IMPACT AND CONSEQUENCES OF EARLY AGRICULTURE

IMPACT OF AGRICULTURE ON DEVELOPMENT

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Triticum durum
The development of earliest villages in the Middle East coincide with first domestication of grasses like wild barley and wheat. Large fields with these wild grains are still found in Anatolia. Seeds from wild grains ripen over a period of three weeks. A individual using a flint-blade sickle can harvest about two pounds of grain an hour. Grain harvested by a group of people over a three week period can last them a year. Additionally, grain is easier to store than other foodstuffs because it can be dried and preserved and doesn't rot like some kinds of potatoes and vegetables.

Agriculture freed humans from the natural productivity of the territory they occupied and allowed them to manipulate their environment to meet their needs. This in turn allowed them expand their communities and meant they had to spend less time in the pursuit of food, freeing them to do other things.

Agriculture also allowed the birthrate to become significantly higher than the death rate. Many patterns of genetic variation come from population expansions spurred by the development of agriculture.

After the introduction of agriculture and livestock raising in Britain, there was dramatic shifts in what people ate. This was determined based on the presence of certain isotopes, linked with different foods, found in bones. Around 3200 B.C. there was a sudden shift from a predominately seafood diet to one consisting of foods from plants and animals.

Websites and Resources on Prehistory: Wikipedia article on Prehistory Wikipedia ; Early Humans elibrary.sd71.bc.ca/subject_resources ; Prehistoric Art witcombe.sbc.edu/ARTHprehistoric ; Evolution of Modern Humans anthro.palomar.edu ; Iceman Photscan iceman.eurac.edu/ ; Otzi Official Site iceman.it Websites and Resources of Early Agriculture and Domesticated Animals: Britannica britannica.com/; Wikipedia article History of Agriculture Wikipedia ; History of Food and Agriculture museum.agropolis; Wikipedia article Animal Domestication Wikipedia ; Cattle Domestication geochembio.com; Food Timeline, History of Food foodtimeline.org ; Food and History teacheroz.com/food ;

Archaeology News and Resources: Anthropology.net anthropology.net : serves the online community interested in anthropology and archaeology; archaeologica.org archaeologica.org is good source for archaeological news and information. Archaeology in Europe archeurope.com features educational resources, original material on many archaeological subjects and has information on archaeological events, study tours, field trips and archaeological courses, links to web sites and articles; Archaeology magazine archaeology.org has archaeology news and articles and is a publication of the Archaeological Institute of America; Archaeology News Network archaeologynewsnetwork is a non-profit, online open access, pro- community news website on archaeology; British Archaeology magazine british-archaeology-magazine is an excellent source published by the Council for British Archaeology; Current Archaeology magazine archaeology.co.uk is produced by the UK’s leading archaeology magazine; HeritageDaily heritagedaily.com is an online heritage and archaeology magazine, highlighting the latest news and new discoveries; Livescience livescience.com/ : general science website with plenty of archaeological content and news. Past Horizons : online magazine site covering archaeology and heritage news as well as news on other science fields; The Archaeology Channel archaeologychannel.org explores archaeology and cultural heritage through streaming media; Ancient History Encyclopedia ancient.eu : is put out by a non-profit organization and includes articles on pre-history; Best of History Websites besthistorysites.net is a good source for links to other sites; Essential Humanities essential-humanities.net: provides information on History and Art History, including sections Prehistory

Disadvantages of Agriculture

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emmer
The assumption that many people have is that agriculture was more efficient than hunter-gathering and since the production of food took less time, people were free to do other things such as create written languages, build temples, create social orders, organize religions, and produce advanced technology and works of art. Over time crops were raised that were suited for harvesting. It has been suggested that ceramic vessels were invented to help store food.

But Agriculture was not an easy answer to the problems of mankind. Columbia anthropologist Marvin Harris has argued that it “resulted in an increased work load per capita." In many ways an agricultural life was more difficult than a hunting life. People were deprived of their freedom. They were forced to settle down. It initially yielded a poorer diet than hunting and gathering as people presumably ate less of a variety of food and perhaps ate less meat. If there was a problem with the crop, people had more difficulty moving on, and perhaps were more likely to suffer from malnutrition or starve.

Early agriculture was rough on the teeth. Abrasive minerals found their way into the grain when it was ground with stone and wore down the teeth in many cases wearing through the enamel and reaching the sensitive dentine which is prone to infections and rotting.

