themselves (as you say earlier on) but it also makes a person more reliant upon staying in the same area to cultivate and then eat/use the crops. Seeds plant themselves and people would have seen this and copied it.

    Maybe the interpretation holds water that with agriculture and a responsibility to guard it, stay in the same area (thereby growing fond of their environment possibly) and even improve upon their current conditions - the more people did this the greater they grew in terms of technology and 'civilization'?

    Maybe even which would we have more evidence of - a people who stayed in the same area and built up an archaeological record or a people who were always on the move and whose artifacts/methods were easily destroyed?
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    I do not know of a single hunter/gatherer culture any time in history that could be called 'civilised'. Remember that the word means city dweller. Small towns and villages do not count.

    The thing about agriculture is density of food production. To support a city, the food cannot be transported too far. In fact, earliest cities were probably supplied by grain carried on people's backs. Later, animal back, and then wheeled carts. However, all the food to feed a city had to be produced nearby, and hunter/gatherer methods would not do it.

    Even with agriculture, it has to be reasonably efficient to support a city. The Maori people of my country had agriculture, but their crops were not highly productive, and their largest social unit was essentially a small village.

    How did agriculture start? It began at the end of the last glaciation period. I suspect that the basics of agriculture were probably practised long before that, since humans have had large brains for 200,000 years, and there would always have been very smart people, able to work out the best way to improve food availability.

    The first agriculture was probably practised by nomads, who had to keep moving to cope with low food density. They would have realised that you could increase the number of food plants in a region they were coming back to, by sticking seeds in the ground, or breaking off cuttings from plants and sticking them in the soil.

    For example : the tropical cassava plant, a very important food resource in Africa, is grown by breaking the cassava stem into a few lengths and sticking each length in the ground. Even a nomadic group can do that.

    When the cold period ended, this practise would suddenly become more productive, and the need to keep moving would stop. Hence agriculture 10,000 years ago.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    I do not know of a single hunter/gatherer culture any time in history that could be called 'civilised'. Remember that the word means city dweller. Small towns and villages do not count.
    Then you would have to define "city" as well. And if you went by an arbitrary qualification like population size, then any inhabitance of a small town or village would, by that definition, be uncivilized.

    One must also keep in mind that many of the so-called hunter/gatherers in Europe as early as 22,000 BC had extensive (and even trans-Mediterranean) trade networks with export/import economies. Despite not having "cities" or true agriculture, this still gave them many of the advantages we associate with the post-agricultural "civilized" life: They lived in permanent housing, had a longer lifespan, and therefore had more free time to develop art, technology, religion, and medicine. Even if you don't consider it "true" civilization, it's still civilized (at least to some degree.) But whatever names we assign these stages, it's disingenuous to think of the Agricultural Revolution as a sudden and dramatic transition between barbaric cavemen and sophisticated city-builders.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    The thing about agriculture is density of food production. To support a city, the food cannot be transported too far. In fact, earliest cities were probably supplied by grain carried on people's backs. Later, animal back, and then wheeled carts. However, all the food to feed a city had to be produced nearby, and hunter/gatherer methods would not do it.
    Landlubber.

    On the Pacific Northwest we documented toothless old crones paddling their laden canoes. Everybody in Haida Gwaii owned a canoe, it was how they got around and shipped heavy goods. People commuted great distances to converge on easy pickings like the Fraser River salmon run. They harpooned whales far offshore and paddled them home. So what does this mean to civic density, when a few hours cruising with the tidal current carries you and your cargo 20 km? The "city" may sprawl.
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    To Finger and Pong

    Conceding that the word 'civilised' has to have a wider definition than city dweller, and conceding that water travel is often important, it is still true that a hunter/gatherer society cannot support what we call civilisation. Only agriculture can support a large population that is focused on activities other than food production.

    Of course, the 'coincidence' of agriculture appearing at the same time as the end of the last glaciation period, means that the rise of civilisation may have more than one cause.

    I don't think the agricultural revolution was 'sudden'. However, it occurred world wide over a period of no more than 2,000 years. This time period probably reflects the time it took in that more primitive era for new ideas to be communicated widely.

    I read somewhere that, in an expanding and primitive population, the geographic dispersal of humans is about 50 kms per generation. This means, in 2000 years, a dispersal of people in all directions of 4000 kms. However, ideas will travel further and faster.
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    Don't get me wrong - I'm quite happy with fertile crescent villages as one source of "civilization". I just don't know that agriculture caused them. It seems to me that they, and their civilization, also caused agriculture.

    Strongest argument against, IMO, is that to subsist on partial grain diet, sedentary people need constant supplement of animal protein. The more restricted our diets, the more we need the nutrients of meat. Our early agriculture couldn't have provided animal feed, because production efficiency didn't come close to that kind of surplus. Only later the decadent wealthy could afford to keep grain-fed livestock. Early farmers would be just the opposite of self-sufficient.

    So the city (AKA the civilization) depends on import of animal protein. In bad years it cannot live on grain alone, but it can survive entirely on meat. Meat's the fallback. I mentioned seafood, and we do find some of the earliest sites with grains are coastal and include fishbones and shells. However it appears the sites that really took off depended on game not seafood.

    Not just any game. While others hunted big game, including bison, elephants, horses, and the last of the mammoth around 8,000 BCE, we find mainly bones of small game in early agricultural settlements: sheep, gazelle, goats, largest is aurochs (ancestral cattle). I don't think that's coincidence.

    I suggest that to keep a sedentary population (an early civilization) in meat, animals were brought and kept alive until wanted. Otherwise the meat spoils. Obviously sheep are easier managed than giraffes. Especially if everybody able-bodied enough to hunt, is away gathering more livestock. You don't leave grandma with a live bison.



    As yet our oldest evidence of agriculture is in Natufian sites, on the Eastern Mediterranean. This also happens to include our oldest evidence of domestic dogs: People buried with their arms around possessions, including puppies. I wonder if the dogs are incidental? :? How do they fit?
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    the people may of wanted variation to their diet other than meat which could have been a factor....................

    they also may not have known the more technical detials of nutrition and many may have 'just died' as a result.

