Neanderthals, Bandits and Farmers: How Agriculture Really Began

Neanderthals, Bandits and Farmers: How Agriculture Really Began Tradition Has It That Agriculture Began In The Middle East Around , Years Ago, That Once People Realized The Advantages Of Farming, It Spread Rapidly To The Furthest Outposts Of The World, And That This Led To The Neolithic Revolution And The End Of The Hunting Gathering Lifestyle In This Book Colin Tudge Argues That Agriculture In Some Form Was In The Repertoire Of Our Ancestors For Thousands Of Years Before The Neolithic Farming Revolution People Did Not Suddenly Invent Forced Into It Over A Long Period What We See In The Neolithic Revolution Is Not The Beginning Of Agriculture On A Large Scale, In One Place, With Refined ToolsDrawing On A Wide Range Of Evidence From Fossil Records To The Bible, Tudge Offers A Persuasive Hypothesis About A Puzzling Epoch In Our Past In So Doing, He Provides New Insights Into The Pleistocene Overkill, The Demise Of The Neanderthals, The Location Of The Biblical Eden, And Much

Colin Tudge was educated at Dulwich College, 1954 61 and read zoology at Peterhouse, Cambridge, 1962 65 Since 1965 he has worked on journals such as World Medicine, New Scientist and Pan, the newspaper of the World Food Conference held in Rome, 1974.Ever since then he has earned a living by spasmodic broadcasting and a lot of writing mainly books these days, but with occasional articles He has

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  • Hardcover
  • 64 pages
  • Neanderthals, Bandits and Farmers: How Agriculture Really Began
  • Colin Tudge
  • English
  • 26 October 2018
  • 9780300080247

10 thoughts on “Neanderthals, Bandits and Farmers: How Agriculture Really Began

  1. says:

    This is a short monograph 50 pages that synopsizes Colin Tudge s argument that pre Neolithic Revolution humans and, indeed, hominids in general have been modifying their environment for hundreds of millennia, and this includes farming, of which Tudge identifies three types 1 Horticulture Or, prosaically, gardening 2 Arable farming The stereotypical image of the wheat or rice farmer toiling in a field.3 Pastoral farming Which mixes arable and or horticultural farming with stock raising.Arable farming is not the unmitigated blessing that mythology makes it out to be it involves backbreaking labor, leads to malnutrition because it narrows the varieties of food in the diet, and it increases disease amongst both human and domesticated animal populations Despite these, the advantages of increased population, an ensured food supply and greater return on investment made arablist cultures successful than horticulturalists or pastoralists.The last point about the return on investment refers to the fact that a hunter can invest ten hours or two to hunting and, in the long run, won t get any food out of it That s why predator species and hunter gatherers look like no good layabouts there s no percentage in exerting themselves Arablists, on the other hand, do get for effort Their food supply increases when labor is expended in its production.Tudge characterizes arable farming as a vicious circle Greater food supply means a greater population that can only be sustained with further arable farming Once embarked on the arablist path, a culture is locked in it can t affort to go back to the Edenic existence of its past Tudge makes this explicit with reference to the Cain Abel myth in Genesis, where Cain the arablist murders Abel the pastoralist and is cursed Further, God casts Adam and Eve out of Eden to specifically farm Cursed is the ground for your sake In toil you shall eat of itAll the days of your life.In the sweat of your face you shall eat breadTill you return to the ground Genesis 3 17 19, NKJV Tudge also ties proto arable farming to the Pleistocene overkill, when large numbers of megafauna genera went extinct around the same time humans moved into the vicinity, and to the end of the Neanderthal, who simply couldn t adjust to the efficient use of the environment modern humans were capable of.As to the why of arable farming, Tudge believes the catalyst was climate change With the end of the last Ice Age, food supplies were threatened in the Middle East and previously periodic arable farming became the norm, locking cultures into the arablist cycle and allowing the development of urban cultures like Sumer, Mohenjo Daro and Shang China.In 50 pages, of course, none of these propositions can be adequately argued but Tudge and others have written numerous works on the subject A few recommendations from my own reading would include Tudge s own The Time Before History 5 Million Years of Human ImpactCharles Mann s 1491 New Revelations of the Americas Before ColumbusIan Wilson s Before the Flood The Biblical Flood as a Real Event and How It Changed the Course of CivilizationSteve Mithen s After the Ice A Global Human History 20 000 5000 BCAmong many others.

