Friday, May 17, 2013

Summer reading

AP World History Summer Project 2013

All parts of the summer project will be on the website and on the AP World History blog:


Register at the website. Go to "create a user profile" at top right corner. Follow the directions after that. It will eventually ask for the class ID and enrollment password: You will turn your four essays to the proper folders at

Class ID: 6447145

Password: APWorld (case sensitive) will verify that the work you turn in is your work alone.

For some readson, the pictures do not upload.  View the version on the site under "summer assignments" to view the graphics.


Activity one: After reading the background information case studies and cartoons (below); write an 600-800 word* essay describing the hunter-gatherer societies of the Paleolithic Era, discuss the following topics in your paper:

• Lifestyle, including diet

• Invention of early tools, including simple weapons

• Understanding of how to make fire

• Social Organization

• Development of oral language

• Art and its importance

*(800 words=1 page typed, Times New Roman font, single spaced, size 12, standard margins) Do NOT quote the information, summarize only. Turn in your essay to before the first day of school.

Background Information of Paleolithic Peoples

Archeological evidence indicates that during the Paleolithic era, hunting-foraging bands of humans gradually migrated from their origin in East Africa to Eurasia, Australia, and the Americas, adapting their technology and cultures to new climate regions.

A. Humans used fire in new ways: to aid hunting and foraging, to protect against predators, and to adapt to cold environments.

B. Humans developed a wider range of tools specially adapted to different environments from tropics to tundra.

C. Economic structures focused on small kinship groups of hunting-foraging bands that could make what they needed to survive. However, not all groups were self-sufficient; they exchanged people, ideas, and goods

Paleolithic and Neolithic Societies

The Stone Age

One of the principal characteristics separating hominids from their immediate ancestors was tool use; it has been traditional to divide human prehistory into eras based on levels of technological capability. Hominids made their tools out of many materials, such as wood, bone, and animal skins. But the most noteworthy were the ones made of stone. The first period of history is known as the Stone Age. This era is broken down into at least two periods: the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age (10,000 to 2.5 million years ago) and Neolithic or New Stone Age (5,000 to 10,000 years ago). The change from Paleolithic to Neolithic is associated with the end of the Ice Age.

Early Tool-making

During the Paleolithic era, Homo habilis and Homo erectus used crude tools, including clubs and choppers to crack open bones, rudimentary axes, and scrapers to prepare animal hides. The earliest humans—Neanderthal, Cro-Magnon, and Homo sapiens sapiens—improved upon these tools and created new ones. Tools were generally designed to provide shelter, protection and defense, and foods and clothing. The earliest hominids lived in natural shelters like caves and canyons. Fire was developed one million years ago and then hominids made tent like structures and simple huts to live in. By the end of the Paleolithic the hominids were building more advanced wood and stone structures. They also developed weapons like clubs and rocks. They devised tools for hunting and food preparation which could also be a weapon, such as the bow and arrow, spears, axes and knives.

Paleolithic Religion

Paleolithic peoples were very spiritualistic. Animism is the belief that everything had its own spirit: people, animals, trees, rivers, mountains, and the sky. The interaction of these spirits within this unseen world was what shaped the visible events of everything around them: weather, wars, and health.

Those who demonstrated certain powers, the shamans or witchdoctors, were both greatly respected and greatly feared. They were understood to possess special magical powers that could be worked to the good-or the bad--of the community. The community as a whole felt that it exercised some controlling influence over events--by their ability to "pre-enact" the necessary events of their lives. Thus the community engaged in ritualistic war dances, hunting dances, rain dances, medicine dances and rituals, which supposedly had the power to predispose or control the behavior of the unseen spirits in order to assure a forthcoming favorable outcome--whatever the event or whatever the community's particular need.

Hunting and Gathering: the New Stone Age

As time passed hominids began to organize themselves in social groups. This would eventually give birth to family units and these families would tend to cluster together by ties of kinship. As clans became larger they usually mixed with neighboring groups that grew into bands or tribes.

Paleolithic groups sustained themselves by hunting and gathering. This practice is known as foraging. Rather than produce food themselves, hunter-gatherer societies lived off the resources from the land. They killed birds and animals for food, especially mammoths, bison, deer and rodents. They also picked roots and berries from surrounding trees. When the resources dried up, the band or tribe moved to a new area with sustainable resources.

The early tribes also developed a form of government. This organization was based on chiefs, leaders and religious figures to head the tribe. They were to main figure to these early hunter-gatherer societies and are responsible for keeping them together. The early tribes also worshipped deities and practiced a variety of religious rituals. It is said that Cro-Magnon buried their dead over 100,000 years ago, indicating the belief in an afterlife. The religious ceremonies became more sophisticated with the sacrificing to gods, goddesses and spirits. The early tribes were very artistic people, they were known to play music and paint on cave walls.


Case Study: Neander Valley

Modern man was really forced to stop and think when unusual fossils (bones) were found in 1856 near Duesseldorf, Germany in the Neander Valley. Workers were mining for limestone in a cave when they came across a skull, and other various bones. This is, of course, how Neanderthal gets its name.

This was not the first discovery of Neanderthal fossils though. It was about 1829 or 1830 when fragments from the skull of a Neanderthal child were found in Belgium, and in 1848 a full skull of an adult was found in Gibraltar. But the find in the Neander Valley began all of the excitement, it stirred up many questions and theories.

These remains found in the cave near Duesseldorf were examined by Rudolf Vichow, a German Anatomist. He concluded that it was just a Homo sapiens (modern human) with rickets. Vichow claimed that the flattened head was due to some form of injury. A biologist named Thomas Huxley declared that it was an ancestor of modern humans. Paleontologist Marcellin Boule argued that Neanderthals were not direct ancestors of Homo sapiens sapiens and so called them Homo neanderthalensis. Boule also gave the impression that these creatures were stupid. Of course this is disputable with the evidence of the average brain size of a Neanderthal compared with that of a modern human.

There was a dispute to whether Neanderthals were direct ancestors or an extinct species of their own. Immediately, they were portrayed as slouched over, violent, brute/ape-like cavemen. And this image was carried on until almost 1960. At this time, scientists realized that the first found Neanderthal had arthritis, and they did in fact walk upright. It is said that if you were to put a "cleaned up" Neanderthal with a group of modern day humans, there would not be much difference at all.

The average height is thought to be about 5 feet tall. Their bodies were probably quite stocky, or muscular, with very strong legs-most likely due to traveling or wandering. They had low brow ridges. Their front teeth were quite large, larger than the modern human’s, and worn - indicating much use for chewing. Neanderthals’ average brain size is larger than some modern humans.

According to evidence, they lived between 130,000 and 35,000 years ago, dating back to the fourth glaciation. Neanderthals seemed to live primarily in Europe and in Western Asia; this is concluded because most of the fossils were found in these areas.

Many Mousterian tools were found with the fossil remains, consisting of different kinds of scrapers and points. Many believe they primarily hunted reindeer and whenever possible the larger animals such as mammoths, cave bears, etc. Neanderthals were probably hunter/gatherer groups. If so, their diets consisted of mainly small animals, vegetation, and less often the larger animals. They would have used whatever was in their environment for food and tools.

Evidence shows that they possibly buried their dead. Remains have been found in shallow "graves" often buried with items such as flowers, tool, etc., perhaps as offerings to the dead.


Fagan, Brian M., The Journey From Eden, Thames and Hudson Ltd., London,1990.

Wenke, Robert J., Patterns in Prehistory: humankind’s first three million years, Oxford University Press, Inc., New York, 1980, 1984, 1990.


What are the key characteristics of Paleolithic art?

It seems a bit flippant to try to characterize the art from a period that encompasses most of human history. Paleolithic art is intricately bound to anthropological and archaeological studies that professionals have devoted entire lives toward researching and compiling. The truly curious should head in those directions. That said, to make some sweeping generalizations, Paleolithic art:

• Concerned itself with either food (hunting scenes, animal carvings) or fertility (Venus figurines). Its predominant theme was animals.

