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Why agriculture and animal husbandry?

  1. Aug 11, 2004 #1

    Nereid

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    In the thread Why this is still Amerikkka, there is a lively discussion of the extent to which many sub-Saharan countries are still economically undeveloped as a result of the genes of their inhabitants, the extent to which those genes are responsible for agriculture and sedantry animal husbandry not having developed independently there, and other nonsenses.

    I think it would be useful to have a discussion of the general topic of how Homo sapiens came to be socially organised into permanent settlements, how agriculture began, and what the factors behind the development of sedentary animal husbandry were.

    First though, some of the existing posts. This is where it seems to have begun:
    Then it rolled along ...
    Then it went off into the role of intelligence, and the rise of technology; these are topics for different threads. More contributions next.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 11, 2004 #2

    Nereid

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    This post is a kind of transition to the next set of contributions:
     
  4. Aug 11, 2004 #3

    iansmith

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    I will restate what I said in the Amerikkka thread

    https://www.physicsforums.com/showpost.php?p=282788&postcount=263

    Tropical and equitorial environment are productive in terms of diversity and organic matters. The needs of the of hunter and gatherer could be sustained with only the ecosystem production and there was very little need for agriculture. However, soil agriculture is not as sustainable as in other environment due to the high turn over of nutrient required for group. Soils loses a lot of fertility and fertilizer are not as effcient due to the high rate of degradation of organic waste. As you move outside the tropical and equitorial environment, organic nutrient are retained more easily and the turn over of organic matter is slower. The ecosystem is also not as productive as tropical and equatorial environment and settlers probably needed to migrated alot to fulfill the energic needs. The soils could also received more harvest as organic matter degrades slower. manur as fertilizer was not extensively by most of the population untill the dark ages. Other innovation that improved agriculture such as tilage came along. As agriculture developed, the need for labor was lower, and free time became available. Remember that Research and development was a luxury; however, for a community, the benefits were be enormous.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2004
  5. Aug 11, 2004 #4

    iansmith

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    Development History human society into an agricultural based society

    hunter/gatherer ---> Pastoral with gathering ---> Pastoral with primitive agriculture --> full time animal husbandry and agriculture.
     
  6. Aug 11, 2004 #5

    loseyourname

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    With, of course, engineering and advanced civilization as the next step. I really think this is crucial to understanding why few traces of civilization ever popped up on their own in sub-Saharan Africa. We need to look first at why precursors to civilization never popped up. A single tribe finding one domesticable animal is hardly anything. Of the animals listed by bobf, the only one large enough to be used widely as a source of food and possibly dairy products is the wildebeest. But how the heck are you going to domesticate a wildebeest? Native Americans never domesticated the buffalo, even though they were one of the most agriculturally advanced of all peoples.
     
  7. Aug 12, 2004 #6

    iansmith

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    Not every type of native americans came into contacts with the buffalo. As far as i remember the native that had a buffalo based "economy" were not the most advance in terms of agriculture. Buffalo were in large productive number and a few dead buffalo were sufficient for needs of the whole tribes for severals months (almost a year). Most of the tribes that had buffalo base "economy" had little needs for developing agriculture, they developed trades with tribes that had an agriculture based economy.

    Some animals must of been easy to domesticated as human have domesticated horses, cats, dog and cows fairly early in their evolution. How do you domesticated an aminals? Based on sepculation, you could said that some individuals of a animal tribes are easier to approach and those were probably the first to accomodates human. The desandence of these indivatuals probably became dependent on human as there source of food and other basic needs.

    there was a study on this published a few ago
     
  8. Aug 12, 2004 #7
    This threat seems to have many subjects. Domenstication of Animals, the rate of human devellopment in Africa etc.

    A few loose thoughts come into mind. Domenstication may have started in some form of symbiosis. Several scenarios are imaginable. Humans may have provided shelter food and protection for the animals whereas the animals provided materials and resourses. BTW Humans are not the only species with cattle. Ants do too

    As far as the African culture is concerned. The first humans are allegdy coming out of Africa. So why did Africa not stay in the lead in develloping culture? The elements have been summed up here. One thought comes into mind. Was life in central Africa too easy in the past several thousands years with an abundance of food and supply, and not challenging enough to improve on the general conditions? When things get tough and threats emerge, people tend to unite and deal with the anomaly in jointness, forgetting about their personal feuds and quarrels. Their resourcefullness leads to new inventions and hence to a higher state of devellopment.

