Agriculture and Village life

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Information about Agriculture and Village life

Published on October 4, 2007

Author: Savina


Agriculture and Village life:  Agriculture and Village life Domestication of Plants and Animals Village Life The Process of Domestication:  The Process of Domestication In contrast to hunting and gathering as a way of life, agriculture implies modifying the environment in order to exploit it more effectively. Both the animals and plants can be modified as a result of human intervention -- domestication. Ultimately, agriculture changes the very landscape itself. The central question is why did agriculture arise in the first place. Effects of Farming:  Effects of Farming The growing of a single crop in a field by definition substitutes a biological monoculture for the complex ecological system that existed on the same ground previously. This change has several effects. The quantity of food is greatly increased. There are cost to this strategy. Over a relatively short period of time, growing a single crop can deplete even very rich soils. This was a problem which rendered many early agricultural sites uninhabitable after a time. It is still a very serious problem. Unintended effects:  Unintended effects The human farmers are consciously altering the environment and "selecting for" the plants they need. unwittingly, they are also "selecting for" any organism that can live on wheat for example: wheat-eating "vermin," pathogens, and diseases of wheat, etc. Thus, paradoxically, by increasing their food supply, farmers simultaneously increased threats to their food supply. Farming may also create a biological system that lacks flexibility to resist disease or climatic changes. For example: The Great Potato famine in Europe is a classic case. Andean farmers grew a wide variety of potatoes in an effort to maintain diversity as a result of the familiarity with the domesticated potato knowing the various risks associated with it. The Process of Domestication:  The Process of Domestication Agriculture is a process. One begins with a high degree of familiarity with wild plant foods. Through a process of experimentation and ultimately manipulation, humans create a "selective force" choosing those characteristics they find most favorable about a plant or animal. The act of harvesting the wild grains changed them genetically in this process. For Example:  For Example For example, a small percentage of wild grass plants has seed that clings to the stalk even when ripe, rather than separating easily. Humans collecting wheat or barley seed such as these would succeed in gathering a disproportionate amount of the mutant seeds-that-cling in each harvest. Thus, the seed they sowed--the act of manipulating--the next year would gradually increase the amount of seeds-that-cling in the next crop. Over time, the percentage of wheat and barley seed that falls off the stalk when ripe declined--which made harvesting much easier. In this way, these crops were "domesticated" to the point where they cannot reproduce themselves without human intervention. This is the hallmark of what it means to be "domesticated"--dependent upon human intervention. Agave:  Agave Archaeologists surveyed an area north of Phoenix. They found a series of rock alignments and piles. They observed a particular type of agave plant growing in several spots. Slide8:  This type of agave does not grow naturally in this region of Arizona. We also know that it reproduces in a certain way. The plant first sends out a tall stalk that has blooms at the end. These are fertilized by bats and insects. Instead of growing seeds, this plant actually produced small plants at the end of that stalk. The stalk eventually deteriorates and the plants land on the soil to hopefully grow roots and mature. Uses for Agave:  Uses for Agave What else we know is that agave, particularly this type of agave, has many uses. It can be roasted in an oven and cooked. It is high in nutrient values. We know that living people who use agave have used it for other purposes including medicine and even clothing. We also know that in other areas, the prehistoric people of southern Arizona grew this plant in large fields where they constructed rock alignments and rock piles. Through experiments, we have discovered that the moisture around the base of the rock piles increases thereby providing a little extra moisture to plants that are growing at the base of these piles. The rock alignments tend to trap water as it runs across the ground thereby also enhancing a region so that plants can capture more of the ground moisture. In a hot, dry desert environment, rock alignments and rock piles are an ingenious way to enhance growth of plants such as agave. Earth Oven:  Earth Oven So what can we infer about all of this?:  So what can we infer about all of this? Well, we can infer that people brought this plant into this region from where it naturally grew. That they probably had to help the plant reproduce. Since the plant puts off more than 50 little plants per stalk, this means they could use a great number of agave plants for food and other things and keep a ready supply of plants growing through their intervention. They simply