• Is considered to be an attempt, by Stone Age peoples, to gain some sort of control over their environment, whether by magic or ritual.

• Represents a giant leap in human cognition: abstract thinking.

Engines of our Ingenuity

No. 1908: BLOMBOS CAVE Dr. John H. Lienhard

Today, let's visit Blombos Cave. The University of Houston's College of Engineering presents this series about the machines that make our civilization run, and the people whose ingenuity created them.

You and I have to struggle with our of Clan-of-the-Cave-Bear thinking: We've been trained to believe that, only about thirty-five-thousand years ago, the fine upright Cro-Magnons arose to displace the brutish Neanderthals. Well, that's all being turned on its ear by the Blombos Cave site.

Blombos Cave overlooks the Indian Ocean, on the south coast of South Africa. In 1993 it stunned the anthropological world when it yielded hundred-thousand-year-old, finely-formed, bone tools -- two or three times the age of such tools from Europe. And the people who made them were, anatomically, Modern Humans -- like you and me.

Let me give some benchmark dating here: the Paleolithic Era (which means the Era of Old Stone). It starts with the first human tool-making two and a half million years ago. It ends after the last Ice Age and the beginnings of agriculture. After that, we talk about the Neolithic Era (the Era of New Stone). It lasted until we took up metalworking, and we invented writing.

The older Paleolithic Era took place in two parts: Lower and Upper. During the latter part, the Upper Paleolithic Era, Modern Humans appeared and rapidly extended tool making beyond simple chipped rocks. For a long time, we'd believed all that'd started just a little over thirty thousand years ago.

But most of the evidence for that had come out of Europe. Now Blombos Cave has moved the rise of Modern Humans back to a time long before the Neanderthals vanished. It has tripled the length of the Upper Paleolithic Era, and it places the cradle of Modern Humans down at the far tip of the African continent

Among those oldest-known bone tools we find spear points, awls, spatulas. We find standard forms of tools. We find the first evidence of fishing. We find fine stonework of a kind that didn't turn up in Europe until twenty-thousand years ago. We find different areas of the cave devoted to specific activities.

The most remarkable discovery is that of purely artistic technologies. Ochre was widely used. Ochre is a form of iron ore that makes a fine paint. It can be used on human bodies or on walls. And those chunks of ochre themselves have been scribed with abstract designs. The cave has also yielded up a seventy-five-thousand-year-old snail-shell necklace -- the oldest ever found.

All this suggests something beyond just tool making. These uses of an esthetic, symbolic language would hardly have been possible without speech, as well. And speech was also something we'd thought was only thirty thousand years old.

It's neat to find our grandparents doing so well, so long ago. As I was reading about that old necklace, my wife showed me a simi-lar one in a jewelry catalog. She said, "I guess we haven't come as far as we'd thought." Well, it's true. We really did not start being smart just the day before yesterday.

Earliest evidence for cheese making in the 6th millennium BCE in northern Europe,

Melanie Salque, et al (Nature: International Journal of Science, Dec. 2012)

The introduction of dairying was a critical step in early agriculture, with milk products being rapidly adopted as a major component of the diets of prehistoric farmers and pottery-using late hunter-gatherers. The processing of milk, particularly the production of cheese, would have been a critical development because it not only allowed the preservation of milk products in a non-perishable and transportable form, but also it made milk a more digestible commodity for early prehistoric farmers. The finding of abundant milk residues in pottery vessels from seventh millennium sites from north-western Anatolia provided the earliest evidence of milk processing, although the exact practice could not be explicitly defined1. Notably, the discovery of potsherds pierced with small holes appear at early Neolithic sites in temperate Europe in the sixth millennium BC and have been interpreted typologically as ‘cheese-strainers’, although a direct association with milk processing has not yet been demonstrated. Organic residues preserved in pottery vessels have provided direct evidence for early milk use in the Neolithic period in the Near East and south-eastern Europe, north Africa, Denmark and the British Isles, based on the δ13C and Δ13C values of the major fatty acids in milk. Here we apply the same approach to investigate the function of sieves/strainer vessels, providing direct chemical evidence for their use in milk processing. The presence of abundant milk fat in these specialized vessels, comparable in form to modern cheese strainers, provides compelling evidence for the vessels having being used to separate fat-rich milk curds from the lactose-containing whey. This new evidence emphasizes the importance of pottery vessels in processing dairy products, particularly in the manufacture of reduced-lactose milk products among lactose-intolerant prehistoric farming communities.

The emergence of dairying was a major innovation in prehistoric societies, enabling the supply of nutritious food without the slaughtering of precious livestock. The processing of milk, particularly the production of cheese, would have been an important development; however, the origins of cheese making are currently unknown. Iconographic and written evidence from the mid-third-millennium BCE weakly documents the history of cheese making; although its origins probably lie much earlier in prehistory….

Activity two: Read “Consequences and future of plant and animal domestication” by Jared Diamond (below) and write an 800-1200 word summary (1-1 ½ pages typed, Times New Roman font, single spaced, size 12, standard margins)

o Explain why humans began to domesticate plants and animals, and how the species subsequently changed.

o Describe the reasons why so few species were suitable, and why certain areas became agricultural hearths.

o Finally explain the consequences of domestication.

Do NOT quote the article, summarize only. Turn in your summary to before the first day of school.

Consequences and future of plant and animal domestication

Jared Diamond

Domestication interests us as the most momentous change in Holocene human history. Why did it operate on so few wild species, in so few geographic areas? Why did people adopt it at all, why did they adopt it when they did, and how did it spread? The answers to these questions determined the remaking of the modern world, as farmers spread at the expense of hunter–gatherers and of other farmers.

Plant and animal domestication is the most important development in the past 13,000 years of human history. It interests all of us, scientists and non-scientists alike, because it provides most of our food today, it was prerequisite to the rise of civilization, and it transformed global demography. Because domestication ultimately yielded agents of conquest (for example, guns, germs and steel) but arose in only a few areas of the world, and in certain of those areas earlier than in others, the peoples who through biogeographic luck first acquired domesticates acquired enormous advantages over other peoples and expanded. As a result of those replacements, about 88% of all humans alive today speak some language belonging to one or another of a mere seven language families confined in the early Holocene to two small areas of Eurasia that happened to become the earliest centers of domestication — the Fertile Crescent and parts of China. Through that head start, the inhabitants of those two areas spread their languages and genes over much of the rest of the world. Those localized origins of domestication ultimately explain why this international journal of science is published in an Indo-European language rather than in Basque, Swahili, Quechua or Pitjantjatjara.

The past of domestication: Our 'decision' to domesticate

The question "why farm?" strikes most of us modern humans as silly. Of course it is better to grow wheat and cows than to forage for roots and snails. But in reality, that perspective is flawed by hindsight. Food production could not possibly have arisen through a conscious decision, because the world's first farmers had around them no model of farming to observe, hence they could not have known that there was a goal of domestication to strive for, and could not have guessed the consequences that domestication would bring for them. If they had actually foreseen the consequences, they would surely have outlawed the first steps towards domestication, because the archaeological and ethnographic record throughout the world shows that the transition from hunting and gathering to farming eventually resulted in more work, lower adult stature, worse nutritional condition and heavier disease burdens. The only peoples who could make a conscious choice about becoming farmers were hunter–gatherers living adjacent to the first farming communities, and they generally disliked what they saw and rejected farming, for the good reasons just mentioned and others.

