Which Came First, Agriculture or Pastorialism?

Dave Chapman dchapman at well.sf.ca.us
Sun Dec 27 01:07:29 EST 1992


First, I would like to thank everyone who responded to my
original post.  The score so far seems like:

1.  The evidence suggests that agriculture came first, but is not
at all definite.

2.  When talking about pastorialism, we are not talking about animals
like the dog or cat, or even animals like the domestic rabbit.
We are talking about sheep, goats, camels, and cattle, which are large
food animals, frequently able to travel long distances.

3.  There is evidence (not much) suggesting that animals such as
reindeer were domesticated during the paleolithic.  If this is true,
the art may have been lost during the most recent glaciation, or
may have been a continuous cultural activity.

4.  Agriculture was invented by several different cultures at approximately
the same time, involving different plants.  It may not have been such
a big innovation after all.  It may simply be that no one bothered with
agriculture until population pressure had become extreme.

5.  From the meagre evidence regarding pastorialism, similar conclusions
can be drawn.  Apparently, several species of large food animals were
domesticated at approximately the same time.

On a more speculative note, there has been comment about the peaceful,
matriarchal early agriculturalists, versus the warlike, male-dominant early
pastorialists.  If this model is correct, the question arises:  Why did
the neolithic agricultural societies last as long as they did?  
One answer is that pastorialism simply did not exist until 
several thousand years after the invention of agriculture.  
I doubt this.

It is likely that the upper paleolithic cultures had distinct sub-cultures,
based on food sources.  Groups which hunted migratory animals probably
lived like migratory indians of the North American plains.  Groups which
relied on fish, shellfish, or very fertile land were more settled.
When the neolithic began, these existing cultural variations would
be amplified.  

-dave



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