    I saw a documentary the other day that proposed it wasn't man who tamed dog but that dog also found man in a mutual relationship............it certainly would have been and has been beneficial to both species in their survival........
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    Quote Originally Posted by fatman57
    the people may of wanted variation to their diet other than meat which could have been a factor....................

    they also may not have known the more technical detials of nutrition and many may have 'just died' as a result.
    To your second point, I'm assuming people had no science of nutrition. So diets evolved. As in get it wrong, they die; get it right, they live and that diet becomes part of the culture. This happened for germ-infested water too, as we see with tea and alcohol. Nobody "figured it out".

    To your first, I think that modern humans have a very stunted sense of nutrition. By that I mean learning from experience that certain foods answer nutritional deficiencies. Moderns rarely feel the shades and hues of malnourishment, so we rarely think "Oh, the spinach made me feel so much better!" A hunter/gatherer is surrounded by variety and totally attuned to how each food feels in the body, or she dies.

    Farming sacrifices variety. Early farmers worked a few crops. So what their starchy staples can't provide they'd have to supplement by foraging, and eating meat. Not to overly praise meat, but it does provide the widest range of nutrients. Apparently our ancestors loved meat above all else.

    Quote Originally Posted by fatman57
    I saw a documentary the other day that proposed it wasn't man who tamed dog but that dog also found man in a mutual relationship............it certainly would have been and has been beneficial to both species in their survival........
    Yeah, I'm pretty sure they self-domesticated. Probably learned to follow hunters, for the scavenge of our kills. After a while they grew so we could tell them apart from hostile wolves, so we didn't attack them. I doubt it's a coincidence that we used to hunt by throwing sticks, and spears; and dogs instinctively fetch sticks back so we can throw again.
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    sure - but its really difficult to tell what they did - there might be some work on it already but you may have to do some research on it - i don't know of anything.

    I agree about how they discovered what foods for what which is an empircal method very close to the heart of science anyway - but i'm sure that you can appreciate intuition is not always the best measure of whether a food is good for you or not! I do agree however that food tastes better when you are hungry!!! There might also not be as much variety to a hunter gather as someone who has the supermarket and some money at their disposal.....................
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    Getting something close to a balanced diet tends to happen naturally. It was observed in the 17th Century, that seamen fed on a diet of ships biscuits and salt pork, would pretty much go berserk in port, hunting down sources of fruit and vegetables, and stuffing themselves.

    Early civilisation would have had a diet in which grain featured largely, as the staple. However, the craving for meat, fruit and vegetables would have been there. This appetite would have been supplied also by farmers and traders. Early cities, for example, had butcheries, in which live animals would be killed and dressed.

    Of course, the food cravings are not always balanced, and we get people in today's world who crave junk food when they are already obese. No-one said we were perfect!
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    Quote Originally Posted by fatman57
    you may have to do some research on it
    Yes. I have to review the animal bones associated with early agricultural sites. If animals were killed in the field, then we'd expect they'd be partially slaughtered in the field, both to keep the meat a bit longer and for ease of transport. Deer skulls should be far less numerous than deer hips. If live animals were brought and kept for later consumption, we should see tether posts and pens and such.

    The weapons may suggest live capture too... or disprove it. The clincher would be bones obviously damaged by spear point and then healed over a few weeks or months.

    It's easy to see how shepherds would evolve in this economy. And you could say that civilization depended as much on shepherds, as farmers.



    A gender strand is running through this model, that could politicize it. I'm not aiming to score points any way.


    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    Getting something close to a balanced diet tends to happen naturally. It was observed in the 17th Century, that seamen fed on a diet of ships biscuits and salt pork, would pretty much go berserk in port, hunting down sources of fruit and vegetables, and stuffing themselves.
    Thanks. I hadn't thought to corroborate though seamen. It's a sharp example. Lol Popeye.
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    There have been a fair number of very good points made in this thread. One, which I have to admit, I had not thought of, is the idea of bringing home the kill - alive. Then again, perhaps this had not occurred to me as it seems a little far out there... put yourself in the skins of a mesolithic hunter. You spend days tracking, stalking then bringing down your prey. For the sake of this argument, let's say the prey is large - which translates into dangerous. Now, trying to 'herd' or convince a wounded auroch to follow you home would be challenging, at least ! What could or could not be carried home would depend on how large the hunting party was, how far from home was the kill, and the time of year (assuming it dropped to temps cold enough to keep the meat in decent shape).

    My knowledge of anything pre-Iron age is limited to reading a few books; I don't remember reading anything about finding evidence of corals or hitching posts.

    As I started out saying, there are a number of very interesting points brought up in this thread, and clearly, you have given at least one person (me!) something to think about ! Thanks guys.

    cheers
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    We should remember that the word 'agriculture' also includes animal husbandry. I do not know which came first - growing crops or herding animals. I suspect they both arose quite close together. I cannot get around the fact that both seemed to arise soon after the end of the glaciation period. I cannot help thinking that is cause and effect.

    So the first cities that were supplied with grain by farmers and traders, would also have been supplied with live animals for meat, which would have been raised also by farmers.

    For archaeological evidence, we can look at the remains of Atlit Yam, a very large 9,000 BP 'village' found a kilometre off the coast of Israel.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlit_Yam

    This community had bone fish hooks, granaries, and animal bones show both hunting and animal husbandry, with sheep, goats, pigs, dogs, and cattle. There were no streets as such, which suggests to me no wheeled transport. Everything would have to be carried on human or animal back.

    This could be considered the first known experiment in town living, at 40,000 square metres - a little big to be a village.
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    I followed up and couldn't find a granary. But there were "wheat, barley, lentil and flax" seeds. Impressive diversity... few modern kitchens have all those.

    Remains of marsh plants were found. That's hard to place, because the settlement is thought to have been flooded by tsunami. Those plants could have come with that, or grown up in the standing water. If contemporary to occupation, the fringes of that marsh would be ideal for early grain cultivation.

    Animal remains include "sheep/goat, pig and dog and cattle on the verge of domestication."

    The spring and nearby bowls hollowed in rock are thought (dismissed IMO) as some kind of ritual installation. I suggest that this is simply the best/only way to water animals, while protecting the common spring from their snouts.



