WAS IT A GREAT MISTAKE FOR HUMANS TO BECOME FARMERS? Professor James Scott has a new book out, AGAINST THE GRAIN, A DEEP HISTORY OF THE EARLIEST STATES, in which he argues that the discovery and adoption of agriculture by humans in about 10,000 BC was unfortunate. I had always understood that discovering agriculture was a major step forward for mankind, enabling marked increases in population, and leading to the creation of cities and to civilization. In this interview of Scott by Sean Illing on the Vox website, Scott says that archeological work in the last 20 years has made a major change in this time frame. The change in time frame also leads Scott to question whether the adoption of agriculture was a good thing.
Scott says that: “The accepted narrative is that humans abandoned hunting and gathering as soon they discovered agricultural technology.” Scott thinks that the archaeological evidence shows that it took 4000 years for humans to embrace agriculture, and that the delay is evidence that humans were aware of, and trying to avoid, the negatives that came with agriculture. Those negatives included the diseases that came with living with farm animals and the need to work hard all day while hunter-gatherers could take half the day off.