Genetic Engineering In Antiquity
When one considers the evolution of civilization, we tend to focus our attention on our major accomplishments such as the development of writing, the building of monumental structures and the wars, battles and conflicts that shaped a nation. The meteoric rise of nation-states around 6,000 years ago still confounds historians. Why did it occur? In their search, they tend to overlook the mundane things that set the stage for these rapid changes to transpire. Yet, even in the commonplace, how some of the simplest things came into being is still a mystery.
Agriculture is a defining achievement in the development of civilization. Other accomplishments, such as laws, cities and even the written language were built upon the structure that agriculture provided. For thousands of years our ancestors survived by living a hunter/gatherer lifestyle. They were omnivores and lived on a diet that included fresh meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, seed and nuts. Then about 10,000 years ago, people from remote parts of the world (Mesopotamia, China and Mexico), abandoned their foraging way of life and began cultivating crops. In cultures where agriculture became their base, civilization soon appeared. This was a remarkable change for nomadic groups that survived through hunting and gathering for hundreds of thousands of years.
Experts have suggested that living a hunter/gatherer lifestyle was difficult and time-consuming. They imply that the development of agriculture allowed people to live in large, sedentary communities where they would have more leisure time. This paradigm shift supported job specialization, which, in turn, facilitated the development of the arts, writing and other technical advances.
Robert Guisepi, of the International History Project, states, “There is nothing natural or inevitable about the development of agriculture. Because cultivation of plants requires more labor than hunting and gathering, we can assume that Stone Age humans gave up their former ways of life reluctantly and slowly.” Agriculture is touted as an upward evolutionary step. Our focus as humans shifted from the simplicity, yet uncertainty, of hunting and gathering to a greater dependence on the labor-intensive cultivation of crops.
These early farmers worked all day instead of a few hours a day, as did their hunter/gatherer predecessors. The freedom they had once experienced was lost to work schedules that had to be met. This change ultimately led to a lower quality of life and a decline in overall human health. According to Dentist and Naturopath Dr. Alison Adams, “The archeological fossil record indicates that the introduction of the agrarian diet coincided with a massive decline in the health and vitality of the population. Prior to this time there was no evidence of degenerative diseases or tooth decay, but with agriculture both men and women lost considerable height which has only now been recovered after 10,000 years. There is also evidence that there was a massive increase in infant mortality at this time.”
The dilemma we face, as we look at the development of agriculture, is why was a more difficult set of behaviors reinforced and ultimately adapted? What compelled man to forego his independence for the impersonal and complex political life of the city? Was the advent of agriculture and its associated stratified society a natural part of man’s natural social evolution or was there some intangible factor that motivated this drastic change? Theories do exist, yet few satisfactory answers have emerged to answer this paradox.
Yet, within a few thousand years, the old hunter-gatherer style of social organization started to decline. It was replaced by a society that was hierarchical. As villages and then cities grew, governments, socioeconomic classes, and specializations emerged. Wars between rival groups began with the rise of property ownership. This behavior was unseen in the hunter/gatherer society who had no concept of land as something belonging to one person or group.
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