Consequences of Agriculture and Animal Domestication

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Wild emmer wheat
The development of agriculture, grain storage and animals domestication made it possible to for populations to expand. Women became more sedentary which made it easier to raise large numbers of children. Children were no longer a burden that had to be carried along. They could harnessed at an early age to perform agricultural chores.

The population of the Middle East jumped from 100,000 in 8,000 B.C. to 3.2 million before 4,000 B.C. (a fortyfold increase in 4,000 years).

After agriculture and herding were developed, people were from freed foraging for food and were able to develop complex technologies and social organizations that gave them an edge over the people they conquered.

Timothy Taylor, an English archaeologist, has argued that the invention of farming played a major role in the oppression of women. "The domestication of animals and the availability of animal milk in addition to breast milk meant that women could raise their children in quicker succession than before, becoming even more tied to the hearth and home in the process."

Agriculture also led to the a more hierarchal society: When irrigation was developed someone had to control the water supplies and large numbers of laborers were needed to dig the ditches. The development of irrigation about 8,200 years ago occurred at a time when the world was undergoing a mini Ice Age.

Population increases produced deforestation and soil erosion. The pressure from domesticated animals caused large areas to become transformed into scrubland. It has been theorized that as this happened meat again became scarce, nutritional standards fell, disease were transmitted among domestic animals, setting the stage for a new age in which warfare and violence would play a major part in the lives of people.

Neolithic Farming: the Source of Modern Inequality?


It has been argued that the advent of agriculture launched mankind’s obsession with hierarchy and growth – and even changed how time was perceived.James Suzman wrote in The Guardian: “Most people regard hierarchy in human societies as inevitable, a natural part of who we are. Yet this belief contradicts much of the 200,000-year history of Homo sapiens. In fact, our ancestors have for the most part been “fiercely egalitarian”, intolerant of any form of inequality. While hunter-gatherers accepted that people had different skills, abilities and attributes, they aggressively rejected efforts to institutionalise them into any form of hierarchy. So what happened to cause such a profound shift in the human psyche away from egalitarianism? The balance of archaeological, anthropological and genomic data suggests the answer lies in the agricultural revolution, which began roughly 10,000 years ago. [Source: James Suzman, The Guardian, December 5, 2017. Suzman is author of “ Affluence Without Abundance”, Bloomsbury Publishing \=/]

“The extraordinary productivity of modern farming techniques belies just how precarious life was for most farmers from the earliest days of the Neolithic revolution right up until this century (in the case of subsistence farmers in the world’s poorer countries). Both hunter-gatherers and early farmers were susceptible to short-term food shortages and occasional famines – but it was the farming communities who were much more likely to suffer severe, recurrent and catastrophic famines. \=/

“Hunting and gathering was a low-risk way of making a living. Ju/’hoansi hunter-gatherers in Namibia traditionally made use of 125 different edible plant species, each of which had a slightly different seasonal cycle, varied in its response to different weather conditions, and occupied a specific environmental niche. When the weather proved unsuitable for one set of species it was likely to benefit another, vastly reducing the risk of famine. As a result, hunter-gatherers considered their environments to be eternally provident, and only ever worked to meet their immediate needs. They never sought to create surpluses nor over-exploited any key resources. Confidence in the sustainability of their environments was unyielding. \=/

“In contrast, Neolithic farmers assumed full responsibility for “making” their environments provident. They depended on a handful of highly sensitive crops or livestock species, which meant any seasonal anomaly such as drought or livestock disease could cause chaos. And indeed, the expansion of agriculture across the globe was punctuated by catastrophic societal collapses. Genomic research on the history of European populations points to a series of sharp declines that coincided first with the Neolithic expansion through central Europe around 7,500 years ago, then with their spread into north-western Europe about 6,000 years ago. \=/

“However, when the stars were in alignment – weather favourable, pests subdued, soils still packed with nutrients – agriculture was very much more productive than hunting and gathering. This enabled farming populations to grow far more rapidly than hunter-gatherers, and sustain these growing populations over much less land. But successful Neolithic farmers were still tormented by fears of drought, blight, pests, frost and famine. In time, this profound shift in the way societies regarded scarcity also induced fears about raids, wars, strangers – and eventually, taxes and tyrants. \=/

