Agriculture and its beginnings

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Agriculture and its beginnings

Postby BadgerJelly on October 30th, 2017, 12:12 am 

A very old debate I know. Something I don't really see talked about much is looking at the situation beyond some means of feeding a large population.

I would argue that the most significant point would have been down to sheerly to human curiosity. Do doubt people would have noticed the seasonal growth and understood that things grew from seeds. All it takes from there is simple curiosity and experimentation. I would find it extremely dubious to assume that people started farming by accident and without a previous progression of understanding being passed down from generation to generation, from curious person to curious person.

I would imagine very small scale experimentation that would leave next to no evidence. If people could make fire, fashion tools and weapons, then I would be shocked if they'd never been intrigued by the growth of fruits and plants from which they found sustenance.

The first farmers, I propose, may well have been individuals who were transfixed by plant life and made efforts to study germination and plant growth. They may even have been so obsessed with their experimentations that they abandoned their community to some degree and created the first "farm" simply out of an empassioned curiosity rather than as an actual intent to create and grow food sources.

If only one or two of these kind of people were left to their own devices by their tribe/community and upon returning to the area to gather food they found their disperate tribal member with a surplus of food they would then see some potential. Maybe others would then assist them whilst the rest of the tribe went off to hunt.

So, I am suggesting the possibility that humans did not start to farm because they were forced to by the environment, but that some individuals out of nothing other than curiosity sparked the development of farming through progressive experimentation.

I would also propose that these people were likely unable to physically hunt. I would not expect a tribe to allow someone to simply 'slack off' and do as they please. So we're have to be talking about someone either pursuing this in their spare time (but they'd never be able to stay in one place), the women taking on this task whilst gathering, the maimed or older folk (being more experienced and knowledgeable) or simply someone so far removed to be considered quite crazy compared to everyone else in the community.
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Re: Agriculture and its beginnings

Postby wolfhnd on October 30th, 2017, 4:11 am 

It didn't happen just once and spread as a form of transfer technology. It seems that it was something that was destined to be "discover" by people everywhere.

If you gather seeds some of them will sprout in place where they were dropped. The concentration of desirable plants in areas where they were accidentally transferred would be hard not to notice. So the next year you save some seeds to plant and harvest them when your migratory travels take you back to that area. Some members of your tribe eventually become dedicated to farming.

Once you start farming you will defend your crops so that probably means you need a further division of labor leading to some sort of military mindset. It would be easy to drive off small bands of nomadic hunters but the farming culture next door is the real threat. That assumes that organized nomads such as the North American plains tribes or or some group like the Mongols are not present. The archeological evidence suggests that farming proceeded herding but it's all pretty sketchy and speculative. In any case dedicated farming could not be achieved by women, the elderly or partially disabled living in isolation from hunting members of a culture unless the hunters returned frequently.

There are many examples of mixed hunting and agricultural societies and women and the elderly do seem to do most of the farming in those cultures. Nomadic hunters however do not seem do much farming. Once you become efficient at following large animals that themselves migrate farming may look like a waste of energy. Farming seems take hold in places with abundant small game where less organized hunting is the norm.

What kind of individuals start a culture on the road to farming seems like a question that assumes that it requires some special characteristics. My guess is that it would vary from place to place. Almost anyone of normal intelligence could make the necessary observations. It could in one culture be a tribal leader and in another an outcast or disabled individual or anyone in between. What does it matter?
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Re: Agriculture and its beginnings

Postby BadgerJelly on October 30th, 2017, 8:57 am 

Almost anyone is not a conclusion I am willing to leap to. If it was so obvious then why is there no evidence of farming around 150,000 bc?

Of course, I don't see this as being down to one particular reason, but I am hesitant to assume that literally anyone could take up farming. I really do think particular indivduals out of nothing other than curiosity for plants may have set this in motion. I am not saying these people set out to be farmers. I was thinking along the lines of the more practical and open leaders of the group seeing some potential. No doubt this would've been a gradual process. My point was to throw out the idea that the first "agriculturists" set in place the knowledge that others took up to develop practical farming.
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Re: Agriculture and its beginnings

Postby Braininvat on October 30th, 2017, 9:50 am 

http://www2.fiu.edu/~grenierg/chapter6.htm

This summary fits with what I've learned before, how horticulture started and then became agriculture as populations grew and wild game shifted as climate changed. When bands of humans were smaller, there was a lot of horticulture - small plots, like gardens, without deep tillage.
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Re: Agriculture and its beginnings

Postby zetreque on October 30th, 2017, 3:37 pm 

So, I am suggesting the possibility that humans did not start to farm because they were forced to by the environment, but that some individuals out of nothing other than curiosity sparked the development of farming through progressive experimentation.


Badger, What you are talking about is nothing out of the ordinary on how I was taught about it in school or read about.

