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View Poll Results: H/G vs Agriculture
H/G was superior 13 17.11%
Agriculture, FTW 38 50.00%
Neither was better than the other 3 3.95%
It depends on the situation 22 28.95%
Voters: 76. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 06-24-2012, 07:41 PM
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Default Prehistoric H/G vs Early Agrarian Societies



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Who was more "affluent"? Speaking in terms of small scale populations during early or prehistory.

My personal bias is H/G societies were healthier, happier, and worked less. I would like to hear what everyone thinks, and the reasons why.
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Old 06-24-2012, 08:01 PM
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Hunter Gatherers:

Healthier- Probably not.

Happier- That one is subjective

Less work- Not likely

HG lived mainly a hand to mouth existence. Agriculture resulted in surplus. Surplus created more free time (less work). Time to think, experiment, create, invent. Art, technology, medicine (better health). Agriculture provided a more consistent diet (better health). Agriculture allowed people to settle in one place and build shelter, which translates to safety (better health).

There was a downside too. Surplus allowed for population growth. Population eventually outgrew the tribal structure. This created a shift in values resulting in conflict. Where as once people had to work together because they needed each other, the focus shifted from community to competition. Surplus also created wealth and that led to social stratification and corresponding conflict. Therefore, as I said, "happiness" is subjective.

I should mention that not all cultures followed this pattern 100%, but as a general rule that's how things unfolded. One can certainly make the case that the initial benefits of agrarian lifestyle eventually played out and left us with a society plagued by wars, disease, ecological disaster, etc.

I voted "depends on the situation"
Old 06-24-2012, 09:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WhoFlungPoo View Post
Who was more "affluent"? Speaking in terms of small scale populations during early or prehistory.

My personal bias is H/G societies were healthier, happier, and worked less.
This is a myth propagated by early Western education institutes that has continued down into the modern day.

Early H/G worked their butts off; men, women, children, old or young. It was not the image presented by Walt Disney of buckskin wearing "savages" with lots of free time to frolic in the woods with their animal companions.

General health was variable, but it was overall a world where the "strong survived". They got a lot of exercise, were a lot more hygienic than many think, and did try to take care of themselves as best as they understood. Just because they were primitive did not mean they were somehow less than us. They had a basic idea of healing and medicine and such in most primitive cultures; not unlike us they were not always correct (look up Thalidomide and trephination before bashing primitive beliefs).

There was generally a delineation of work on gender lines, but what was men's work and what was women's work varied according to the individual cultures. A broad and averaged out generalization goes something like this:

(Please note I am simplifying this all to a level I am actually uncomfortable with and am in no way attempting to perpetuate the myths of gender roles and the like or anything else).

The proven hunter type men would hunt, if they were NOT successful, some 8 hours or more per day (depending on how far they had to range while doing so). They left as soon as the sun was up and returned as the sun went down. They would be out much longer if they succeeded because butchering and carrying the prize back added to their time. It was a high energy, dangerous pursuit.

Younger men would forage and hunt smaller game. They were also involved in some of the construction and maintenance duties around camp, and those sorts of things. The men too young to hunt and too old or injured to hunt were often involved in tool making, gathering supplies for such (it is not like they lived by flint deposits all year) and more.

The tasks of women ranged wildly based culture to culture, by they ran the gamut from fishing, hunting and flushing game, preserving food, foraging, child care, teaching, animal care, and a lot of the "household" stuff, to defending the camp, collecting water, repairing camp goods, and more. Women in most cultures actually did a lot of the "heavy lifting" of camp life.

The elderly who could not hunt did everything from foraging to educating the young in language, basic skills (this is how to start a fire, this is how to make a knife, etc), wise person (you looking for THAT plant, well, around here at this time of year it can only be found...), and more. There were no "warehoused elderly" back then. Everyone kicked in.

H/G pretty much evolved into a proto-agrarian, where the people started to do stuff like spread plants they liked throughout favored areas and groomed certain plants they liked while eliminating competitions for those plants. From there true agricultural living allowed a change in both the timing and type of labor performed. It also gave way (with farming and a more sedentary lifestyle) to the production of surplus. It was surplus that was key to opening the way for civilization as we know it.

Tradesmen, artists, specialists, craftsmen, philosophers, religious experts (priests and such) and more all come out of surplus. It leads to professions you get paid for, trade of goods and services, accumulation of wealth, and more.


That is a basic, and uncomfortably generic breakdown.