“Not that early farmers considered themselves helpless. If they did things right, they could minimise the risks that fed their fears. This meant pleasing capricious gods in the conduct of their day-to-day lives – but above all, it placed a premium on working hard and creating surpluses. Where hunter-gatherers saw themselves simply as part of an inherently productive environment, farmers regarded their environment as something to manipulate, tame and control. But as any farmer will tell you, bending an environment to your will requires a lot of work. The productivity of a patch of land is directly proportional to the amount of energy you put into it. This principle that hard work is a virtue, and its corollary that individual wealth is a reflection of merit, is perhaps the most obvious of the agricultural revolution’s many social, economic and cultural legacies.” \=/

Neolithic Farming and War


Images of fighting from a Neolithic cave in Spain

James Suzman wrote in The Guardian:“The acceptance of the link between hard work and prosperity played a profound role in reshaping human destiny. In particular, the ability to both generate and control the distribution of surpluses became a path to power and influence. This laid the foundations for all the key elements of our contemporary economies, and cemented our preoccupation with growth, productivity and trade. Regular surpluses enabled a much greater degree of role differentiation within farming societies, creating space for less immediately productive roles. Initially these would have been agriculture-related (toolmakers, builders and butchers), but over time new roles emerged: priests to pray for good rains; fighters to protect farmers from wild animals and rivals; politicians to transform economic power into social capital. [Source: James Suzman, The Guardian, December 5, 2017 \=/]

“A recent research paper examining inequality in early Neolithic societies confirms what early-20th century anthropologists already knew, on the basis of comparative studies of farming societies: that the greater the surpluses a society produced, the greater the levels of inequality in that society. The new research maps the relative sizes of people’s homes in 63 Neolithic societies between 9000BC and 1500 AD. It finds a clear correlation between levels of material inequality – based on the size of household dwellings in each community – and the use of draught animals, which enabled people to put far greater energy into their fields. \=/

“Of course, even the most hard-working early Neolithic farmers learnt to their cost that the same patch of soil could not keep producing abundant harvests year after year. Their need to sustain ever-larger populations also set in motion a cycle of geographic expansion by means of conquest and war. Thanks to studies of observed interactions between 20th-century hunter-gatherers such as the Ju/’hoansi and their farming neighbours in Africa, India, the Americas and south-east Asia, we now know that agriculture spread through Europe by the aggressive expansion of farming populations, at the expense of established hunter-gather populations. \=/

“The agricultural revolution also transformed the way humans think about time. Seeds are planted in spring to be harvested in autumn; fields are left fallow so they may be productive the following year. Thus farming-based societies created economies of hope and aspiration, in which we focus almost unerringly on the future, and where the fruits of our labour are delayed. But it’s not only our work that is future-oriented: so much of modern life is a tangle of social goals and often-impossible expectations shaping everything from our love-lives to our health. Hunter-gatherers, by contrast, only worked to meet their immediate needs; they neither held themselves hostage to future aspirations, nor claimed privilege on the basis of past achievements. \=/

“Understanding how the agricultural revolution transformed human societies was once no more than a question of intellectual curiosity. Now, though, it has taken on a more practical and urgent aspect. Many of the challenges created by the agricultural revolution, such as the problem of scarcity, have largely been solved by technology – yet our preoccupation with hard work and unrestrained economic growth remains undimmed. As environmental economists remind us, this obsession risks cannibalising our – and many other species’ – futures. \=/

“So it is worth recognising that our current social, political and economic models are not an inevitable consequence of human nature, but a product of our (recent) history. That knowledge could free us to be more imaginative in changing the way we relate to our environments, and one another. Having spent 95% of Homo sapiens’ history hunting and gathering, there is surely a little of the hunter-gatherer psyche left in all of us. \=/

Neolithic Farming: the Source of Inherited Wealth

According to a study of 5,000-year-old skeletons, being born to affluent parents meant something even in Neolithic times. Maev Kennedy wrote in The Guardian: “Hereditary wealth and privilege date back to the earliest days of farming in the Neolithic, according to researchers who have studied hundreds of ancient human skeletons. They found evidence that the wealth children were born into persisted right up to death and that rich people lived cheek-by-jowl with the poor – who scraped an existence from whatever they could find. "It seems who your parents were mattered even then," said Dr Penny Bickle of Cardiff University, one of the international team of researchers whose findings are reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [Source: Maev Kennedy, The Guardian, May 28, 2012]

“The study looked at levels of strontium isotopes, which can reveal the diet eaten in childhood, in more than 300 skeletons dating from the Neolithic period, around 7,000 ago, from sites across central Europe. Some of the male skeletons were buried with stone adzes – cutting and chopping tools – which were often beautifully polished and made from carefully selected stone, and so were probably also symbols of status and wealth. An analysis of the strontium isotopes in their tooth enamel showed these individuals had lived on food grown in "loess", the most fertile and productive soil. ^=^