had to break the stalk and plant the new "seedlings" in the right areas - such as at the base of pile of rocks, which increase soil moisture stimulating plant growth. We can, therefore, infer that the agave growing in this area was part of an elaborate agricultural system operating prehistorically. Maize, the Staple Crop of the Americas :  Maize, the Staple Crop of the Americas Maize, or what we tend to call "corn," was first domesticated in Mesoamerica several thousand years ago. Maize was highly adaptable, and selective breeding over centuries created subspecies able to flourish in such diverse climates as New England, the arid South West of the U.S., the wet tropical lowlands of Mexico and Guatemala, and mountain plateaus 9,000 feet high in the central Andes of South America. Slide13:  Maize has many advantages over wheat or barley. Seed-bed preparation can be accomplished with a digging stick. Harvest is easier and the standing crop is less easily spoiled by moisture or wind. Most importantly, the return on seeds planted was as high as 45 to 1 at a very early date. In contrast, early wheat farmers may have realized only a 6-1 return on seeds planted. However, it took much longer for people in the Americas to begin to rely upon maize as a domesticated food supply. Maize, Beans and Squash:  Maize, Beans and Squash Maize has excellent nutritional value and, eaten together with squash and beans, the other staples of early American agriculture, provides all the amino acids necessary for human life. In the Americas, we often hear people talk about a combination of foods: corn, beans and squash. It is interesting to note that people in the Americas knew a great deal about the nutritional intake from these various foods. Beans, for example, provide needed protein that corn does not. They also knew ways to cook corn that would enhance it's nutritional values. Cooking corn with burnt ash for example improves the nourishing potential of the corn. Piki Bread:  Piki Bread The Hopi woman making something known as Piki bread first combined corn meal with ash and water. She then cooks a thin layer of this mixture to make a traditional Hopi bread with the consistency of paper. Native American Stories on the Origins of Corn:  Native American Stories on the Origins of Corn Other New World Domesticates:  Other New World Domesticates TRANSITION ONE: 3000 B.C. - 2000 B.C. Native North Americans discovered that wild seed plants growing along river floodplains could be controlled; that plants could be harvested and used as food, with seeds stored and replanted in prepared garden plots the next year. Four indigenous plants underwent this transition to full domesticates, with clear morphological changes taking place in their seeds. Three additional cultigens appear as food crops as Native Americans began to harvest these previously wild sources of food. The highly nutritious seeds from these seven plants could be variously boiled into cereals, ground into flours, or eaten directly. TRANSITION ONE: 3000 B.C. - 2000 B.C. :  TRANSITION ONE: 3000 B.C. - 2000 B.C. Each of the seven indigenous plants involved--chenopod, marsh elder, squash, sunflower, erect knotweed, little barley, and maygrass--had its own particular course of development. Most began as wild plants growing along river floodplains that Native North Americans first gathered and used. They gradually brought these plants under their control as they harvested them and planted their seeds the following year. By 2,000 B.C., there is evidence of indigenous crop domestication occurring over a broad geographical area, on lands today known as Tennessee, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, Missouri and Alabama. After a slow beginning for each crop, the overall shift to domestication occurred rather abruptly, with several spring and fall crops introduced together, some high in oil and some in starch. TRANSITION TWO: 250 B.C.- A.D. 200 :  TRANSITION TWO: 250 B.C.- A.D. 200 Food production economies emerged. Greater amounts of seeds appeared in the diet, and seed crops became the focus of more intensive cultivation, as farmers planted them away from their original habitats. Maize first appears in small amounts. TRANSITION THREE: A.D. 800 - A.D. 1100:  TRANSITION THREE: A.D. 800 - A.D. 1100 Food-producing economies based on these indigenous seed crops flourished from about A.D. 200 until about A.D. 800. This early farming served as a pre-adaptation for a rapid and broad-scale shift to large field agriculture after A.D. 800 when a new, non indigenous crop plant--maize--was introduced. Maize came to dominate the fields and diets of Native North American farmers extending from what is now northern Florida to Ontario in Canada, from the Atlantic Coast to the Great Plains. Archaeologists now know that maize appeared in Native North American Villages more than 2,000 years after indigenous plants were domesticated and well after the rise of Hopewell societies. Animal Domestication in North America:  Animal Domestication in North America Dogs->14 kya Turkeys-2 kya Questions to Explore:  Questions to Explore What did ethnohistoric data suggest about the roles of dogs? What did these dogs look like? How did they compare to dogs from different places during similar