New study argues climate change was not responsible for the Agricultural Revolution

From Springerlink: Stable climate and plant domestication linked

New study argues climate change was not responsible for the Agricultural Revolution

Sustainable farming and the introduction of new crops relies on a relatively stable climate, not dramatic conditions attributable to climate change. Basing their argument on evolutionary, ecological, genetic and agronomic considerations, Dr. Shahal Abbo, from the Levi Eshkol School of Agriculture at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, and colleagues, demonstrate why climate change is not the likely cause of plant domestication in the Near East. Rather, the variety of crops in the Near East was chosen to function within the normal east Mediterranean rainfall pattern, in which good rainy years create enough surplus to sustain farming communities during drought years. In the authors’ view, climate change is unlikely to induce major cultural changes. Their thesis is published online in Springer’s journal Vegetation History and Archaeobotany.

Climate-based explanations for the beginning of new agricultural practices give environmental factors a central role, as prime movers for the cultural-economic change known as the Near Eastern Neolithic or Agricultural Revolution (about 8500 B.C., 10500 cal. B.P.*). Dr. Abbo and team studied the traditional farming systems which existed until the early twentieth century in the Near East, looking for insights into the agronomic basis of the early days of Near Eastern farming, and to shed light on the possible role of climatic factors as stimuli for the Agricultural Revolution.

Their detailed analysis demonstrates that climate change could not have been the reason for the emergence of grain farming in the Near East. They find that farming requires a relatively stable climate to function as a sustainable economy and therefore is not a sustainable option in times of climatic deterioration.

The authors conclude, “We argue against climate change being at the origin of Near Eastern agriculture and believe that a slow but real climatic change is unlikely to induce revolutionary cultural changes.”

*calibrated years before the present

Reference

1. Abbo S et al (2010). Yield stability: an agronomic perspective on the origin of Near Eastern Agriculture. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany; DOI 10.1007/s00334-009-0233-7

The full-text article is available to journalists as a pdf.

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45 thoughts on “New study argues climate change was not responsible for the Agricultural Revolution

  1. “Climate-based explanations for the beginning of new agricultural practices give environmental factors a central role, as prime movers for the cultural-economic change known as the Near Eastern Neolithic or Agricultural Revolution (about 8500 B.C., 10500 cal. B.P.*). ”
    “Their detailed analysis demonstrates that climate change could not have been the reason for the emergence of grain farming in the Near East. They find that farming requires a relatively stable climate to function as a sustainable economy and therefore is not a sustainable option in times of climatic deterioration.”
    10,000 years ago the climate was not deteriorating.
    It was getting warmer.
    I guess an ice age is not a good time to farm.

  2. Farming success longterm keeps improving and i see the warmists are declaring drought. We have always had some years of drought. We can seem to have them explain why we had drought 100 years ago before warming hockey sticks came along. I had an employee that was a global expert in plant science and engineering. It was inriguing to speak with him. He is as a hobby now using legacy old seeds. It is interesting to see how they do in his garden. I do admit we need to keep the alarmists away from agriculture. They seem to have wild and unproven notions.

  3. Reported a couple of days ago, a house was discovered in Tel Aviv that is around 8,000 years old. What is more interesting, though, is the possibility that the area was inhabited between 13,000 to 100,000 years ago.
    ” Flint implements ascribed to earlier periods were also discovered at the site: a point of a hunting tool from the Middle Paleolithic period (100,000 BCE) and items that date back to 13,000 BCE. ”
    http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1263147866435&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/Printer
    That means that people were living in the Middle East during the last ice age. Did they have agriculture, however primitive?

  4. Seems like a pretty dumb paper. Even in times of climate change the climate can be stable over the short term.
    Climate Change =/= Climate deterioration (as latitude says)

  5. “They find that farming requires a relatively stable climate to function as a sustainable economy and therefore is not a sustainable option in times of climatic deterioration.”
    So what other option is their. Hunter/gatherer? They would have to demonstrate that hunting/gathering is more stable than controlled agriculture. I don’t care how unstable the climate is – controlled agriculture is always going to be more stable than hunting/gathering, everything else being equal. For the mere fact that, instead of relying on random, naturally selected areas of plants to gather from, you take the seeds from those plants and put them closer to your front door. And those animals you were hunting? Put them in a corral and fatten them up.

