Prologue: Yali's Question
Jared Diamond has done much research in New Guinea. His friend, local New Guinean; Yali, asked why whites had been so successful compared to the locals. Diamond, while looking into Yali’s question, wants to prove that the differences in success have nothing to do with racial intelligence, but rather environmental differences. He starts with saying that stone people "are on the average probably more intelligent, not less intelligent, than industrialized peoples." He says the New Guineans may not be technologically smart like Europeans, but they are a lot fitter than any European put in their environment. He traces back these differences in the folds of history.
Chapter 1: Up to the Starting Line
Upright humans first appeared 4 million years ago, but the Great Leap Forward happened 50,000 years ago, when cave art and stone tolls appeared. About the same time, humans appeared in Australia and New Guinea by the use of watercraft. Mass extinctions of large mammals occurred at the same time. The Americas were later colonized with the Clovis culture around 11,000 BC. This time was also the end of the Pleistocene Era, the depression of the last Ice Age, and the beginning of the Recent Era.
Chapter 2: A Natural Experiment of History
The Maoris over came the Morioris in the Chatham Islands in 1835. This was a “Natural Experiment” as Diamond puts it. Both tribes were of the same Polynesian decent, but due to different environmental settings, the Maoris were more war-like. Due to this special capability, the more peaceful Morioris were easily defeated. Polynesia consists of a moderately varied set of climates, geography, resources, size, isolation, and more; leading to diversity of human populations and their adaptations.
Chapter 3: Collision at Cajamarca
Diamond details the conquest by Francisco Pizarro and a few hundred men over the Inca emperor at Cajamarca Peru in 1532. With the help of advanced steel weapons and armor, and horses and cavalry the Incas were easily defeated. They also brought new diseases, maritime, early guns, and centralized political organization. These however were only the small causes leading to the conquest--what allowed such a dominant culture to develop in the first place?
Chapter 4: Farmer Power
Throughout the book, Diamond strains the importance of development of "food production", a term he uses to sum up the domestication of wild animals and plants. “Food Production” also includes improvement of the resources for human purposes through selection of favorable mutations and etc. He also describes the profit of animal domestication and herding over hunter-gathering. One of these ‘profits’ was increased available calories (through milk, meat, manure fertilization, and pulling a plow). Increased crop yields allowed larger population density, more frequent child-bearing, storage of food surpluses which can sustain specialists. Animals also provided hides for warmth, transport capability, and more.
Chapter 5: History's Haves and Have-Nots
In this chapter, Diamond describes calibrated C14 dating (correlated with tree rings, etc.) Using this dating, the major independent sites of food production have been founded. Other areas imported food production or were overrun by such producers, then developed additional domesticates after adapting the food production lifestyle. Food production gave a competitive advantage to cultures.
Chapter 6: To Farm or Not to Farm
The decision to convert from hunter-gatherer to the different way of getting food is a gradual one and is inclined by the decline in availability of wild game, prestige, and cultural attitudes. The availability of domestic able wild plants and animals, technologies, and population pressures from growth became other reasons for the switch. The first farmers were often more nourished than the hunter-gatherers they replaced. Even with the rise of farming, hunter-gatherers have continued in modern times...
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