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Comparison of Agriculture of Neolithic Revolution and Hunter-Gatherer Communities

Updated December 27, 2021
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Comparison of Agriculture of Neolithic Revolution and Hunter-Gatherer Communities essay

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10,000 years ago, the climate began to change and human population density was on the rise, causing many species of wild plants and animals to be driven to endangerment or extinction. Food became scarce, and our hunter-gatherer ancestors were in search of alternative methods of obtaining food. It was then that a group of people in the Fertile Crescent became the first to discover farming, thus sparking the start of the Neolithic Revolution and changing the course of human history forever. Some argue that the development of agriculture changed the fate of human beings for the worse, causing health problems and inequality that we are still trying to overcome in modern day. But regardless of whether life would have been better if we remained hunter-gatherers, the inevitable invention of farming is what allowed for human beings to survive, despite its drawbacks.

“The adoption of agriculture, supposedly our most decisive step toward a better life, was in many ways a catastrophe from which we have never recovered,” claimed Jared Diamond in his article, “The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race.” According to Diamond, switching to farming has caused nothing but trouble, having brought a vast array of complications that we would have been better off avoiding. When people switched to farming, they focused primarily on growing high-carbohydrate and calorie-dense foods such as rice, potatoes and maize.

While mass producing high quantities of these foods is what enabled larger, more condensed human populations to survive, the diets of post-farming communities provided far less nutrition than the diets of wild animals and plants consumed by hunter-gathers. The unvaried, starch-based diets they ate took their toll on the health of these early agricultural communities. As opposed to skeletons of pre-agricultural people, those of post-agricultural people show a significant decrease in height and an increase in bone conditions/diseases, which are indications of malnourishment and harsh physical labor. Many believe that farming also caused unprecedented sexual inequality.

In hunter-gatherer communities, women had the role of gathering wild plants, that was equally important as the hunting role of the men. But in agricultural communities, women’s roles became less important— they became regarded by men as inferior and were forced to do lower-level, more physically straining jobs. The lives of hunter-gatherers also seemed to be more laid back than the lives of agricultural people. Modern hunter-gatherers were observed to have an abundance of leisure time, such as the Kalahari Bushmen, who were reported to spend only 12-19 hours each week obtaining food, very much unlike the long hours spent doing back-breaking labor in peasant farming communities. Early farmers seemed to have a much lower quality of life than their nomadic predecessors.

From Diamond’s perspective, farming had major health defects on humans, and for this reason, people simply should have remained hunter-gatherers. However, as demonstrated in the article, “Hunter-gathers: Noble or Savage?”, when our ancestors adopted farming, it was not of free will, it was a necessary adaptation made in order to cope with a changing environment. According to the article, humans have been adjusting to changing environments for tens of thousands of years. In the Mediterranean, at first humans ate predominantly large mammals, but as the human population began to grow, these animals could no longer reproduce fast enough to keep up, and were soon hunted nearly to extinction.

In order to compensate, humans invented new hunting technology to catch smaller, faster prey. Essentially, this was the same as the adoption of farming. Humans were faced with a sudden cooling and drying climate, which posed a threat of starvation. Farming was just another way that humans innovatively solved problems presented to them by their environment. Despite being much healthier, the hunter-gatherer lifestyle was no longer sustainable with the growing human population and the declining of food sources, and continuing to live this way was no longer a plausible choice for humans wishing to survive.

Agriculture is blamed for causing an unfair sexual division of labor, where the women do more work than men— many people claim that women in hunter-gatherer societies were much better off. It has been made out to be that these hunter-gatherer women were treated well and shared a role was equal to men, when in reality, this was not the case. In, “Hunter-gatherers: Noble or savage?”, it was expressed that even in hunter-gatherer societies, women tended to contribute more labor than men in terms of obtaining food.

Men had an inefficient tendency of wanting to catch the biggest prey to boast about, which meant that smaller, more common and easy-to-catch prey were overlooked. Often times, only the women would come home with food for the tribe to eat, whereas the men provided nothing, similar to how agricultural women were burdened with the harder work that was unwanted by the males. Additionally, in hunter-gatherer societies, women were often made sexual prizes that were won from fighting, which also goes to show that although agricultural women in agricultural communities were treated poorly, hunter-gatherer women were not treated well either, and weren’t necessarily better off.

Diamond also argues in his article that hunter-gatherers enjoyed a higher quality of life than farmers, with less work and more leisure time. However, it is a misconception that hunter-gatherers enjoyed the low stress, pleasant lifestyle he described. In fact, hunter-gatherer societies have been shown to be incredibly violent. According to, “Hunter-gatherers: Noble or savage?”, approximately two-thirds of all modern hunter-gatherer tribes are in a constant state of warfare, and almost 90% of these tribes go to war at least once a year. This constant fighting between tribes is what kills about 30% of all adult males in hunter-gatherer society. Besides being excessively violent, it is likely that the claim that hunter-gatherers don’t spend much time obtaining food isn’t quite accurate. When the study on the !Kung of Botswana was done, the researchers did not properly account for travelling time and food processing time because the subjects of the experiment were given lifts in vehicles and metal knives to prepare food.

Despite its negative side effects on the health of early farmers, farming was the most realistic means for humans to overcome environmental challenges, so they took advantage of the situation. Furthermore, hunter-gatherer society was not the utopia that some people have portrayed it to be. Hunter-gatherer women didn’t necessarily lead far better lives than farming women. Hunter-gatherer societies were also extremely violent, with constant tribal warfare— they didn’t actually enjoy the lazy, relaxed lifestyle people may think. Whether we like it or not, people all over the world have switched to farming and there’s no going back, so it is futile to think about what could have happened if we hadn’t. People have been creating and solving problems for our entire history, and one day we will undoubtedly solve all the problems farming may have created.

Comparison of Agriculture of Neolithic Revolution and Hunter-Gatherer Communities essay

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Comparison of Agriculture of Neolithic Revolution and Hunter-Gatherer Communities. (2021, Dec 27). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/comparison-of-agriculture-of-neolithic-revolution-and-hunter-gatherer-communities/

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