The Significance Of The Transition Of Humankind From A Hunter-Gatherer To A Food-Producing Society Essay Example

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Food, Society, Development, Agriculture, Theory, Climate, Farmer, Farming

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2020/11/02

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The Paleolithic Era, also called Old Stone Age, has begun in different parts of the world around two million years ago and ended approximately around 12,000-8,000 years ago, transforming into Neolithic. The Paleolithic Period is divided into Lower (2.6 million-300,000 years ago), Middle (300,000-30,000 years ago) and Upper (50,000-12,000 years ago) based on the quality and type of tools and artifacts invented by the humankind.
The Paleolithic Period is characterized by the appearance of primitive communal system and the transformation of the first human beings into modern physical type of humans. The early primitive humans were nomads due to cold climate of Stone Age and scarce food resources. The nomads’ main activities were connected with food extraction: hunting wild animals and birds, fishing and collecting vegetable food. The level of technology was primitive – the man used bones, wood, flint and stone to manufacture the tools mainly for hunting and cutting. The camps of nomads found by archeologists revealed the first human constructions. The dwelling of primitive man was made of bones and was non-durable due to constant migration.
The process of transition from hunting and gathering activities to food-producing society, also known as Neolithic Revolution, has ended the Paleolithic period. This shift has built the foundation of further evolution of humanity and the emergence of contemporary society. In his work Wiesdorf (2005) researches the leading hypotheses concerning the agricultural revolution of the Neolithic Era. The 19th century scholars have believed that the agricultural shift was an inevitable part of the linear development of primitive society. In the 1930’s the ‘oasis’ theory has appeared. The supporters of the theory suggested that primitive men as well as wild animals discovered areas with fertile climate. The severe competition between them in such oasis areas has lead to domestication of the animals. Basically the theory explained the shift by changes in climate. However, these changes were gradual and the found evidence confirmed the agriculture appearance in regions with no significant climatic changes.
As the ‘oasis’ theory was disproved, new ideas were generated. One of the approaches stated that farming was invented in the areas rich for food resources, where primitive men could spare time to experiment. But, the evidence appeared in 1960’s revealed that farming of that time was more labor intensive and time consuming than gathering and hunting. Therefore, the scientists considered it could have appeared in the areas with extremely scarce food resources. The proposed theory claimed that food-producing activities were caused by the increasing population and further depletion of natural resources. However, the research of bones proved that last hunters were healthier than first farmers, no signs of starvation were discovered. This evidence brought the scholars back to the idea that farming arose from the opportunity rather than necessity.
Many theories of the last decades of 20th century suggested that domestication of plants and animals was a part of cultural and social progress of primitive society. The recent detailed research of climatic peculiarities of that period revealed that climatic changes could have boosted the agricultural development. According to Bar-Yosef and Belfer Cohen (1989) colder and drier environmental conditions have lead to cultivation of wild cereals. Nevertheless, there is no reliable evidence to completely support any of the theories. Many modern researches incline that a synergy of the above-mentioned factors has resulted in formation of food-producing society.
The Neolithic Era, also known as New Stone Age, is the stage of the Stone Age, ended approximately 4,000 years. As mentioned above, the Neolithic period is closely connected to the changes in climate conditions, the evolution of flora and fauna, which was confirmed by the excavations in Middle and Near East. The main features of the Neolith were agricultural development, domestication of animals, complexification of human society and transformation from tribal to sedentary lifestyle. The sedentary lifestyle and excessive food resources have contributed to the evolution of society, introducing new professions, progress in building and the development of art.
The first signs of Neolithic culture were conceived in the region of Tigris and Euphrates rivers, also called Mesopotamia. It is believed that the agricultural revolution of Mesopotamia was later spread over the Egypt and Western Europe. The fertile climate and access to the water has affected the early conception of food production in this region.

The transition from Paleolithic to Neolithic stage had a number of benefits for the region.

The agricultural development has lead to food surplus. This allowed the growth of population. The demographical boom has eventually resulted in the emergence of large settlements and first cities. The nutritional well-being has released part of the society from food extraction responsibilities. The new professions were established which promoted new relations between people and shifted the priorities in the society. Policy and leadership began to play important role in human relationships. On the other hand, the creation of new functions in society resulted in technological development in many aspects of human life.
According to the research performed by Petersen and Skaaning (2009) the agricultural development was “significant for the rise of complex political organizations”. The early Neolithic state formations were indeed created in the regions of Mesopotamia and Egypt which are hence called by historians ‘the cradle of civilization’.

References

Weisdorf, J. (2005). From Foraging to Farming: Explaining the Neolithic Revolution. Journal of Economic Surveys, 19(4). Retrieved February 7, 2015, from http://volgagermanbrit.us/documents/Foraging_to_Farming__Jacob_Weisdorf.pdf
Bar-Yosef, O., & Belfer-Cohen, A. (1989). The Origins Of Sedentism And Farming Communities In The Levant. Journal of World Prehistory, 447-498.
Petersen, M., & Skaaning, S. (2009, January 1). Ultimate Causes of State Formation: The Significance of Biogeography, Diffusion, and Neolithic Revolutions. Retrieved February 8, 2015, from http://pure.au.dk/portal/files/44166015/Ultimate_Causes_of_State_Formation_accepted.pdf

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