Posted: September 3rd, 2013
The Archeology of Co-evolution
Research on the emergence of agriculture, social structures such as chiefdoms, protection groups such as armies, political systems, amongst other structures that have developed as man advanced has continued to take place to the present place. However, researchers differ on some concepts leading to the emergence of these activities and structures. This may be due to the scarcity of archeological evidence and the diversity of the interpretation of the evidence in existence. Yosef has brought forth an analysis of the emergence of agriculture and the Natufian culture with the activities that came along with it. Wright and Diamond in their books Nonzero: The logic of Human Destiny and Guns, Gems and Steel respectively, have focused on these areas of man advancement. Like in other researches, there are particular areas that are similar while others establish a difference. However, the majority of the information states that the main causes of man’s evolution were the same. All the books prove that man’s co-evolution of sedentism; food production and emergence were for the main purposes of physical survival whereas the other causes became secondary.
Yosef states that there were patterns of semi-sedentism that had developed in the late Pleistocene foragers (168). These early patterns gave way to a firmer acquisition of territories in the later years. The author goes ahead and gives various reasons that are established as having led to sedentism. They include the urge to intensify cereal exploitation. Other researchers feel that the propagation of cereals (among other annuals) was increased by sedentism (168). Although the main reason is not known since the storage of evidence was poorly done, Yosef shows that sedentism mostly took place due to the urge of intensifying the cereal exploitation. This is because it was more stable and more productive and it could be stored for a long time.
Wright introduces the nonzero concept. This is a contrast of the zero-sum concept. The zero sum games assert that competition is necessary for survival. This means that one must come up with strategies of defeating the other in order to survive/become a winner. In other words, it is a win-lose situation. The contrary is identified with the nonzero sum concept. This means that individuals find a way of co-existing with one another therefore bringing forth a win-win situation. For example, some people farm while others hunt so that they can benefit one another in trade. In relation to sedentism, Wright feels that it took place due to the nonzero concept. The Natufians settled in order to concentrate on growing cereals so that they could coexist with those who are still hunting and gathering.
Diamond does not agree with Wright’s concept. Diamond feels that the zero-sum concept was greatly incorporated even in the early life. According to Diamond, sedentism came with stability. The growing of cereals would bring a more stable source of food as compared to hunting and gathering. This is the ‘guns’ part of the title. The sense of stability and the continuous supply of food would enable them to defeat other communities and thus bring dominance. When the three authors are taken into account on the topic of sedentism, all the authors agree that the Natufians turned to sedentism so that they could create a sense of stability. However, they differ on the other causes. While Wright feels that they wanted to coexist with the others, Diamond feels that they wanted to dominate the others.
The increase of food production was brought about by the introduction of agriculture, which is owed to the Natufian culture. After 14,500 B.P., there was a climatic improvement. The Natufian culture is said to have emerged between 13000 and 12,800 B.P (163-164). During this period, the agriculture of cereals came into being. The urge to continue growing cereals since it proved to be more reliable and easier as compared to hunting and gathering led to the increase of farming. Yosef explains that the increase of food production was brought forth by the need of creating a more stable condition for the development of the communities.
Wright seems to agree with Yosef. In through his concept analysis, the increase of food production within the Nubian culture was brought forth by the urge of finding survival means and co-exiting with other communities. Many groups of people occupied the uninhabited Syro-Arabian desert and the Mediterranean steppe after the improvement of the climate. Amongst those people in these areas were the inhibitors of the Nile Valley. Due to this increase of people, the increase of food production brought forth a means of coexistence with the hunters and gathers as opposed to finding ways of defeating them thus taking their land. On the other hand, Diamond feels that the production of food was a means of creating dominance amongst the other groups. Cereals were richer in nutrients than other meals. Additionally, farming created a sense of stability as opposed to moving from one place to another in search of fruits and animals. The more settled people were more likely to defeat the nomadic people as opposed to the contrary taking place.
Chiefdoms or the presence of leadership structures emerged within the Natufian culture quite early. There were three size categories of the early Natufian sites. The small size was about fifteen to one hundred meters squared. The medium size was about four hundred to five hundred meters squared. The largest was approximately one thousand meters squared. Larger were established later. However, none was as big as the early Neolithic village (162). Due to these settlement patterns, the emergence of leadership-like patterns was quite evident in these early times. There was a leader in every act, who may be referred to as a chief. The emergence of these leaders was done in order to bring order and hierarchy in the growing population.
According to Wright’s theory the emergence of leaders/chiefs came about in order to bring a sense of harmony/unity among the growing groups. Diamond, on the other hand, feels that the emergence of chiefdoms was an outcome of the need for a centralized government in the various communities, thus creating unity, which would aid in dominating the other communities. While Wright and Yosef give forth a common reason, Diamond seems to feel that the core reason of having the chiefdoms was the need for dominance.
Wright and Yosef have a similar perception of the emergence of sedentism, food production and chiefdoms while Diamond perception contrasts them. Wright and Yosef feel that the people during these early periods had a focus on co-existing and creating social setting that would promote their growth. However, Diamond feels that their focus was solely on surviving. The more they developed ways of being in a better position of dominating the other communities, the better chances they had of growing, and thus surviving. These diverse perceptions are represented in the current way of life globally.
Bar-Yosef, Ofer. “The Natufian Culture in the Levant, Threshold to the Origins of Agriculture.” Evolutionary Anthropology. 6.5 (1998): 159-177. Print.
Diamond, Jared M. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 1998. Print.
Wright, Robert. Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny. New York: Pantheon Books, 2000. Print.
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