Introduction The shift from a lifestyle reliant on hunting andgathering to one of practicing agricultural competencies began approximately “10,000years” (p.
103) ago according to Brown, Jones, Powell and Allaby. Thistransition can be attributed to five main factors including topics such asavailability of wild resources, development of technology, populationinfluence, and geography. While these factors were a driving force in thetransition of an individual enacting the role of hunter-gatherer to the role ofagriculturalist they did not impact all areas of the globe on an independent scalenor did they impact them all at the same time. Factors such as climate,availability of wild ancestors, and cultural ideals all played a role in theindependent development of agriculture in the different areas of the world. Thefollowing explores in greater detail the many factors in the shift fromhunting-gathering to agriculture and the locations in which this shiftindependently emerged. Exploration of Key Terms To better understand aspects of the shift from huntingand gathering to agriculture it is important to understand the definitions forthese terms in context of the topic.
Agriculture or “food production” (p. 84)as Jared Diamond also refers to it in his book Guns, Germs, and Steel, is “domesticating wild animals and plantsand eating the resulting livestock and crops” (p. 82). Hunting and gathering incontrast mainly relates itself to killing wild animals, catching fish and otherwater specimens and foraging for wild berries, vegetables and roots to eat.These two terms are also described as “alternative strategies competing witheach other” (p. 105).
The BIG Five As explored by Diamond (1997) the first two significantfactors in the shift from hunting and gathering to agriculture are very closelyrelated. These two factors are the decline of available wild food and thedepletion of wild game. The depletion of wild game is thought to have occurreddue to climate change and highly effective hunters killing many of the bigmammals. Being able to obtain less from hunting made the role of hunter andgatherer less appealing and less reward was being reaped.
Climate changealthough thought to harm wild animals is related to a positive movement foragriculture as it allowed for more desirable growing conditions and madefarming more rewarding (p. 105-106). The third factor in “the shift” is the development oftechnologies. Such technologies allowed for more efficient harvesting,processing and storage of wild food items. The most noteworthy technologiesincluded the sickle for grain harvesting, baskets for transporting grain,mortars and pestles for processing grain so that it did not germinate, andunderground storage either waterproof or not. This factor was an unconsciousact on behalf of hunters and gathers towards the domestication of wild plants(Diamond, 1997, p.
106). The “two-way link” (p. 107) as termed by Diamonddescribes how the rise of human population and the rise in food production gohand in hand. He also uses the term “autocatalytic process – one that catalyzesitself in a positive feed back cycle” (p. 107) to describe how the rise inpopulation causes the need to obtain more food and those who were unconsciouslyparticipating in agricultural practices were rewarded with the needed food,these people became “sedentary” ( Bennett, ND, p.3) and produce more people andthus again required more food. All ofthese steps on the loop play a role in what we define as agriculture. The final factor in the shift from hunting and gatheringto agriculture is geography.
The large population of those settled individuals,who were participating in agriculture, allowed them to attack hunter gathererskeeping them off the land. Technology and advances in agricultural practicesgave producers advantages in creating food. And as a result, hunter-gathererswere left with the choice to become displaced or adopt food production as theirnew mean to provide themselves with food, fuel and fiber (Diamond, 1997, p.
107)Independent Development To answer the question of why agriculture aroseindependently in some areas and then later in other areas Diamond (1997)reviews the two observations of either there were problems with the wild plantsof the land or that there were problems with the people of the land (p. 126). Thesetwo explanations depend on the location of the land, lands with prime climateand many easily domesticated wild resources were thought to have a culturalissue and those lands with subpar climate were thought to have a wild resourceproblem.
There are five areas that were considered to havedeveloped agriculture independently and they include the Fertile Crescent, China,Mesoamerica, the Andes of South America and the eastern United States. (Diamond,1997, p. 94). These locations all had a climate that was supportive ofdifferent wild crops that could be domesticated.
While some of these crops weremore readily domesticated than others, for example the readily domesticatedwild strains of wheat domesticated much faster than the wild ancestors of corn.This eagerness or lack there of is one explanation for why some lands developedagriculture faster than others. It should be noted that many lands did not reach theability to develop agriculture on their own because they did not have the wildresources present to domesticate although they did have fertile lands. Manyregions relied on the introduction of founder crops from other agricultural establishedregions to begin their journey towards agriculture and away from hunting andgathering. Conclusion The many factors that drove the transition from huntingand gathering to agriculture did so in a way that they made hunting andgathering less rewarding and made agricultural practice more rewarding. Thefactors of less available wild resources, technology, geography and linkagemade sure that humans developed a system that was more reliable in feeding, clothingthemselves and producing other goods. The independent development of agriculturerelied heavily on the climate, available wild resources and peoples of theregion.
All together the combined factors of shift and the independent developmentof agriculture assured that the regions around the world adopted agriculture. ReferencesBennett, B.C. (N.D.) Plant domestication and the origins ofagriculture. Miami, FL: Florida InternationalUniversity Brown, T.
A., &Jones,M.K., & Powell, W., & Allaby, R. G. (2008) The complex origins ofdomesticatedcrops in the fertile crescent. Trends inEcology and Evolution, 24, 103Diamond, J.
(1997) Guns, germs, and steel. New York, London : W.W.
Norton & Company