History teaches that the early men depended on hunting and gathering as the main sources of their food. Indeed, it is true that since they had no experience on land cultivation, they found it easier to gather the edible wild fruits, seeds, leaves, stems and any other plants that they could find for food. They also used crafted tools such as knives or spears made from bones, as tools for hunting animals for their food. The meat would be roasted to make it softer and edible.
The end of this period of hunting and gathering marked the beginning of another, of farming and agriculture. Dickason, (2009), on the second chapter of her book, page 36, wrote that “agriculture appears to have developed independently within a span of a few thousand years at the end of the last Pleistocene glaciations, in several widely separated regions of the globe: the Near East the monsoon lands of South East Asia, China, Mesoamerica, Peru and the Amazon.
” She continues writing that, “these regions have all been linked in other contexts by proponents of cultural diffusion; however, the once held belief that agriculture diffused around the globe from a single point of origin today has few advocates. ” Dickason rejects the hypothesis that agriculture developed in the arid regions of Americas through irrigation. She supports her stand by saying that all the known cultigens that were grown in the early days have been developed from prototypes that required seasonal rainfall.
The idea that the change in the lifestyle was sudden has been rejected. The author supports the “Neolithic Revolution” by the Australian Archeologist V. Giordon Childe (1892-1957), who suggested that the life style changes were gradual and a non uniform process. (Dickason O. P, (2009) page 36) Dickason is one of the many authors who contradict on the reasons why the early settlers of Americas turned from hunting and gathering to cultivating crops in some areas and not in others, yet their areas of settlement all had the same potential for cultivation.
This paper is therefore aimed at researching on what a few authors have suggested on the reasons and the causes for the early settlers of Americas change, from being hunters and gatherers to farmers. It is also aimed at coming up with evidence to show that the early farmers at the arid lands used irrigation and were not fully depended on the seasonal rainfall as Dickason suggests. In his book, “Human evolution”, (1999), Roger says that the date of 12000 years before present (BP) was the beginning of what today is, the Agricultural (Neolithic) Revolution.
He says that before then, human populations subsisted by various forms of hunting and gathering. After 12200 BP, there was a shift towards the plant and the animal domestication, which occurred independently in several regions world wide. Contrary to what Dickerson says, that agriculture never diffused around the globe from a single point of origin; Roger maintains that farming started in Meso America, with the people of South Asia being the last to practice it. He also contradicts with Dickerson, on the shift from hunting and gathering to farming being a slow process.
Roger says, “The adopting of agriculture was extremely rapid and was measured against the established time scale of human prehistory, accompanied by an escalation of the population size rising from approximately 10 million at the outset of the Neolithic to 100 million some 4,000 years ago. He further states that the start of farming was the beginning of emergence of cities and permanent settlement for the early people. Concerning the factors that led the hunters and gatherers to start the agricultural practices, Roger states the need to have an intensified food production as the cause for the change.
(Lewin . R, page 215) Roger also agrees with Dickenson that one of the causes for the transition form hunting and gathering to farming was as a result of climatic changes. However, he also says that population pressure was another reason that attributed to these changes. The increase in the population may be a reason for the change, but some historians remain unconvinced; bringing up the issue of whether this relationship was either a cause or an effect of the change a major controversy.
Roger quotes Mark Cohen of the State University of New York, Plattsburgh, who advocates for the hypothesis of population increase as cause of the change. Cohen supports his case with the discovery of nutritional stress in the skeletal remains of the Paleolithic as evidence for his stand, while still admitting that this could be a casual cause of the change. (Lewin R, page 217) Solbrig, etal (1996), writes that after farming practices had been adopted, communities that practiced farming expanded, leading to using up of fertile soils.
This led the early American settlers to migrate to areas near river banks where the soils washed away through soil erosion were deposited and were much more fertile. Others areas of settlement were sandy or were characterized by aridity and plain lands. During spring, the rivers would flood, and the land became softer and easier to cultivate. However, if the farmers planted their seeds at this time, they would germinate and grow, but they never matured because of lack of sufficient rainfall. This led them to the idea of creating dykes or impoundments which could store the water during the dry season.
The water was used to irrigate the crops by diverting it and letting it flow gently towards the crop fields. Solbrig also says that the adoption of irrigation led to the expansion of the villages in the regions that practiced farming, hence civilization. (Solbrig, etal, 1996, page 90) Trimble, (2007), contributes to the issue of early irrigation saying that it existed since the 6000 BC, as opposed to what many historians believe, that it started in 3000 BC. He contradicts with Dickenson, who says that most of the crops grown were drought resistant.
If they were, then there would have been no need to irrigate the crops. He further states that, “Irrigation started with individual farmers experimenting with carrying water in containers to individual plants or cropped areas and expanded to diversions from streams or building bunds for flooded areas. ” Trimble further writes that in North America, irrigation started in 2500 BC. He includes wild flooding as also a common method of irrigating the crops, which comprised of spreading water over large areas with the use of dykes to control the spread of the water.
(Trimble S W, (2007), page 42) Godwy, agrees that the early humans were forced to abandon hunting and gathering and were forced to become farmers because of the interglacial warming which began about 15,000 years ago. He says that agriculture was already accepted in some places like Meso-America, The Fertile Crescent, and Southeast Asia. He Quotes an author, Carter, 1977, who believes that the transition from hunting and gathering to farming occurred within such a short period of time, contradicting with what Dickason agrees with; change was slow and non uniform.
Godwy quotes Mark Cohen, (1988), who asks, “Why, after millions of years of a hunting and gathering way of life, did the genus homo switch to an evidently more physically demanding and less rewarding system of production? ” Mark agrees with Dickerson that the most likely cause for this transition was a climatic change, which favored the farming as opposed to hunting and gathering. However, he adds that the specific mechanism by which this change resulted can not be easily understood. (Gowdy J. M, (1994) pg 36) In conclusion, I would say that every person has her own beliefs when it comes to history.
These differences may be brought about as a result of the differences in cultural backgrounds, place of origin, or they may be influenced on what the person has been reading concerning the issue. For example, if an individual is of a people who still practice hunting wild animals for food, then his stand on this discussion will definitely be different from that of a person whose culture depends on farm products as its major source of food. This has been perfectly depicted by the differences in the views of the authors whose books I researched.
References 1) Dickason Olive Patricia, fourth edition, 2009, Canada’s First Nations: A History of Founding Peoples from Earliest Times 2) Gowdy John M. , 1994, Co evolutionary Economics: The Economy, Society, and the Environment, Springer 3) Lewin Roger, 4th edition, 1999 Human Evolution: An Illustrated Introduction, Blackwell Publishing 4) Solbrig O. T, Solbrig D. J, 1996, So Shall You Reap: Farming and Crops in Human Affairs, Island Press 5) Trimble Stanley Wayne, 2nd edition, 2007,Encyclopedia of Water Science, CRC Press