Bacon and Ham spend some quality time with Mama Pork Chop.
corn and rice are the largest crops in the world. Wheat (right), perhaps
the first to be domesticated, grows in colder climates.
He reaches this conclusion because he sees little change in material culture when agriculture appeared. The tools, homes and clothing in archeological sites do not suddenly shift, as would happen if a new people had arrived with their crops and other baggage.
Despite earlier claims that farming spread gradually and inexorably across the continent, Price sees it as a herky, jerky phenomenon, with rapid advances followed by long periods of stability.
After reaching present-day Greece roughly 9,000 BP, farming spread into the southern Balkans around 8,600 BP to 7,600 BP, and from there northward and westward. Think of the progression as a shift from Greek baklava and Hungarian goulash to French crepes and Danish pastries.
Farming finally reached the frontier in Scandinavia starting around 6,000 BP, when the proto-Danes began raising wheat, barley, cattle, pigs and poppies. Evidence for its arrival includes impressions of cereal grains on wet clay and pollen left over from plants that grow only in pastures where cattle are present. No tinned Danish hams have been found -- yet.
farm 'n hunt
If diet did not change, society did, with a growing distinction between rich and poor. Large tombs for individuals and trade in amber, copper and other "prestige items" that appeared after farming all indicate an increase in social stratification. While crafts had been present before agriculture, a rapid increase in food production apparently gave some people time to specialize in them.
Price says agriculture seems to have pacified Scandinavia. Burials from the late Mesolithic (middle stone age), around 7,000 BP, indicate that life was nasty, brutish and rather short. At burial sites, "Almost 50 percent have traumatic injuries, violent deaths," says Price. "They were hit in the head by clubs, shot in the chest with arrows. You don't see that as much in the Neolithic [late stone age]." The decline in violence after agriculture is the kind of testimony to the farming lifestyle that Thomas Jefferson would have applauded.
Rather, Price looks to social systems, and particularly social inequality. While society had once been fairly egalitarian, powerful, rich people now wanted luxuries and trade goods. This phenomenon is seen in some non-westernized societies today (and in Westernized ones, too). This demand, and the rise of trading networks, created a need for food to trade. (See "Europe's First Farmers" in the bibliography)
cause to effect
Oddly, agriculture did not seem to help diet. In Denmark, Price says, the increased consumption of carbohydrates caused a wave of rotten teeth.
How about some fried fish to go with those ancient grains?
are 1 2 3
4 5 6 pages in this feature.
Bibliography | Credits | Feedback | Search