    It reminded me of another early agricultural site, that featured channels and bowls carved in stone slab...
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    it might also be difficult for you to find 'tether posts and pens and such' as they might not survive the tests of time - i have done a little archaeology and house/building posts are driven far into the ground so there would be strong evidence but pens etc might not be so well built - this could help you decipher which is which too but it is a bit of a gamble. Other evidence such as dung from soil samples may help.

    would be interesting what the evidence was for animals being 'on the verge of domestication'...............

    also, if 'the word 'agriculture' also includes animal husbandry' it makes me question if this thread has just been answered.......lol................but there is still the issue of how the animal husbandry, crop farming and hunting live animals relate to each other in the context of the development of 'civilization'.................??!

    anyone know anything about the underwater pyramids off japan - apparently they appraoch 10'000 BC?
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    Maybe we've already found the livestock fences and tether posts.

    Consider this drawing of the spring and "ritual structure" at the above linked Atlit-Yam site:

    Imagine a gate across the opening, and livestock, including dogs, outside the gate.

    Consider other megaliths, as livestock management.

    These are Mongolian "deer stones", so named because they're mostly decorated with leaping deer motifs. Deer can leap pretty high.


    What strange ritual purpose could they serve...? Nevermind the foreground fencepost.

    Tether or fencepost, I'm unsure. You would want heavier megaliths for larger animals. An angry bull aurochs or dare I say mammoth needs serious restraint. Heavier stones and closely spaced for spans of lumber not netting. It might be good to separate the animals by sex or species, or shift them between enclosures.

    Ring of Brodgar, Scotland:



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    sure - it takes a lot of work to move the megaliths - is it worth it for livestock?

    the Mongolian "deer stones" are interesting - cloth could be used as a fence and maybe even be made high enough to stop them jumping over...............these things would need to be economical for them, i could imagine them carving on the stones once everything was all set up but this is all speculation.

    I can imagine they got up to many things around the megaliths! best story i found with archaeological evidence was of an early man having fun with a bull - i will leave it to your imagination.

    i'm not going to doubt the basalt theory but the rock formation you cite doesn't look like the pictures if the pyramids i have seen..........the formation usually has many columns but the pyramid has many large smooth surfaces much larger than any rock formations i have seen to date but i hve to admit my knowledge is far from extensive..............do you by chance have any links to this evidence?
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  22. #21  
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    Quote Originally Posted by fatman57
    sure - it takes a lot of work to move the megaliths - is it worth it for livestock?
    Perhaps not. But I have an explanation for the backbreaking labour testified by structures like Stonehenge.

    We know in ancient times livestock was currency. You could buy a wife or hire a mercenary with so many heads of cattle. So it seems likely that early livestock pens, beginning as humble ditches and palisades, came to function as banks. Without any cunning on our part, human nature will do that. The bank would accumulate debtors and beggars asking to be fed. That could be a large population. So what can debtors with no stock and no grain possibly offer that the bank wants? We aren't looking at a rich economy here. The poor would earn their meat labouring directly for the bank, most appropriately building up the structure itself.

    I think over time these structures would become monuments to power, kinda like the pyramids. They'd surpass the original function.

    Apparently this is a new hypothesis. I get to name it! Pen economy. As in megalithic pen economy, etc.

    If all true, it's interesting that the Middle East did not develop pen economies. Rather, water was horded, and animals kept apart from the water. The first currency appears to be grain stored in "temple" granaries (as if the main thing could be other than grain). In any case, gradual taming would breed us whole herds that one person may manage in the wilderness, and sell at profit to lord and farmer alike.





    Quote Originally Posted by fatman57
    the Mongolian "deer stones" are interesting - cloth could be used as a fence and maybe even be made high enough to stop them jumping over...............these things would need to be economical for them, i could imagine them carving on the stones once everything was all set up but this is all speculation.
    Here's the frame of a traditional Mongolian house - a yurt:

    The trellis walls collapse for easy transport. Tribes can pack it all by horses, and drive their herds to greener pastures. Prior to horse riding, life on the plains would be something else!
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    Sorry I forgot the Japanese pyramids. So the rock is sandstone, fractured by earthquake. I have a lot of sandstone in my area and I can tell you at the tide zone it erodes rapidly, with all sorts of overhanging shelves and caves, depending on how it's fractured. That doesn't sound relevant to the pyramid... but consider if this has been cycling below then above sea level with each glaciation, it's been repeatedly worked top to bottom, bottom to top. Next look at the shore of Yonaguni Island, the same rock this pyramid is made of:



    That's relatively fresh erosion, caused by wave action. Note the neat vertical fractures extending up the cliff. Can you see how a rising and descending sea-level will sculpt geometric steps and chambers?
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    nice - from what i see you are kinda explaining a feudal model (even though it isn't) - whether it was like that at all is a different story unfortunately, but i think the logic stands to reason.

    thanks for the info on the pyramids - that has corrected me, means i can throw them away as an early civilization - lol. I hadn't done lots of research on it but kept it in mind.

    very interesting that the middle east didn't develop the same! do you think that since we have so much water in this part of the world (a commodity vital to human life) and in asia it aided a different means of development?
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    Quote Originally Posted by fatman57
    different means of development?
    Yeah. Because in my model settlements (eventual cities) were populated by the least mobile persons: the elderly, children, and mothers. Able-bodied males continued hunting (and gathering remote resources), but returned meat (and later livestock) to the settlement. In regions lacking fresh water the sedentary segment could simply occupy a spring or well, which the men must revisit, or they dehydrate. Each segment has something vital to trade: food for water. Meanwhile in regions where water is abundant, hunters have no vital need to return. The sedentary segment must contrive means of luring men home. For starters they could offer a warm winter shelter, clothes and implements, and social ... um, rewards. :wink:

    Those are generalizations that apply more pre-civilization. As the sedentary people of any region become more civilized (in terms of technology, variety of goods, social sophistication, agriculture) the hunter/shepherds grow dependent on the civilization itself. Able-bodied men begin to occupy civilization wherein they're able to pull their own weight. At that point women have nothing unique to offer but sex. So they enjoy better equality in division of labour (anyone can thresh barley or make sandals) as their special economic status erodes. The fat matriarch is obsolete.

