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Neanderthals, Bandits and Farmers: How Agriculture Really Began (Darwinism Today series) Hardcover – October 11, 1999


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Neanderthals, Bandits and Farmers: How Agriculture Really Began (Darwinism Today series) + The Time Before History: 5 Million Years of Human Impact
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Product Details

  • Series: Darwinism Today series
  • Hardcover: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1ST edition (October 11, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300080247
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300080247
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 4.7 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #493,181 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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It's just the kind of book we need.
A. M. Munford
Neither, Tudge argues, will we find paddocks for domestic animals in the early locations.
Stephen A. Haines
The booklet is well written and very short.
R. W. Holsbergen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Thomas Hibberd on April 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Colin Trudge's book is a delightful little essay on the origins of agriculture. The theories of this London School of Economics scholar are innovative and well informed. He breaks down the complex that we think of as "agriculture" into its constituent activities, then argues convincingly that humans were increasing their food production through some of these activities tens of thousands of years before the Neolithic revolution--and changing their enviroment in the process. He manages to incorporate explanations for many Upper Paleolithic and Neolithic phenomena--from Pleistocene overkill to farmer-pastoralist antipathy--into his remarkable discourse. A small book well worth the money.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on April 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Tudge challenges the traditional view that agriculture arose suddenly about ten thousand years ago. "Civilisation" is also credited with emerging simultaneously in a mutually reinforcing feedback cycle with surplus crop farming. The evidence supporting this stance comes from archaeological finds in places like the Tigris-Euphrates Valley [Iraq], Jericho [Palestine] and Catul Hayak in Turkey. In these places grain storage facilities bespeak intense cereals agriculture. Surplus grain production and distribution techniques suggest social hierarchy, fluent communication and new approaches to the environment. The standard view stumbles a bit in how knowledge of farming spread to remote places like Central America. It's also silent on why isolated peoples like Aborigines in Australia failed to adopt "domestic" farming methods.
Tudge wants a fresh assessment - starting with a proper definition of "farming". By his definition, "farming" is simply any modification of an environment supporting edible resources. "Modification" ranges from protecting a known resource from predation to diverting water to stimulate growth. There are no "fields" dedicated to crop production - the sites were opportunistic finds. Tudge here raises the point overlooked by most scholars -"farming" began at the end of the last Ice Age. The best crop sites were low-lying stream valleys containing rich soils and available water. As the glaciers melted and sea levels rose, these locations were inundated and lost to research. The Middle Eastern "burst" of agrarian development was due to a dislocated population that had already practiced farming elsewhere. The Tigris-Euphrates was an exile.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A. M. Munford on May 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This brilliant little book contains more interesting ideas in 53 pages than most books on human origins contain in 500. Of course it's not all true, and it's not all original. Tudge's explanation for the origin of serious agriculture - the "pleistocene overkill" in which human hunters rapidly killed off the game and produced a food crisis - probably derives from a very thorough, if much less exciting book, Mark Nathan Cohen's The Food Crisis in Prehistory, published as long ago as 1977. And Tudge's other thesis - that late palaeolithic people engaged in a kind of "hobby agriculture" is perhaps more questionable.
It's certainly true that initial agricultural activity would not have left much trace, so it undoubtedly goes back further than we think. But any thesis about proto-agriculture before the widespread game extinctions has to contend with the fact that the game themselves - and particularly the elephant family - would have made man's first attempts at environmental manipulation quite difficult, simply by trampling over things and eating the "crops". So the great slaughter of the big game had three effects. Firstly it provided a splendid source of food, permitting a great growth in the human population. Secondly, it then used up most of the game, producing an urgent need for new sources of food for the expanded population. Thirdly, by killing off most of the game and scaring away what remained, it made agriculture possible.
But nobody expects Colin Tudge to come up with all the answers. What is wonderful about this book is that it puts forward exciting ideas in an exciting way and provokes thought and discussion. It's just the kind of book we need.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Desiree Scott on January 30, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful book. It is so short that each page, indeed each sentence has to be filled with information and thoughts that derive from this data. My greatest interest is in the first domestication of livestock, a subject usually covered with trite inaccuracy in books dedicated to the subject, let alone works like this with such a broad sweep of study. This book covers domestication using reference to the latest scientific publications, and if it is as accurate as this in the tiny bit for which I have some background knowledge, it gives me reassurance that the rest of the book is filled with information of a similar high quality.
Is it pessimistic to feel that the whole of life is made of choices made because things change? This is what reviewer Ted Rushton says. Surely his perception of what is written in this book is flavoured by his belief in 'human progress'as he actually quotes. There is no such thing as human progress, and this is the underlying concept behind the whole of the Darwinian School of Thought. It was Darwinian Thought that brought 'How Agriculture Really Began' to us, with its little set of illuminating companion volumes.
The book is superb, Mr Rushton's critique is flawed, and enters the realms of fantasy with his discussion of flowers. But why not judge for yourself?
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