“Because strontium markers are laid down in tooth enamel in childhood, it seems they hadn't earned but inherited this richer diet, and the fact that they were buried with the adzes suggests that they died as they had lived: privileged to the end. "This strongly suggests that access to the best soils was being passed on between generations," Bickle said. "Thus, while I think it's not news that status differences and subsistence specialisms date to the Neolithic, this is perhaps the first time we've been able to show that inheritance was a large part of this." ^=^

“The men buried without adzes, who seem to have been living in the same settlements, had variable strontium values, suggesting that their food came from less fertile soil. This was possibly a result of surviving on foraged wild plants or because they were deliberately excluded from farming the best soil. Isotope analysis also revealed that the women were more likely than men to have come from places outside the areas where they were buried, suggesting that they moved to live in the homes of their partners. Professor Alasdair Whittle, also of Cardiff University, said: "Our results are providing incredible detail about the lives of these earliest farmers, helping us to understand the ways in which they restructured their society at the beginning of farming."” ^=^


6500-year-old grave in Varna, Bulgaria


Farming’s Rise Cultivated Fair Deals

Bruce Bower wrote in Science: “Around 10,000 years ago, residents of large farming communities had to learn to make fair exchanges with strangers and to retaliate against selfish exploiters,” researchers proposed in the March 19, 2010 issue of Science. “Before the rise of modern agriculture and resulting trade, the researchers contend, people rarely had to behave this way with strangers. During Stone Age days, members of small hunter-gatherer groups exchanged favors only with those they knew. “Cultural and institutional evolution harnessed and extended our evolved psychology so that we could cooperate and exchange goods in vast communities,” says anthropologist and study director Joseph Henrich of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. [Source: Bruce Bower, Sciencenews.org, March 18, 2010 <*>]

“To arrive at this conclusion, the team set up money-swapping games played by people from small societies around the world — farmers, hunter-gatherers, seaside foragers, livestock herders, and wage laborers — and looked at how each group divvied up resources. Participants who regularly have to deal with outsiders treated strangers more fairly, sharing a pool of money or valuables more equally, the team found.Game players’ willingness to split up resources fairly with an unknown partner rose sharply with their “market integration,” or the extent that they lived in communities with market economies. The researchers measured market integration by calculating the degree to which families purchased food, rather than hunting or growing it. <*>

“Fair play also rose substantially among volunteers who subscribed to Christianity or Islam, as opposed to local religions. Large-scale religions with strict moral codes galvanize a “golden rule” approach to social exchanges, the researchers propose. Supernatural threats, such as the prospect of spending eternity in hell, and community-building rituals jointly promote fairness toward strangers, in their view. In addition, participants from the largest communities were most likely to punish players whom they regarded as offering unfair deals. That meant canceling the deal and getting nothing or paying part of one’s own pool of money to cause an even bigger loss for the unfair player. That’s not good news for traditional economic theories that regard self-interest as the engine of commerce. If those theories are right, players should take whatever someone else gives them, because that’s better than nothing. <*>

“Neither do the new results bode well for evolutionary psychologists who argue that people in small Stone Age groups evolved brain circuits for kin favoritism, tit-for-tat exchanges and protecting one’s own reputation. In their view, these biologically ingrained social tactics now often lead people astray, Blanche Dubois–style, by inducing excessive trust in strangers. “This new study powerfully challenges the view in evolutionary psychology that cultural inventions during the last 10,000 years are irrelevant to human cooperation,” remarks economist Ernst Fehr of the University of Zurich. <*>

“Market economies didn’t exist during the Stone Age, Fehr notes. But Henrich’s study indicates that the relatively recent expansion of market economies inspired a growing concern for dealing fairly with strangers, he says. People living in communities most like those of Stone Age hunter-gatherers — small in numbers and lacking a “moralizing god” — made the most unfair offers to strangers and were least likely to punish stingy partners. Reputation concerns and a focus on give-and-take exchanges can’t explain such behaviors, Fehr asserts. <*>

“Henrich’s data suggest that modern economic development has prompted people to find new ways to be selfish within vast markets, comments economist Karla Hoff of the World Bank in Washington, D.C. Henrich’s new data build on a previous study of fair play in 15 small-scale societies (SN: 2/16/02, p. 104). In each group, a person given a chunk of money or other valuable stuff tended to offer a substantial, but highly variable, share to an anonymous partner. Partners often rejected offers deemed to be too low, resulting in both parties getting nothing. <*>