    Speaking of generalizations, I see no restriction on young women participating in hunter/shepherd lifestyle.
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  26. #25 Re: Is agriculture synonymous with civilization? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Without worrying a precise definition of "civilization", I wonder if we haven't been a little agro-centric? I find that most focus is given to the people working land, as farmers. Hunting and foraging are seen as modes that must shift to agriculture for civilization to advance. Maritime people, herders, and traders appear as aloof from civilization or dependent on it, not as civilized or civilizing in themselves.

    So in that view civilization grows from the peasant farmer, who grows from fertile land.

    Contradiction: Natives of the Pacific Northwest had no agriculture. They planted absolutely nothing. Yet they had towns, massive orchestrated fishing and whaling industries, flotillas of traders, settlements and regions specialized in different manufacture, serfs, slaves, craft guilds, and aristocracy. I cant' see how their progress was restricted by the hunter-gatherer economy. Neither can I see how planting onions in the river delta would catalyse a great leap in their civilization.

    As well many times in history agricultural societies have been dominated by non-agricultural groups, from outside or within, who were more civilized. We also see agricultural nations that remained relatively backward, apparently ploughed themselves into a rut.

    I propose our view of history is coloured by sedentary landlubber historians.
    or perhaps, Pong, it's simply a generalisation (rather than a rule) which acknowledges that "civilisation" was more easily imposed upon farmers - if you consider that the first function of a civil authority was to control and defend a territory and its resources, including civilians? Much harder to do with seasonal or migratory nomads, where the most one could expect would be tolls and trade goods.

    The difference I see is that agriculture (land-farming) is a long term and often year-round investment; it cannot be made portable, broken down overnight, packed up and moved to a new location at short notice.

    That said, some nomadic cultures did/do practice primitive seasonal agriculture/land-husbandry. Nomads did/do not tend to wander aimlessly, but follow a limited number of annual routes to specific locations.

    (civilian does not mean city-dweller - a citizen - although the two terms are often used equally to describe an ordinary member of a state)
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    Quote Originally Posted by CShark
    There have been a fair number of very good points made in this thread. One, which I have to admit, I had not thought of, is the idea of bringing home the kill - alive. Then again, perhaps this had not occurred to me as it seems a little far out there... put yourself in the skins of a mesolithic hunter. You spend days tracking, stalking then bringing down your prey. For the sake of this argument, let's say the prey is large - which translates into dangerous. Now, trying to 'herd' or convince a wounded auroch to follow you home would be challenging, at least ! What could or could not be carried home would depend on how large the hunting party was, how far from home was the kill, and the time of year (assuming it dropped to temps cold enough to keep the meat in decent shape).
    I'm thinking, what if you find a herd of large, but relatively harmless animals? Someone suddenly gets the idea: "Why don't we get all of our hunting done for the whole year, by taking the entire herd?" And then, like Pong was suggesting, you bring them all back alive and keep them around. I would be very surprised if nomadic herding doesn't predate grain agriculture.

    Then the next logical step is that certain areas become favorite places for the nomadic herdsmen to visit, because they're known to have really good grazing fields. If you live in such a hub, you can subsist merely by setting up shop and trading with the herdsmen as they pass through. It would make sense if people who live in these places were to start taking steps to ensure their grazing areas retain their spender. (Because they want the herdsmen to keep coming back.)

    Another bright idea would be for the locals to start gathering and storing grazing foods, so the herdsmen can stock up a little bit, in case they end up traveling through an area that doesn't have good grazing, and they need something to feed their cattle.

    Then, the final step: the poorest class of people in the grazing towns get very hungry and decide to try eating some of the stored forage, which would normally be considered to be too low in quality for human consumption.
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  28. #27 Re: Is agriculture synonymous with civilization? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cran
    "civilisation" was more easily imposed upon farmers - if you consider that the first function of a civil authority was to control and defend a territory and its resources...
    You're talking about states. Hmm... so we're discussing the origin of the family, private property, and the state... sounds like a nineteenth century work by Marx and Engels. Run away!!!

    Okay. I'll argue that my Middle Eastern live-game economies make wicked states because every member who can wield a spear or shoot an arrow is perpetually scouting. Hunting grounds = territory. Hunter = warrior. Easy.

    In Europe though the pen-economies would be insular. The have-nots would be out hunting and herding, kept in check by their disorganization.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kojax
    what if you find a herd of large, but relatively harmless animals? Someone suddenly gets the idea... bring them all back alive
    I try and avoid any bright ideas on our part. The most likely scenarios are the ones we'd inevitably stumble into. So I rather imagine we'd render an animal helpless and retreating, and we'd just not kill it. A big critter like boar or bison is a lot easier to goad along than kill. I think that dogs barking and people poking with spears or even shouting and throwing stones can drive an undomesticated animal pretty effectively - at a walking pace of course. We would get better at this.

    The less manageable animals would tend to get slaughtered sooner. Once we had surplus stock, the docile ones would be the last to slaughter... which means in good years they'd have a chance to mate in captivity. That's breeding for docility. But it's nobody's bright idea: it would just happen that way.

    The way you described gathering animal fodder and then eventually eating it ourselves does sound possible. I should check if early grain remains were on the stem or threshed and ground to meal. If for livestock there'd be no point milling it.

    BTW figs may have been the first domesticated crop. That's by DNA evidence. As you may know, a fig tree is practically indestructible; you can tear a branch off, thrust it into soil, and it'll grow.
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  29. #28 Re: Is agriculture synonymous with civilization? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong

    Quote Originally Posted by Kojax
    what if you find a herd of large, but relatively harmless animals? Someone suddenly gets the idea... bring them all back alive
    I try and avoid any bright ideas on our part. The most likely scenarios are the ones we'd inevitably stumble into. So I rather imagine we'd render an animal helpless and retreating, and we'd just not kill it. A big critter like boar or bison is a lot easier to goad along than kill. I think that dogs barking and people poking with spears or even shouting and throwing stones can drive an undomesticated animal pretty effectively - at a walking pace of course. We would get better at this.
    If I'm not mistaken, that's also part of the way that Mammoth's were killed. First the hunters would try and drive the herd into some kind of terrain where they could fight them better, before they actually started trying to kill them. At the very least, they had to try and get one of them alone or else they'd be looking for a fight they can't win.