  6. Well said!
    So increased water flow in the area didn’t contribute to the decision to farm at all? Hmm, my grandfather would have respectfully disagreed.

  7. “They find that farming requires a relatively stable climate to function as a sustainable economy and therefore is not a sustainable option in times of climatic deterioration.”
    Looks like the AGW escape route is going to be “no matter what the cause, climate deterioration is bad and will lead to unsustainable ecomonies so we must do something to prevent it.”
    Now where did I put my grant request?

  8. “Kath (13:28:48) :
    Reported a couple of days ago, a house was discovered in Tel Aviv that is around 8,000 years old. What is more interesting, though, is the possibility that the area was inhabited between 13,000 to 100,000 years ago. ”
    Nothing special. Even Europe was inhabited by Homo Erectus 400000 years ago. Some old spears found in Schoeningen: (german)
    http://www.schoeningerspeere.de/
    Here’s an english description of the Schoeningen spears:
    http://www.trussel.com/prehist/news10.htm

  9. “(We) believe that a slow but real climatic change is unlikely to induce revolutionary cultural changes.”
    That is an incredibly asinine statement.

  10. Utter nonsense. Right now there are university departments coming up with new strains of plants that tolerate more heat, less heat, more cold, less cold, more water, less water, more bugs, less bugs, more pollution, less pollution, more Sun, less Sun, the list goes on. Plant engineering for the purpose of getting plants to grow in a different climate is driven by the market. Who doesn’t want to grow wine in Alaska?
    Same thing happened with South Fork (a canyon in the Wallowa’s that was gouged out by glacier action). Hasn’t had a boat load of snow for 40 years so flat landers thought it would be keen to have a year round log cabin home in the forest. Last year those log cabins were buried beyond their roof line in snow.
    Climate change clearly drives agricultural matters and markets. It also leads stupid people to make stupid choices.

  11. “Steve (13:33:54) :
    […]
    So what other option is their. Hunter/gatherer? They would have to demonstrate that hunting/gathering is more stable than controlled agriculture. I don’t care how unstable the climate is – controlled agriculture is always going to be more stable than hunting/gathering, everything else being equal.”
    In a harsh climate, summers can be all wrong – too dry in early summer so that seedlings don’t grow, too wet later so that the corn fouls before ripe. Also the early varieties of corn had very little gain – you needed to preserve half of the harvest to have enough to seed the next year. Relying only on agriculture must have been like gambling for early farmers.
    OTOH, when your population density is low, there will always be enough deer to hunt and fish in the river. Think again about reliability.

  12. As the origins of agriculture also coincide with the end of the Pleistocene – or the end of the Younger Dryas event, might it be there was a lack of game available as a lot of animals died out or their populations were reduced at this time. Just a thought. The use of grain by humans in a recent article on Science Daily places it way back into the Palaeolithic so such things were semi-farmed by hunter gatherers. In addition, grass is the one thing that grows the quickest after landscape fire. It goes to seed very quickly. It is possible grasses were grown out of necessity at the end or beginning of the Younger Dryas

  13. The common perception is based upon that statement that the agriculture revolution was established in the beginning of the Holocene.
    But there are questions, about we do not know.
    What we know, is that there was a rapid sea level enhancement when the glaciers, mostly in the norhern hemisphere, startet to decline.
    Could there be a possibility that there maybe has been farmers near the shoreline when the sea level was 130 m lower, not only hunter gatherers?
    And, a question to the audience, are there any papers that could show that there has been done research looking after pre Holocene and now under water settlements ?