“In the new study, three economic games were played by 2,148 volunteers from 15 small-scale populations, including five communities from the earlier project. Community sizes ranged from 20 to 4,600 people. One game allotted an amount of money, set at one day’s local wage, to a pair of players who could not see each other. One player decided how much to keep and how much to give to the other player. This provided a basic measure of fair play toward strangers. A second game worked in much the same way. But the receiving player first decided the amount that he or she considered a minimum acceptable offer. If that minimum was met, the deal went through. If not, both players got nothing.A third game was similarly framed, but also provided one-half day’s local wage to a third person who observed the action. The observer first determined the amount of a minimum acceptable offer between the other players. If the offer fell short, the observer forked over 20 percent of his or her pot and the offending player lost triple that amount. Going from a fully subsistence-based society with a local religion to a fully market-based society grounded in Christianity or Islam led to increases in amounts offered by players of about 23 percent in the first game, 20 percent in the second game and 11 percent in the third game.

Teeth Problems That Arose with Agriculture 12,000 Years Ago


Homo sapien versus Homo erectus teeth

In 2015, University College Dublin reported: “Hunter-gatherers had almost no malocclusion and dental crowding, and the condition first became common among the world’s earliest farmers some 12,000 years ago in Southwest Asia, according to findings published today in the journal PLOS ONE. By analysing the lower jaws and teeth crown dimensions of 292 archaeological skeletons from the Levant, Anatolia and Europe, from between 28,000-6,000 years ago, an international team of scientists have discovered a clear separation between European hunter-gatherers, Near Eastern/Anatolian semi-sedentary hunter-gatherers and transitional farmers, and European farmers, based on the form and structure of their jawbones.” [Source: University College Dublin, February 5, 2015]

Professor Ron Pinhasi from the School of Archaeology and Earth Institute, University College Dublin, the lead author on the study, said: “Our analysis shows that the lower jaws of the world’s earliest farmers in the Levant, are not simply smaller versions of those of the predecessor hunter-gatherers, but that the lower jaw underwent a complex series of shape changes commensurate with the transition to agriculture,” “Our findings show that the hunter gatherer populations have an almost “perfect harmony” between their lower jaws and teeth,” he explains. “But this harmony begins to fade when you examine the lower jaws and teeth of the earliest farmers”.

“In the case of hunter-gatherers, the scientists from University College Dublin, Israel Antiquity Authority, and the State University of New York, Buffalo, found a correlation between inter-individual jawbones and dental distances, suggesting an almost “perfect” state of equilibrium between the two. While in the case of semi-sedentary hunter-gatherers and farming groups, they found no such correlation, suggesting that the harmony between the teeth and the jawbone was disrupted with the shift towards agricultural practices and sedentism in the region. This, the international team of scientists say, may be linked to the dietary changes among the different populations.

“The diet of the hunter-gatherer was based on “hard” foods like wild uncooked vegetables and meat, while the staple diet of the sedentary farmer is based on “soft” cooked or processed foods like cereals and legumes. With soft cooked foods there is less of a requirement for chewing which in turn lessens the size of the jaws but without a corresponding reduction in the dimensions of the teeth, there is no adequate space in the jaws and this often results in malocclusion and dental crowding. The link between chewing, diet, and related dental wear patterns is well known in the scientific literature. Today, malocclusion and dental crowding affects around one in five people in modern-world populations. The condition has been described as the “malady of civilization”“

Agricultural Methods Of Early Civilizations May Have Altered Global Climate

According to the University of Virginia: “Massive burning of forests for agriculture thousands of years ago may have increased atmospheric carbon dioxide enough to alter global climate and usher in a warming trend that continues today, according to a new study that appears online Aug. 17 in the journal Quaternary Researchers at the University of Virginia and the University of Maryland-Baltimore County say that today's 6 billion people use about 90 percent less land per person for growing food than was used by far smaller populations early in the development of civilization. Those early societies likely relied on slash-and-burn techniques to clear large tracts of land for relatively small levels of food production. "They used more land for farming because they had little incentive to maximize yield from less land, and because there was plenty of forest to burn," said William Ruddiman, the lead author and a professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia. "They may have inadvertently altered the climate." *[Source: University of Virginia, August 18, 2009]