Instead, the origins of domestication involved unforeseen consequences of two sets of changes — changes in plants and animals, and changes in human behavior. As initially recognized by Darwin, many of the differences between domestic plants and their wild ancestors evolved as consequences of wild plants being selected, gathered and brought back to camp by hunter–gatherers, while the roots of animal domestication included the ubiquitous tendency of all peoples to try to tame or manage wild animals (including such unlikely candidates as ospreys, hyenas and grizzly bears). Although humans had been manipulating wild plants and animals for a long time, hunter–gatherer behavior began to change at the end of the Pleistocene because of increasingly unpredictable climate, decreases in big-game species that were hunters' first-choice prey, and increasing human occupation of available habitats. To decrease the risk of unpredictable variation in food supply, people broadened their diets to second- and third-choice foods, which included more small game, plus plant foods requiring much preparation, such as grinding, leaching and soaking. Eventually, people transported some wild plants (such as wild cereals) from their natural habitats to more productive habitats and began intentional cultivation.

The emerging agricultural lifestyle had to compete with the established hunter–gatherer lifestyle. Once domestication began to arise, the changes of plants and animals that followed automatically under domestication, and the competitive advantages that domestication conveyed upon the first farmers (despite their small stature and poor health), made the transition from the hunter–gatherer lifestyle to food production autocatalytic — but the speed of that transition varied considerably among regions. Thus, the real question about the origins of agriculture, which I consider below, is: why did food production eventually out-compete the hunter–gatherer lifestyle over almost the whole world, at the particular times and places that it did, but not at earlier times and other places?

Changes of wild species under domestication

These changes are particularly well understood for southwest Asia's Fertile Crescent, the site of domestication that was earliest in the world and that yielded what are still the world's most valuable domestic plant and animal species. For most species domesticated there, the wild ancestor and its wild geographic range have been identified, its relation to the domesticate proven by genetic and chromosomal studies, its changes under domestication delineated (often at the gene level), those changes traced in successive layers of the archaeological record, and the approximate time and place of its domestication identified.

For example, wild wheat and barley bear their seeds on top of a stalk that spontaneously shatters, dropping the seeds to the ground where they can germinate (but where they also become difficult for humans to gather). An occasional single-gene mutation that prevents shattering is lethal in the wild (because the seeds fail to drop), but conveniently concentrates the seeds for human gatherers. Once people started harvesting those wild cereal seeds, bringing them back to camp, accidentally spilling some, and eventually planting others, seeds with a non-shattering mutation became unconsciously selected for rather than against.

Individual wild animals also vary in traits affecting their desirability to humans. Chickens were selected to be larger, wild cattle (aurochs) to be smaller, and sheep to lose their bristly outer hairs and not to shed their soft inner hairs (the wool). Most domestic animals, including even recently domesticated trout, have smaller brains and less acute sense organs than do their wild ancestors. Good brains and keen eyes are essential to survival in the wild, but represent a quantitatively important waste of energy in the barnyard, as far as humans are concerned.

Especially instructive are cases in which the same ancestral species became selected under domestication for alternative purposes, resulting in very different-appearing breeds or crops. For instance, dogs were variously selected to kill wolves, dig out rats, race, be eaten, or be cuddled in our laps. What naive zoologist glancing at wolfhounds, terriers, greyhounds, Mexican hairless dogs and chihuahuas would even guess them to belong to the same species? Similarly, cabbage was variously selected for its leaves (cabbage and kale), stems (kohlrabi), flower shoots (broccoli and cauliflower) and buds (brussels sprouts).

Why so few wild species were domesticated

The wild animal species that most plausibly could have yielded valuable domesticates were large terrestrial mammalian herbivores and omnivores, of which the world holds 148 species weighing 45 kg or more. Yet only 14 of those 148 species were actually domesticated, prompting us to ask what prevented domestication of the other 134 species? Similarly, worldwide there are about 200,000 wild species of higher plants, of which only about 100 yielded valuable domesticates. Especially surprising are the many cases in which only one of a closely related group of species became domesticated. For example, horses and donkeys were domesticated, but none of the four zebra species were.

The key question concerning this selectivity of domestication is as follows: in the cases of all those species never domesticated, did the difficulty lie with the species itself, or with the people indigenous to the area to which the species was native? For instance, is the abundance of large wild mammals the reason why no mammal species was ever domesticated in subequatorial Africa, making domestication superfluous for Africans? If that explanation were correct, then African people should also have ignored Eurasian domestic mammals when those were finally introduced to Africa, and European animal breeders on arriving in Africa should have succeeded in domesticating some African wild mammals, but both of those predictions are refuted by the actual course of history.

Six independent lines of evidence converge to prove that, in most cases, the obstacle lay with the species itself, not with the local people: the rapid acceptance of introduced Eurasian domesticates by non-Eurasian peoples; the rapid ancient domestication of the most valuable wild species; the repeated independent domestications of many of them; the failure of even modern European plant and animal breeders to add significantly to our short list of valuable domesticates; ancient discoveries of the value of thousands of species that were regularly harvested in the wild but that never became domesticated; and the identification of the particular reasons preventing the domestication of many of those species.

Comparisons of domesticated wild species with never-domesticated close relatives illustrate the subtle factors that can derail domestication. For example, it is initially surprising that oak trees, the most important wild food plant in many parts of Eurasia and North America, were never domesticated. Like wild almonds, acorns of most individual wild oaks contain bitter poisons, with occasional non-poisonous mutant trees preferred by human foragers. However, the non-poisonous condition is controlled by a single dominant gene in almonds but polygenically in oaks, so that offspring of the occasional non-poisonous individuals are often non-poisonous in almonds but rarely so in oaks, preventing selection of edible oak varieties to this day. A second example is provided by the European horse breeders who settled in South Africa in the 1600s and — like African herders for previous millennia — tried to domesticate zebras. They gave up after several centuries for two reasons. First, zebras are incurably vicious, have the bad habit of biting a handler and not letting go until the handler is dead, and thereby injure more zoo-keepers each year than do tigers. Second, zebras have better peripheral vision than horses, making them impossible even for professional rodeo cowboys to lasso (they see the rope coming and flick away their head).

Figure 1: Comparisons of domesticated wild species (left of each pair) and their never-domesticated close relatives (right) reveal the subtle factors that can derail domestication.

Among wild mammal species that were never domesticated, the six main obstacles proved to be a diet not easily supplied by humans (hence no domestic anteaters), slow growth rate and long birth spacing (for example, elephants and gorillas), nasty disposition (grizzly bears and rhinoceroses), reluctance to breed in captivity (pandas and cheetahs), lack of follow-the-leader dominance hierarchies (bighorn sheep and antelope), and tendency to panic in enclosures or when faced with predators (gazelles and deer, except reindeer). Many species passed five of these six tests but were still not domesticated, because they failed a sixth test. Conclusions about non-domesticability from the fact of non-domestication are not circular, because these six obstacles can be assessed independently.

Why there were so few homelands of agriculture

Food production bestowed on farmers enormous demographic, technological, political and military advantages over neighboring hunter–gatherers. The history of the past 13,000 years consists of tales of hunter–gatherer societies becoming driven out, infected, conquered or exterminated by farming societies in every area of the world suitable for farming. One might therefore have naively anticipated that, in any part of the world, one or more of the local hunter–gatherer societies would have stumbled upon domestication, become farmers, and thereby outcompeted the other local hunter–gatherer societies. In fact, food production arose independently in at most nine areas of the world (Fertile Crescent, China, Mesoamerica, Andes/Amazonia, eastern United States, Sahel, tropical West Africa, Ethiopia and New Guinea).

The puzzle increases when one scrutinizes that list of homelands. One might again naively have expected the areas most productive for farming today to correspond, at least roughly, to the areas most productive in the past. In reality, the list of homelands and the list of breadbaskets of the modern world are almost mutually exclusive (Fig. 2). The latter list includes California, North America's Great Plains, Europe, the pampas of Argentina, the cape of southern Africa, the Indian subcontinent, Java and Australia's wheat belt. Because these areas are evidently so well suited to farming or herding today, why were they not so in the past?

