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Rosemary Mulvey

Prof. Malpass
World Archaeology
March 27, 2017
Discussion Summary 2: Horticultural Societies

The model which we have studied and used to analyze different


regions transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture states that
groups of people were required to adapt to a new climate after the
Pleistocene which affected their food resources and their desire to reduce the
risk of their subsistence activities when foraging became more difficult due
to their new climate and eventually as their populations grew. These factors
ultimately led to agriculture becoming the dominant subsistence activity
within permanent settlements which developed alongside it.

The model fits the development of agriculture in the Near East quite well,
however permanent settlements were well established before hunting and
gathering was completely obsolete, as explained in The Slow Birth of
Agriculture and in our study of the Natufian villages. Prior to the cold snap
at the end of the Pleistocene, a vast amount of natural resources was
available to the hunter-gatherer-farmers who were living in Natufian villages.
The resources easily available to them let them settle into sedentary or semi
sedentary settlements while they primarily relied on hunting and gathering,
but also could experiment with cultivation and then agriculture. The model
comes into play at the end of the Pleistocene when the cold snap hit the
Near East, killing off many of the resources they relied on. The villagers then
had to adapt to this new climate by farming the drought resistant plants that
could survive the cold snap, continuing the cultivation of their natural
resources from before but now with more necessity. Wheat and barley were
important staples to this region, and it is interesting that sheep and goats
were also domesticated along with them. Sheep and goats likely were
domesticated for the benefit of not having to hunt, which especially would be
beneficial when they had to spend more time farming after not needing to
work as hard with foraging. Domesticated animals provided food and
storage on the hoof or claw, meaning that by feeding the animals, you are
feeding yourself in the future when you slaughter them. The model fits the
Near East because although settlements were already well in effect by the
end of the Pleistocene, the dramatic climate shift decimated their natural
resources, requiring people living there to adapt their subsistence activities
to feed their families without requiring them to move to a new location, thus
reducing risk and uncertainty.

East North America generally conforms to the model as well. After large
animals and big game went extinct after the Pleistocene, this region had to
adapt to their available resources, which were more plentiful than what was
left in the Near East which contributed to their slower transition to reliance
on agriculture. Smaller animals such as deer and rabbits were abundant in
the area, likely being more plentiful after an adaptive radiation from the
extinction of the big game animals. This must have contributed to the fact
that animals were not domesticated here. The natural resources in the area
were so abundant that agriculture did not need to develop until towards the
end of the Archaic period to support the larger settlements of people who
wanted to reduce the risk in their subsistence activities. Domesticated did
not show up until long after the Pleistocene (around 3000-2500BCE) and did
not become dominant until a few thousand years after that when maize and
beans were diffused into the area by Mesoamerica. Poverty Point is an
example of one such large permanent settlement from the Late Archaic
period which used agriculture to supplement foraging subsistence activities
to reduce the risk for their population while living sedentarily.

The Tehuacan Valley Sequence fits the model quite well. At the beginning
of the Archaic period, people were organized into microbands and
macrobands which would form depending on the season. During the rainy
season which was very plentiful, a larger group of people would unite and
subsist on the plentiful vegetation in the area. During the dry season, when
the vegetation had run out and resources were scarcer, the macrobands
would break up into microbands which would disperse into other
environmental zones to hint small animals and perform other foraging
activities. Domesticates were gradually introduced into the Middle Archaic
period by macrobands farming during the rainy season and using the
resources into the dry season until they ran out and needed to disperse to
find food. Each year they would be able to plant more and improve their
techniques throughout the rest of the Archaic until the Formative period
when they could have permanent villages and domesticates were their
primary subsistence. The Tehuacan Valley Sequence fits the model because
they needed to adapt to their available resources in the area and desired to
reduce the risk that came along with travelling as microbands during the dry
season which was often fraught with starvation and therefore they gradually
transitioned to fully agriculture-reliant permanent settlements.

In Coastal Peru, the model does not fit well. Costal Peruvians had an
abundant amount of resources from the Pacific Ocean that did not require
them to develop agriculture as their primary method of subsistence. Fishing
and gathering of marine resources allowed them to continue without needing
to change, as fishing is relatively low risk since the ocean will remain where
it is, so they dont have to follow those resources around, and would not be
too affected by any environmental change in the area. Cotton and gourds
were cultivated only for convenience rather than gathering them, but it was
certainly not heavily relied upon and not completely necessary for their
survival. They did not domesticate animals on the coast because it was also
unnecessary with their amazing resource of the ocean. The model does not
fit in Coastal Peru because agriculture was not necessary to their survival, as
their primary resource remained stable and available to them.

These questions have reflected the goals of the class by having us review
these four cultural areas in how they lived through their subsistence
activities evolution, and also have made us critically analyze how we know
this information through our study of them by discussing the methods used
by archaeologists to know or at least have a good guess about how these
ancient people lived. When learning about them in class, we learned about
the methods which are used to analyze archaeological sites such as AMS and
radiocarbon dating. We also have come to the understanding that much of
archaeology isnt irrefutable data but interpretation based on the facts and
artifacts at hand. What we think we know may not be actually correct, but is
based on scientific evidence and anthropological research nonetheless.