Hunters, gatherers and first farmers beyond Europe

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  • BOOK REVIEWS 397

    and to state a case clearly at that level. In this he has succeeded, and the book must in all fairness be appreciated in those terms. At that level of argument, he is able to ask questions about the apparent world-wide synchronism of the phenomenon, and about the forces which led to the abandonment of modes of food-procurement which had sufficed for millennia previously. The survey is the more useful in being free from jargon and over-qualified statements, and his first section does contain some interesting discus- sion. For example it is valid to analyse the concept of carrying capacity in its applica- bility to human beings, bringing out flaws in some of the perhaps over-confident propositions of Binford (e.g. see pp. 46-48).

    Other problems which cannot be entirely dissociated from the consideration of agricultural origins, such as the place of pastoralism in the model, might have received more attention. The very small numbers of a wide range of species, found at sites with a specialized prey, might have been considered in the light of their Constancy and as serving some other function than food, such as furs for clothing; this is not done in, for example, the argument on p. 117. More credit might have been given to Boserup particularly for her discussion of what is cause and what effect, which is a very important distinction in demographic issues and underlies the whole use of population in this book. But such minor criticisms apart, the book is an excellent, wide-ranging and widely read survey, putting forward an explanation which many people feel intuitively must have some validity. Population density however is not so much the central variable, as Cohen implies (see p. 283), but rather is a complex resultant of many bio-social forces. Recalling what Harrod said of Cherwell-in the long run the reason for the reason is going to have to be better than the reason.

    John Nundris

    Hunters, Gatherers and First Farmers beyond Europe. Edited by J. S. V. Megaw. 1977. 266 pp. Illustrations. Index. Leicester: Leicester Univer- sity Press. &5-95.

    As Flannery remarked in 1973, in what he implied would be his last contribution to it, study of The Origins of Agriculture had become a bandwagon, one which had afforded him a good ride but from which he yearned to step down. Since 1973 the bandwagon has rolled on under its own momentum, gathering weight if not always wisdom and depositing in its tracks a succession of literary landmarks to mark its passage. These range in scope and purpose from summary statements, such as Barbara Benders selective review of current concepts and evidence (Farming in Prehistory, Baker, 1975), to reports from the research frontier, such as the massive and long awaited volume edited by Charles Reed (Origins of Agriculture, Mouton, 1977). Hunters, gatherers and jirst,farmers beyond Europe falls between these two extremes. It is a mixed bag in which introductory statements summarizing aspects of the physical environment, archaeology and ethnography of a major world region (Shaw on West Africa, Allchin on the Indian subcontinent, Gathercole on Polynesia, and Taylor on North America) rub shoulders with more intellectually sophisticated discussions of the origins of agriculture in particular areas (Legge on Palestine, Glover on southeast Asia, Allen on New Guinea and Bray on Mexico).

    These two classes of contributions are prefaced by three non-regional essays: one by Brothwell on early human population history in relation to economic change in which he argues that domestication (in the sense of man-organism relationships that are sufficiently close to restrict the breeding potential of the domesticates) is a Pleistocene

  • 398 BOOK REVIEWS

    phenomenon; one by Alexander in which he applies to prehistoric contexts the frontier concept elaborated by historians studying post-European North America and in so doing identifies (somewhat arbitrarily to my mind) twenty-eight situations in which frontier conditions between farmers and hunter-gatherers have existed; and one by Orme in which she suggests several general reasons why hunter-gatherers should ever have taken to farming (protection of food plants from animal predators, prolongation and intensification of social life, acquisition of material possessions, reduction of womans role as child-carrier, and the possibility of indulging in organized warfare). Lack of space forbids comment on each of these generalizations, but it seems to me that Orme is discussing some of the advantages of sedentism rather than of agriculture (the two phenomena not necessarily being coincident). I also find unconvincing the statement (p. 41) that it is unlikely that we shall know how until we know why farming developed, a priority that is reversed by Allen who points out (p. 175) thatthesearchfor reasons may well be obviated by an understanding of process.

    In a short review it is not possible to do justice to the wealth of fact, opinion and conjecture that this book provides. Each contribution contains points of interest to layman and specialist, and the overall emphasis on non-European lands (Australia, northeastern Asia and South America unfortunately excepted) offers a fresh perspective to readers customarily blinkered by the parochial traditions of much British and Continental European archaeology. Rather than make the invidious choice of one or two contributions for particular appraisal, I will comment briefly on three conclusions that I believe are of general significance and which emerge from a complete reading of the book.

