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What humans were doing for 200k years?

by Snip3r
Tags: 200k, humans
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nkalanaga
#19
Dec13-12, 11:54 PM
P: 10
Turbo: I hadn't thought of that. I knew that beer and bread yeasts were basically the same varieties, but hadn't made the connection to leavened bread. Interesting thought.

Chronos: The Toba eruption definitely had an impact, but the Ice Ages shouldn't have been an issue for humans in tropical and subtropical regions. Even the southern US had a temperate climate during the worst of them, and Africa was arguably better off than today.
stargazer3
#20
Dec14-12, 03:19 AM
P: 44
Uhm, I hope I'll be able to add something to the discussion. As far as I know, a society relies almost completely on specialists for the development of civilization (let's just pretend that technolical progress equals civilization development). The specialists are the people who are contributing to thier societies in a very specific way (as blacksmiths, warriors, priests, etc.), and often rely on other classes for their daily needs.

My point is that for the hunter-gatherer societies (we still have a few to check on), there are no specialists, the reason being, as already said, population density and nomadic way of life. When you live in a small group of hunters, no one needs to be goverened (conflicts are resolved in a "friendly" manner), and everybody should know how to get provision for the group, otherwise you're a drag.

Therefore, the question of "why hunter-gatherer societies didn't become technologically advanced over the past 200k years?" can be reduced to "so what stopped them from settling down?". And the answer to that one could be the huge amount of meat walking about for the past millennia (well, now I'm just openly quoting Diamond here).

Disclamer: my major is far from humanities, so if I'm bending the facts, please do hit me with something heavy, preferably a text reference :)

Offtopic-ish edit: Also, it would be very cool to write a heroic fantasy setting taking part directly before the Toba catastrophe. I think I now have an idea for a D&D campaign.
nkalanaga
#21
Dec15-12, 01:18 PM
P: 10
Stargazer3: I suspect "easy food" was part of the reason. Any organism is lazy, in that it doesn't use more energy than needed. Farming is much harder work than hunting or gathering, assuming that the wild foods are plentiful. Basically, either one requires walking around with ones friends for a while. If the weather is bad, or one just doesn't feel like hunting, eat yesterday's cold roast, or grab some berries. The deer will be there tomorrow.

Farming is a job, and has to be done every day, whether one feels like it or not, or the crops won't be harvested and one will starve. The first culture to discover agriculture, as we know it, also invented real work.

Many cultures have a creation story involving humans being evicted from somewhere they didn't have to work. Could those be "memories" of the switch from hunter-gatherer to farming?
Ygggdrasil
#22
Dec15-12, 11:47 PM
Other Sci
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P: 1,400
The transition from a nomadic hunter-gatherer society to a settled agrarian society is still very much an open question and there are many hypotheses for the factors involved in the transition (see for example, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neolithic_Revolution). One explanation has to do with climate. The beginning of the Neolithic age (around 6000 BCE) saw much warmer climates throughout the world and Europe especially. This led to a great abundance of resources throughout Europe so that the hunter-gatherer societies did not need to cover as large an area to find sufficient resources. Thus, counterintiitively, more plentiful resources may have enabled hunter-gatherers to settle in particularly resource rich areas (http://web.mesacc.edu/dept/d10/asb/l...ransition.html has a nice discussion of this hypothesis). Indeed, this idea is consistent with nkalanaga's laziness principle. Why live nomadically when you can just find an area with plentiful game and wild plants and settle down there?

Once settled these societies could then begin to experiment with domesticating plants and animals and eventually invent agriculture. Farming could then spread throughout either through adoption by other societies or conquest (as agrarian societies can support much higher population densities, they would have a competitive advantage over hunter-gatherer societies).
stargazer3
#23
Dec16-12, 12:05 AM
P: 44
nkalanaga, I disagree with you that hunting is easier than farming. Of course, I've never tried hunting down anything bigger than me with crude stone tools, nor did I do lots of farming. Nevertheless, if, as you say, wild food is plentiful, there will be more people around to eat it, making both hunting and gathering a competitive job at least. As food disappears, you have to endure migration together with population decrease (if the predator-pray model can be applied here).

As for farming, it is not necessarily an everyday job. For example, back where I'm from the ground freezes during the winter, making farming impossible. That's we we have so many winter holidays:) Of course, agriculture wasn't born in such a climate.