  2. says:

    This short book 53 pages is a clearly written essay exploring the fuzzy line between mere foraging hunting and gathering and cultivation The author is not an expert in any of the specific fields one might think necessary for such an exploration He is not a biologist, an anthropologist, an archaeologist, an ecologist, etc He is described merely as a research fellow at the London School of Economics for philosophy and is known as a science writer But this lack of expertise in any single field combined with his capacity for critical thinking allows him to escape the limits imposed by any single scientific specialization on the ability to draw evidence from different fields together In this essay, he managed to weave different strands of evidence from several fields together to create a feasible and very interesting story of how agriculture began Though at times, I felt he stretched credibility a bit, in general, the story he tells seems fairly likely His hypotheses are sure to aggravate those die hard primitivists, for example who want a clear break between a pristine foraging existence and the rise of agriculture, those who prefer the theological perspective of a fall into civilization Tudge instead describes how all beings to some extent manipulate their environment, and intelligent beings will almost certainly willfully manipulate it to readily gain what they desire from it Such manipulation will include method for favoring the growth of certain plants and animals that those manipulating find particularly desirable or useful In the picture that Tudge paints, the earliest farming would have involved only a few techniques and would have only been taken up occasionally for brief periods, like a hobby, supplementing the foraging of people who were still mainly nomadic He points out that settled, arable farming requires a high level of unremitting toil and argues that no one would be likely to switch from the life of foraging supplemented by occasional hobby farming to settled arable agriculture unless circumstances forced them In the case of the Fertile Crescent, he is able to explain those circumstances in relation to the effects of the melting at the end of the last ice age But what allowed people to make this change there was that they had already developed a number of methods for manipulating their environments which they could weave together and enhance to create settled arable agriculture And those methods were the various different ways they d developed for favoring the growth of certain animals and plants in their surroundings In other words, there was no sudden fall, no magical flaring up of the idea to dominate other creatures, but rather a simple egoistic desire to easily get the foods and other things that one most wanted, and the intelligence to figure out ways to do so But one of the best aspects of Tudge s book is his recognition of the relative life of ease that these foragers with their hobby gardens likely lived, the laziness that was likely their usual way of life, as opposed to the unremitting toil of the settle peasant He takes his readers through his arguments and brings them to the current hectic world and the increasingly irrevocable damage it seems to be bringing about, and concludes his book with this advice Our earliest hunting ancestors must have been lazy, as lions are lazy Perhaps we should learn from them And since I want to enjoy my life as much as I can, I am quite willing to take such advice.

  3. says:

