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Agriculture

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Originally from south China, Austronesians spread successively outward to Taiwan, Southeast Asia, and Oceania. Was farming the secret of their success? Or was it their mental makeup? (source: French Wikipedia - Maulucioni)
About 10,000 years ago, the pace of human genetic evolution rose a hundred-fold (Hawks et al., 2007). Our ancestors were no longer adapting to slowly changing physical environments. They were adapting to rapidly evolving cultural environments. What, exactly, caused this speed-up? The usual answer is the shift from hunting and gathering to farming, which in... Read More
Scenes of daily life from Sumer. The causes of civilization are not to be found in early art, writing, or architecture. These are merely the consequences of a preceding mental revolution. Humans have gone through three stages of development: hunting/gathering, simple agricultural societies, and complex agricultural societies. The last stage brought us most of what... Read More
Bird in a gilded cage Cavalli-Sforza’s last big project was the publication of The History and Geography of Human Genes, which came out in 1994. Since then, he has kept himself busy tying up loose ends. Advancing age is only one reason why he has lowered his sights. In fact, he had originally planned to... Read More
How long have Europeans been in Europe? Clearly, their ancestors were not Neanderthals, except for an admixture of 1 to 4%. What about the modern humans who came about 35,000 years ago as hunter-gatherers? Or did they too die out? Were they replaced by Middle-Eastern farmers some 9,000 to 3,000 years ago? This is an... Read More
In the late 19th century, a major concern was the poor health of industrial populations, particularly in England but also in other Western countries. The cause? For the medical profession, it seemed to be lack of sunlight. In densely packed tenements under the pall of factory smoke, not enough sunlight was getting through to kill... Read More
Many anthropologists have noted a correlation between the incidence of polygyny and the predominance of women in agriculture. The more women are responsible for producing food, the likelier men will have second or third wives. This correlation is especially evident in sub-Saharan Africa, where food is produced mostly by mothers hoeing garden plots and where... Read More
In sub-Saharan societies, female-dominated agriculture is associated with low paternal investment and high polygyny rates. Why? The short answer is that year-round tropical agriculture enables women to meet their food needs and those of their children without a male provider. Paternal investment thus tends to fall to zero and men are free to maximize their... Read More
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