Lecture 16: Food Production

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Food Production - Neolithic Revolution

  • In Europe and Asia, they adopted the Neolithic lifestyle, (when people turned to food production).



  • An evolutionary process of plants and animals, where their genetic and phenotypic changes are a result of artificial selection by humans. These changes result in the plant or animals becoming dependent on humans to survive and reproduce.


  • a part of agriculture where people encourage the growth, reproduction and spread of certain plants.
  • Example
  • By burning fields, planting seeds in favorable locations etc. These plants may or may not be dependent on humans.

Egyptian animal plant interactions


  • a specific type of cultivation where humans encourage the growth, spread and reproduction of domesticated plants. We refer to this commonly as farming.
  • Domestication is about changes in the plant or animal genotypes and phenotypes, so an evolutionary process. Cultivation and agriculture are about changes in human behaviour, so a cultural process.

neolithic revolution ag-pg1

What Happens

  • Subsistence\rightarrow Concentrate on fewer species (mostly domesticated) of plants and animals. Narrow their diet.
  • Settlement\rightarrow Decrease in mobility. There are year round settlements, resulting in small permanent villages. This made it easier to plant (preparing the ground, seeding, taking care of it, harvesting and storing). Although they might move to a better land area (if it has more food available, better climate etc). There are more cemeteries.
  • Material culture\rightarrow More use of pottery (which is fragile and heavy, good for storage use and for cooking. Could be used to signal identity). Start to see more grinding stones which are smooth and polished, taking a lot of time and effort to create but they are very strong and durable. They can start to accumulate many heavy things since they don't move around as much. Some people own more things than others, maybe because they are leaders (needed to solve problems in dense populations) or because they are the kin of elders. (Start to see inherited status and social differentiation).
  • Social organization\rightarrow The whole society owns the land, but as people go into the field, they start gaining their own territory.


Why and How

Environmental explanations

  • Childe
  • Oases theory\rightarrow After the ice age in the Near East, the environment is dry and forces people to live in an oasis where there are many people in one areas and are forced to use food smartly in order to feed everyone. The environment acted as a limiting option.

Demographical explanations

  • Binford packing model
  • An idea that because of population pressures (population increase in density and the population having reached carrying capacity), people were forced to focus on the increase in productivity of their food.
  • Flannery board spectrum foraging\rightarrow When people get pushed out of good environments and had to eat what was in these other environments to survive.

Socio-cultural factors

  • People were forced to leave their area, and many people didn't because they'd lived there a long time. Their home village had already become an important ceremonial and traditional center for them, a place of sentimental value. Or in another case they might be forced to stay in their population because of other groups on either side of their territory threatening them or not giving them space to leave. There is a need for leaders, who have to organize the settlements and solve disputes. They also have to provide and care for the community members. Their family may have a high status.

All of these are probably important

  • it's different in different areas. But everywhere there is a continuum from earlier behaviours (practices from the archaic, Mesolithic and Epi-Paleolithic people). There are gradual changes in behaviour.

Pathways to Food Production Around the World

Examples of Agricultural Lifestyles in (mostly) Sedentary Communities

  • Near East
  • Africa - Egypt-Nile Valley and Sub-Saharan
  • Asia - South Asia and China
  • Europe - Balkans/Greece and Bandkeramic
  • Mexico/Central America
  • South America\rightarrow Coast and Amazon
  • Southwestern North America - Hohokam, Mogollon, Ancestral Pueblo (Anasazi)
  • Eastern North America
  • Know these four - where, main plants and animals they ate, if they are independent or adopted and why the developed.

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