  14. same joan robinson who wrote the above:
    5 Jan: Joan Robinson: Global warming and other environmental dangers may be solved by unlikely source — space technology
    In what may sound like science fiction, the authors of Paradise Regained offer several examples of space technology solutions for environmental crises on Earth. Those solutions include:
    •Space-based solar power plants to reduce dependence on fossil fuels
    •Extracting Helium 3 from the lunar soil and building a fusion reactor using Helium 3
    •Mining asteroids for resources
    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-01/s-gwa010510.php
    search robinson + global warming for more articles.
    missed out on commenting on the earlier carbon fraud thread, but:
    (mother of rupert) Murdoch backs green school curriculum
    Dame Elisabeth is the patron of the Global Green Plan Foundation, which along with corporate company Fuji Xerox, will distribute the curriculum materials to other schools…
    http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-national/murdoch-backs-green-school-curriculum-20090508-axbt.html
    Australia, Belgium Find More Cases of Carbon Fraud
    In the case of Global Green Plan, the company had participated in a government program designed to encourage home owners to use green power, reports SmartCompany. Under the GreenPower scheme, Global Green accepted payments from customers and promised to purchase renewable energy certificates on their behalf, but the company was eventually deregistered from the program, and didn’t use all the money to buy the certificates, according to the article.
    http://www.environmentalleader.com/2010/01/07/australia-belgium-find-more-cases-of-carbon-fraud/
    Murdoch’s Daughter Hosts Obama Fund-Raiser
    David Blood, who runs an investment fund with former Vice President Al Gore that specializes in environmentally-friendly companies, is also listed as an “event host.”
    http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/04/01/murdochs-daughter-hosts-obama-fund-raiser/
    the above explains why – apart from fox on occasion – murdoch media remains pro-AGW.
    and the following recent NYT smear piece is self-explanatory:
    9 Jan: NYT: A Fox Chief at the Pinnacle of Media and Politics
    He played a well-chronicled role in the decision in 2004 by Lachlan Murdoch, Mr. Murdoch’s eldest son, to leave the company; he thought Mr. Ailes was intruding on his corporate turf. Two other Murdoch children, Elisabeth, a television producer in London, and James, the only Murdoch scion employed at the company, are sympathetic to Democratic causes and frequently voiced concerns to their father during last year’s presidential campaign about Fox News’s coverage of Mr. Obama…
    “I am by no means alone within the family or the company in being ashamed and sickened by Roger Ailes’s horrendous and sustained disregard of the journalistic standards that News Corporation, its founder and every other global media business aspires to,” said Matthew Freud, who is married to Ms. Murdoch and whom PR Week magazine says is the most influential public relations executive in London….
    At a town hall forum on Oct. 26 sponsored by one of his newspapers, he had a heated exchange with Richard Shea, a Democratic councilman who was running for town supervisor. “I turn around, and there he is,” said Mr. Shea, who won the election. “He starts right in on the zoning. He says, ‘What are you trying to hide from me in the zoning?’ He said, ‘I own the newspaper.’ ”
    Mr. Shea continued, “My takeaway was that this guy is pretty much threatening me.”
    Mr. Ailes said he simply asked for Mr. Shea’s phone number and complained about “environmental zealots” in the town. “I am a conservationist,” he said. “I try to put the bottle in the right can.”..
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/10/business/media/10ailes.html?hp

  15. Climate is always the determining factor regarding the type of crop farmers grow.
    For example, the Romans grew wheat in England, as when they first invaded they found our warm climate was ideal for this crop – they also grew grapes as far as York. When the climate cooled, they gradually withdrew from England and one of the factors which speeded this was the loss of grain production.
    The same thing will happen in northern USA when the cold starts to bite, and again short season cold resistant crops will replace grain as the staple food.
    More turnips anyone?

  16. Well evidently there are some folks who claim the exact opposite.
    Scientific American March 2005; Front cover Story; Did Humans Stop an Ice Age; 8000 years of Global Warming.
    William F Ruddiman. Anybody ever here of him. The first heading of his first paragraph is “The Scientific Cnsensus.”
    This is his famous paper that shows data from two Antrctic ice cores With carbon dioxide abundance goign in exacrtly the opposite directions at the same time; and all in the last 1000 years.
    And for sheer statistical genius he gets an overall trend line, by joining the very first data point from ice core 1, about 750 BC, to the very last data point of ice core 2 around 1950. Sheer genius if you ask me.
    So Ruddioman says humans stopped the ice age which we should have had by now by agriculture; so these new researchers have it all backwards.

  17. What do we call those who claim to predict the unpredictable and those who read shakespear in the writings of monkeys?