Figure 2: Ancient and modern centers of agriculture.

Ancient centers of origin of plant and animal domestication — the nine homelands of food production — are indicated by the orange-shaded areas on the map. The most agriculturally productive areas of the modern world, as judged by cereals and major staples, are indicated by the yellow-shaded areas. Note that there is almost no overlap between the areas highlighted, except that China appears on both distributions, and that the most productive areas of the central United States today approach areas of the eastern United States where domestication originated. The reason why the two distributions are so different is that agriculture arose in areas to which the wild ancestors of the most valuable domesticable crops and animals were native, but other areas proved much more productive when those valuable domesticates reached them.

The explanation is that the homelands of agriculture were instead merely those regions to which the most numerous and most valuable domesticable wild plant and animal species were native. Only in those areas were incipient early farmers able to out-compete local hunter–gatherers. Once those locally available wild species had been domesticated and had spread outside the homelands, societies of homelands had no further advantage other than that of a head start, and they were eventually overtaken by societies of more fertile or climatically more favored areas outside the homelands.

For instance, the Fertile Crescent of southwest Asia was home to wild wheats, barley, peas, sheep, goats, cows and pigs — a list that includes what are still the most valuable crops and livestock of the modern world. Hence hunter–gatherers of the Fertile Crescent domesticated those species and became the world's first farmers and herders, beginning around 8500 BCE. That head start in food production led to them and their close neighbors also developing the world's first metal tools, writing, empires and professional armies. Those tools of conquest, and Fertile Crescent human genes, gradually spread west into Europe and North Africa and east into the western Indian subcontinent and central Asia. However, once those crops, livestock and human inventions had spread, Fertile Crescent societies possessed no other advantages. As all of those elements slowly spread northwest across Europe, farming and power also shifted northwest from the Fertile Crescent to areas where farming had never arisen independently — first to Greece, then to Italy, and finally to northwest Europe. Human societies of the Fertile Crescent inadvertently committed slow ecological suicide in a zone of low rainfall prone to deforestation, soil erosion and salinization.

The spread of food production

From the homelands of domestication, food production spread around the world in either of two ways. The much less common way was for hunter–gatherers outside the homelands to acquire crops or livestock from the homelands, enabling them to settle down as farmers or herders, as attested by archaeological evidence for substantial continuity of material culture, and by genetic, linguistic and skeletal evidence of continuity of human populations. The clearest such example of local adoption of food production is in southern Africa, where around 2,000 years ago some Khoisan hunter–gatherers acquired Eurasian livestock (cattle, sheep and goats) arriving from the north and became herders (so-called Hottentots). Much more often, however, local hunter–gatherers had no opportunity to acquire crops and livestock before they were overrun or replaced by farmers expanding out of the homelands, exploiting their demographic, technological, political and military advantages over the hunter–gatherers.

Expansions of crops, livestock, and even people and technologies tended to occur more rapidly along east–west axes than along north–south axes1 (Fig. 3). The reason is obvious: locations at the same latitude share identical day-lengths and seasonalities, often share similar climates, habitats and diseases, and hence require less evolutionary change or adaptation of domesticates, technologies and cultures than do locations at different latitudes. Examples include the rapid westwards and eastwards dispersal of wheat, horses, wheels and writing of western Asian origin, and the westwards dispersal of chickens, citrus and peaches of Chinese origin, along the east–west axis of Eurasia. This can be contrasted with the slow spread of Eurasian livestock and non-spread of Eurasian crops southwards along Africa's north–south axis, the slow spread of Mexican corn and the non-spread of Mexican writing and wheels and Andean llamas and potatoes along the Americas' north–south axis, and the slow spread of food production southwards along the north–south axis of the Indian subcontinent.

Figure 3: The continental major axis is oriented east–west for Eurasia but north–south for the Americas and Africa.

The spread of food production tended to occur more rapidly along east–west axes than along north–south axes, mainly because locations at the same latitudes required less evolutionary change or adaptation of domesticates than did locations at different latitudes.

This is not to deny the existence of ecological barriers at the same latitude within Asia and North America, but the general pattern remains. Eurasia's east–west axis, and the resulting rapid enrichment of societies in each part of Eurasia by crops and technologies from other parts of Eurasia, became one of the main ultimate reasons why Eurasian peoples conquered Native American peoples, rather than vice versa. Eurasia's east–west axis also explains why there is much less evidence for multiple independent domestications of the same plant species (see below), and much more evidence for agriculturally driven language expansions, in Eurasia than in the Americas.

Consequences of domestication: Consequences for human societies

Beginning around 8500 BCE, the transition from the hunter–gatherer lifestyle to food production enabled people to settle down next to their permanent gardens, orchards and pastures, instead of migrating to follow seasonal shifts in wild food supplies. (Some hunter–gatherer societies in especially productive environments were also sedentary, but most were not). Food production was accompanied by a human population explosion that has continued unabated to this day, resulting from two separate factors. First, the sedentary lifestyle permitted shorter birth intervals. Nomadic hunter–gatherers had previously spaced out birth intervals at four years or more, because a mother shifting camp can carry only one infant or slow toddler. Second, plant and animal species that are edible to humans can be cultivated in much higher density in our gardens, orchards and pastures than in wild habitats.

Food production also led to an explosion of technology, because sedentary living permitted the accumulation of heavy technology (such as forges and printing presses) that nomadic hunter–gatherers could not carry, and because the storable food surpluses resulting from agriculture could be used to feed full-time craftspeople and inventors. By also feeding full-time kings, bureaucrats, nobles and soldiers, those food surpluses led to social stratification, political centralization and standing armies. All of these overwhelming advantages are what enabled farmers eventually to displace hunter–gatherers.

Evolution of epidemic infectious diseases

The main killers of humans since the advent of agriculture have been acute, highly infectious, epidemic diseases that are confined to humans and that either kill the victim quickly or, if the victim recovers, immunize him/her for life. Such diseases could not have existed before the origins of agriculture, because they can sustain themselves only in large dense populations that did not exist before agriculture, hence they are often termed 'crowd diseases'. The mystery of the origins of many of these diseases has been solved by molecular biological studies of recent decades, demonstrating that they evolved from similar epidemic diseases of our herd domestic animals with which we began to come into close contact 10,000 years ago. Thus, the evolution of these diseases depended on two separate roles of domestication: in creating much denser human populations, and in permitting much more frequent transmission of animal diseases from our domesticates than from hunted wild animals. For instance, measles and tuberculosis arose from diseases of cattle, influenza from a disease of pigs and ducks1. An outstanding mystery remains the origins of smallpox: did it reach us from camels or from cattle?

Crowd diseases paradoxically became agents of conquest, because exposed individuals acquired immune resistance from childhood exposure, and exposed populations gradually evolved genetic resistance, but unexposed populations had neither type of resistance. In practice, because 13 of our 14 large domestic mammals were Eurasian species, evolution of crowd diseases was concentrated in Eurasia, and the diseases became the most important agents by which Eurasian colonists expanding overseas killed indigenous peoples of the Americas, Australia, Pacific islands and southern Africa.

The agricultural expansions

Because some peoples acquired domesticates before other peoples could, and because domesticates conferred eventual advantages such as guns, germs and steel on the possessors, the history of the past 10,000 years has consisted of farmers replacing hunter–gatherers or less advanced farmers. These agricultural expansions, originating mainly from the nine homelands of agriculture, remade genetic and linguistic maps of the world. Among the most discussed (and often highly controversial) possible examples are the expansions of Bantu-speaking farmers out of tropical West Africa over subequatorial Africa, Austronesian-speaking farmers out of Taiwan over Island Southeast Asia, Fertile Crescent farmers over Europe, and Korean farmers over Japan.