There is another thing to consider: we now take domesticated crops for granted, but back then switching to farming might not have been evident, since no one could've known what good will come out of those little wild weeds.

I also think that before saying that something isn't a real work one should try it for himself, no offence meant:)
Ygggdrasil
#24
Dec16-12, 12:27 PM
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P: 1,400
From the link I posted above:
It is a common misconception that huntergatherers must live in straitened circumstances, on the brink of starvation and malnutrition. One should keep in mind that present-day hunter-gatherers are restricted to regions such as semi-deserts and arctic areas-the least hospitable regions on Earth. Modern studies of such societies have shown that the opposite is the case, and that they normally have a very stable supply of food, often with a large surplus. The !Kung Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert, in Botswana, whose technology is similar to that of the Mesolithic hunter-gatherers of Europe, provide a good example. In this dry desert area, they not only successfully manage their food supply, but can also afford to be very selective when gathering edible plants. It has been estimated that the !Kung collect and eat only about one-quarter of the plant species available, and that they spend only two or three hours a dav searching for food - less than 20 hours a week.
nkalanaga
#25
Dec16-12, 09:11 PM
P: 10
Stargazer3: To go with Ygggdrasil's comment on how long !Kung spend on hunting, I'm also going by comments from hunters I've worked with. If hunting was a difficult activity, I doubt that so many modern humans would do it for fun.

Ygggdrasil's comments on population density in Neolithic cultures goes back to my earlier post. Not only could they domesticate plants more easily if they could remain in one place, but, as he said, the abundant resources would support more people, allowing for more new ideas, and easier spread of those ideas.

I doubt that there was any one reason for the sudden development of civilization after the Ice Age, but rather a number of factors all came together in the areas where it first appeared.
stargazer3
#26
Dec16-12, 11:35 PM
P: 44
Ygggdrasil, thanks, that clears it up a little bit. However, I'm still confused about natural food sources depletion. So these groups we're talking about actually not only controlled the food sources, but also their population numbers? I thought it was natural to assume that if you have food abundance and everyone is well fed, there'll be more children born, leading to more balanced (and competitive) life for the h&g societies.

nkalanaga, but modern humans are using modern technologies for hunting! unless your hunter fellows use stone axes and crude bows, I don't think it's fair to compare.

Overall I agree that I may have been a victim of misconception. If hunting and gathering is easier than I thought, it makes even more sense to me that agricultural sites did not appear until ~7000BC.
Ygggdrasil
#27
Dec17-12, 01:18 PM
Other Sci
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P: 1,400
Part of the answer re: resource depletion is that because children must physically be carried around with the group, there are inherent limit on the frequency with which women in these societies can bear children.
enosis_
#28
Dec17-12, 09:55 PM
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P: 120
Quote Quote by Ygggdrasil View Post
Part of the answer re: resource depletion is that because children must physically be carried around with the group, there are inherent limit on the frequency with which women in these societies can bear children.
It seems reasonable the growth of the group would encourage cultivation or other resource management - perhaps even capture and breeding of animals?
enosis_
#29
Dec17-12, 09:57 PM
enosis_'s Avatar
P: 120
I just realized that money and sex aren't on top of the list.
phungus420
#30
Dec23-12, 10:43 AM
P: 10
Quote Quote by nkalanaga View Post
Stargazer3: I suspect "easy food" was part of the reason. Any organism is lazy, in that it doesn't use more energy than needed. Farming is much harder work than hunting or gathering, assuming that the wild foods are plentiful. Basically, either one requires walking around with ones friends for a while. If the weather is bad, or one just doesn't feel like hunting, eat yesterday's cold roast, or grab some berries. The deer will be there tomorrow.

Farming is a job, and has to be done every day, whether one feels like it or not, or the crops won't be harvested and one will starve. The first culture to discover agriculture, as we know it, also invented real work.

Many cultures have a creation story involving humans being evicted from somewhere they didn't have to work. Could those be "memories" of the switch from hunter-gatherer to farming?
Bingo.

The predominant view, that agriculture lead to higher population densities doesn't fit the facts. Agriculture developed in areas where population density got so high (the river valleys) that agriculture became the only way to sustain the population. People were planting seeds and selectively breeding for tens of thousands of years before sustained agriculture took hold. People just didn't farm because they didn't have to, and only started doing it when it became necessary. Also you see the rise of a ruling warrior caste at the same time, presumably to keep people doing the crappy work of farming.


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