time periods? Ethnohistoric Data:  Ethnohistoric Data Hunting dogs Household companions Warning Cleanup Pets Ritual sacrifices Pack animals Food Hunting Dogs:  Hunting Dogs An Assiniboin hunter, Peter Rindisbacher 1833 (Schwartz 1997) Companions:  Companions Diegueño house at Campo (Northwestern University Libraries, 2001; Original in Curtis 1926, Volume 15, Plate 525) Ritual:  Ritual Iroquois sacrifice of the white dog Pack Animals:  Pack Animals Assiniboin Hunter with Two Dogs Carrying Packs (Northwestern University Library 2001, original in Curtis 1928: Volume 18, Plate 630) Pack Animals: Travois:  Pack Animals: Travois Assiniboin camp, Karl Bodmer, 1843 (Schwartz 1997) Dogs in Burial Contexts:  Dogs in Burial Contexts From Webb 1974:157, Figure 16 Turkeys:  Turkeys There is archaeological evidence that the Anasazi and other Indian cultures in New Mexico and the Southwest traded for domesticated turkeys from Mexico and Central America. These domesticated turkeys are possibly the forerunners of today’s Merriam’s wild turkey who escaped domestication and likely became feral (wild) long before the first Spanish colonists arrived. Turkeys:  Turkeys Sedentism and Village Life:  Sedentism and Village Life First, agriculture means sedentism--living permanently in one place. This was itself new to human beings, and it may have seemed very constraining to the first people to experience this way of life. Living in one spot permanently means exploiting a relatively small amount of land very intensively (rather than exploiting a large amount of land extensively, as hunter-gatherers did), and over a long period of time. Challenges of Sedentism:  Challenges of Sedentism Dependency on few plants Agriculture made human communities dependent on relatively few plants--the main crops which they grew--rather than on the many different kinds of plants which hunter-gatherers use. Consequences continued:  Consequences continued Greater vulnerability to weather Dependency on fewer plants in turn makes agriculture a great gamble, as farming involves "betting" that the weather conditions will favor the growth of the particular crops planted. Weather patterns, however, constantly fluctuate and rainfall tends to vary unpredictably. Agricultural life bets the life of the community on weather patterns favorable to the few plants it cultivates. Agriculture thus continues the ancient dependency of human life upon natural, ecological systems like the weather cycle, but it raises the odds of disaster in any given year. Consequences continued:  Consequences continued Complete dependency on harvest times To survive, agriculturalists have to gather all their food for the year at one or two or three harvest times, rather than gathering year round. Nothing, therefore, can be allowed to interrupt the harvest. There is similarly a very narrow window of opportunity for planting and cultivating. Under this kind of pressure, agricultural communities became more time-conscious. Agriculturalists also have to store the produce of their fields for the rest of the year, protect it from moisture, vermin, and thieves, and learn to dole out supplies in measured quantities so the community can survive and have seed for next year's planting. These conditions created a new kind of life style. Consequences continued:  Consequences continued Need for intense physical labor Agriculture requires intense and sustained physical effort--"drudgery"--at several times of the year, and on a scale previously unknown. The labor of both men and women was required in the fields. As can readily be imagined, these fundamental conditions of survival encouraged the development of social as well as individual discipline. That is to say, the new way of life molded humans and human society in new ways. Population Growth and Epidemic Diseases STORING AND SEDENTISM:  STORING AND SEDENTISM Where some natural food resources are abundant but seasonal, they can be gathered while available and stored on a large scale once transformed through appropriate food processing techniques thus becoming a staple food year-round. Around 10,000 years ago, plant resources became relatively abundant in fertile areas. The idea of an abundant food supply that could be processed and stored on a year-round basis was a new one with profound implications to human existence. Two factors conditioned human response at this time: conspicuous seasonal variability and a storage based subsistence strategy. If in the face of conspicuous or abundance, people opted to process and store portions of this "surplus", then they could settle down in one area on a year-round basis. This, for the first time, changed societies from a mobile way of life to one of sedentism. It is clear that this is not a process that happened over night. It probably was associated with a decreased reliance on mobility as a strategy to seasonally exploit a variety of resources. Storage of Surplus:  Storage of Surplus Southwest storage units Permanent and Semi-permanent structures:  Permanent and Semi-permanent structures SW pueblo Earth covered hogan Plains earth covered lodge Plateau ladder-entrance house Great Basin thatched wikiup Northwest Coast Plank house Sources:  Sources

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