In ‘Sapiens: A brief history of mankind,’ Y.N.Harari (obviously a learned man) claims, in a chapter titled ‘History’s Biggest Fraud,’ that ‘the Agricultural Revolution was a trap.’ He wrote ‘This is the essence of the Agricultural Revolution: the ability to keep more people alive under worse conditions.’
So, who set the trap? Who was responsible for this alleged fraud? Was the life of the hunter-gatherer better than the life of a settled grower of wheat and other foodstuffs?
As indicated in my recent posts, I am interested in why Early Man, Homo Sapiens (or whatever) decided to build a hut to live in, and tame some wild grasses (over a number of years) to become digestible wheat in today’s Middle East.
Comparable but independent developments are claimed to have occurred in other parts of the world, growing maize and beans in Central America, potatoes in South America, rice and millet in China, pumpkins in North America, sugar cane and bananas in New Guinea, and millet, rice and sorghum in West Africa.
I quote Harari: ‘Who was responsible? Neither kings, nor priests, nor merchants. The culprits were a handful of plant species, including wheat, rice and potatoes. These plants domesticated Homo Sapiens, rather than vice versa.’
More from Harari: ‘We did not domesticate wheat. It domesticated us.’
Does Harari explain the shift to agriculture by Early Man? Not in my view. We need to know the trigger, the motivation. We need to understand the path followed to settlement, even if only on a part-time basis. As well, what do we know about the physical condition of the hunter-gatherer and early farmers?
While I do tend to see ‘purpose’ in some survival strategies in the plant world, could we extend this alleged motivation to the wild grasses of yore in relation to Early Man?
Why would a forager become sedentary? Intervention by kindly extraterrestrials sounds more plausible. And why is the thought of such intervention so frightening?