  18. My two cents: I believe agriculture was truly started when fermentation was discovered. Yeah, I think the original farmers were growing grains for beer. Actually, there’s some evidence for this, and, frankly, I can’t think of a better reason to grow crops.
    As far as corn (*warning educational content*): the word corn is derived from an Old English / Middle English word ‘korn’. It meant ‘small grain’ and could refer to small grains of anything. In the Christian Bible, ‘corn’ usually refers to grains of rye. The ‘corn’ in your corn beef, or more properly corned beef, is salt – it is beef that has been preserved using the small grains of salt. The vegetable, corn, or Indian Maize (sorry, I know that’s not a PC term) is indigenous to the Americas The European invaders, er settlers, had no word for it, and the generic term ‘corn’ was applied.
    If you like this sort of thing, check out the origin of ‘pumpernickel’ or George Carlin’s 7 forbidden words.

  19. I understood that the generally accepted driver of the development of agriculture was that, as another poster pointed out, a lack of game animals and fish in the Levant, as well as ready availability of animals and grains suitable for domestication.
    The interesting effect of this was not all beneficial:
    “…During the Neolithic, population density increased from 10 to 50-fold over the Paleolithic, supported by the spread of grain-farming. .. meat consumption fell to 10-20% of the Paleolithic level with this transition in subsistence.
    Neolithic sites show an increasingly settled way of life as exemplified by evidence of food storage. However, farming was hard work, and skeletal evidence shows signs of the heavy effort needed, which–combined with a diet adequate in calories but barely or less than adequate in minerals from the depleting effects of phytate (phytates in grains bind minerals and inhibit absorption)–led to a state of low general health. The considerable decrease in stature at this time (roughly 4-6 inches, or 12-16 cm, shorter than in pre-agricultural times) is believed to have resulted from restricted blood calcium and/or vitamin D, plus insufficient essential amino acid levels, the latter resulting from the large fall in meat consumption at this time (as determined by strontium/calcium ratios in human bone remains).
    Most disease stressors in evidence at this time came from crowded settlement, and included hookworm, dysentery, and malaria …”
    http://www.beyondveg.com/nicholson-w/angel-1984/angel-1984-1a.shtml

  20. Since agriculture developed independently on different continents by domesticating different locally found potential food crops at different periods during the last say 10,000 years, it’s unlikely to be attributable to one factor and assuming favorable conditions, may have more to do with the human brain.

  21. Most of human population in the ice age likely lived near the coast which moderated the cold weather. Today those areas are all underwater as sea levels have increased 100 meters. A large population lived in the Black Sea basin having migrated during the cold Younger Dryas. Then the Black Sea abruptly filled up as a result of rapid warming, maybe the basis for the Biblical Flood.
    Agriculture likely developed as a result of increased population making hunting and gathering more difficult as a result of shortages in animals and edible plants (wild wheat). Agriculture meant more leisure time in non-growing seasons, and freed men up to build pyramids and fight wars to build empires.
    Civilization began in Western Asia (Europeans call it the Near East), so no surprise agriculture developed there first. Europeans were barbarians for most of mans civilization, perhaps due to the harsher climate. In fact, during the MWP agriculture flourished in Europe driving the economy and increasing prosperity to the point men in Europe had enough time and energy to launch the Crusades and liberate Jeruselum and Spain.
    As a result of deforestation, some scientists suggest the LIA was due to changing albedo as crops reflected more light that trees. Interesting that in the NH there has actually been reforestation over the last 60 years, and one wonders if some part of our warming over this period is due to more trees and less cropland (more CO2, fertilizers, warmer temps, better irrigation, increase crop yields and require less crop land).
    It’s interesting that starting from the 17th century wheat futures were dictated in part by sunspots. Wheat futures dropped when many sunspots were spotted, and increased when there were few spots. They knew many sunspots met warmer temperatures and more wheat, and no spots meant cooler temperatures and wheat shortages. Despite our scientific progress, the suns role in climate is still not well understood, perhaps less so than it was 400 years ago.

  22. The 1977 book “The Food Crisis in Prehistory” by Mark Nathan Cohen proposed that the move to agriculture was motivated by overpopulation pressure on the hunter/gatherer resources. Basically, that people knew how to farm but preferred the hunter/gatherer lifestyle. This made a lot of sense to me at the time. After all, hunting and gathering was probably an easier lifestyle than dirt farming. That is, as long as the resources were plentiful. Is it possible that the increasing human population had outrun the increasing hunter/gatherer resources; both due to a warming climate?
    Dang, now I’ll have to reread the book to see if it still makes sense and if the climate aspect was addressed.

