Message #277: From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG To: "'Matthias Giessler'" Subject: It Takes A Childe To Raze A Village Date: Thu, 29 Aug 96 09:30:00 MST Encoding: 47 TEXT [ A wag (no names mentioned) sent in this URL with a clever and oh so timely subject line -- SASIG Ed. ] It Takes A Childe To Raze A Village Gordon Childe and the neolithic revolution http://www.geo.ed.ac.uk/arch/arch1/sum4a_1.html Gordon Childe's theory was that the adoption of farming constituted a revolutionary adjustment to the age-old way of life of the hunter-gatherers. Paralleling biological evolution, Childe argued that the early village-farmers were extraordinarily successful, in that their population began to expand massively, so that they spread, colonising new territories and displacing the aboriginal hunter-gatherers with their advanced new economy. The area to which we should look for the origins of this new, revolutionary, farming way of life, Childe showed, was the Near East. While there were undoubtedly other centres where agriculture was evolved, in the Americas and in China for example, for Europe, Africa and much of Asia the hearth-zone was in western Asia, where the raw materials of the neolithic revolution (plants like wheat and barley, and domesticable herd animals like sheep and goat) had their natural habitats. The model for the beginnings of agriculture - how Childe applied the theory referred to above to the Near Eastern scene in prehistory - was more concerned with the revolutionary consequences of the adoption of a new economic 'mode of production' (Childe was a convinced Marxist) than with the origins of this new way of life. He was writing in the first half of this century, before any relevant investigations had taken place, and when the duration of the early Holocene (post-Ice Age) period was greatly underestimated. The model is often referred to as his oasis theory of the beginnings of agriculture. He suggested that climatic warming and desiccation of the environment at the end of the Pleistocene pressured the human population of the Near East, and other animals and plants, to concentrate on the remaining 'oases', areas like the great river valleys where groundwater remained abundant. Cultivation of crops and herding of animals began, therefore, in consequence of pressures from a shrinking environment and reduced natural resources. For Childe, the discovery of farming marked the escape from the insecurity and total environmental dependence of the hunter- gatherer and the new way of life was the foundation for all subsequent human progress and achievement. In turn, the success of the new way of life was marked by its success , measured in the terms of biological evolution: the new farmers prospered and expanded, colonising new territory and displacing others.