    That didn't involve totally dominating the animals, of course, but it shows they understood that the animal could be motivated to go where they wanted, at least in a limited sense.


    The less manageable animals would tend to get slaughtered sooner. Once we had surplus stock, the docile ones would be the last to slaughter... which means in good years they'd have a chance to mate in captivity. That's breeding for docility. But it's nobody's bright idea: it would just happen that way.
    Maybe temporary storage becomes permanent storage, once it's apparent that there's no time limit on an animal's captivity. The invention of the idea of "taking them alive" would have lead to nomadic herding in a very short time.

    The reason that it has to be nomadic is that a herd will eat all the foliage in the surrounding area after a short time, and then you have to move them to somewhere else. But, the kind of plants a herd animal eats grow back really fast, so you can keep bringing them to the same areas over and over.

    In this sense, gathering for a herd is different than gathering stuff like berries. The idea of the foliage growing back, and in a predictable time frame, is part of the optimal grazing strategy, and it doesn't require any tremendous insight for a nomad to become aware of that. The idea of "grazing territory" would quickly take the place of "hunting territory", because hunting has become a moot point. And, now your territory is more stable, because it's not running out of bounty after you stay too long, at least not permanently.
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  30. #29 Re: Is agriculture synonymous with civilization? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    ... Okay. I'll argue that my Middle Eastern live-game economies make wicked states because every member who can wield a spear or shoot an arrow is perpetually scouting. Hunting grounds = territory. Hunter = warrior. Easy.
    and I would argue just the opposite, and for the same reason ...

    In Europe though the pen-economies would be insular. The have-nots would be out hunting and herding, kept in check by their disorganization...
    as you say ...


    I suspect the origin of family precedes anything which might be considered a civilisation ...

    property - hmm - that's a more interesting question ...
    perhaps a key is the concept of real estate (ie, ownership of land) - something which was not synonymous with hunter-gatherer societies, at least among the indigenous populations of North America, Australia, much of Africa, and the Arctic (I don't know what it was like in Southern Asia or South America) ...

    .......

    herding origins - wouldn't it be easier to kill the adult beasts and capture/herd the young? A couple of generations bred from such captives would be much easier to manage ...
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    There are two basic units of human society, which both precede civilisation, and which are normal for hunter/gatherer societies, including all those who survived into the 20th Century and beyond, and were studied by anthropologists.

    That is, the family, and the tribe.

    Civilisation occurred when the first human communities exceeded the size of the tribes. Tribes are 50 to 200 people. To get to, say 1000 people together in a settlement, requires something more than simple hunter/gatherer economies. I doubt if that could be possible without agriculture, whether growing crops, or animal husbandry, or (more likely) both. That is for the simple reason that hunter/gatherer economies requires more territory per person to support them with food.

    I suspect that the first towns arose to support human specialisation. In early societies, there would always be people with more skill than others. So a person who was excellent at knapping - creating tools from flint - would serve society better by full time knapping, and trading his output for food etc. Others might engage in primitive pottery. Others might create fabics. etc.
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    skeptic

    I think we're saying the same thing, though in different words ...
    assuming that, by towns, you mean permanent rather than transitory settlements?

    although skill-trading, or specialisation, doesn't need a permanent residence to operate ...
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    Hi Cran

    I think, in the context of this discussion, I would offer a tentative definition of town, meaning a permanent settlement with a population larger than than typical of a nomadic tribe. That is, more than 200. A permanent settlement with 50 to 200 people, which is typical tribe size, I would call a village.

    I realise than, outside this discussion, other definitions may prevail. However, the transition from tribal hunter/gatherer to "civilised" involves a movement away from pure tribal structure also. A tribe might be nomadic or live in a permanent village. Getting away from tribal structure means a town, with more people than a tribe.

    Incidentally, I found the earlier data about figs of interest. I have long thought that agriculture probably began a long time ago, in a loose way with nomads, and planting fig sticks would be a perfect way for this to begin. Imagine a nomadic tribe that has a specific route to their wanderings, returning to the same places over and over. If this group learns of the ability of fig trees to grow from cuttings stuck in the ground, they could well do just that to increase the food supply in the future.

    In fact, it might even have been our pre-human ancestors who learned to do this. Homo erectus before Homo sapiens. Human ancestors modifying the natural environment even a million years ago.
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  34. #33 Re: Is agriculture synonymous with civilization? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    The reason that it has to be nomadic is that a herd will eat all the foliage in the surrounding area after a short time, and then you have to move them to somewhere else. But, the kind of plants a herd animal eats grow back really fast, so you can keep bringing them to the same areas over and over.

    In this sense, gathering for a herd is different than gathering stuff like berries. The idea of the foliage growing back, and in a predictable time frame, is part of the optimal grazing strategy, and it doesn't require any tremendous insight for a nomad to become aware of that. The idea of "grazing territory" would quickly take the place of "hunting territory", because hunting has become a moot point. And, now your territory is more stable, because it's not running out of bounty after you stay too long, at least not permanently.
    That works for herdsfolk, but not for farmers. All the crops a farmer wants to harvest, are also keenly preferred by wild animals. If it's fat grain, then some sheep or cows move in and graze it. If it's sweet tree fruit, the birds peck it. If it's lush greens or berries, the pigs and bear mangle it. And so forth. So until we establish watchful stewardship over a plot, that plot can't produce much "good stuff".

    One form of stewardship is simply hunting every animal within range of a settlement. In this case the grain within that radius grows up unusually thick and ripe. That is worth the effort to harvest. Our early harvest methods probably let a lot of ripe seed fall, inadvertently. Recurring harvests then. So without any foresight we just blunder into the farming lifestyle because the fields are clear of grazing animals.

    That does contradict the keeping of livestock somewhat. We would naturally allow livestock to graze locally and destroy any hope of harvest ourselves. If we had a very large herd of livestock, it would gobble everything around. We'd actively encourage that. So perhaps having some ungrazed fields depends on a) persistently hunting all grazers that come near, and, b) keeping such a small number, they're easier managed by pen, tether, or hobble, and fed by hand i.e. gathered grass. I have a vivid image of children doing just that.

