Hunter Gatherers Versus Farmers

The shift from hunter gathering to settled farming is possibly the biggest change in human history, but how this happened has never been clear, whether by slow evolution, or by sudden possibly violent change. The main gain in settled farming was it allowed food to be stored, and also allowed increase tool useage, as well as reducing the strain of constantly moving on both humans and their stock. Settlement also allowed them to defend themselves from wild animals and gave better protection from the elements. Farming first appeared in the middle east about 10,000 years ago and gradually spread across Europe.

This is from a recent article by Steve Connor in the i newspaper:

“A detailed analysis of the DNA extracted from the bones of 11 prehistoric Scandinavians who lived thousands of years ago around the Baltic Sea, has shown tht the transition from hunting to farming was more of a one-way takeover than previously supposed.

The genetic makeup of the people who lived through his cultural evolution has revealed that the incoming migrant farmers from southern Europe subsumed the indigenous hunter gatherers of the north, rather than the other way round, scientists said.

…One suggestion was that the incoming farmers simply pushed the indigenous hunter further to the fringes [ie similar to the theory on how Homo Sapiens’ better hunting is believed to have marginalised the less advanced Neandertals]while another proposition was that it was the technology and ideas of farming, rather than the people, that gradually replaced the older practice of hunting and gathering. ”

The study, published in the journal Science, shows the DNA from the skeletons dating from 5,000 to 7,000 years ago shows hunter gatherers became part of the new arrivals’ community. There was no influx of genes from the farmers to the hunter gatherers, showing it was a one way movement.

“The assymetrical gene-flow shows that the farming groups assimilated hunter-gatherer groups, at least partly. When we compared Scandinavian to central European farming groups that lived about the same time, we see greater levels of hunter-gatherer gene-flow into the Scandinavian farming groups,” said Professor Mattias Jakobson of Uppsala University, Sweden.

“Stone Age hunter-gatherers had much lower genetic diversity than farmers. This suggests that Stone-Age foraging groups were in low numbers compared to farmers. ….it is clear from the DNA analysis that agricultural technology came in with an influx of genetically distinct people, rather than it being an idea passed on and taken up by bands of hunter-gatherers.

He continued: “The study shows that information spreads well when people are moving and it’s not just about the spread of ides through communication. The change to agriculture did not happen overnight but over many generations.” The study did not show whether the gene flow came from men or women or both

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