I voted "Depends" by the way.
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Old 06-24-2012, 09:36 PM
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Allow me to be clear, agrarian living is tough too.

Why do you think old farm families had so many kids? You needed that many to work the fields effectively.

Heard the expression "necessity is the mother of invention"? Well, think about why so much of farm life was motorized and mechanized over the years...

Both of them were hard.

The one good thing they both shared, that we in modern society have largely lost, is a direct connection between the quality of our work and the quality of our life. It used to be, you put in a long day's work and could see what it got you. Not any more.
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Old 06-24-2012, 10:01 PM
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Hunter/gatherers had to work far less to make a living. Additionally, their way of life was far less destructive to the environment, they had a much slower population growth, and were more adaptable to environmental changes.

Agriculture on the other hand caused populations to explode, created a more sedentary lifestyle, limits the diet, depletes the landscape, encourages the growth of cities with means a lot more disease and sanitary problems, and makes the population more vulnerable to environmental changes -- particularly droughts and floods.
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Old 06-24-2012, 11:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Horned One View Post
Hunter/gatherers had to work far less to make a living. Additionally, their way of life was far less destructive to the environment, they had a much slower population growth, and were more adaptable to environmental changes.

Agriculture on the other hand caused populations to explode, created a more sedentary lifestyle, limits the diet, depletes the landscape, encourages the growth of cities with means a lot more disease and sanitary problems, and makes the population more vulnerable to environmental changes -- particularly droughts and floods.
While this is true, very true, people had a pretty good reason for switching to agriculture.
The very fact that they could plant plants, raise animals, and, for the most part, expect to have enough food to feed them throughout the winter was a huge plus. The idea that the clan would not have to pack up camp and track the game over the winter snows was attractive. That there was enough of a food surplus that some people could learn to be specialists and experts at certain things...which ultimately led to rapid technological advancement.
I actually find it spectacularly amazing that we, basically a chimp that can talk and walk on two legs, and is a bit smarter, but not hugely so, have advanced ( if you want to call it advancement, I'm not so sure) to the point where a large part of our population has never seen food in its natural state.
Has all this advancement caused problems? Yes, huge ones. Was life better as a hunter gatherer or an EARLY agriculturalists? To my thinking probably better as a farmer.
Nowadays, compared to a hunter gatherer...that is debatable. I find the fact that I and my wife are forced to live thousands of miles away from our parents and siblings to make a living makes hunting buffalo for a living and living in the tipi next door sound much better.
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Old 06-24-2012, 11:41 PM
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Um, history has pretty much proved this one.
Old 06-24-2012, 11:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Horned One View Post
Hunter/gatherers had to work far less to make a living. Additionally, their way of life was far less destructive to the environment, they had a much slower population growth, and were more adaptable to environmental changes.

Agriculture on the other hand caused populations to explode, created a more sedentary lifestyle, limits the diet, depletes the landscape, encourages the growth of cities with means a lot more disease and sanitary problems, and makes the population more vulnerable to environmental changes -- particularly droughts and floods.
Heh

Sounds much better to me. Much more stable existence in general and that created leisure (sedentary...with their diets, that was just fine) And limited diet? Not really...just because they had crops doesnt mean that's all they ate. Better defenses. Better chances to see one's genes passed on.

As for droughts and flood....stored resources enabled them to ride those out. And floods enriched their soil. It was the entire history of the Nile Delta.

The one area where H/G had ag beat was diseases.
Old 06-25-2012, 12:23 AM
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depends on how you want to look at it. with out agriculture we would not be were we are at today. is that good or bad hmmmmmmmm? once again depends on how you want to look at things. personally at times i wish they never started agriculture and left things the way they were.
Old 06-25-2012, 12:36 AM
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Heh

Sounds much better to me. Much more stable existence in general and that created leisure (sedentary...with their diets, that was just fine) And limited diet? Not really...just because they had crops doesnt mean that's all they ate. Better defenses. Better chances to see one's genes passed on.
Agriculture means a limited diet because only certain plants and animals are capable of being domesticated. Sure they may have still done a bit of hunting and gathering, but once agriculture took hold, the staples of their diet was limited to what could be tamed.

Defenses weren't really necessary until they agriculture. It was impossible to have a full time army in a hunter/gatherer lifestyle. Large scale war was a civilized invention.

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As for droughts and flood....stored resources enabled them to ride those out. And floods enriched their soil. It was the entire history of the Nile Delta.
Agriculture causes a population to increase beyond the natural carrying capacity of the land. When they were hunter/gatherers, droughts weren't a problem because they had long since adapted to the cycles of the land. With a greater population density, a drought meant massive starvation.