    I'm betting on pen, over tether or hobble, because of the dogs. I don't think newborn livestock would survive the dogs, and we probably wouldn't intervene if we could.

    The livestock pen would have to be apart from homes, because we definitely kept dogs in our shelters and likely slept among them.

    I've got a lot of evidence to look for now. That'll corroborate or disprove.
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    When I was a child, my parents had about six acres of land, and they would keep a few cows on it. They built two fences, to make up 2 pastures for the cows to graze in. After they'd been in one pasture for a while, it would start look like a mowed lawn, a little uneven, but otherwise pretty short. So, then we'd let them into the other pasture for a couple of months, and the first pasture grew back.

    Do you see how short a step it would be to go from that to active agriculture? The herdsmen would have been directly observing the predictability of herbal regrowth on a daily/monthly basis.
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    I see it! Your anecdote illuminates and predicts human behaviour. Imagine a settlement set up with divided pens as you describe. Then imagine their livestock greatly reduced. Naturally, this reduced livestock won't clear out the one pen, so the people even through sheer laziness now have one protected field producing worthwhile harvest.

    That's more specific evidence to look for.
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  37. #36  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    I see it! Your anecdote illuminates and predicts human behaviour. Imagine a settlement set up with divided pens as you describe. Then imagine their livestock greatly reduced. Naturally, this reduced livestock won't clear out the one pen, so the people even through sheer laziness now have one protected field producing worthwhile harvest.

    That's more specific evidence to look for.
    That might be where it started. I could also see a stopover community that lends out its grazing lands to passing herdsmen. Maybe the herdsmen stop coming by for a while, and they see their pasture's growth going unused, so they decide to cut it themselves and store it somewhere.
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    I've read the suggestion that we grew crops to feed animals. That seems insanely wasteful of grain and farmer energy, early in the game. And unintuitive. I dislike theories that require human foresight.
    Who is this idiot?



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  39. #38 Agri-culture is not synonymous of Civilization, but Culture 
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    Agri-culture is not synonymous of Civilization, but Culture is synonymous. Cultivate means cultivate not only the earth but also the "spirit" and the "soul"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    I've read the suggestion that we grew crops to feed animals. That seems insanely wasteful of grain and farmer energy, early in the game. And unintuitive. I dislike theories that require human foresight.
    Who is this idiot?



    Me.
    made me choke on my coffee!
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    civilization is completely based on agriculture, culture and society are separate issues altogether. Read Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
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    Without going into details, I merely want to ppoint out that that fact that agriculture led to civilisation does not equate agricultural societies with civil societies. Civilisation only occured long after the Neolotihic Revolution, it is a new milestone in the human social development. Any attempt to confuse these two things merely create confusion, and reder the word meaningless. All these probably resulted from the disire to create a new theory. I don't think farming is the same thing as establishing cities, states and writing. Otherwise, creation ofthe first stone tool in the Palaeolithic could also be called "civilisation".
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    The word 'civilisation' literally means "living in cities". Obviously the earliest non-nomad communities were not cities by today's standards, so perhaps our definition of early civilisation should be simply "living in settled communities larger than tribal."

    Agriculture as a precursor to this is vital. It would simply be impossible to feed a larger community without agriculture.

    OK, other things are also needed, such as specialised occupations, people acting as traders, bringing goods such as food in and out of the settled communities etc.

    However, I think we all have to agree that agriculture is a necessary precursor before larger settled communities can exist.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    our definition of early civilisation should be simply "living in settled communities larger than tribal."

    ...

    It would simply be impossible to feed a larger community without agriculture.
    I agree with the first. The main thing is supporting sedentary specialists and their trappings: craftspeople, administrators, storehouses, workshops, etc. The more people connected to an economy, the more civilization. It's a web. Everybody in the town is intimately connected to the economy, because the cost of moving (trading) goods and services between them is negligible.

    So if the town's contribution to civilization boils down to short well-trodden roads between specialist producers, we should have civilization just as well by any means that render trade costs negligible. I believe this explains coastal British Columbia: Here we have a "web" of sheltered waterways whereby even grandma traded jam and sweaters far and wide. Instead of roads and beasts of burden we had waterways and canoes. When neighbouring villages are just an hour's effortless travel along the channel, they're effectively one big village. Actually we see this today with office workers and truckers commuting daily by modern car-ferry between islands.

    I disagree with skeptic's second point that feeding a large community requires agriculture. When a thousand opportunists can each net a ton of fish in one week just by intercepting a salmon run, or a crew of six can tow home a humpback whale, or a flotilla LOL of grandmas bearing jam can descend on one village; you've got serious food concentrations. In fact we often had too much food concentrated in one place, thus the potlatch. A potlatch is a feast-festival whereby one village announces "free food" and everybody who can make the journey in a day or two (hundreds of kilometres by canoe) everybody is invited. I think this nicely illustrates the "movable city" that was coastal British Columbia civilization.
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    I know very little of pre-European British Columbia. However, I have to treat the suggestion that each villager can net a tonne of fish (unless this happens only on rare occasions) with some scepticism.

    I know the Maori of New Zealand very well, and they lived a life of 'feast or famine'. There were frequent episodes where people died of hunger due to food shortages, and the survivors suffered significant long term health defects due to malnutrition. And at this time, the seas teemed with fish.

    'Feast or famine' appears to be a common pattern in hunter/gatherer societies. Time of food shortages would require every member of a community to be hunting or gathering in order to keep people alive. I cannot imagine a larger 'civilised' community surviving these times if only a part of their population was involved in collecting food.

    However, agriculture changes the equation. Especially long term food storage, such as happens with cultivated grains as food.
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    A ton in a week is a wild guess. The food economy revolved around annual spawning runs, which we intercepted as the ocean population of a species funnelled up rivers, the mighty Fraser especially. Here's a weir installed on one of the lesser rivers:



    I'm not kidding when I say the fish would crowd so heavily against a weir the river would be full of fish at these points. Some people waded in with rakes to scoop them out, while others formed a fish-processing line working day and night shifts. Salmon generally were filleted and dried, oolichan were later cooked for their grease. So the catch was unlimited; we were limited only by how quickly we could process fish, and how long that meat kept in storage.

