Numerous pieces of evidence suggest that hunters and gatherers made up the ancient societies. Nevertheless, despite having the ability to hunt and gather food, some ancient communities turned to food production. The previous civilizations organized themselves into bands, which typically included 25 to 35 people. Despite having a powerful adaptation for hunting and gathering, challenges presented by these activities led certain cultures to shift and begin food production mechanisms (Zeder, 2006:114). Numerous hypotheses make mention of the various difficulties that forced ancient societies to think about adopting food production rather than hunting and gathering. Some of the challenges that pushed some of the ancient societies to food production include unpredictability of weather, the presence of hostile preys or even Predator animals and constant reduction of food for hunt and gathering as their population grew.
Despite their proficiency in using archaic tools such as bones, stones, and woods in facilitating hunting and gathering, many ancient societies experienced massive challenges under certain erratic weather conditions. Extreme rainy days, windy conditions and even dark cloudy days always presented huge challenges to the hunting and gathering activities (Zeder, 2006:112). Under adverse weather condition injuries and many other dangers were also possible. The ancient societies experienced attacks from hostile animals while in the forest or bush hunting and gathering. Some of the hostile animals include lions, bears, tigers and many other carnivorous animals depending on the society in which people lived. Naturally, ancient man had adapted well in tackling animal hostility in their environment. Adopting food production mechanisms was advantageous to ancient man in very many ways as it provided ready food to the man and prevented them from the challenges of acquiring food.
Comparison of two case studies on the origins of agriculture and village life
Two case studies on the origin of agriculture and village life based two theories revealing the possible genesis of agriculture, domestication and village life. The first case study of the origin of agriculture and village life is based on the Oasis Theory. The theory notes that people commenced domesticating plants and animals due to the compulsion of climate changes.
Archaeologist Vere Gordon Childe explained the theory several decades before initiation of radiocarbon dating and multiple years before multiple evidence were collected regarding significant climatic information. His explanations indicated that during the end of the Pleistocene, parts of the North Africa and the Near East region underwent a duration of desiccation. This duration was characterized by increased manifestation of drought, high temperatures, and diminished rainfall. According to the theory, increased aridity compelled people and animals to crowd within oasis regions, river valley parts. The theory also shows that propinquity allowed for the growth of the animal and plant population and further prompted enhanced familiarity of a man with plants and animals. The theory insisted that the ancient man was forced out of the fertile land zones and those who lived near water points had to adopt new survival ways that included learning how to raise crops and animals in new regions which initially was not ideal. The support of this theory emanated from the assumption amongst the many early social scientists before the 20th century that believed that early man could not adopt inventive or innovative ways of life unless circumstance compelled them to do so. The theory was also supported by other early theories that claimed climatic changes were the sole reason for the shift of from hunting and gathering to domestication (Kelly and David, 2013:142).
An archaeological evidence support some portions while equally refutes significant sections of the Oasis Theory on the origin of agriculture and village life. Since the theory was originated before the invention of carbon dating technology, new information availed by carbon dating technology has shown opposing approach on the theory. According to archaeological evidence based on the compilation of comparative data on radiocarbon dating and development of the culture especially around the Near East indicates that transformation from hunting and gathering model to agriculture and village life emanated from a list of multiple variables. The evidence also shows that the transformation from hunting and gathering to current domestication lifestyle took several thousands of years. The archaeological evidence noted the presence of encroachment of arid climatic conditions as elaborated in the oasis theory. The latest archeological research indicated some parts were strongly impacted while others were moderately affected. According to Maher’s archaeological evidence, climatic transformation alone could not cause the huge shift in a technological and cultural change of the ancient man. However, they did not exclude climatic variability as having contributed to the long shift from moveable hunter-gatherer to sedentary agricultural communities in the Near East.
A second case study on the origin of agriculture and village life is the Hilly Flanks Theory. Robert Braidwood proposed the theory in 1948 after his study work in Turkey. He believed that agriculture and village life began in a highland that experience frequent rainfall thus the crops would easily grow in the absence of the need to supply irrigational water (Lee, 2017:34).
Hilly flanks are locational terms applied in reference to forested lower slopes of Zagros and Tauros mountains. The area constitutes the western region believed to hold the western frontier of the Fertile Crescent situated in the southwestern Asia. The region currently constitutes the modern nations of Iraq, Iran, and Turkey. Several archaeological evidence has portrayed the region as the center of the genesis of agriculture. Hilly Flanks theory argued that agriculture could have only begun in a region that received sufficient rainfall and must have been on the hill. The theory receives support from archeological findings of animals believed to be the ancestors of the currently domesticated animals which were found in the region. The region is believed to be the native home of the ancestor s of the animals such as goats, pigs and sheep. Plants such as chickpea, wheat and barley are also believed to have fast domesticated there (Higgs and Michael, 1969: 90).
Both Oasis Theory and Hilly Flanks theory have close similarity on how people adopted agriculture and village due to forces of nature of such as climate. The two theories are however faulty in that it is difficult to believe that people adopted agriculture instantly. Many anthropologists believe that adoption of agriculture was not an instant thing. They believe that it was a continuous technological enhancement by people and may have happened in different places at different times (Bryce and Jessie, 2016:123).
The timing for the transformation from hunting and gathering lifestyle is hugely believed to have been a gradual process that spanned thousands of years, but the two theory claims that it might have happened instantly after shift in climatic conditions. There is little evidence to prove how the process of shifted from hunter-gathering society, however, crucial archeological evidence traces the shift from Near East region. The theories outline that the change occurred nearly 100 000 years ago. The two theories indicated that ecological shift occurred climate changed from grassland to arid climatic. The change caused reduced availability of food to ancient man, therefore compelling him to adopt a sedentary lifestyle with agriculture. Both theories indicate that increase in demographics and multiple other social variables such as security compelled ancient people to settle in camps and bands thus adopting sedentary lifestyles (Higgs and Michael, 1969: 140).
There is extensive archaeological evidence that supports the two theories. Such evidence includes Presence of carbonized seeds found in Near East. Archeological fossils of animals believed to be the ancestors of some of the current domesticated animal were also found in the region. Some of the oldest documented writings regarding human beings and agriculture appear to originate from the region. Archaeological evidence have also emanated in refuting the claimed date in which the people adopted agriculture. According to archeological evidence, most of the theories are hugely speculations which are hard to support or affirm due to the availability of the insufficient data and records. The archeological evidence also notes the gradual shift from a hunter-gathering lifestyle to agriculture. Presents of many hunter-gathering communities in Africa, Brazil’s Amazon and many other parts of the world is a clear indication that adoption of agriculture has not been an instant process.
Zeder, Melinda A. “Central questions in the domestication of plants and animals.” Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews 15.3 (2006): 105-117.
Higgs, Eric S., and Michael R. Jarman. “The origins of agriculture: a reconsideration.” Antiquity 43.169 (1969): 31-41.
Lee, Richard Borshay. Man the hunter. Routledge, 2017.
Bryce, Trevor, and Jessie Birkett-Rees. Atlas of the Ancient Near East: From Prehistoric Times to the Roman Imperial Period. Routledge, 2016.
Kelly, Robert L, and David H. Thomas. Archaeology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning, 2013. Print.