    It's just a thought. No offense intented to anyone.

    It's hard to say where civilisation begun, We can date the know artifacts but we may only know a fraction yet. How about this for instance. Culture and Civilisation may have started several ten thousands years ago in America, radically debunking the common archeological party line. Well there must be a reason for the forbidden archeology.
     
  9. Aug 12, 2004 #8

    Nereid

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    I'm trying to keep the topic of this thread to how Homo sap. in various parts of the world came to develop agriculture and animal husbandry; subsequent development - civilisation, technology, etc - will be the topic of a new thread which I haven't started yet.

    Re agriculture, Jared Diamond (Guns, Germs, and Steel) makes the case that the size of the grains of plants which became domesticated was extremely important - rice, wheat, corn - and that suitable plants did not grow in regions which never developed agriculture independently - sub-Saharan Africa, Australia, many many islands.

    However, it was not the only factor - the reliability of the climate mattered too, as did factors such as soil chemistry (as iansmith mentioned).

    Similar ideas around animal husbandry - the species available locally made a huge difference; as loseyourname said, there are few domisticable species in Africa (ditto Australia, the Americas) which is a marked contrast to Europe and much of Asia.

    Note that it's not only the challenges of domesticating a wild species - the areal productivity must also permit a huge increase in population density (over hunting & gathering, for example).

    Further, there's considerable evidence that the change to permanent agriculture in the Levant and China was accompanied by a marked drop in the health of the average person, as well as a marked increase in the apparent difference in material wealth within the population. In this sense, agriculture certainly wasn't progress!

    Finally, as has become clear only fairly recently, many Australian aboriginal groups developed a remarkable understanding of what we'd today call ecology - for example, they used fire to create a landscape which ensured more a reliable and bigger supply of food than the 'natural' one. Similar capabilities to mould the environment to suit Homo sap. is evident in the highlands of New Guinea too. Perhaps many groups in Africa developed comparable capabilities?
     
  10. Aug 12, 2004 #9
    Now let's see

    OK that's important in moderate climate where you need some stock in wintertime. Durable seeds are very suitable of course. Tropical africa provides food all year round.

    Indeed there have been several severe climate changes, however the climate changes thoughout the Holocene were even more severe on the Northern hemisphere. The last 4000 years the climate in Central Africa was rather stabil (source)

    I don't know. Africa has an abundance of species.

    Now why could Eurasians succeed in domesticating the fierce Bos Primigenius and why not the African with one of the many herbivores like Syncerus caffer? Why could the Indian Elephant be domesticated and why not the African elephant?

    Why would Equus caballus (Equus ferus) be less wild and more domisticable than Equus zebra? Even in the same genus. Numbers did not even have to increase, the savannah steppe has been more productive the last few thousands years than today given the increased aridness the last few centuries.

    Perhaps it was not necessary to do so or perhaps is the secret in those numbers. The wild animals may have been too abundant perhaps or continued to compete successfully against the individuals that were under human control.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2004
  11. Aug 14, 2004 #10
    Come on folks, discussion.

    I hate to kill interesting and promising threads. I made some provacative remarks? didn't I?
     
  12. Aug 14, 2004 #11
    Can you point us to some reliable source of information that substantiates your assertion? Sub-Saharan Africa contains a variety of landscapes and climatic conditions. Do you wish to state that all of these are unsuitable for diversity of "organic matters?"
     
  13. Aug 14, 2004 #12

    Nereid

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    You did Andre, yes you did. However, to address your points I personally feel the need to understand them, and to know more about this topic in general. It will take me some time to do the necessary reading etc.

    Perhaps there are others who are already know something about this? And please, let's not look just at Africa ... perhaps islands up to the size of, say, Corsica simply lacked the land area to have a sufficiently robust ecology to withstand an agricultural Homo sap.?
     
  14. Aug 14, 2004 #13

    iansmith

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    What I have stated is found inmost ecology and soil ecology text book. For something online, the review Templates of food-habitat resources for the organization of soil animals in temperate and tropical forests would be a good source of info if you can get access to it.


    I have generalize my statement to limit the size of my post. Each climates have their own diversity and agriculture suitability.
     