  23. I recall from reading that book on the little ice age that advances in agricultural technology helped mitigate the food shortages and starvation caused by global cooling. As I recall it was crop rotation. Many times adversity is the mother of invention.
    There is one theory (supported by some archaeological measurements) that humanoids advanced more during the ice ages than during interglacial periods.

  24. However, climate change was likely the cause of the development of urban societies. The Euphrates valley climate dried after the Holocene optimum (around 5,000 years ago) and this seems to have co-incided with the development of irrigation, which allowed high yield agriculture and the development of urban centers in the middle of the irrigated areas.

  25. Those of you wondering what grain, it was almost certainly wheat, or the noble grasses that preceded wheat, the first genetically engineered (or at least domesticated) food. What I remember from my first semester of a four semester Technology in Civilization sequence is that wild grass seeds, like many seeds, were gathered by our ancestors. Our ancestors who first planted these in early farming efforts, when gathering seed, would have selected the larger grain heads to plant the next season, and would have been more successful in gathering grain that is slow to drop their seeds after maturation. After centuries of this something like modern wheat emerged somewhere around 10K years ago. Probably not coincidentally, the domestic cat lineage started with as few as 5 individual wildcats in about the same place and the same time. Stored grain attracts mice, and cats that could tolerate people would have a competitive advantage…

  26. This seems to show whar Mr Gore has neglected, that humans are not daft and when life gets tough we think and come up with good stuff, well the ones who get it right survive and the early versions of warmists died of being incorrect, (oh yes please today!) I would expect the country that comes out of this ahead will be the one that is run by slightly right wing leaders with conservative principles and no carbon scams, I would like to think it will be Canada (that is why I came here) who will be the first to start quoting the biblical story of Noah’s Ark??

  27. Who says you can’t publish a negative result?
    I say that because I would presume that the null hypothesis is not that the agricultural revolution was caused by climate change!

  28. Native American remains in the Mississippi Valley show similar deterioration when maize growing replaced hunting and gathering. Dental health also went downhill. Farming, however, produced enough spare people and time to pile up dirt into very large ceremonial mounds. Scientific American, years ago had an article claiming that hunting and gathering went on in the dense forests of N. Europe for long after agriculture came in because human and game animal populations were in balance. Also, cutting down old growth trees with stone axes is not fun. There are two books on human life during the lower sea levels of the last ice age. Graham Hancock’s “Underworld” is frustrating, lots of speculation but no evidence. Another book, “Eden in the East”, I can’t find the book in my overflowing shelves so I can’t list the author, is less wildly speculative and more grounded in what we do know about the geography of the continental shelves and the return of the sea stand. The author has a lot on Sundaland, an area south of S. E. Asia with twice the area of India that was dry land. And where does the onset of agriculture in the Americas fit into the climate history?

  29. Climate change causes improvements in farming and livestock management practices.
    I have spent over 50 years in agriculture, much of It in high desert Great basin area. Low rainfall and short growing seasons, climate change happens every year. Making changes to practices every year is nessesary to suceed.
    Educated people often make poor farmers as they know all the answers.
    Farmers that do the same thing the same way year after year are doomed to fail (starve). Farmers that invent new ways in a changing climate will prosper.

  30. Based on the description here, the findings aren’t really that surprising. In times before rapid innovation, successful farming would have been based on a combination of crops and techniques evolved to be robust to seasonal (and multi-seasonal) variations around long-term climatic conditions, which we know change slowly in terms of human generations.
    Changes would have happened at the margins, except in times of drought spanning many seasons. Migration and crop selection would have rewarded good decisions and penalized poor ones.
    Successful societies will have left the most evidence of their civilizations for us to find. Favorable climatic conditions certainly help, but they probably aren’t the most important global determinant.

  31. One of the oldest clay tablets with writing on it has what looks like a recipe for making bread… but wait, there’s more!
    In some versions, the “bread” is just a mid point ingredient to show that there is yeast growing in the ground up grain and to preserve it (the “baking” is only enough to dry and sterilize the surface, but not ‘kill’ the interior).
    It then continues to break up the bread and dissolve it in water and let it ferment until nice and frothy… i.e. making BEER.
    Folks have recreated one of these recipes:
    http://oi.uchicago.edu/research/pubs/nn/fal91_civil.html
    This vocabulary is one of the more significant cultural contributions of Mesopotamian scribes, providing exhaustive lists of words […] The 23rd tablet is a list of about 350 lines with terms referring to a) soups and stews, b) brewing, and c) flours, breads and pastries.
    Oppenheim’s publications included a technological study of the over 160 terms dealing with the manufacture of beer. […] I thought it appropriate to contribute an edition of two Sumerian drinking songs, preserved on clay tablets of the 18th century B.C.