Where are you reading that it was specifically the environment that forced farming?

The real answer is likely complex and a combination of factors depending on the region.
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Re: Agriculture and its beginnings

Postby BadgerJelly on October 30th, 2017, 7:33 pm 

Pretty much everyone says, to some degree, that environmental factors contributed to the advent of farming.

I am not so quick to accept that it was obvious to humans back then. I think we often assume to much because we're not aware of what we've had the privilege to grow up with. If we follow the reasoning that it is obvious to anyone then they'd have been driving around in cars and travelling to the moon. By this I don't mean to poke fun, only to point out that what seems like a quite obvious and reasonable step to us may have been as extraordinary leap back then. I would also imagine a kind of resistance to such ideas too.

Last time I looked there was a reasonable dispute about the effect that climate change and population growth had on farming technologies. I believe most archeologists/anthropologists assume farming to have happened mostly by accident due to sedentary life.

I am suggesting that maybe some extraordinary people were at the helm of this transition, and/or that a change in the evolution of the brain allowed this to happen. I was kind of thinking about things such as Mendel here and how curiosity can lead us to discover extraordinary things.

In modern terms we could say that Einstein didn't discover the use of nuclear physics. He was not interested in the practical implications only in the theoretical side of things (roughly speaking, he didn't invent the nuclear power plant or the atomic bomb.)

tbh this was a side thought and was just looking to see if anyone here could expand on it in another direct? If not I'll let it go until I can add more to it myself.

Biv -

Thanks for mini-link.

I think I need to get more deeply into cognitive archeology. Just been skirting around the perimeter busying myself with other things.
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Re: Agriculture and its beginnings

Postby wolfhnd on October 30th, 2017, 11:55 pm 

BadgerJelly » Mon Oct 30, 2017 12:57 pm wrote:Almost anyone is not a conclusion I am willing to leap to. If it was so obvious then why is there no evidence of farming around 150,000 bc?

Of course, I don't see this as being down to one particular reason, but I am hesitant to assume that literally anyone could take up farming. I really do think particular indivduals out of nothing other than curiosity for plants may have set this in motion. I am not saying these people set out to be farmers. I was thinking along the lines of the more practical and open leaders of the group seeing some potential. No doubt this would've been a gradual process. My point was to throw out the idea that the first "agriculturists" set in place the knowledge that others took up to develop practical farming.


I believe you missed my key point which is that it is difficult to change lifestyles and even dangerous. Knowing how to do something and actually doing it are very different. The advantages of agriculture over hunting and gathering are minimal for several generations. The genius is more in the required social organization than the technology. The technology is after all very simple. That does not mean that large scale agriculture is simple but that is another topic.
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Re: Agriculture and its beginnings

Postby BadgerJelly on October 31st, 2017, 12:32 am 

Wolf -

I didn't miss it, just didn't disagree with it.

I had made a comment about this though:

Almost anyone of normal intelligence could make the necessary observations.


I am not sure if we should be so quick to assume this. We could easily say that anyone could invent writing too and that moving from pictorials to writing systems is open to anyone of reasonable intelligence. You may very well be correct. I am just trying to tilt the more obvious view and see if any other factors may be worth attention and hold up under the weight of our current knowledge.

We could say things like people remaining in one place may grow volatile and reckless. That fear of staying in one place stopped the advent of agriculture more than our ability to actually farm. There are numerous different perspectives we could take. I am just asking about the possibility of the instigators being outliers compared to the average "tribal member".

Basically a playing and curious habit becomes of practical use to the population or it dies out. If we were to look at use of metals and stone the very same process is perhaps more apparent because we're dealing with more instantious results with production of tools. The advent of investigating plants would be a different kind of task that would involve prolonged investigation, and given that tribes would have a reasonable amount of free time we'd likely see individuals not partaking in hunting directly, and useful in other areas - probably of more technical inclinations - to be freed up to pursue other curiosities. I guess we're talking about a one-man university level of education here! ahha!
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Re: Agriculture and its beginnings

Postby wolfhnd on October 31st, 2017, 2:36 am 

Outside of places such as arctic conditions some level of agriculture seems universal. Some form of pictorial communication is also fairly universal. The production of bronze or steel less so but still fairly common. It's not until societies become fairly complex that technological intelligence precludes average persons from fully participating.

As I stated the genius of early agricultural societies seems to be more in terms of organization than technological. Intelligence itself has only created powerful class differentiation in the last 50 years. A post graduate degree may have created some social status earlier but not the kind of segregation we see now. In the very recent past it was not so much the technologically proficient but the capitalization of technology that created extensive class differentiation. It seems unlikely that early agricultural societies had extreme class structure or consciousness. Primitive conditions enforce a kind of egalitarianism.
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Re: Agriculture and its beginnings

Postby BadgerJelly on October 31st, 2017, 2:57 am 

Wolf -

I find it extremely difficult to agree there with your conclusive view. I would probably reword what you've said regarding "genius" too and simply say that we developed different levels of cooperation and reaped the benefits from that.