“Ruddiman is a climate scientist who specializes in investigating ocean-sediment and ice-core records. In recent years he has searched across scientific disciplines – anthropology, archaeology, population dynamics, climatology – to gain insight into how humans may have affected climate over the millennia. He said that early populations likely used a land-clearing method that involved burning forests, then planting crop seed among the dead stumps in the enriched soil. They would use a large plot until the yield began to decline, and then would burn off another area of forest for planting. *||*

“They would continue this form of rotation farming, ever expanding the cleared areas as their populations grew. They possibly cleared five or more times more land than they actually farmed at any given time. It was only as populations grew much larger, and less land was available for farming or for laying fallow, that societies adopted more intensive farming techniques and slowly gained more food yield from less land. Ruddiman notes that with the highly efficient and intensive farming of today, growing populations are using less land per capita for agriculture. Forests are returning in many parts of the world, including the northeastern United States, Europe, Canada, Russia and even parts of China. *||*

“The positive environmental effects of this reforestation, however, are being canceled out by the large-scale burning of fossil fuels since the advent of the Industrial Revolution, which began about 150 years ago. Humans continue to add excessive levels of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, contributing to a global warming trend, Ruddiman said. Five years ago, Ruddiman made headlines with a hypothesis that humans began altering global climate thousands of years ago, not just since the Industrial Revolution. That theory has since been criticized by some climate scientists who believe that early populations were too small to create enough carbon dioxide to alter climate. *||*

“According to projections from some models of past land use, large-scale land clearing and resulting carbon emissions have only occurred during the industrial era, as a result of huge increases in population. But Ruddiman, and his co-author Erle Ellis, an ecologist at UMBC who specializes in land-use change, say these models are not accounting for the possibly large effects on climate likely caused by early farming methods. "Many climate models assume that land use in the past was similar to land use today; and that the great population explosion of the past 150 years has increased land use proportionally," Ellis said. "We are proposing that much smaller earlier populations used much more land per person, and may have more greatly affected climate than current models reflect." *||*

“Ruddiman and Ellis based their finding on several studies by anthropologists, archaeologists and paleoecologists indicating that early civilizations used a great amount of land to grow relatively small amounts of food. The researchers compared what they found with the way most land-use models are designed, and found a disconnect between modeling and field-based studies. "It was only as our populations grew larger over thousands of years, and needed more food, that we improved farming technologies enough to begin using less land for more yield," Ruddiman said. "We suggest in this paper that climate modelers might consider how land use has changed over time, and how this may have affected the climate."”

Ancient Farmers Linked to Disappearing African Rainforests


Ancient Farmers may have played a role in the disappearance of rainforests in central Africa, a study suggests. Popular Archaeology reported: “Scientists have long held that some of the rainforests of Central Africa disappeared about 3,000 years ago, abruptly replaced by savannas due to a dramatic shift in the regional climate. However, the conclusions of a recent study now suggest that it was not climate change alone that may have been responsible for the shift -- that humans may have had a big hand, as well. [Source: Popular Archaeology, February 9, 2012 ^*^]

“Germain Bayon and a research team of colleagues conducted a geochemical analysis of a marine sediment core taken at the mouth of the Congo River and determined that the sediment had undergone very significant chemical weathering around 3,000 years ago. While climate change at the time was a factor, the weathering also coincided with the arrival of Bantu-speaking farmers from the region that now encompasses modern-day Cameroon and Nigeria. These Bantu peoples, according to the researchers, brought their agriculture and iron smelting technologies with them, possibly contributing to and enhancing the changes that impacted the Central African rainforests. As they intensified their land use by cutting down trees to create arable land for agriculture and iron smelters, the ensuing erosion and effects on the climate helped to create a drier, more savannah-like landscape around 3,000 years ago, resulting in the conditions we see today. ^*^

“Reports Bayon, et. al., "evidence from our proxy record that chemical weathering rates at that time were unprecedented during the last 40 thousand years clearly suggest that the environmental impact of human population in the central African rainforest was already significant about 2500 years ago, at least greater than that induced by the Late Quaternary (the past 0.5-1.0 million years) climatic oscillations”. This paper is published online by the journal Science, at the Science Express website/ ^*^

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Nature, Scientific American. Live Science, Discover magazine, Discovery News, Ancient Foods ancientfoods.wordpress.com ; Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, BBC, The Guardian, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, World Religions edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); History of Warfare by John Keegan (Vintage Books); History of Art by H.W. Janson (Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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