As far as storing food is concerned, some droughts can last years. We don't even have a year surplus of food in this country now. Have you known of any nation that could live only off its food stores for a year or more?
Old 06-25-2012, 12:42 AM
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Some points are so inane it's surprising.

Hunter-gathering is superior to agriculture?

Uh, no...only in the view of some children and the sort of people who think life in the wild is a matter of dancing to the wind in the trees. Remaining Hunter-Gatherers like the Pygmies in Africa, the Bushmen, the Aussie Aborigines inferior cultures included high infant mortality rates, short life spans and suffering and generally being reduced greatly with encounters with superior societies with an agricultural base.
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Old 06-25-2012, 12:53 AM
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Agriculture means a limited diet because only certain plants and animals are capable of being domesticated. Sure they may have still done a bit of hunting and gathering, but once agriculture took hold, the staples of their diet was limited to what could be tamed.

I disagree. Many many less commercial...or tradeable...things are/were grown and raised. Even now...people have 3 main meats and a few main staple grains. However they have/had spices and fruits and vegetables....and they developed more than sustenance cooking...they developed cuisine.

Defenses weren't really necessary until they agriculture. It was impossible to have a full time army in a hunter/gatherer lifestyle. Large scale war was a civilized invention.

Native Americans fought over resources all the time...best hunting and fishing grounds, best forests for chestnuts, etc. They 'warred' all the time. Same with tribes in Africa.



Agriculture causes a population to increase beyond the natural carrying capacity of the land. When they were hunter/gatherers, droughts weren't a problem because they had long since adapted to the cycles of the land. With a greater population density, a drought meant massive starvation.

Yes, but as a survival strategy it was still much more successful...many more people to survive. And they moved and adapted to many more different habitats to exploit and learn to grow in. And they also turned more to conquest....to take what they needed. Roman and Greek empires are good examples.

As far as storing food is concerned, some droughts can last years. We don't even have a year surplus of food in this country now. Have you known of any nation that could live only off its food stores for a year or more?

Again, the same can be said for H/G with much less safety net. When resources become limited, but drought or anything else, then they will be fought over. In an agrarian society, more people had more chance of surviving.

And in general, the standard of living and the chances of young surviving were much higher for agrarian societies. Hence, their success.

......................
Old 06-25-2012, 07:30 AM
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I've seen stone age people on National Geographic a couple of times. I think they averaged 2.5 hours of work per day. This was in the Amazon so results may vary compared to an African savannah.

Agriculture is responsible for our society as it currently exists. It allowed for the development of cities and the concentration of wealth. It leads directly to the development of technology and warfare. If there were no concentration of wealth, we would be less prone to war, and we would not have the means to develop technology.

Stone age people were bigger, stronger, and generally tougher. Their diets were highly varied compared to our own. The infant mortality rate for humans was through the roof up until the last 100 years or so. Technology has allowed us to bring it down dramatically.

It is a mixed blessing. Our high population makes us more likely to survive extreme events, but makes us vulnerable to famine, and the kinds of pollution that large populations generate. Hunter gatherers go extinct if say, a tornado or a flood rolls over them. Quantity has a quality all its own.
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Old 06-25-2012, 08:13 AM
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Hunter gatherers go extinct if say, a tornado or a flood rolls over them. Quantity has a quality all its own.
I'm not so sure about that. Remember that devastating tsunami in southeast Asia a while back? There are still some indigenous people living in the area that make their living from fishing. Anyway, just before the tsunami hit, the water drew back out into the ocean an alarming distance. The natives knew what this meant and headed for high ground, while the "civilized" people wandered out onto the beach with their video cameras to film it. Guess who had a higher mortality rate.

Seriously though, the hunter/gatherers had a much better chance to survive natural disasters. For one thing, most disasters are localized, and tribes tend to be spread out over a wide area, so even if a handful of tribes get wiped out, there will be more somewhere else.

Another thing that increases their survivability is that they don't live in large structures. If you look at earthquakes, most people are killed because a building or highway falls on them. What's an earthquake going to do to a hut or tipi?

Tornadoes are very localized, and so a lower population density work to the advantage of tribes.

Floods are usually cyclical, based on specific seasons and conditions, and tended to be less severe. The reason they are more severe in civilized areas is because they usually try to control the water by building levees. Then they build stick houses on this "flood plain." Tribal cultures would know the flooding cycles because it was tied to their every day existence and so would either avoid the flood plain or build huts on stilts.