    Colin Tudge wrote Neanderthals, Bandits, Farmers, a book that presents his theories on the dawn of progress and perpetual growth, focusing on how agriculture really began At the time, he was employed by the London School of Economics, an institution focused on capitalism, not ecological sustainability.The book vibrates with cognitive dissonance Tudge has been studying agriculture for many years On one hand, it was a magnificent achievement that threw open the door to the wonders of modernity On the other hand, modernity has become a victim of its own success, with seven billion humans dangerously rocking the boat As Pandora once discovered, some magnificent achievements are best left in the box.For most of the human journey, our ancestors were hunter gatherers, whom Tudge likens to bandits They lived by their wits, snatched what the ecosystem had to offer, and had plenty of leisure time in their lives The prudent path was to live within the carrying capacity of their ecosystem If they had been ambitious and hardworking, they would have wiped out their prey and starved.Farmers were ambitious, hardworking control freaks They manipulated the ecosystem to increase its carrying capacity, temporarily, via soil mining More work produced rewards, and food could feed people Wild critters frequently molested their precious crops, so farmers responded with pest control overhunting Eventually, the human mob got large, wildlife became scarce, wild land became cropland, and returning to hunting was no longer an option.Agriculture emerged independently in at least six widely scattered locations It was not invented in Uruk by a demented genius It began maybe 10,000 years ago in the Middle East Tudge suggests that it developed gradually, as proto farming, starting maybe 40,000 years ago Even primitive yokels could see that plants grew from seeds, and that clearing other vegetation away from food plants promoted their growth Proto farming was done on a small scale, a pleasant hobby that left behind no enduring evidence for scientists to discover thousands of years later.In Europe, Neanderthals had been big game hunters for hundreds of thousands of years While surviving a roller coaster of climate shifts, they lived within carrying capacity and did not wipe out the game Cro Magnons were the Homo sapiens that later migrated into Europe, maybe 45,000 years ago Tudge theorizes that these foreign immigrants were proto farmers Because they could produce their own food, they were less vulnerable to the consequences of overhunting Big game species began blinking out This eliminated the food supply for the Neanderthals, who were forced off the stage into oblivion Stringer and Finlayson have other views on Neanderthals By and by, proto farming metastasized into a virulent form, agriculture The economists leap to their feet with enthusiastic applause and cheering Civilization, here we come Whee The fuse was lit for a joyride of skyrocketing growth onward to ten billion Well, this is the schoolbook version that everyone knows, and most believe See Cohen on the shift to agriculture Now, the plot thickens A growing number of scholars have been poking holes in the glorious myth of growth and progress Farming was miserable backbreaking work While hunter gatherers benefitted from a diverse and highly nutritious diet, the farmer s diet was the opposite, majoring in a few staple foods Farmers were shorter and less healthy In their remains, we find that the toes and knees are bent and arthritic and the lower back is deformed Tudge acknowledges the revisionists People did not invent agriculture and shout for joy they drifted or were forced into it, protesting all the way Here s my favorite line in the book The real problem, then, is not to explain why some people were slow to adapt agriculture but why anyone took it up at all when it was obviously so beastly He believes that overhunting was the sole cause of the megafauna extinctions Native Americans had little self restraint when it came to hunting mammoths and mastodons There is no evidence that climate change played any role in the die off, he says But, at the end of the ice age, as the land warmed up, large areas of tundra were gradually replaced with dense forests This put the squeeze on species adapted to living on the tundra.Did scruffy rednecks with homemade spears really hunt the speedy horses of North America to extinction but not the bison, elk, and deer We ll never know the full story, but I would be wary of dismissing the impact of radical climate swings, or the importation of Old World pathogens for which the American fauna had zero immunity See Kolbert on extinction Anyway, agriculture took root, because it worked often than it failed Population gradually grew, which required and cropland and pasture Each expansion raised carrying capacity a bit, while soil depletion reduced it The growing mob had to work harder, and grow In the cult of economists, growth is the god word Unfortunately, perpetual growth becomes a vicious spiral Tudge winces at the paradox To condemn all of humankind to a life of full time farming, and in particular arable farming, was a curse indeed See Montgomery, Manning, Dale, and Postel on agriculture s drawbacks Animal domestication, on the other hand, greatly benefitted the critters we enslaved, says Tudge For example, wild wolves are vanishing, but domesticated dogs have zoomed past a half billion Similarly, domesticated sheep can breed far when well fed and defended If the population of a critter explodes, this is called biological success Dogs are a great success story, but their luckless wolf relatives keep smacking into bullets, stepping in traps, and eating poisoned bait Oddly, neither dogs nor sheep could survive in the wild, apart from humans See Shepard on animal enslavement It s a great tragedy of history that the wild folks who adapted to their ecosystem, and lived within its carrying capacity, have been unable to withstand the constant pressure from growing mobs of farmers When Tudge wrote, we were approaching six billion The spectacular success of growth and progress was beginning to look like a Pyrrhic victory We might actually have real limits See Bourne and Cribb on Peak Food Clouds of doubt swirled in his head Our earliest hunting ancestors must have been lazy, as lions are Perhaps we should learn from them It s touching and illuminating to watch the poor lad struggle with the conflict between powerful cultural myths and his growing awareness of reality This struggle is a necessary challenge on the path to growth and healing We must stand against the strong current.The book is just 53 pages, and easy to read It would be a good text for courses in eco psychology, environmental ethics, and critical thinking.Postscript In a recent online video, Tudge reveals his grand solution, Enlightened Agriculture small organic family farms raising a wide variety of crops By 2050, 9.5 to 10 billion will be coming to dinner Can we feed them The answer is a resounding yes We can feed them for decades, maybe indefinitely Profit driven, energy guzzling monoculture agriculture is fantastically unsustainable All we need is simply a total revolution in how we live, think, breed, and produce food as soon as possible, please.

  4. says:

    This a small book of only 53 pages, but it makes good points about evolutionary theory explaining the origins of farming as we know it today.Tudge is trying to convince us that farming did not begin 10,000 years ago as traditional historians have said for so long He believes that farming, in the sense of people manipulating their physical environment to promote useful plant growth, started much earlier He speculates that 40,000 years ago saw the start of organized agriculture behavior, and even at that point he argues there was an earlier form of farming, which he calls hobby farming.This short book packs a lot of thought provoking ideas to think about.

  5. says:

    Abandoned on page 8 of 50 I was told when I got given the book that the theory had been largely discredited I was only reading it out of interest therefore and the style annoyed me too much so I stopped.

  6. says:

    This book illustrates the Book of Genesis through the lens of the end of the last ice age changing the land mass This led to the necessity of humans moving from hunter gatherers to cultivators and herders.

  7. says:

    Fascinating book about the history of agriculture The theories about how agriculture started and grew into what it is now were new to me Now I want to learn I m definitely buying this book someday 13 It was fun to read and I was exposed to a new perspective in a subject I m fascinated by I d like to read by the author, Colin Tudge, and the rest of the Darwinism Today series looks interesting, too.

  8. says:

    A most interesting monograph on the roots of agriculture The story of Cain Abel, is hinted by the author as the beginning in which humankind switched from being passive pastoralists to active arablists A recommended read that illuminates the dawn of humankind and leaves one marvelling how far humanity has advanced in the past 10,000 years.

  9. says:

    It was good, simple, and pretty informative It was an easy read with speculation mixed in with things that are already assumed common knowledge All in all it was only about a 45 minute read and definitely not a waste of time.

  10. says:

    This book is a really quick read but it has lots of ideas that I really enjoyed hearing It s not like it posits anything breathtaking or mind boggling, it s just a short journey from the conventional wisdom on agriculture, but it was well written and interesting to read

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