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Yarn of insignificant questions

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kurczak

Section Moderator
WB
I'm not terribly surprised, I knew they were clever and routinely pass the mirror test. But still, impressive, cute and a little scary.

I haven't even played Dawn of Man in a while, but yeah :smile:
 
But what about the rest of the planet? I'm struggling to believe that there had been no domesticable plants anywhere on the planet for 290,000 years. What about the Papuans who discovered agriculture independently, but also around that time or even slightly later. I'm struggling to believe that the fact there were ice caps went as "far" south as northern or central Europe had any relevant impact on the ecology of an island that's literally on the equator. So what changed for Papuans after 10k BC?

oh hey we had this discussion like 5 years ago lol

My thoughts on it weren't formed properly back then but the reason agriculture seems to develop so "late" is that it's not actually easier than hunter-gathering. Even as late as the 1100s there are cases of agriculture "devolving" into hunting or herding in the fertile crescent.

The key variable seems to be population density. Agriculture doesn't take long to develop, it's not particularly complicated, and it's the natural extension to gathering. But once people reach a critical mass of population density they are forced to farm. I actually saw this irl in Kenya, where all the Masai I talked to were complaining that their nomadic lifestyle was basically over since they were so densely packed, and you could see that the temporary huts they built were stuck in rows like a suburb. They seem to be putting off farming as long as possible, because compared to just rearing a few hundred cattle, farming sucks.

Also what maintains farming even when populations fluctuate is the state and tax. In the labour-intensive, irrigation-reliant Mesopotamian plain in the Abbasid period, the administrators experimented with chattel slavery and different kinds of tax setups to make sure the region was constantly farmed, because if it wasn't, it would turn to a dustbowl and ruin the state. But by about 900 AD that is exactly what had happened, and Iraq never returned to intensive farming until the modern period. But what's interesting is that peasants almost within a generation went straight to herding and gathering and practically vanished from history. It wasn't until around the 1500s that farming really took over again. This is probably what happened to the Mayans and Garamantians and other "lost" civilisations that seem to suddenly vanish from archaeology.

In Papua and any other tropical climate, pickable food is so plentiful that I can imagine anything resembling a settled state constantly haemorrhaging people who just go off into the bush if they've had enough of the state.
 

Count Delinard

Lord of Uxkhal
Global Moderator
WBNWVC
You’ve lived in rural Kenya as well? :smile: I too think it had a lot to do with the fact that farming is not a direct upgrade on hunting-gathering unless it's actually needed (pop density) or more rewarding.

@kurczak Here's a little model I wrote some time ago trying to understand that very thing (yeah, it's heavily influenced by GGS so Monty will hate it :razz:)

56hC-.png
 

Pentagathoos

Regular
What they said.
But also regarding tools, we aren't just able to conceptualise them but also we can actually make them. Opposable thumbs are pretty... handy. My dog could be a genius (he's not) but he would still be unable to build much because his body isn't conducive to fine motor skills. And of course there have been other humanoid primates that made tools, they just didn't survive alongside us.
 

MadVader

Duhpressed
Duke
M&BWB
There's an east-west axis in Eurasia that makes sideways movement easier? Do people take this as a serious argument?
 

kurczak

Section Moderator
WB
Ok, lot's of specific claims that might be fun to bet bogged down in, but I want to stick to my larger point, which it seems I'm not expressing clearly.

Whatever the exact mechanics and proximate causes of the transition to agriculture (and by agriculture I mean pastoralism too, any mode of living when you take charge and actively develop your source of calories, instead of just hoping they will be somewhere out there) as it happened in the upper Paleolithic, it doesn't explain my actual question - why it happened at that time, and that time only. When, as we know now, even if it was a cope the first few generations, it soon turned out to be a massive advantage and agricultural societies completely obliterated hunter-gatherer ones in a very short time (on the time scale I'm talking about)

Maybe it wasn't such an immediate upgrade and it was more a necessity/cope. Maybe it was ennui. It's sill weird that whatever set of conditions it was, it wasn't really that rare because it happened on at least 5, maybe even 10 or more different occassions in different places. The Papuans did eventually domesticate, on their own initiative, a couple plants and animal species. It didn't snowball as much as it did elsewhere, but it also never went away. So, the circumstances were not that rare, it didn't happen just once, so you could argue that "oh gee it was such an unlikely and unpredictable event, truly as close as you can get to a miracle without going supernatural". Yet, all those instances happened in a very short time interval (short relative to the total span of the species). I expect there would be local overpopulations all time time during those 300k years that would force them to experiment with agriculture (again including pastoralism).

That's what I meant with tool-making too. It is such a massive advantage, that I find it shocking that the sum of life on Earth generated this mutation/innovation only once* over the billions years of life on Earth.