About the only disaster where civilized humans might have an edge would be an extinction level event like the meteor that took out the dinosaurs. That's because we can store food for decades to be able to ride out the aftermath. That being said, I might put equal money on the Inuit to survive since they are already accustomed to cold and lack of sunlight.

In the end, the only proof we need that they could survive disasters at least as well as us is that they were still around after 300,000 years. Either that or natural disasters didn't exist until recently, which seem unlikely.
Old 06-25-2012, 09:00 AM
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I disagree. Many many less commercial...or tradeable...things are/were grown and raised. Even now...people have 3 main meats and a few main staple grains. However they have/had spices and fruits and vegetables....and they developed more than sustenance cooking...they developed cuisine.
Certainly diet depended on location, but overall hunter/gatherers had a much more diverse diet than modern civilized humans. That's because they had access to all the domesticable foods that we do, plus all the foods that do not respond well to domestication.

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Native Americans fought over resources all the time...best hunting and fishing grounds, best forests for chestnuts, etc. They 'warred' all the time. Same with tribes in Africa.


There is a huge difference between tribal competition and war of conquest. The bottom line is that without surplus foods and smaller populations, tribes simply couldn't sustain extended wars. They weren't better people, they simply didn't have the numbers or resources to wage war.

Even when tribes did go all out on each other, the "wars" were necessarily short because they couldn't afford to lose too many adult males.


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Yes, but as a survival strategy it was still much more successful...many more people to survive. And they moved and adapted to many more different habitats to exploit and learn to grow in. And they also turned more to conquest....to take what they needed. Roman and Greek empires are good examples.
Prior to civilization, humans lived in every type of climate on the planet from the arctic to the desert.

As far as turning to conquest goes, I count that as a point on my side.

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Again, the same can be said for H/G with much less safety net. When resources become limited, but drought or anything else, then they will be fought over. In an agrarian society, more people had more chance of surviving.
Particularly in regions where droughts are common, tribes tended to be spread out and scattered, so there wasn't much conflict. The rule of the desert was to share food and water with strangers, because one day it might be YOU who is the stranger. In most cases if you listed the worst social offenses, right behind murder and rape would be eating food in the presence of someone who had none.

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And in general, the standard of living and the chances of young surviving were much higher for agrarian societies. Hence, their success.
It depends on the standards you're looking for. As far as success goes, agriculture has had only short term success. Humans have been around for over 300,000 years, totalitarian agriculture has only existed for about 8,000 years, and has only been a world wide practice for less than 200 years.

In that time, we have depleted the Earth's resources and are approaching a serious collapse of the food system, and possible the ecosystem.
Old 06-25-2012, 09:14 AM
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Here is a reference for the 3 hour work day of stone age people.

http://www.waldeneffect.org/blog/Pre...e_hours_a_day/
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Old 06-25-2012, 09:31 AM
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Here is a reference for the 3 hour work day of stone age people.

...
Judging of what I have seen through my life for the average working person, that has not changed. Indeed many people may be at work for lots more hours than 3 but the actual work is likely to be about 1-2 hours.
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Old 06-25-2012, 11:12 AM
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Remaining Hunter-Gatherers like the Pygmies in Africa, the Bushmen, the Aussie Aborigines inferior cultures included high infant mortality rates, short life spans and suffering and generally being reduced greatly with encounters with superior societies with an agricultural base.
That's a big point right there. Hunter gatherer societies have always had to fight to protect their resources from other hunter gatherers.

Yet they were easily conquered by agriculture backed armies.
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Old 06-25-2012, 09:09 PM
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Quote:
Who was more "affluent"?
No contest, settled people with a division of labor were more affluent. Affluence is just stuff, or wealth.

In nomadic hunter gatherer societies there was little wealth, and people didn't want a bunch of **** to carry around. Settled people with agriculture had lots of stuff, albeit with a much larger range of disparity between the average Joe and the emperor, but there was more of it.
Old 06-25-2012, 09:12 PM
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Agriculture was the single greatest advance in the history of mankind.

Hunter/Gatherer lifestyles were unstable and unreliable. It also limited the size of the population.

Agriculture allows for the PRODUCTION of more food. And for the division of labor and specialization. People didn't have time, for example, to invent WRITING until we had agriculture. They were too busy trying to kill dinner or starve.
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