Intelligence differentiation in prehistoric humans? Again, a very dubious assumption to say we differed dramtically from today. What is likely more prevalent would be the size of a population compared to intelligence distribution. In a larger group I wonder about how a highly intelligent individual would fit in, and if they'd fit in more or less easily? (Many factors involved there!)

Class differentiation is a matter of offspring, skill-set and ownership. I am quite limited in my understanding of the birth of economics and I've only come across a few nuggets of information in that area.

Thanks you prodding around with your mental stick. I am just trying to mould several ideas in my head here :)
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Re: Agriculture and its beginnings

Postby Braininvat on October 31st, 2017, 10:28 am 

So my link was not helpful?
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Re: Agriculture and its beginnings

Postby BadgerJelly on October 31st, 2017, 10:59 am 

Braininvat » October 31st, 2017, 10:28 pm wrote:So my link was not helpful?


If I say "yes" is that to be taken negatively or positively? I should I say "no" to mean it was useful? haha!

I admit after I posted that I wondered why I said "mini" (I guess because it was a quick snap shot of a larger body of work? I dunno?) Anyway, I left it as it was as some perverse psychological "experiment" - forgive me! ;)

Although their relative importance varied in different regions, 3 things are now generally thought to have contributed to the transition from hunting and gathering to plant and animal domestication:� (1) environmental change, global warming in the period between 15,000 - 8,000 year ago changed climates, raising ocean levels, reducing land mass, and altering the habitat of a number of animals and plants and reducing the number of large game and permitted wild cereals to spread into accessible areas, (2) population growth forced greater competition of a shrinking resource base, and (3) growth in cultural information and technology allowing for more effective domestication and horticulture (137).


The part in bold is where I am looking I guess. Been watching some things about evolutionary behavior lately (Sapolsky) so still trying to piece different ideas together.

I am just looking for something other than "increased population" and/or "environmental changes/low food supplies" (basically not #1 or #2)
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Re: Agriculture and its beginnings

Postby wolfhnd on November 1st, 2017, 3:01 am 

Badger

I think I recall you saying you had a low opinion of the meme concept. That being the case I'm not surprised that you resist the direction I have been pushing in. The fuss over the meme concept has always seemed silly to me because Darkins is simply point out the obvious. The obvious being that biological and cultural evolution have some analogous characteristics. Once you accept that human culture is as much a biological process as ant hills, and termite mounds it puts this discussion in it's proper perspective.

Where and when agriculture would develop is as predictable as where and when you would look in the geological record to find fish become amphibians. It didn't have to happen but it was highly probable.

We have a tendency to think that without Newton there would be no calculus, without Darwin there would be no origin of the species, without Einstein no relativity. Those with a broader view history however know that for every Newton there is a Robert Hooke and Gottfried Leibniz, for every Darwin there is a Alfred Russel Wallace, for every Einstein a Minkowski.

While cultural evolution is not as physically restrained as physical evolution it remains a multigenerational process. You don't get amphibians without fish and you don't get agricultural without stone tools. To ask who invented agricultural is very much like asking who invented stone tools.

BTW I wasn't saying intelligence distribution were different than today only that they didn't matter as much. You can't look at history and say people were just like us but with fewer resources. I'm afraid that multiculturalism has seriously distorted reality.
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Re: Agriculture and its beginnings

Postby BadgerJelly on November 1st, 2017, 4:56 am 

I am not sure if I did. I may have said it was nothing other that an idea pretty much lifted straight from Jung as is nothing other than an "archetypal" idea framed in genetics (which would only support Jung's ideas.) The way 'meme' is used in common culture is something different though.

I don't have a low opinion of "archetypes" so neither do I have a low opinion of "meme". I just find Jung's use much more relevant than Dawkin's (which is a watered down version that has more academic value simply because Dawkin's dealt in more immediately measureable areas.)

I don't accept/refuse that human culture is as much a biological process as ant hills (I am not quite sure what you mean though). For some purposes it may make sense to look at it that way and for others it doesn't.

You don't get amphibians without fish


You'd have to explain what you mean by that before I could agree.
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Re: Agriculture and its beginnings

Postby wolfhnd on November 1st, 2017, 5:00 am 

I'm not particularly impressed by Darkins either. Your clarification of your view of meme was very helpful.