    There are other food resources gathered similarly - by mobile processing crews. Tribes moved from resource to resource, though they'd support at least one home village throughout the year. As evidenced by the canoe in that picture, long-range transportation of goods and workers was swift and effortless.

    So rivers and waterways facilitated the concentration of food, the flow of trade, and a cosmopolitan culture; though the speed and ease of travel allowed houses spread out on the map; thus my point that here we didn't need to build dense settlements for hauling goods across the street. We already had a working "city", that spanned the sheltered BC coastline.

    Maybe too much of a good thing, eh? Though we had the advantages of a "city" regarding commerce, specialists, and organization, it offered no incentive to build roads, tame beasts, work land, invent a wheel.
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    Lots of peoples around the world never invented those things that seem obvious to us today, such as wheels etc.

    The Maori of my country had no metals, no pottery, no bow and arrow, no wheels, no roads, no domestic animals, and no writing. This lasted until 200 years ago with the arrival of Europeans. Yet they were not silly. The Maori are a very smart people, and adapted to modern innovation very quickly.

    Even the ancient Egyptian civilisation did not have the wheel until well into their heyday, and that was introduced by outsiders. There was no iron smelting 3000 years ago.

    However, we are talking of the need for agriculture to precede civilisation. I am still convinced that is so. The natives of British Columbia may have had a great food source with the salmon runs, but that would not be adequate by itself. And they did not have what we would call a civilisation.

    It is not, of course, just the growing of food that counts, but the storage and transport also. Grains were ideal, since they could keep almost indefinitely, and then be ground and baked when needed.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    It is not, of course, just the growing of food that counts, but the storage and transport also. Grains were ideal, since they could keep almost indefinitely, and then be ground and baked when needed.
    I think I've demonstrated that harvest and transport along the BC coast was more than sufficient to supply a "city". But yeah, storage was inadequate! Again, that's why we held potlatches: to distribute excess perishables concentrated in one place. Note that potlatches could gather thousands of people for weeks. It is even gross to imagine what happened when we brought in whales. Maybe food storage is the missing puzzle piece? The only food we kept for very long was fish and whale oil.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    It is not, of course, just the growing of food that counts, but the storage and transport also. Grains were ideal, since they could keep almost indefinitely, and then be ground and baked when needed.
    I think I've demonstrated that harvest and transport along the BC coast was more than sufficient to supply a "city". But yeah, storage was inadequate! Again, that's why we held potlatches: to distribute excess perishables concentrated in one place. Note that potlatches could gather thousands of people for weeks. It is even gross to imagine what happened when we brought in whales. Maybe food storage is the missing puzzle piece? The only food we kept for very long was fish and whale oil.
    That would make sense, because the main purpose of a city is to facilitate trade, and the main purpose of trade, especially the kind of merchants you find in a city, is to make sure your food and other perishables aren't going to waste. The farmer or hunter doesn't have time to find people to eat everything they hunt/grow, so the merchants serve a very useful role that way.

    The other half of the storage problem is that all food has to be acquired within a distance of home that can reasonably be traveled before it perishes. So, the maximum number of people who can live in any single community is equal to the amount of food that can be hunted within that distance. If it's a very short distance, then it's a small amount of food, and your community will necessarily consist of a very small number of people.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    the main purpose of a city is to facilitate trade
    Trade, in that a group of full-time sedentary weavers get their meals supplied in exchange for goods others can't produce so efficiently. A little tribe economy can never support many specialists. I think that civilization depends on this, not the physical city. For example those climatologists in Antarctica contribute to civilization because they are connected to civilization in terms of goods and information; this allows them unique, specialized jobs.

    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    The other half of the storage problem is that all food has to be acquired within a distance of home that can reasonably be traveled before it perishes. So, the maximum number of people who can live in any single community is equal to the amount of food that can be hunted within that distance. If it's a very short distance, then it's a small amount of food, and your community will necessarily consist of a very small number of people.
    This is where the landlubbers and the waterborne part ways. Their strengths and weaknesses differ.

    An old crone in a canoe may move her cargo of bananas to market faster than anybody on foot. She can ship a good deal more weight, and also eats a lot less of those bananas along the route. On the other hand, there's no way she's taking pigs and sheep, though she may transport pork and mutton.

    An individual on foot may lead a bull through mountains right up to the temple door. But this is very costly in terms of time and calories. The weary trader will have eaten all the jerky in her pack before she reaches market. Transporting grain over land is worse yet. She may employ a beast of burden but then it's gonna demand grain just to lug its own weight besides the ...uh, grain... its carrying.

    I see that most civilizations thrived on a combination of means. The Incas apparently got stalled on land, especially without carts (and why no wheels?!). I'm thinking that waterways conspired on some regions to render trade and communication too easy in a way. Livestock in particular is incompatible with a highly mobile boat economy. Perhaps overcoming certain challenges exclusive to land travel was necessary to progress? I understand that writing originates with trade packages... I need to learn more about that.
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    An important point here. I am not arguing with your thesis that water transport is more efficient.

    However, it is probably not terribly relevent. 'Civilisation' started in the Mesopotamia region. There is little or no evidence that water transport was of any importance at that genesis of civilisation. Hence it may be misleading to talk of how good paddling a canoe is in developing civilisation.
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    I'm trying to find out why maritime people who had extremely easy trade, did not progress to the great expanding web of specialties we associate with civilization. By maritime I mean where people live and produce so close to waterways that land travel is rarely necessary.

    BC coast Natives defied the notion that with trade and concentration of resources, civilization and cities will follow. We had trade and resource concentrations in excess, way beyond what, say, the European colonists were used to. So while Native populations were essentially congregating from town to town wherever the next feast was hosted, the settlers were homesteading to survive as isolated farmers. While Native life revolved around ...shopping and commuting... by boat the same way modern civilization depends on cars, the settlers were content to drag their yearly load of flour and butter up a donkey trail. Natives obviously had the means to feed and collaborate a range of dedicated tradespeople, from which technological progress advances - why didn't they?

    The chiefs used to collect copper plates. That's an obvious beginning to greater things, and an obvious object of wealth. The chiefs used to gather people together, stuff them with food, and then ostentatiously throw their copper plates into the sea.
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    The real question is not why one particular people failed to achieve civilisation. The question is why those who did, managed it.