I don't have an agenda here, I'm not trying to suggest it was exactly as <my religion>has been saying all along. Or that it was the Annunaki or black obelisks or whatever :smile: Although....I'm also not saying it wasn't it :xf-cool:
 

Adorno

Bedroom Assassin
Archduke
WBNWM&BVC
You know you ask a good question when people start answering with focus on what they know, and ignore the essence of the question :smile:
 

Pentagathoos

Regular
Wheeeeeel, I don't know much about this shizzle but I'm not sure where the boundary between domesticating livestock and just following and/or managing wild herds to hunt them is, or how much more efficient the former one might be. I imagine times of changing climate the various types of animals that people hunted would change their migration patterns so the people would migrate to follow them. And if the herds can't sustain themselves how would early farmers sustain them if they aren't growing crops?
I guess it's possible that there were earlier experimentations with agriculture and the evidence is either so far unfound or will never be found because the areas where it happened are under the sea now. AFAIK people have always preferred living by the coast, and I think the earliest found sites of agriculture are in settlements where people were more like fisher-gatherers than hunter-gatherers.
 
it doesn't explain my actual question - why it happened at that time, and that time only. When, as we know now, even if it was a cope the first few generations, it soon turned out to be a massive advantage and agricultural societies completely obliterated hunter-gatherer ones in a very short time (on the time scale I'm talking about)

I think a good comparison can be made to the animal kingdom. Total obliteration of less efficient food gathering techniques doesn't always happen and there are lots of cases of symbiotic hunter / herder / farmer / gardener setups which stayed intact for centuries. There isn't one singular food pool, there are a plurality. I think gatherers are the exception here since they are almost always in direct competition with farmers, but for the most part it's like an average animal habitat where there are niches that get filled by different species that mostly leave each other alone.

What's more it's not like there is really a clear boundary between hunter-gathering and farming. Most gatherers will purposely cultivate specific areas so that there is more when they come back, and hunters like in precolombian america shaped the land to make it easier for hunting and to allow deer populations to grow. Again I don't think farming ever needs to be "discovered", which is why I think the question "Why didn't X develop cereal agriculture" should instead be "why did anyone develop it at all".

My point in that post is that the back and forth between more and less land-efficient methods was anything but linear and I don't think there was ever a guarantee that sedentary cereal food producers would "win" in the end, even on a scale as small as Papua. The entire history of pre-gunpowder Asia for example is a long list of super developed agrarian states getting destroyed or taken over by herders.
 

Pentagathoos

Regular
So I found some stories on this 2015 study:
Apparently there's evidence of agriculture dating back 23,000 years. If this is legit that obviously questions the question
 

Count Delinard

Lord of Uxkhal
Global Moderator
WBNWVC
There's an east-west axis in Eurasia that makes sideways movement easier? Do people take this as a serious argument?

It's based on Jared Diamond's idea that Eurasian farming and herding had a larger surface area to develop compared to Mesoamerica or Africa. It's probably the silliest and most poorly thought out idea in his book.

Yes, that part of the book is especially dumb. He does explain some obvious things such as crops growing in warm Mexico not being adapted to growing in cold Canada (longitude) but the rest of that argument is extremely far fetched.

Some other things you can see in the model above (especially the first two columns) do make a bit more sense though.
 

Adorno

Bedroom Assassin
Archduke
WBNWM&BVC
I have a stupid question. You know nuclear submarines, that don't need to regularly resurface like the diesel powered ones.
But it's also a clever power source. Why is it not widely used on large cargo ships e.g. ?
I know it's very expensive but cargo ships travel the world practically 24/7 all year round and constantly need to refuel.
 

MadVader

Duhpressed
Duke
M&BWB
Without googling, I'd speculate the cost of the nuclear plant is prohibitive, so only militaries build it for their boats. The Americans use it for carriers too as they'll need a fleet of tankers to refuel them otherwise.
 
Military submarines need to hang around in one area for months and are unlikely to get torpedoed or blown up or whatever, and they also benefit from having small hulls, so the risk of nuclear fuel is low while the utility is quite high. Cargo ships on the other hand are sinking or crashing all the damn time, are always on the surface, and don't need to be out at sea for that long anyway.
 

eddiemccandless

Knight at Arms
WBNWVC
For some reason the technology also wasn't developed to the point where it is feasible to use for a civilian vessel (as in there are no designs that make it economically feasible for a random merchant ship to use). I suspect that a lot of it has to do with the possible liabilities associated to such a ship blowing up. It would be a lot to deal with for a civilian owner, it's just not worth the trouble when the traditional propulsion methods work just fine (from an economic point of view, most of them don't care about pollution).
 
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