Activity three: Without the ability to translate their writing script, archaeologists today do not understand nearly as much about the Indus River Valley civilization that flourished from 2600 to 1900 B.C.E., although the artifacts found there have enhanced our knowledge of these ancient peoples. One mystery is what exactly happened to the civilizations of the Indus River Valley. Mesopotamia and Egypt were later absorbed into a broader Hellenistic and later Roman cultural zone. Civilization in the Indus River Valley instead disappeared. Study the map and read the essays at The Myth of the Aryan Invasion of India, Were they Copycats or Geniuses?, Environment and Technology: Environmental Stress in the Indus River Valley and Did Aryans kill them or a depression? Write an 800 word essay that addresses the following questions: what are some of the debates that center around the disappearance of this ancient civilization? Have archaeologists reached any firm conclusions? Have they reached any consensus on this civilization's influence on other peoples of the region? What role might the environment have played in the rise and fall of this civilization? What lessons does this teach us today? Do NOT go on-line and attempt to find any more information. Do NOT quote from the articles. Turn in your essay to before the first day of school.

River Valley Civilizations

The Indus Valley Civilization was the first major urban culture of South Asia. It reached its peak from 2600 BC to 1900 BC roughly, a period called by some archaeologists "Mature Harappan" as distinguished from the earlier Neolithic "Early Harappan" regional cultures. Spatially, it is huge, comprising of about 1000 settlements of varying sizes, and geographically includes almost all of modern Pakistan, parts of India as far east as Delhi and as far south as Bombay, and parts of Afghanistan.

The main corpus of writing dated from the Indus Civilization is in the form of some two thousand inscribed seals in good, legible conditions. (In case you don't know what seals are, they are used to make impressions on malleable material like clay.)

Although these seals and samples of Indus writing have been floating around the scholastic world for close to 70 years, little progress has been made on deciphering this elegant script. However, we should not blame scholars for their lack of progress, for there are some major impediments to decipherment:

1. Very short and brief texts. The average number of symbols on the seals is 5, and the longest is only 26.

2. The language underneath is unknown.

3. Lack of bilingual texts.

For instance, consider Champollion, who deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphs with all of these 3 important clues: there were very long Egyptian texts; he knew Coptic, a descendant of Egyptian; and the Rosetta Stone, a bilingual text between Greek and two written forms of Egyptian.

But the script isn't as bad as undecipherable. For one, even though scholars don't have long texts and bilingual texts, they can still theorize about the language underneath the writing system. There are several competing theories about the language that the Indus script represent:

A. The language is completely unrelated to anything else, meaning an isolate. Well, this doesn't get us anywhere.

B. The language is "Aryan" (some form of Indian-Iranian Indo-European). The historical languages spoken in Northern India and Pakistan all belong to the Indic branch of Indo-European, including Sanskrit, Hindi, Punjabi, etc., so maybe the people of the Indus valley spoke a very old Indo-European language?

The major problem with this model is the fact that horses played a very important role in all Indo-European cultures, being a people constantly on the move. "There is no escape from the fact that the horse played a central role in the Vedic and Iranian cultures..." (Parpola, 1986) Sidenote: "Vedic" means from the time of the Vedas, the earliest text in India, and the Vedic culture is from around 1500 to 500 BC. However, no depiction of horses on seals nor any remains of horses have been found so far before 2000 BC. They only appear after 2000 BC. Very likely there were no Aryan speakers present before 2000 BC in the Indus Valley.

C. The language belongs to the Munda family of languages. The Munda family is spoken largely in eastern India, and related to some Southeast Asian languages. Like Aryan, the reconstructed vocabulary of early Munda does not reflect the Harappan culture. So its candidacy for being the language of the Indus Civilization is dim.

D. The language is Dravidian. The Dravidian family of languages is spoken in Southern Indian, but Brahui is spoken in modern Pakistan. So far this is the most promising model, as in the following points:

o There are many Dravidian influences visible in the Vedic texts. If the Aryan language gradually replaced the Dravidian, features from Dravidian would form a "substratum" in Aryan. One of these features is the appearance of retroflex consonants in Indian languages, both Indo-European and Dravidian. In contrast, retroflex consonants do not appear in any other Indo-European language, not even Iranian ones which are closest to Indic. (For more information on retroflex consonants please visit my Phonetics page).

o Another possible indication of Dravidian in the Indus texts is from structural analysis of the texts which suggests that the language underneath is possibly agglutinative, from the fact that sign groups often have the same initial signs but different final signs. The number of these final signs range between 1 to 3. The final signs possibly represent grammatical suffixes that modify the word (represented by the initial signs). Each suffix would represent one specific modification, and the entire cluster of suffixes would therefore put the word through a series of modifications. This suffix system can be found in Dravidian, but not Indo-European. Indo-European tongues tend to change the final sounds to modify the meaning of a word (a process called inflection), but repeated addition of sounds to the end of word is extremely rare. Often many suffixes in an agglutinative language correspond to a single inflectional ending in an inflectional language.

The Dravidian model isn't just an unapplicable theory...But first we have to know what kind of writing system is the Indus script.

A count of the number of signs reveal a lot about the type of system being used. Alphabetic systems rarely have more than 40 symbols. Syllabic systems like Linear B or Cherokee typically have 40 to 100 or so symbols. The third ranges from logophonetic to logographic, running upwards of hundreds of signs (like 500 signs in Hieroglyphic Luwian, and 5000 symbols in modern Chinese).

It appears that the maximum number of Indus script symbols is 400, although there are 200 basic signs (ie signs that are not combined from others). This means that the Indus script is probably logophonetic, in that it has both signs used for their meanings, and signs used for their phonetic values.

Many signs start off as pictorial representation of a physical object, often misleadingly called pictograms. They really are should be called logograms because they represent words in the language. However, it's next to impossible to write out a word with abstract meaning pictorially. What all early writers figured out was to use a logogram not for the object or idea it was originally supposed to stand for, but for all words sounding similar to the original word for that object or idea. For example, in English to write "leave" we can use a picture of a "leaf". This is called rebus writing, and is a tremendously common pattern in all early writing systems. We could also then use the same "leaf" symbol to stand for the sound in "relief", adding another symbol in front of the "leaf" symbol in order to indicate the "re" sound. So the logogram gained a phonetic value as well.

Testing the theory

How can we take the theoretical framework so far and apply it to archaeological data?

Numerals seem to represented by vertical lines (represented by number of lines in the glyph), but they only go up to 7. Analysis reveal 4 more signs that appear in the same context as these numerals, and so they likely represent numbers higher than 7.

The fact that no vertical-line numeral sign denotes 8 very likely means the Harappan language is based 8. (For example, the Arabic numerals that we use has symbols from 0 to 9, and to write "ten" we have to combined the symbols 1 and 0, which identify our number system as based ten.)

Base 8 languages are rare in the world, but it does appear that early Dravidian is base 8, but later changed to base 10 (possibly under Indo-European influence). When translated, the count from 1 to 7 is familiar to us: "one", "two", "three", "four", "five", "six", "seven". However, above seven, the number's etymologies become non-numerical: 8 is "number", 9 is "many minus one", and 10 is "many". (Fairservis 1983)

But can we actually read (not interpret) any symbol on the seals? We should start with "pictograms", as this one:

Many scholars (Knorozov, Parpola, Mahadevan, etc) see this sign as a fish. Fish in reconstructed Proto-Dravidian is *mîn. Coincidentally, *mîn is also the word for star. On many pots from Mohenjo Daro, an Indus site, there are drawings of fish and stars together, and so affirming this linguistic association.

