Wealth Part I


I wanted to do some deeper stuff on the concept of wealth and what it means. I figured the best place to start was at the beginning.

Modern humans (homo sapiens) emerged in Africa about 200,000 years ago. By the end of the Pleistocene era they had spread eastward along the Equator to India, Asia and Australia. As the glaciers retreated they moved north into Europe and across the Bering Strait into North America.

Early humans were hunter-gatherers, which basically means they wandered around looking for food. In some areas they needed protection from the environment too. From what we know of such people in more modern times they lived in tribes and wandered within set boundaries unless forced to go elsewhere.

That’s really not a lifestyle conducive to acquiring material possessions. You can safely assume that pretty much everything they owned was functional – tools, clothing and shelters. It was all handmade too.

Let’s say your tribe wandered into an unoccupied valley filled with game and wild foods. Life would be pretty good. But sooner or later other groups would join yours, and your own would grow. Eventually resources would become scarce.

Wealth in those days would consist of controlling enough resources to ensure the survival of your tribe. If you don’t have enough resources, some or all of your tribe will die during the winter.

As your tribe stays in the valley you become more knowledgeable about your environment and you make technological advances. You identify grains, nuts and roots that are edible after processing (such as drying, crushing and leeching out the tannic acid from acorns) and you learn how to preserve foods for the lean months. You also learn how to use certain leaves and seeds as well as salt to add flavor to your diet.

You develop tools like hooks and harpoons to catch more and bigger fish, and you develop tactics that allow you to hunt larger game and kill predators. You learn to make baskets and pots from reeds and clay, allowing you to transport and store food and water. You learn land management techniques like setting fires to clear out under brush, and you begin to domesticate sheep and goats.

While all the tribes in the valley migrate somewhat, some spend most of their time in the hills and others along the river banks. They occasionally meet and trade with each other, for both tribes mutual benefit.

All these innovations and the effort to use them mean that more food will be available, thus allowing your tribe to grow larger and still survive. But occasionally famine strikes and there are times of drought.


A Revolution

For generations upon generations your tribe has known that certain grasses produce an edible grain that can be harvested, dried and crushed into a powder. This powder can be mixed with water and eaten as a paste or the paste can be mixed with animal fat and baked on flat rocks to produce a bread. This has long been a staple of your tribe’s diet.

Then one spring a young know-it-all notices out that where some of the grain was spilled the previous fall there are now shoots of that grass growing. He pulls up some of the grass and sees that at the base of each is one of those grain pods, now split open with a green shoot and a root coming out.

He shows his father. “Shaddup and get to work” his father says, slapping him on the head. “I told you to tan those green hides and you better hurry up or I’ll tan yours!”

But this youngster doesn’t give up and eventually convinces his father to let him try an experiment. He spreads some of the extra grain leftover from the previous year (it was a very good year) on a bare patch of ground. Birds immediately swoop in and begin eating the grain.

“I told you it wouldn’t work” his father says, slapping him on the head. “Now go gather some firewood like I told you.”

But genius is not easily deterred. The boy reasons that if he covered the grain with dirt the birds couldn’t eat it. Using a sharpened stick to till the soil he plants some of the grain and covers it up.

A couple weeks later the boy shows his father a thick patch of green shoots emerging from the soil. “Look at how much grass is growing now!” he says.

“I always said you got my brains and your mother’s looks” his father replies.


It wasn’t quite that simple, but almost.

The basic concept of planting seeds started the Neolithic Revolution.

The Neolithic Revolution was the first agricultural revolution. It was the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture and settlement. Archaeological data indicates that various forms of plants and animal domestication evolved independently in six separate locations worldwide circa 10,000–7000 years BP (8,000–5,000 BC). The earliest known evidence exists in the tropical and subtropical areas of southwestern/southern Asia, northern/central Africa and Central America.