Please restate the original question for clarification.
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Re: Agriculture and its beginnings

Postby mitchellmckain on November 1st, 2017, 5:34 am 

Another way of looking at the beginnings of agriculture and human civilization is that it is all about the invention of bread, first made from wild grain (barley and wheat) at least by 20,000 BC. Though in Asia and the Americas it was the grains of rice (11,000 BC) and corn (3,000 BC) which were at the basis of their agriculture.
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Re: Agriculture and its beginnings

Postby wolfhnd on November 3rd, 2017, 12:04 am 

Badger

Can you restate your hypothesis?
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Re: Agriculture and its beginnings

Postby BadgerJelly on November 3rd, 2017, 3:08 am 

wolfhnd » November 3rd, 2017, 12:04 pm wrote:Badger

Can you restate your hypothesis?


Sorry, wasn't ignoring you. I don't really have a solid one.

Just got to thinking about this from a cognitive perspective rather than purely an environmental one. Cannot remember the guy who suggested this before? He talked about the possibility of a genetic change in humans that allowed us to develop in a different way.

I was also just randomly fishing around to see what ideas you, or someone else, could come up with that didn't rely so heavily on the factors Biv outlined in the article he posted (not looking too hard at "population growth" or "climate change" as defining points.)

It could well be argued that a change in diet, by certain individuals, may well have led to a shift in cognitive function. I know this isn't a new idea I just don't see it taken too seriously probably because it's such a complex subject to deal with given that we're still trying to figure out how dietary alterations effect our brains over prolonged periods of time ... considering things like disease, fecal bacteria, and a host of other factors that actively alter our brain/body, it seems to be a rich area to prod around in and speculate about this or that possibility.

I think we've all heard about the theory of psilocybin contributing to brain development (or even just social development), and given that these same altered states of consciousness can be achieved without psychedelics I was wondering about the tribes "eccentric" individuals being prone to these states. Given that these states are enhanced by isolation and that these individuals would be foraging around alone in the forests I can see them being in a psychological state where their bodies would be in extreme survival mode and therefore "open" to new ideas.

Referring to Eliade on Shamanism a great deal of stories are told about how old shamans could enter certain states at will and only later have they had to start using psychelics (in some communities.) Those prone to becoming shamans were in some cases simjply running off into the wilderness and returning some days/weeks/months later like wild animals and with deep insight or knowledge. Given lower population in early human history (due to whatever circumstances tha tinclude bottlenecking) I simply surmise that individuals may have been more prone to such enforce isolated events, and more people would have been exposed to altered states of consciousness induced by being cut off from their fellows.

So I guess I am suggesting that there may have been no need for ingestion of mind altering substances and that merely being physically removed from your "tribe" (due to whatever circumstances) would be enough to shift the human body/brain into survival mode and expose the conscious mind to the cacophony of the unconscious. Basically these individuals would become hypersensitized toward their immediate environment.

For an everyday relation to this you and, I would guess, everyone, has some slight experience of this. Meaning we've all been in a situation where our bodies does something we didn't ask it to. Someone I knew talked about being in line at a canteen in Australia and suddenly reaching for the salt and pouring it into his hand before eating it. He was originally from Canada and had been feeling very, very lethargic due to the heat. His body was crying out for salt and he didn't really think about what he was doing (that is a more subtle case). Another would be what was mentioned elsewhere about freezing solid on a pathway and then discovery a snake. There are certain inbuilt functions that override our conscious actions in order to preserve our lives. Under deep stress I am just suggesting that such states could lead to unforeseen discoveries, such as some primal instinct that leads us into a hyper vestigative mode (which does happen when we're cut off from conscious memory.)

I can only support this idea with some flimsy circumstantial "maybe this?" or "maybe that?" evidence. Just riffing! :) If you have anything to add either to support or dismiss such a speculative thought then do so (preferably both?)

If you have an entirely different idea about the advent of agriculture irrespective of "population growth" or "climate change" I'd be happy to here about it.

Sorry, that ended up being much more long winded than I'd meant it to be!
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Re: Agriculture and its beginnings

Postby wolfhnd on November 3rd, 2017, 3:58 pm 

There is a hypothesis that the fungus claviceps purpurea may have caused convulsive ergotism in the young women accusers at the Salem witch trials. Although the theory is generally rejected by historians it rightfully recognizes the relationship between the physical environment and the consciousness of those living in that environment.

LSD is perhaps the best example of how traces of chemicals that could be inadvertently ingested could potentially alter the minds of individuals or entire communities.

Pain and deprivation can have similar effects to hallucinogenic drugs. The Sioux induced hallucinations with caloric restriction, exposure, and intense pain ritualisticly. There is some evidence that such experiences can give new insights.

https://boingboing.net/2012/08/03/in-mi ... -stud.html

I will have to give this topic time to ferment before continuing. I do not believe the explanation of climate change and population growth are valid because agriculture is too wide spread and practiced in almost every environment and population density historically.
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