Going further, often the numeral six appears before the fish. Either it means 6 fish, or 6 stars. Old Tamil (a Dravidian language still spoken today) texts from just around the 1st century AD recorded the name of the Pleiades, a star cluster visible during autumn and winter just above Orion, as "Six-Stars", or aru-mîn. Throughout the world, titles with celestial connotations are very common, and the clause Six Stars forming part or whole of a Harappan title is not unreasonable. (Parpola, 1986)

Sometimes symbols are added to the basic sign to make new signs. Of these, the one that looks like a circumflex accent placed on top of the fish is quite interesting. It is theorized to mean "roof", and in Proto-Dravidian it is *vêy/mêy. This is phonetically similar to Proto-Dravidian word for "black", *may. Together with fish, it spells out mai-m-mîn, or "black star", which in Old Tamil means the planet Saturn. In Sanskrit texts, Saturn is associate the color black. The god of death, Yama, is the presiding of this planet, and is usually depicted as riding on a dark buffalo.

But the "fish" reading isn't accepted by all scholars. William Fairservis saw it as a combination of a loom twist and a human sign, and form a honorific title pertaining to rulership (Fairservis, 1983). I, however, am more inclined to accept the fish identification.

This is a quick overview of the current process in the decipherment of the Indus script. For more information you can either go to the following links, or go to a good library for books and articles (check out my references).

The Myth of the Aryan Invasion of India

Richard Hooker, 1996

They called themselves the "noble ones" or the "superior ones." Their names are lost; their tribal names are lost. But when they found themselves conquerors, they gave themselves the name "superior" or "noble."

They were a tribal and nomadic peoples living in the far reaches of Euro-Asia in hostile steppe lands barely scratching out a living. They were unquestionably a tough people, and they were fierce and war-like. Their religion reflects it dominated as it is by a storm-god or sky-god that enjoins warfare and conquest. This god was called something like "Dyaus," a word related to "Zeus," "deus" (the Latin word for "god"), "deva" (the Sanskrit word for "god"), and, of course, the English word "divine." Their culture was oriented around warfare, and they were very good at it. They were superior on horseback and rushed into battle in chariots. They were a tribal people ruled over by a war-chief, or raja (the Latin word "rex" (king) comes from the same root word, along with the English "regal"). Somewhere in the early centuries of the second millennium BC, they began to migrate southwards in waves of steady conquest across the face of Persia and the lands of India.

There, they would take on the name "superior" or "noble" to distinguish themselves from the people they conquered. Their name is derived from the Indo-European root word, "ar," meaning "noble." In Sanskrit, they were the "Aryas" ("Aryans"); but that root, "ar," would also serve as the foundation of the name of the conquered Persian territories, "Iran." This concept of nobility, in fact, seems to lie at the heart of Indo-European consciousness, for it appears in another country's name, "Ireland," or "Eire." You can bet, however, that when a people go around calling themselves superior that it spells bad news for other people.

And there is no question that they were bad news for the southern Asians. They swept over Persia with lightening speed, and spread across the northern river plains of India. Their natures as a warlike, conquering people are still preserved in Vedic religion, the foundation of Hinduism. In the Rig Veda, the collection of praises to the gods, the god Indra towers over the poetry as a conquering god, one that smashes cities and slays enemies. The invading Aryans were originally nomadic peoples, not agricultural. They penetrated India from the north-west, settling first in the Indus valley. Unlike the Harappans, however, they eventually concentrated their populations along the Ganges floodplain. The Ganges, unlike the Indus, is far milder and more predictable in its flooding. It must have been a paradise to a people from the dry steppes of central Asia and Iran, a paradise full of water and forest. When they arrived, the vast northern plains were almost certainly densely forested. Where now bare fields stretch to the horizon, when the Aryans arrived lush forests stretched to those very same horizons. Clearing the forests over the centuries was an epic project and one that is still preserved in Indian literature.

The Aryans or Vedic civilization were a new start in Indian culture. Harappa was more or less a dead end (at least as far as we know); the Aryans adopted almost nothing of Harappan culture. They built no cities, no states, no granaries, and used no writing. Instead they were a warlike people that organized themselves in individual tribal, kinship units, the jana. The jana was ruled over by a war-chief. These tribes spread quickly over northern India and the Deccan. In a process that we do not understand, the basic social unit of Aryan culture, the jana, slowly developed from an organization based on kinship to one based on geography. The jana became a janapada, or nation and the jana-rajya , or tribal kingdom, became the jana-rajyapada, or national kingdom. So powerfully ingrained into Indian culture is the jana-pada , that Indians still define themselves mainly by their territorial origins. All the major territories of modern India, with their separate cultures and separate languages, can be dated back to the early jana-padas of Vedic India.

The earliest history of the Aryans in India is called the Rigvedic Period (1700-1000 BC) after the religious praise poems that are the oldest pieces of literature in India. These poems, the Rig Veda, are believed to represent the most primitive layer of

Indo-European religion and have many characteristics in common with Persian religion since the two peoples are closely related in time. In this early period, their population was restricted to the Punjab in the northern reaches of the Indus River and the Yamuna River near the Ganges. They maintained the Aryan tribal structure, with a raja ruling over the tribal group in tandem with a council. Each jana seems to have had a chief priest; the religion was focused almost entirely on a series of sacrifices to the gods. The Rigvedic peoples originally had only two social classes: nobles and commoners. Eventually, they added a third: Dasas , or "darks." These were, we presume, the darker-skinned people they had conquered. By the end of the Rigvedic period, social class had settled into four rigid castes: the caturvarnas, or "four colors." At the top of the caturvarnas were the priests, or Brahmans. Below the priests were the warriors or nobles (Kshatriya), the craftspeople and merchants (Vaishya), and the servants (Shudra), who made up the bulk of society. These economic classes were legitimated by an elaborate religious system and would be eventually subdivided into a huge number of economic sub-classes which we call "castes." Social class by the end of the Rigvedic period became completely inflexible; there was no such thing as social mobility.

In the early centuries of Later Vedic Period or Brahmanic Period (1000-500 BC), the Aryans migrated across the Doab, which is a large plain which separates the Yamuna River from the Ganges. It was a difficult project, for the Doab was thickly forested; the Aryans slowly burned and settled the Doab until they reached the Ganges. While the Rig Veda represents the most primitive religion of the Aryans during the Rigvedic Period, the religion of the Later Vedic period is dominated by the Brahmanas, or priestly book, which was composed sometime between 1000 and 850 BC. Later Vedic society is dominated by the Brahmans and every aspect of Aryan life comes under the control of priestly rituals and spells. In history as the Indians understand it, the Later Vedic Period is the Epic Age; the great literary, heroic epics of Indian culture, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, though they were composed between 500 and 200 BC, were probably originally formulated and told in the Later Vedic Period. Both of these epics deal with heroes from this period and demonstrate how Aryan cultural values, as we can understand them from the Rig Veda , are being transformed by mixing with Indus cultures.

What did the Aryans do with their time? They seem to have had a well-developed musical culture, and song and dance dominated their society. They were not greatly invested in the visual arts, but their interest in lyric poetry was unmatched. They loved gambling. They did not, however, have much interest in writing even though they could have inherited a civilization and a writing system when they originally settled India. We do not know exactly when they became interested in writing, but it may have been at the end of the Brahmanic period somewhere between 650 and 500 BC. Still, there are no Aryan writings until the Mauryan period—from Harappa (2500-1750 BC) to Maurya (300 BC) is quite a long time. The script that the Mauryans used is called "Brahmi" script and was used to write not only the religious and literary language of the time, Sanskrit, but also the vernacular languages. This script, Brahmi, is the national alphabet of India.

The Vedic period, then, is a period of cultural mixing, not of conquest. Although the Aryans were a conquering people when they first spread into India, the culture of the Aryans would gradually mix with indigenous cultures and the war-religion of the Aryans, still preserved in parts of the Rig Veda, slowly became more ritualized and more meditative. By 200 BC, this process of mixing and transforming was more or less complete and the culture we call "Indian" was fully formed.

Were they Copycats or Geniuses?