    When your language has 160 words in it, the process has been around for a while…
    This tablet:
    http://www.theplumber.com/cuneifor.html
    gives the rations for a set of folks 2040 BC working for the Mesopotamian City Governor. They got equal rations of beer and bread.
    For Bama: 5 quarts beer; 5 quarts bread; 5 ounces onions; 3 ounces oil; 2 ounces alkali
    Notice which is listed first…
    One of the common ingredients in the ancient Egyptian medical texts is beer (though in fairness, we have since found out that they didn’t have a very sterile grain storage process and a tetracycline producing bacteria often grew in the grain or beer). That is why mummies are found to have tetracycline in them and why Egyptian beer really did cure many ills… Here is a photograph of a statue / model of a pharonic tax collector overseeing the bottling of beer. The tax guy is the one in the back with a tablet…
    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:EMS-89615-Rosecrucian-Egyptian-BeerMaking.jpg
    http://carecure.rutgers.edu/forum/showthread.php?t=3911&page=2
    It is very clear from the presence throughout all of recorded history and from the fact that hunter gatherers spend fewer hours per day getting food than do agricultural societies, that the foundation of civilization was, and is, beer.
    We settled down to farm so we could get a large excess of grain. And it wasn’t just for eating 😉
    There you have it. “Smith’s Theorem of the Foundation of Civilization”. And given that prohibition in the USA lead directly to the Great Depression (followed by the Giant party… followed by the Worst World hangover II, sometimes abbreviated WWII) I suggest that we have confirmation that civilization as we know it collapses without beer, and thus would never have begun without it. 😉
    From:
    http://cas.bellarmine.edu/tietjen/images/neolithic_agriculture.htm
    The cradle of civilization
    In the Near East, archaeologists have been studying early agriculture for decades, and it was here that the idea of the Neolithic Revolution was born. Yet even here, it seems there was a long and winding transition to agriculture. And although settled village life appeared early in this region, its precise connection to farming is still obscure.
    The latest findings come from Abu Hureyra, a settlement east of Aleppo, Syria, where the inhabitants were at least semisedentary, occupying the site from at least early spring to late autumn, judging from the harvest times of more than 150 plant species identified there to date. Among the plant remains are seeds of cultivated rye, distinguished from wild grains by their plumpness and much larger size. University College London archaeobotanists Gordon Hillman and Susan Colledge have now dated one of those seeds to some 13,000 years ago, according to unpublished work they presented at a major international workshop in September.dag If the date is confirmed, this rye will be the oldest domesticated cereal grain in the world.

    “And them good ‘ol boys were drinkin’ whiskey ‘n Rye, and singin’ …”
    I make that the oldest Octoberfest on record …
    Hey, it’s not me saying it, it’s in the archaeology…
    from:
    http://www.alabev.com/history.htm
    From the Gilgamesh Epic, written in the 3rd millennium B.C., we learn that not only bread but also beer was very important. This epic is recognized as one of the first great works of world literature. Ancient oral sagas from the beginning of human history were recorded in writing for the first time. The Gilgamesh Epic describes the evolution from primitive man to “cultured man”.
    “Enkidu, a shaggy, unkempt, almost bestial primitive man, who ate grass and could milk wild animals, wanted to test his strength against Gilgamesh, the demigod-like sovereign. Taking no chances, Gilgamesh sent a (prostitute) to Enkidu to learn of his strengths and weaknesses. Enkidu enjoyed a week with her, during which she taught him of civilization. Enkidu knew not what bread was nor how one ate it. He had also not learned to drink beer. The (prostitute) opened her mouth and spoke to Enkidu: ‘Eat the bread now, O Enkidu, as it belongs to life. Drink also beer, as it is the custom of the land.’ Enkidu drank seven cups of beer and his heart soared. In this condition he washed himself and became a human being. “
    The Babylonians became the rulers of Mesopotamia after the Sumerian empire collapsed during the 2nd millennium bc. Their culture was derived from that of the Sumerians, and as a consequence of this, they also mastered the art of brewing beer. Today we know that the Babylonians new how to brew 20 different types of beer.

