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The Worse Mistake In Human History

1713 words - 7 pages

Most people would argue that the transition from hunting and gathering of food to agricultural food production was the best innovation in human history. We are taught to believe that this innovation gave rise to civilization, allowed for more leisure time in which people could then focus on arts and allowed for a higher yielding, more consistent and reliable food source. Despite some of the innovations that sprang from agriculture, upon a closer look, we can see that with the advent of agriculture came class division, gender inequality, less leisure time, overpopulation, diseases, deficient diets and starvation. The transition from hunting and gathering to agricultural food production may have been the worst mistake in human history.
Hunter-gatherer is a term applied to those people that exist by gathering wild plants, fishing, hunting, and foraging for other types of food stuff. According to Kent Flannery, the hunter-gatherer culture has been characterized as having close family ties or kinship’s, a remarkably sophisticated knowledge of indigenous plants and animals, egalitarian societies and relatively small groups or bands consisting of between twenty-five to thirty-five people (Flannery, 2002). Hunter-gatherer bands did not have hereditary titles of authority, rank or leadership. The basis for leadership depended on a persons skill, age, experience, personal charm and popular opinion. The division of labor was largely established by a persons age, gender and ability to do certain tasks. Men tended to hunt while women did the gathering although they could do either or if they wanted to. The transition to an agrarian society changed the complete structure of how the hunter-gatherer lived and interacted.
Agriculture provided the economic base for a hierarchical society. Surpluses and stored foods brought on the concept and practice of private ownership and led to the discrepancies and stratification in social order. Jarred Diamond argues that, “hunter-gatherers have little or no stored food, and no concentrated food sources, like an orchard or a herd of cows: they live off the wild plants and animals they obtain each day. Therefore, there can be no kings, no class of social parasites who grow fat on food seized from others.” (1987). He also argues that the food surplus created by early farmers made it possible for humans to establish a non-food-producing sector such as kings, chiefs, bureaucrats and priests. Once food is stockpiled, a social and political elite emerges, taking control of food production and asserting the right to taxation; procuring food for themselves through the work of others allows them to have more leisure time and engage in political or other social activities (1997). Agriculture not only gave rise to a ruling class of kings and scribes based on hereditary rights, but also to an elite class of specialized craftsmen, such as pottery makers or smiths. This divided the society into a ruling class of elites who enjoyed...

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