How did the Harappans take the great leap from self-contained agricultural societies to a trade-oriented, luxury-conscious, sophisticated, urban civilization that gave the world the concept of town planning? Analyzing the evidence from various sites, Possehl found that between 2600 BC and 2500 BC, the Harappans experienced a century of cathartic changes. Before this he finds no breadboard models of the expansion to come, be it the invention of writing or the awesome town-planning techniques. A tremendous jump in human ability is evident. So what or who caused it?

In the past, the reputed British archaeologist, Sir Mortimer Wheeler, argued that ideas have wings and that the Harappans were influenced by their trade contacts with the Sumerians. But the diffusion theory of civilization, as it is called, is slowly being given the heave-ho. Cambridge historian Raymond Allchin, an authority on the subject, says: "We are now beginning to see the foundation being laid in the preceding 100 to 200 years in smaller sites. There appears to be a completely organic process of growth that threw up the Harappan culture as we know it."

Yet, the evidence of that process continues to be scanty. In Kunal in Haryana, archaeologists recently found what are known as proto Indus seals. On pottery on many of the smaller sites in both India and Pakistan, graffiti similar to some figures on the script begin to appear. And at Dholavira and at Banawali in Haryana, the distinction between the citadel and the lower city is beginning to evolve. There is, however, a huge jump in scale in such activity in those critical 100 years. For, in Harappa as in most Indus sites, the distinct gridiron pattern for streets appear, a scientific system of drainage that linked up to even the smallest house in the lower city is established, precise weights and measures begin to circulate, and the writing system evolves. So were the Harappans copycats? Archaeologists say the Indus people couldn’t have copied their town-planning from Egypt and Mesopotamia because in those civilizations the roads meandered like village streets. Nor was the writing similar to Sumer`s cuneiform or the Egyptian hieroglyphics. The Harappans had their own distinctive style. Lal explains the dramatic change as a result of centuries of growth reaching a critical mass that caused an unparalleled urban explosion. Trade, he believes, was the driving force of the revolution. Even a skeptic like Possehl maintains that "these are indeed an expression of the Indian genius".

Did Aryans kill them or a Depression?

Archaeologists are known to stumble, but the kind of knocking Wheeler has taken over his Aryan invasion theory has few parallels. When the British archaeologist discovered a dozen skeletons in Mohenjodaro, he propounded a theory about the final massacre by marauding invaders that put an end to the Indus civilization. When an Indian scholar told him of Hariyuppa being mentioned in the Rigveda, he took it to mean Harappa. And since a fort was known as pur, and Indira, the Aryan god, was known as Purandhara or destroyer of forts, it all fitted neatly.

After all, weren’t the Indus cities among the most fortified? Yet the past 50 years, and more so the last decade, has shown just how wrong Wheeler was. The last massacre theory was his imagination running riot. Far from being snuffed out, there was a brilliant resurgence of Indus culture further south for a while. Possehl, who made a recent study, found that in 2000 BC in Pakistan’s Sindh district the sites were down from 86 to 6 and in Cholistan, 174 to 41. But in India the sites in Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan exploded from 218 to 853. Possehl asks: "How can this be construed as an eclipse? We are looking at a highly mobile people."

Allchin argues that there is clear indication that the rainfall pattern, which had initially brought fertility, had become adverse in the Sindh region. And theories that, given the instability of the Himalayan region, there may have been a massive earthquake that possibly changed the course of rivers such as the Sarasvati and affected many Indus cities. The Indus people then migrated eastward. Lal talks of steep decline in trade because of problems in Sumer that resulted in a Great Depression and turned many urban centers into ghost cities.

Bisht concurs with Lal but goes a step further. He says that after the quake hit the heart of the civilization, the Indus people migrated east which acted like a sort of bypass to their woes. And like a dying candle, it shone brilliantly again but briefly before being snuffed out. Dholavira, Banawali, Mehrgarh, Harappa -- in fact, all the major cities show that as the cities declined, encroachments on streets that were unseen at its peak began to occur with alarming regularity. There was a breakdown in sanitation and cities like their modern-day counterparts in India simply ran themselves aground. They were replaced by massive squatter colonies and an explosion of rural sites as people, disillusioned with cities, went back to farming communities. A giant step backward.

Yet it wasn’t as if all came to naught as was earlier believed. Some of the writings survived in the pottery of the following ages. The weight and decimal system too lived on. And so did the bullock-cart technology that the Indus had perfected. Rather than a violent transition, there may have been an orderly interaction with oncoming Aryans. Lal in his most recent book even puts across the most audacious theory: Could the Bronze Age Harappans be Aryans themselves? He says this because of the presence of fire worship and the discovery of horse remains and idols in Indus sites. Meadows dismisses it as premature and points out that it was more likely that ass remains were mistaken for that of a horse’s. And that the Vedas showed a great antipathy for urban centers.

Whatever the cause, it would take another 1,000 years for a semblance of civilization to return to the subcontinent -- a dire warning to modern India of the catastrophe that can befall an errant populace.

Environmental Stress in the Indus Valley

Source: Quotation from D. P. Agarwal and R. K. Sood in Gregory L. Possehl, ed., Harappan Civilization: A Contemporary Perspective (Warminster, England: Aris and Phillips, 1982),229.

The three river-valley civilizations discussed in this chapter were located in arid or semiarid regions. Such regions are particularly vulnerable to changes in the environment. Scholars' debates about the existence and impact of changes in the climate and landscape of the Indus Valley illuminate some of the potential factors at work, as well as the difficul¬ties of verifying and interpreting such long-ago changes.

One of the points at issue is climatic change. An earlier generation of scholars believed that the climate of the Indus Valley was considerably wetter during the height of that civ¬ilization than it is now. As evidence, they cited the enormous quantities of timber, cut from extensive forests, that would have been needed to bake the millions of mud bricks used to construct the cities (see photo), the distribution of human settlements on land that is now unfavorable for agriculture, and the representation of jungle and marsh animals on dec¬orated seals. This approach assumes that the growth of pop¬ulation, prosperity, and complexity in the Indus Valley in the third millennium B.C.E. required wet conditions, and it con¬cludes that the change to a drier climate in the early second millennium B.C.E. pushed this civilization into decline.

Other experts, skeptical about a radical climatic change, countered with alternative calculations of the amount of timber needed and evidence of plant remains-particularly barley, a grain that is tolerant of dry conditions. However, re¬cent studies of the stabilization of sand dunes, which occurs in periods of heavy rainfall, and analysis of the sediment de¬posited by rivers and winds have been used to strengthen the claim that the Indus Valley used to be wetter and in the early-to-mid second millennium B.C.E. entered a period of relatively dry conditions that have persisted to the present.

A much clearer case can be made for changes in the land¬scape caused by shifts in the courses of rivers. These shifts are due, in many cases, to tectonic forces such as earthquakes. Dry channels, whether detected in satellite photographs or by on-the-ground inspection, reveal the location of old river¬beds, and it appears that a second major river system, the Hakra, once ran parallel to the Indus some distance to the east. The Hakra, with teeming towns and fertile fields along its banks, appears to have been a second axis of this civiliza¬tion. Either the Sutlej, which now feeds into the Indus, or the Yamuna, which now pours into the Ganges, may have been the main source of water for this long-gone system before undergoing a change of course. The consequences of the drying-up of this major waterway must have been immense- the loss of huge amounts of arable land and the food that it produced, the abandonment of cities and villages and consequent migration of their populations, shifts in the trade routes, and desperate competition for shrinking resources.

As for the Indus itself, the present-day course of the lower reaches of the river has shifted 100 miles (161 kilometers) to the west since the arrival of the Greek conqueror Alexander the Great in the late fourth century B.C.E., and the deposit of massive volumes of silt has pushed the mouth of the river 50 miles (80 kilometers) farther south. Such a shift of the river bed and buildup of alluvial deposits also may have occurred in the third and second millennia B.C.E.

A recent study concludes: "It is obvious that ecological stresses, caused both climatically and technically, played an im¬portant role in the life and decay" of the Indus civilization.


