The Origins of Agriculture

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Archaeology 103
12/10/12
The Origins of Agriculture
As the last Ice Age came to an end, the environment presented its self in a new manner. The temperature was becoming warmer, promoting more plant life, resulting in a better quality of life. Many scholars argue why farming was invented. Palaeopathological studies, or studies of diseases in ancient man and fossil animals, have shown that in populations where cereal farming was practiced the health had diminished. Also because of intensive cereal farming, the quality of the food diminished which led to a spread of infections in crowded areas. The SUNY Plattsburg Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, Mark Cohen summarized the importance of this debate with these series of questions: “if agriculture provides neither better diet, nor greater dietary reliability, nor greater ease, but conversely appears to provide a poorer diet, less reliably, with greater labor costs, why does anyone become a farmer?” Many archaeologists have offered explanations as to why cultivation came to be. A few theories are the Oasis theory, the Hilly Flanks hypothesis, the Feasting model, the Demographic theories, and the evolutionary/intentionality theory. Each theory has been thoroughly criticized and although there is no full accepted reasoning for the origin on agriculture, the theory that I am most convinced with is the demographic theory. The Oasis Theory, also known as the Propinquity Theory, was put forth by the Australian archaeologist, Vere Gordon Childe in his book “Man Makes Himself.” The Oasis Theory infers that as the climate increased it became drier there was a lacking in the supply of water. There were few fertile areas called oases where these early humans and animals had to live in order to survive. (Childe 1936) Most archaeologists do not support this theory because climate records for this time show that the climate wasn’t dramatically drier. One archaeologist in particular is Robert Braidwood, suggested the Hilly...
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