The article “The Worst Mistake in the Historyof the Human Race,” by Jared Diamond compares the hunter and gatherer lifestyle to agricultural farming that transpired in the Neolithic Revolution.During the article he poses three questions and expresses why settling down affectedeach aspect. The first question discussed is the differencebetween progressivists and revisionists interpretation of agriculture. Progressivistsview the transition to farming from hunting and gathering was better because astable source of food could be used but have little proof to their view. Revisionisthave more researched information that shows hunter and gatherers enjoyed lifemore and had more free time than their farming counter parts. Diamond’sarticle offers compelling reason to side with the revisionist point of viewbecause it has documented research to support the claim.
Leisure time seems tobe a major argument point between the differing interpretations. Progressivesbelieve foragers enjoyed less leisure time than settlers. However, modernforagers have more leisure time than farmers. It would take less time to gatherfood from the wilderness that has already matured than the time spent farmingland to plant crops and tend to them each day. Afterdevelopment of communities, social and gender roles were assigned to continue progression.The pregnancy rate increased as more children were needed to tend to the farmsand burdens on the past were longer inexistence.
On average children were bornwithin a span of two years whereas hunter and gatherers had a span of fouryears. Rate increase was due to mothers not having to wait for the children tolearn how to walk and keep up with the group. Mothers were tasked with caringfor the children and home while men were free to gain education, run politics,and carryout other task unfit for women. Diamond recounts an experience while inNew Guinea where a woman carried a sack twice her weight up a mountain althoughit began being carried by men. This experience is an example of equality themen that traded the heavy sack for the lighter item saw the woman as equal andnot as settlers saw women as dainty and fragile. Thearticle further illustrates another form of separation.
Social class began toform. These separations between wealthy and poor led to a decline in health ofcommoners. According to Diamond (1987), “studies of skeletons suggest thatroyals enjoyed a better diet than commoners, since the royal skeletons were twoor three inches taller and had better teeth (on the average, one instead of sixcavities or missing teeth)” (p.97). The population was better off before settlement,because everyone was equal regardless of gender.
Social and gender inequalitywas expressed, as hunters and gatherers start to settle down inequality in thecommunity began to prevail. Gender roles were assigned and differentiation insocial settings formed as roles were established in the community. Diamond also explores the relationshipbetween agriculture and health issues. Common health issues duringthe Neolithic Revolution are Tuberculosis, Measles and Bubonic Plague alongwith the spread of other infectious disease and parasites. These problems werecaused by the crowding of populations that settled around the farming areas. Recentresearch shows a correlation between farming and health. A decline can be seen in the study from the articlethat states “early farmers paid a price for their new-found livelihood Comparedto the hunter-gatherers who preceded them, the farmers had a nearly 50 Percentincrease in enamel defects indicative of malnutrition, a fourfold increase iniron deficiency anemia (evidenced by a bone condition called porotichyperostosis), a threefold rise in bone lesions reflecting infectious diseasein general, and an increase in degenerative conditions of the spine, probablyreflecting a lot of hard physical labor” (Diamond,1987,p.
97). As people beganto rely on plants loaded with carbohydrates their nutritional quality decreasedand led to many of the health problems we experience today. Jared Diamond believessettling down for agriculture over being a hunter and gatherer was a tremendousmistake. Overall Jared Diamond perspective on settlers versus hunters andgathers are valid. However, a few aspects of agriculture were valid. If we wereto combine the equality and diverse nutrition aspect of foragers with smallfarms only used for necessity, then we would achieve a great balance betweenthe past and present. YOUARE