However, the Neolithic Revolution involved far more than the adoption of a limited set of food-producing techniques. During the next millennia it would transform the small and mobile groups of hunter-gatherers that had hitherto dominated human history into sedentary societies based in built-up villages and towns, which radically modified their natural environment by means of specialized food-crop cultivation (e.g., irrigation and food storage technologies) that allowed extensive surplus food production. These developments provided the basis for high population density settlements, specialized and complex labor diversification, trading economies, the development of non-portable art, architecture, and culture, centralized administrations and political structures, hierarchical ideologies, and depersonalized systems of knowledge (e.g., property regimes and writing). The first full-blown manifestation of the entire Neolithic complex is seen in the Middle Eastern Sumerian cities (ca. 3,500 BC), whose emergence also inaugurates the end of the prehistoric Neolithic period.


COMING TOMORROW: Wealth Part II


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20 Responses to Wealth Part I

  1. 1539days says:

    The scary part is that the ability of farmers to reclaim seeds from the previous harvest for planting is being destroyed by a company called Monsanto. They’ve genetically modified seeds to be “Roundup Ready,” able to grow even when doused with large amounts of pesticides. At the same time, those modified seeds are incapable of reproduction.

    Farmers who use pesticides have to buy new seeds every year, which would be their arrangement. The problem is that even farmers who want to grow without GM seeds are getting cross breeding if they are too close to another farm. Plus, Monsanto has been suing these farmers claiming they are stealing their patent. Apparently, a corporation can own something that developed over millions of years by exposing it to a virus and changing part of it’s DNA.

  2. votermom says:

    “I told you it wouldn’t work” his father says, slapping him on the head. “Now go gather some firewood like I told you.”
    But genius is not easily deterred. The boy reasons that if he covered the grain with dirt the birds couldn’t eat it. Using a sharpened stick to till the soil he plants some of the grain and covers it up.
    A couple weeks later the boy shows his father a thick patch of green shoots emerging from the soil. “Look at how much grass is growing now!” he says.
    “I always said you got my brains and your mother’s looks” his father replies.

    If you wrote my kid’s history textbook she would be much more enthusiastic about reading it.

  3. Mary says:

    OT: New CBS poll:

    Does Obama deserve to be re-elected?
    Yes 41%
    No 54%

    Inside numbers re yes/no: Dems 77/19
    Repubs 7/91
    Indep. 37/55

    That’s CBS—not Fox. Ruh roh.

  4. Evil early humans grouping into tribes, and worse, one tribe doing better than another tribe because they’re figuring things out. Clearly they weren’t part of the 99%.

    Back then if another tribe would camp out protesting that they should get a share, they’d be eaten. Ah, the good old days.

    • myiq2xu says:

      If you were lazy and didn’t do your share, your own tribe would kick you out.

    • DeniseVB says:

      One of my favorite books, Clan of Cave Bear (historical fiction ? derrrr… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Clan_of_the_Cave_Bear ) gave proof that the young cave lady, Ayla, was the first feminist 🙂

      Am I the only one who can’t wrap her brain around 80 gazillion years of human evolution yet to be in awe of the last 150 years our brains developed sooooo quickly to give us …. combustible engines and the industrial revolution which begat all kinds of cool stuff since the turn of the 20th century.

      • 1539days says:

        History builds on history. The first alloys were created 4,000 years ago. Combustible materials have been around for thousands of years.

        Now all the toys that are around now are just based on the integrated circuit. Mostly, they are the result of decades in the refinement of manufacturing processes. Harnessing electricity and the electric light bulb were the major events that advanced technology itself.

      • Loved that whole series- until the very last book. It was like it was not even written by Jean Auel.

        • DeniseVB says:

          The attempt at making a move was considered Adventure! Drama! Fantasy! 😀 It shows up on the classic movie channels now and then…

        • 1539days says:

          That’s the one with Daryl Hannah, right?

        • DeniseVB says:

          @days, yes. To be honest, I only know about the Cave book series (and movie) since one of my twin grandgirls was named after Hannah’s character. The other twin was named after a favorite Sex and the City character.

          😀

        • elliesmom says:

          I absolutely loved Clan of the Cave Bear, but as I continued to read the rest of the series, I realized that each book used more and more pages to recap what had happened in the previous books. I figured after the third book, I could start skipping at least the first half. By the time the last book came out, I guessed that only 10% of the book would be new story so I passed. What happened to Ayla in the end? I think it’s OK for you to post a spoiler. I don’t think anyone would mind. It’s currently 10,494 at Amazon.

  5. djmm says:

    Excellent summary and very well written, Myiq!

    djmm

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