    So civilization had progressed from just a few beers, to making 20 varieties, and on to modern civilization with thousands. The progress of human civilization is directly measured in beer. QED.

  32. Long before “scientists” came to be, farmers and those practicing animal husbandry did selective breeding. Farmers merely saved what appeared to be “the best” of the grain yield for seed the next spring. Same with animals . . . save the best for breeding. No need to know any science to do that.
    Plants which survived the ravages of weather supplied the seeds for planting.
    In a temperate zone, a farmer dared not eat the grain saved for the next spring planting, hungry or not . . . else the farmer would be “out of business” as a farmer right quickly.
    Life for any farmer was darned grim throughout history in temperate zones, and only during that most benevolent of centuries, the 20th Century, from a weather standpoint, and for that matter, most benevolent from geologic calamities. Never until the last half of the 20th Century has a farming life or even a citified life been the least bit secure, and not even then for a goodly part of the Earth..
    Not looking all that secure, in these early years of the 21st Century.
    Yes, I know . . . that can’t happen to us again . . . not now that we have so much knowledge of science and technology. Sure it can’t. New Madrid earthquakes of 1811/1812 come to mind.
    We in western culture nations are most arrogant . . . and most foolish.
    I will be planting my own food to eat in the future shortly . . . but then, I was merely a “country boy”, went through K-8 in one of those one-room schools in rural Iowa, taught by a schoolmarm. What could she have known to teach me?

  33. They find that farming requires a relatively stable climate to function as a sustainable economy and therefore is not a sustainable option in times of climatic deterioration.
    That’s exactly what was lacking before the HCO. The global temperature variation from the Yonger Dryas to the HCO was in the order of 10ºC, forget about Weather stability before that rise. This article contradicts itself.

  34. ‘…farming requires a relatively stable climate to function as a sustainable economy and therefore is not a sustainable option in times of climatic deterioration.’
    Did we really need a formal study to affirm this commonsensical conclusion?

  35. Norm814 (14:28:30) :
    Maize. Corn is (or was, in American English) the generic English term for any grain that isn’t barley.

  36. Pamela Gray (14:08:14) :
    Who doesn’t want to grow wine in Alaska?
    The grapes would be huge, but you’d have to give the harvesters combat pay — the mosquitoes are huge, too.

  37. I heard this theory a long time ago, when people seemed more hopeful. If it isn’t true, it should be.
    It was stated that the ice melted very rapidly at the end of the last ice age, and cultures were put under great stress. Not only did the ocean flood the areas where people were most likely to live, but peoples who were dependant on herds of animals such as reindeer following predictable migration routes found the herds abruptly had vast areas further north to wander in, and these routes could not be predicted.
    This idea suggested the great glaciers didn’t just gradually retreat; instead they melted from the top down. One result was the abrupt creation of vast areas of grassland, as grasses were the first to colonize the wastes where ice had once lain. For a very brief period of time these grasslands were able to not only support traditional grasses, but a variety of cross-breeds (hybrids) which, under more ordinary conditions, would not have been able to compete in the grass-eat-grass world of natural selection.
    The conclusion was that, just when mankind was at its most desperate and hungry, there appeared wheat. (There also may have been a huge surge in the population of fish, as coastal lands flooded, but that is another story.)
    In other words, it wasn’t man who saved mankind. It was a Higher Power, (or sheer coincidence,) which said, “Here you poor suckers; try this stuff out.”

  38. ” Norm814 (14:28:30) :
    DirkH isn’t corn a new world grain…
    I figured the grain mentioned was rice.”
    Sorry, my english. What i meant is grain.
    Hmm. http://www.leo.org says corn doesn’t only mean maize but also grain…
    So – i actually said what i meant to say. Not that bad. Maybe a tad ambiguous.

