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No. 15: Spring 1981

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Invention Of Agriculture May Have Been A Step Backward

Anthropological texts have always ballyhooed the development of agriculture as one of man's greatest achievements. Not so, says Mark Cohen, of SUNY Plattsburgh. The switch from hunting and gathering to sedentary agriculture, it seems, occurred rather suddenly and was attended by a sharp drop in life expectancy. Ancient human bones reveal much more disease, fewer older people, and more violent deaths for centuries following the adoption of agriculture. Why did humanity give up the surprising degrees of security, freedom, and leisure intrinsic in hunting and gathering? Cohen claims that population pressure was the cause. Unable to stem the human population explosion, ancient humans were forced to adopt a life of toil, disease, and stress.

(Lewin, Roger; "Disease Clue to Dawn of Agriculture," Science, 211:41, 1981.)

Comment. Is there an echo of the Garden of Eden story here?

From Science Frontiers #15, Spring 1981. 1981-2000 William R. Corliss