    The first conclusion is that the time-honoured conceptual dichotomy between hunter- gatherer and farmer is naive and often misleading. To those who are familiar with the subsistence practices of surviving primitive peoples in the tropics and elsewhere-or even with descriptions of them in the ethnographic literature-it is a truism that hunter- gatherers frequently manipulate (and sometimes even cultivate) their plant resources and that farmers commonly gather, fish and hunt. And yet archaeologists have tended, on slender evidence afforded by plant and animal remains, to classify the peoples whose debris they exhume as either agricultural or non-agricultural. Much of the archaeological data discussed in this book can support either a foraging or a farming interpretation, a point that leads directly to the second conclusion: the necessity of differentiating clearly between domestication and agriculture.

    The need for such a distinction is often overlooked, but here it is acknowledged by several contributors, either implicitly or explicitly. Legge, in his closely reasoned com- mentary on the origins of agriculture in the Near East, contrasts the evidence for agriculture at such major tell sites as Jericho, Abu Hureyra and Mureybit, with the much more ambiguous evidence for cultivation with or without domestication at such early cave and open sites as Nahei Oren and Ain Mallaha. Similarly Glover and Allen distinguish between the possibility of the late Pleistocene manipulation or domestica- tion of plant and animal resources in southeast Asia and Melanesia (for example at Spirit Cave and Kosipe) and the post-Pleistocene development of agricultural economies; while Bray focuses sharply on the distinction when he explicitly discusses the problem of recognizing early agriculture and defining the nature of farming society.

    This theme introduces the third and most fundamental conclusion that emerges from the book: that sustained environmental and/or societal stress is required to bring about a transition from dependence on hunting and gathering to dependence on agriculture. Most of the contributors who address the problem of causation stress the need for stress (as does this reviewer), but Bray argues for a drift rather than a push model. This is not the place to debate his hypothesis, but I must enter a disclaimer that stress

  • BOOK REVIEWS 399

    hypotheses (at least mine) do not, as Bray suggests (p. 236), seek to explain the develop- ment of farming in terms of calories alone. On the other hand, I find myself in close agreement with most of Brays argument, particularly his emphasis on the gradual growth of dependence on cultivated foods that leads ultimately (and often irreversibly) to the emergence of a developed agricultural economy.

    This book is neither an introductory text nor a report of current research. It is uneven in quality and does not comprehensively cover the ground implied in its title. But it is compact, timely, readable and especially welcome as a corrective to Eurocentric views of the origins of agriculture.

    David R. Harris

    Chalcolithic Copper Smelting: Excavations and Experiments. By B. Rothenberg, R. F. Tylecote and P. J. Boydell. 1978. Archaeo-metallurgy monograph no. 1. 5 1 pp. London : Institute for Archaeo-metallurgical Studies. &4GO.

    This monograph is concerned principally with one site, a small smelting camp at Timna in the southern Negev, which was excavated in 1965. The report is divided into two main sections: the first being a brief introduction by Rothenberg to the work in the Timna area during the past two decades and a description of the smelting camp and associated furnace known as site 39 ; and the second is a detailed discussion by Tylecote and Boydell of experimental copper smelting which has been carried out in an attempt to elucidate the details of the extraction processes which were employed at Timna.

    In his introduction, Rothenberg discusses the importance of the metal-working finds in this area of the Negev and emphasises the antiquity and varied nature of the many sites which have been discovered. Of these, site 39 is dated to the late fourth millennium B.C. on the basis of flints, found partly on the surface and partly during the excavation. However, site 39 was essentially a single stratum site and as at least two hearths were found within the enclosed area, it is a pity that no C-14 confirmation has been forth- coming for the proposed date.

    The experimental smelting work reported in the second part by Tylecote and Boydell involved work in two simulated Timna furnaces-one from site 39 and a taller furnace from site 2 of the late Bronze Age or early Iron Age. Smelting was carried out using both an artificial ore and Timna ore and the variation of parameters such as air-flow, fuel : ore ratio, ore size and fluxing material were investigated. The results are clearly presented in graphical form, but, although a considerable amount of information has been accumulated, more work needs to be done before we can fully understand the technology which was in use at Timna.

    Nevertheless, the book is a very valuable addition to our knowledge of early copper smelting and points the way to further research in the future. Unfortunately the lavish level of production is reflected in the price, which is at least twice what might be expected from good quality offset-litho.

    Andrew Oddy

    The Mammals of Pakistan. By T. J. Roberts. 1977. 361 +xxvi pp. 4 colour plates, text figures and distribution maps. Appendices. Biblio- graphy. Index. London: Benn. &35W.

    A sound knowledge of the flora and fauna of any area is an essential prerequisite for bio-archaeological and palaeoecological studies. Any new and authoritative synopses

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