  39. In Britain the Government is getting ever more proscriptive about the use of grit for roads. Currently, only trunk roads are even considered for treatment and Lord Adonis, a Government spokesman has just asked that even less grit is used even in applicable localities.
    It is becoming increasingly self-evident that the supplies of such material were seen as an additional and unnecessary cost against the State and local authorities, emphasised by the insistence of the bureaucracy that climate change was a reality. They second guessed the outcome and arrived at the conclusion that they favoured rather than working towards any real understanding of what may occur.
    It was not as if grit once bought was an asset that would lessen the expenditure in the subsequent years, it just was not ordered and by that inaction jeopardised the economy and people’s lives. Is this not the summation of the whole warmest debate? The legislature wants to believe that Fahrenheit 451 exists and orders affairs to accommodate that supposition. Extrapolate that understanding and look to the billions that are currently being pledged to secure thousands of wind turbines, to institute a vast new power distribution network to counter the vagaries of the proposed power source and think on the real problems that have actual presence and determined outcomes to which we can minster with our precious, and limited, resources.
    This a game about hubris and the imposition of someone’s will rather than an actual, factual, understanding of the state of play. We see here that fact has little to do with any of it. A determination has been taken that is every bit as resolute as the wish to go to war over Iraq and based on similarly flimsy evidence.

  40. Ok! I’ve looked, read and re-read, and re-read, looked, and looked again. I give up! The point of this is what? I just know that someone has left something key out of this press release. Where’s the punch line? They say: “New study argues climate change was not responsible for the Agricultural Revolution”. Well just who the heck ever said it was? Was it Vegetation History and Archaeobotany’s Einstein? (His or her name escapes me at the moment.) Oh, and are we talking about the rather slow process of hunter gatherers ‘raising’ a litter of guinea pigs for lunch next week or something more significant? I thought –last time I thought about agriculture– that McCormick and Whitney and English breeders started the REVOLUTION in agriculture. Wasn’t that all during the Little Ice Age? No, I can’t see the punch line. Somebody tell me the punch line. Please?

  41. I like the term “sudden” when talking about the climatic changes at the end of the last Ice Age. Sudden maybe in term of geological time, but sudden in terms of the human measure of time it is hours, maybe a day or week. A year is a long time for a human. Pretty of time to reaction to changes in the landscape/climate. Yes, you might be ill prepared to deal with the changes, but if the low lying areas are being reclaimed by the sea you move out of the way. We’re not trees rooted to one place. A decade would have been a third of a lifetime back in those days. A century, three generations. So this talk of glaciers melting suddenly, or the Black Sea suddenly filling up is sort of “Yeah, so what. They had relocate and adapt.” Not like there was a shortage of living space (the world-wide population of humans at this time is thought to be around 50 million).
    As to the origins of The Flood story I like the theory of an asteroid landing in the Mediterranean Sea, vaporizing a lot of water which then fell back to earth “downwind” in the Near East as one heck of a rain storm. Literally raining cats and dogs for weeks on end with resulting massive flooding.

  42. If, with all the ice melting and all the rain falling and all the flooding at the end of the last glacial period, people lived in low areas near coasts and rivers, where would we ever find anything that shed light on when humans started planting onions closer to their puptents? I still say the Agricultural REVOLUTION began a couple hundred years ago during the Little Ice Age.

  43. DirkH (14:12:46) :
    “Steve (13:33:54) :
    […]
    So what other option is their. Hunter/gatherer? They would have to demonstrate that hunting/gathering is more stable than controlled agriculture. I don’t care how unstable the climate is – controlled agriculture is always going to be more stable than hunting/gathering, everything else being equal.”

    “In a harsh climate, summers can be all wrong – too dry in early summer so that seedlings don’t grow, too wet later so that the corn fouls before ripe. Also the early varieties of corn had very little gain – you needed to preserve half of the harvest to have enough to seed the next year. Relying only on agriculture must have been like gambling for early farmers.
    OTOH, when your population density is low, there will always be enough deer to hunt and fish in the river. Think again about reliability.”

    Actually you practice BOTH at first. Work here in the USA showed hunter/gatherers selected and planted the best seeds at gather locations to harvest the next year. In times of climate change I imagine you would see migration to better farming areas. Think range wars over water rights here in the USA. People have feet they move if the location becomes inhospitable, and that spreads the ideas. Once farming evolved I do not see a farmer going back to being a hunter/gatherer. I see him pulling up stakes and moving or inventing irrigation.

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