Diamond, Jared. Guns, germs, and steel: the fates of human societies. 1st ed. 1. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1999. 85-114, 131-157. Print.
A cave man and a cave woman grunting at each other, smashing up a plant mixture, and roasting meat on a fire. This is often the image we get when thinking of hunters and gatherers. We picture a cold, hungry, uncomfortable existence with little compassion, friendship, or humanity. And suddenly with the development of farming, all of this changed. We became civilized.
This an important notion which Diamond expels. Farming was not a conscious change which hunter gatherers made when they thought “Hey, that farming idea looks pretty good! Let’s stop roaming around looking for food and just grow it ourselves!”. There was no sudden shift from one ideology to the other, they coexisted for a very long time. Early farmers still hunted for and gathered food to complement what they grew
I often think about the timeline of history. When we read about one culture beginning farming in 10,000 BC and subsequently another beginning to farm in 8000 BC, it is easy to gloss over this. It sounds like a simple difference of But that is a difference of 2000 years! Think about all of the changes that have happened in the last 2000 years here. Christianity is barely that old. That is 10 times longer than Canada has existed. There were so many lived experiences during that time of 2000 years of people fighting, loving, dying, discovering new plants, societies forming and reforming. I think it is important to consider history that was lived as well, the history of the people.
Culture is the other major piece to this domestication puzzle. When thinking about plant domestication, inevitably we question why certain people domesticated plants while others did not. Is there a difference with the climate? The plants themselves? Or does the difference lie with the people? This last question often leads to us giving a hierarchy to ancient civilizations, placing societies who first developed agriculture above those who remained hunter gatherers. This isn’t a matter of one society being further developed compared to another though. This comes down to culture. Culture has inertia, and various cultures seem to have inertia propelling them in different directions. For example, contemporary societies seem very bent on mass destruction. Does this make our society worse than an ancient society? Not necessarily. Some societies were simply more culturally available to become more sedentary and begin domesticating crops.
In the end these readings left me feeling somewhat insignificant. Change is always happening. What is dominant now will most certainly be subservient, given enough time. Will people one day look back on us and think about how simple we were because we relied on only a dozen major food crops?