    The human species is about 200,000 years old. Stone tools and primitive technology was achieved by pre-humans such as Homo erectus. Our earliest ancestors no doubt inherited this. Our species has now lived in two inter-glacial periods, both of which were doubtless conducive to the formation of civilisation. Thousands of cultures all round the world failed to do this.

    Yet one area (Mesopotamia) moved to city dwelling. Why did that one area become civilised?

    My own suspicion is that it was the cultivation of grains. That part of the world had wheat, and cultivated the wheat, which was ground into flour, which provided food that could be stored long term. Wheat was easy to transport, and lasted comfortably from harvest to harvest. Trading wheat would permit people to live lives that were not involved in growing or hunting food.

    The native peoples of B.C. did not have wheat or anything like it. The native peoples of central America may have been able to do the same with maize, but they began that cultivation well after wheat was first cultivated.
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    Trading wheat would permit people to live lives that were not involved in growing or hunting food.
    You keep saying "hunting". But the fact is Coast Natives rarely hunted because they didn't need to. I don't think you appreciate the enormous volume of quality protein laid out every low tide in the Strait of Georgia. The rocks are literally covered with meat, every day of the year: "You have to be an idiot to starve." Besides the fish dumbly corral themselves into nets and pens built along rivers. And the payoff from harpooning a single whale puts any other hunting group to shame.

    So in terms of human energy expended just to feed ourselves, the Natives here had it better than those drudging wheat farmers. You need only compare one harvest operation to another, this should be obvious: would you rather reap your weight in wheat stalks, trundle bales to the threshing-floor, and so forth; or would you rather pluck your weight in mussels ready-to-eat and load them into a boat?

    Now, given that wheat cultivation and land transport is relatively inefficient, how would civilization blossom under these conditions? See, I'm not doubting wheat was a decisive factor - just that it didn't help by making people's lives easier.
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    Making people's lives easier is not the point of discussion. There have been many cultures where food was easy to obtain, including a few of those Pacific island paradises. However, ease of existence does not lead to the challenges that push development.

    The fact is that the earliest civilisation was in the Mesopotamia area, where food was definitely not as easy to obtain as what you have described for the BC natives. Perhaps it is this hardship that drives people to find a better way. Hence social and technical growth.
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    I think so. Then agriculture is more a kind of hardship we would not naturally enter given the choice, that yielded unforeseen fruits.
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    Agriculture gives you stability, and planning. The advantage of being able to store food over a long period of time is both that can think ahead, and that you must think ahead. If nothing else, you have to prepare for winter, famine, and other contingencies.

    Currency gives you a way to draw on somebody else's grain storage if you end up in a drought. It's very useful once you're trying to organize on a massive scale in order to mitigate one anothers' risks. It's a convenient way of remembering who owes who a favor. For flocks, you need a certain minimum amount of livestock on hand at all times, in order to ensure genetic diversity so they don't get inbred. But that doesn't mean each individual farmer needs a single flock of superhuman size. You just need to be trading with other people regularly enough so your livestock mixes with theirs. Basically, farming brings people together by necessity. It pushes them into larger social networks.

    For a hunter/gatherer who gets into a drought of some kind, there's no incentive to deal peaceably with other hunter/gatherers who may happen to live on better terrain. You might as well just push them out and hunt on their land yourself. If you did that to a group of farmers, then you'd have to wait a year before you got any food out of the arrangement. It's better just to give them some money. Besides, the drought is probably only temporary, and if you move, then you'll have to start over and till new fields.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    For a hunter/gatherer who gets into a drought of some kind, there's no incentive to deal peaceably with other hunter/gatherers who may happen to live on better terrain. You might as well just push them out and hunt on their land yourself. If you did that to a group of farmers, then you'd have to wait a year before you got any food out of the arrangement. It's better just to give them some money. Besides, the drought is probably only temporary, and if you move, then you'll have to start over and till new fields.
    That really nails the Pacific canoe cultures. We perpetually schemed and warred for ownership of strategic resources. Even peaceful life was something like a musical chairs of migration between seasonal villages. In that game advantage goes to those who own no treasure, but can plunder it from others. Bloody pirates!
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    ... Making people's lives easier is not the point of discussion. There have been many cultures where food was easy to obtain, including a few of those Pacific island paradises. However, ease of existence does not lead to the challenges that push development...
    that's a very good point ...
    advancement in the face of adversity (vs complacency in relative comfort)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cran
    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    ... Making people's lives easier is not the point of discussion. There have been many cultures where food was easy to obtain, including a few of those Pacific island paradises. However, ease of existence does not lead to the challenges that push development...
    that's a very good point ...
    advancement in the face of adversity (vs complacency in relative comfort)
    I agree - if you have the food to hand there isn't any need for you to develop any technology or change your environment.
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    This topic relates to Jared Diamond’s famous “Guns, Germs and Steel” and his “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.” His TED talk on why societies collapse:
    http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/ja..._collapse.html

    It seems obvious that settlements require a dependable, obtainable, nutritious food sources and clean flowing water as well as protection. We can thank the Kuroshio Current, Pacific’s analogy to the Atlantic’s Gulf Stream, for warming and watering North America’s northwest coast and causing rain forests there. The same advantages occurred for the British Isles, at the latitude of Labrador opposite, but bathed with rain and warmth, and along with insular protection, allowed a great civilization to flourish. Dependable, obtainable nutrition can result from farming or from a “Garden of Eden” kind of natural sustainability, and the environment of the northwest (of both continents) provides this.

    As to economies, even the simplest two-person hunter-gatherer system had a “proto-economy”, where the hunter did not eat only meat and the gatherer did not eat only vegetables. So, a natural sharing/trading/bartering existed among a group — and also between groups, where a chance or deliberate encounter could result in barter: furs for stone knives, etc. We find stone knives hundreds miles or more from their quarries. A settled life allowed for experimentation as well as leisure and pastimes. Sturdier, permanent, non-portable shelters. Boats built, boating attempted, discoveries of larger/more fish farther from shore, both on lakes and oceans. Families could live communally during times of plenty, typically summers, but had to split up and fend for themselves during times of scarcity, typically winters.
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