  15. Aug 15, 2004 #14

    russ_watters

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    This issue always seemed to be self-evident to me: the African climate is wholly unsuitable for the development of even basic civilization, much less advanced civilization, and thats why it didn't happen there on its own. While the US produces vast surplusses of food, countries in Africa are in a near-perpetual state of famine - that's a pretty severe environmental constraint.
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2004
  16. Aug 15, 2004 #15
    The mayan civilations were superior to anything produced in sub sahara africa even though there would have been no developments which were passed from the europeans.

    It is a myth that africa cannot produce enough food. In fact, there is enough farm land in africa to feed the africans several times over. It is just that corruption and lack of organisation mean that they do not feed themselves.
    For example in zimbabwe, the white farmers proiduced more than enough food, and there was a food surplus in the country many times over. After the genocide commited against them, the farms are now empty and ignored, and zimbabwe cannot feed its own people.
     
  17. Aug 15, 2004 #16
    These are very good points. Some people have stated that the europeans were just lucky to live in an area in which there were edible crops and domesticable animals. Yous post highlights the facts which make their views unlikely.
     
  18. Aug 15, 2004 #17

    Nereid

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    The rise of civilizations is a very interesting question, and I intend to start a thread on it (as well as one on the role of 'intelligence'); for this thread, could we please focus just on the development of permanent agriculture and animal husbandry? ('Permanent' = settlements fixed in time for decades, cf nomadic pastrolism, or 'slash & burn' agriculture).
    I think this is an anachronism - applying what we know today to the past; those who lived in what we today call zimbabwe certainly didn't have access to corn, or modern plant genetics! Further, the social organisation of Homo sap. in Africa today bears only casual coincidence to those prevailing 10,000 to 20,000 years ago.
     
  19. Aug 15, 2004 #18
    The material is offered for sale. I didn't buy it, but I did notice that it said nothing about Africa in the abstract. Have you read the whole article? Did it actually discuss Africa?

    PHP:
    I have generalize my statement to limit the size of my post. Each climates have their own diversity and agriculture suitability.
    Sub-Saharan Africa covers a huge area. Your implication seems to be that it has poor agricultural conditions throughout. I have traveled in East Africa and South Africa. In East Africa, I saw a lot of vegitation. One of the concerns at the time I was there was that the expanding farming would cut off animal migration routes. It appears to me that the organic material argument is being offered as an explanation for the virtually complete lack of intellectual accomplishment in Africa? Is that correct?

    When I have traveled in the Middle East, I noticed that there was not much organic material, yet many early advanced civilizations started there. I would be interested to learn how the desert is favorable to intellectual accomplishment, but Sub-Saharan Africa is not. I would also be interested to know if all lands occupied by Negroids are poor with respect to organic matter. I am unaware of any Negroid nations that have contributed significantly to human accomplishment. Are there any? If so, what are their accomplishments and how to they compare to those of Asian and European nations?
     
  20. Aug 15, 2004 #19

    Evo

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    The same questions can be raised about the tribes in the Amazon Jungle of South America. You could be describing them. It does appear to be more an issue of environment than anything else.
     
  21. Aug 15, 2004 #20

    iansmith

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    If you are a university, usually you can get access to it. I haven't read the whole article so I don't if they talk about africa specifically but talk about ecosystem that are found in africa.

    I am not talking about modern agricultural. The problem with the equatorial and tropical forest, for example, the fertile soil, the humus, is not as deep as the humus in temporal environment. Therefore, nutriment in a tropical ecosystem get depleted more rapidly by the vegetation in agriculture compare to temperate ecosystem. In a natural ecosystem, the humus get replete by dead organism. In agriculture decomposing organic matter such as cow manner must be added. Fertilizing was not a technique used extensively.

    The argument is based on that some ecosystems produce enough food resources to satisfy the needs of a population whereas other ecosystems required basic agriculture to sustain a population. Needs drives progress. African did not lack any intellectual accomplishment and as a population were extremely successful because their community needed very changes to survive in the environment.

    Most of the agricultural civilization of the middle east settle on river bank. The advantage with settling field in proximity of a river is that you can easily irrigate the fields and river flood naturally fertilize the soil, thus keep you organic nutriment level at the desired level.
     
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