Activity four: Read the article below about the early Chinese dynasties. Write an 800 word essay that answers the questions: What role might the environment have played in the rise of this civilization? How and why did governments form and what were the results? What was the basis for religion in early China? What was the role of religion in early China? What were the different roles of women in society? Again, do NOT look up additional information, use only what is provided. Also, do NOT quote from the articles, paraphrase and summarize only. Turn in your essay to before the first day of school.

The Shang and Zhou Dynasties

By 5000 BCE agricultural communities had spread through much of what is now called China, and there were agricultural villages from the Wei River Valley eastward, parallel with the great Yellow River (Huang He), which flowed out of the Kunlun Mountains to the deciduous forest and loess soil region of the North China Plain. Where people were free of forest and had access to water they grew millet -- as early as 5500 BCE -- while they continued to hunt deer and other game, to fish and gather food. And they raised dogs, pigs and chickens. They built one-room homes dug into the earth, with roofs of clay or thatch: pit homes grouped in villages. They had spinning wheels and knitted and wove fibers. And they made pottery decorated with art.

Flooding along the Yellow River was worse than it was along the Yangzi River to the south. Along the Yangzi River, through the Hubei Basin and on the coastal plain to Hangzhou Bay, farming had also developed, but people along the Yellow River had to work harder at flood control and irrigation, and perhaps this stimulated a greater effort at organization. At any rate, the North China Plain became the largest area with a relatively dense population.

Where people were producing more food than they needed to survive, warriors had the incentive not only to plunder but also to conquer. And conquering kings arose on the North China Plain as they did in West Asia. The first dynasty of kings in the North China Plain has been described as belonging to the Xia family - whose rule is thought to have begun around 2200 BCE. But the first dynasty of which there is historical evidence is that of the Shang family. The Shang clan came out of the Wei River Valley just west of the North China Plain. By around 1500 BCE, give or take a century or so, the Shang unified people along the North China Plain. The military had chariots, each with an aristocrat archer, a driver and sometimes also a man with a spear. The Shang built an empire in much the same way as other conquerors: by leaving behind a garrison force to police local people, by turning a local king into a subservient ally free to manage local matters, and by taxing the conquered.

Around 1384 BCE the Shang moved their capital to Yin. As a regular pastime the Shang emperors and nobles hunted in organized game drives. Emperors and aristocrats had splendid homes with walls of pounded earth or earthen bricks while common people continued to live in their pit homes of earlier times. A Shang emperor was chief priest, and he had an administrative bureaucracy, with councilors, lesser priests and diviners. As with other warring civilizations, slaves were taken, the slaves laboring at growing crops. And women in Shang civilization were subservient to men, with aristocratic women enjoying a greater freedom and equality than common women. The role of the woman was to be gentle, calm, respectful, and to obey her husband. Women were lower than men and were subjected to women’s work (tending to the children and needs of the husband). Men also married multiple times and women were used as concubines.

During the Shang dynasty, the civilization along the Yellow River had canals for irrigating crops. Communities had drains that ran water out of town. They made beer from millet. The stable government allowed for extended trading and use of money in the form of cowry shells. Shang merchants traded in salt, iron, copper, tin, lead and antimony, some of which had to be imported from far away. As early as the 1300 BCE a bronze casting industry had developed. This was later than the rise of bronze casting in Europe and West Asia, but it was the most advanced in the world.

It was around 1300 BCE that the first known writing appeared in Shang civilization because the government officials needed to have questions answered that would allow them to better govern. This writing was for divination, done on plate-like portions of the bones of cattle or deer, on seashells and turtle shells and perhaps on wood. By applying a pointed, heated rod to a bone or shell, the item cracked, and to which written symbol the crack traveled gave answers for various questions: what the weather was going to be like, would there be flood, would a harvest succeed or fail, when might be the best time for hunting or fishing, there were also personal questions about illness or whether one should make a journey.

Shang Violence and Splendor

To the east, north and south of Shang civilization were those the Shang saw as barbarians, including the farming people along the Yangzi River. Shang emperors sent out armies to repulse invaders, and the Shang emperors went beyond their domains to plunder and to capture foreign peoples needed for sacrifice to their gods. Uncovered tombs of emperors from the Shang period indicate that they could put into the field as many as three to five thousand soldiers. Found buried with the emperors were their personal ornaments and spears with bronze blades and the remains of what had been bows and arrows. Buried with the emperors were also horses and chariots for transporting soldiers to battle. And with the emperors in death were their charioteers, dogs, servants and people in groups of ten -- people who had been ceremonially beheaded with bronze axes.

Zhou Empire, Religion and Human Sacrifice

Shang rule was threatened by forces from outside and from within its empire. To the west of Shang civilization, in the Wei River Valley, lived a pastoral people called Zhou who led an alliance that included other tribal peoples neighboring Shang civilization. While the Shang emperor, Zhouxin, was occupied by a war against tribal people to his southeast, rebellions broke out among people that Shang monarchs before him had conquered. The Zhou and their allies saw the Shang emperor's troubles as an opportunity to move against him, and in 1045 BCE they overpowered him at the battle of Mu-ye and had him beheaded.

A dynasty of Zhou emperors began ruling what had been Shang civilization. They claimed that all lands belonged to heaven, that they were the sons of heaven and therefore that all lands and all people were their subjects. Seeing the lands they had conquered as too vast for one man to dominate, the Zhou emperors divided these lands into regions and assigned someone to rule each region in their name, choosing for this position a close family member, a trusted member of their clan, or the chief of a tribe that had been allied with them against the Shang.

Each local ruler had at his disposal all the lands around him. He had his own militia. And from the Zhou emperors the local rulers received gifts such as chariots, bronze weapons, servants and animals. The local rulers received the title of lord (gong). Local rulers passed their positions to their sons, their titles of lord becoming hereditary. And to control their areas better, the lords made sub-lords of those who had dominated the common people before they arrived. A hierarchy of status and obligations emerged among families and within families, with older brothers ranking higher than younger brothers, with rules of succession as to which of the males would head his family. If a married aristocrat became infatuated with another woman, rather than drive his wife from his home he could bring the other woman into the family as a concubine, where she would rank beneath his wife.

Zhou emperors told those they had conquered that they, the Zhou, had ousted the ancestors of Shang emperors from heaven and that heaven was occupied by their supreme god, a god they called "The Lord on High," who, they said, had commanded the downfall of the Shang emperors. Like emperors in West Asia, Zhou emperors claimed that they ruled by divine right. They claimed that they represented on earth the "Lord on High" and that it was their duty to mediate with the Lord on High, to perform appropriate sacrifices and to maintain a proper relationship between heaven and their subjects. They claimed that any opposition to their rule was opposition to the will of heaven.

It was from the Zhou emperors that local lords received the right to act as a priest: to perform sacrifices, to have certain hymns sung and certain dances performed the right to propitiate the gods of local mountains, streams and of the soil and crops. Meanwhile, local aristocrats continued to keep track of their ancestral heritage. They married with religious rites and sanctions while common folk continued to have no such marriages, no surnames or recorded ancestors. They merely lived together and were recognized as a couple by their neighbors.

Ancestor worship was also very important to the Shang. It was thought that the success of crops and the health and well being of people were based on the happiness of dead ancestors.

The worship of various gods from the Shang period included: gods of grain, rain and agriculture -- one of whom was believed to have had a virgin birth. Among these gods was a god of the Yellow River who had the body of a fish but the face of a man.


Activity five: Research the social hierarchy, religion, political organization, writing systems, and technological aspects of the societies listed on the SNAPSHOT: Early Agricultural Societies. Describe each aspect of the society using specific evidence - in one or two clear sentences. (SEE EXAMPLE of Olmec Society.) Write VERY neatly in ink. Bring this chart with you on the FIRST DAY of school.