© 2005 David Koeller.  All rights reserved.

Early Agricultural Societies


I. The Agricultural Revolution

  • A. Domestication of Plants
  • B. Domestication of Animals

II. Changes in Society.

  • A. Social Structure
    • 1. Again, gender divisions, but this time men are the farmers. Often attributed to the invention of the plow.
    • 2. Women in domestic roles. This is in part a result of the ability of agriculture to supply most calorie needs and the resulting ability of women to be pregnant more frequently.
      • a. Women of 20 would probably have already had three or four children and have perhaps another 10 years to live.
  • B. Economy
    • 1. Overwhelmingly agricultural, but in more wealthy societies there is an opportunity for some specialization in handicrafts.
    • 2. Housing tends to be much more dense.
      • a. Potential for disease is greater.
      • b. Life spends tend to be much shorter.
  • C. Religion/Philosophy
    • 1. Earth Mothers and Sky Gods--but this is largely Indo-European influence.
    • 2. As in the case of Stonehenge, there is opportunity for large scale public architecture.
  • D. Artistic Expression
    • 1. Painting
  • E. Laws/Government
    • 1. "Big-Man" or head of clan. Often a warrior chief as well.

III. Development of Nomadic Pastoralism.

  • A. With the domestication of animals, nomadic hunting is no longer needed. One can tend a herd instead. It may be the case that pastoralists were part of the same village as agriculturalists. But as herds became larger, it would be more and more difficult to keep the herds around the farm year round. It would be necessary to move the herds to keep providing fresh pasture land.
  • B. Pastoralists could trade meat for grain: the agriculturalist would not have to hunt, the pastoralist would not have to gather.
  • C. But there was also a potential for conflict between the agriculturalist and the pastoralist. The pastoralist did not necessarily have to trade with the agriculturalist, they could simply plunder.

III. Warfare.

  • A. Conflict in the Paleolithic period could be settled without warfare.
    • 1. There was always the option of simply running away if the possibility of injury was too great.
    • 2. Most warfare was therefore ritualized. There would be much posturing and someone might get hurt or even killed, but there would be no attempt to inflict permanent harm.
  • B. Conflict in the Neolithic becomes much more violent.
    • 1. Because settlements were permanent, there was no flight option.
    • 2. It may have been the pastoralists who first developed warfare. It would be to their at least temporary advantage to pillage and loot the settlement.

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