D. Classic: Farming & Empire Buildingimages/ElCastllo3.jpgi mages/ElCastllo3.jpg
The changes that domestic plants or cultigens brought were dramatic; some we may consider good, but a lot of problems were brought upon humans throughout the world. Domestication of plants and animals most fundamentally brought about an increase of sedentary living. People were generally seasonal in the earlier hunting, gathering and modest horticulture lifestyle. As the farming took hold, people needed more fertile land and developed more intensive agricultural techniques. The sedentary lifestyle increased fertility and population density leading to a shift from village life to urban life. The emergence of urban life or cities not only saw increased populations but the emergence of social hierarchies; often resulting in a takeover of a ruling elite. In turn as urban centers developed their power base increased with trade and ultimately led to the formation of empires. In America such changes resulted in empires in Meso America ( Valley of Mexico, El Peten, Yucatan,etc.), South America (Andes, N. Tropical, Brazilian Highlands) and later in North America (Southwest, E. Woodlands, Plains). A number of courses are needed to expand on this cultural development (AIS 130; Anth 110; CS 155), but a summary will present the basic cultures and areas.
These American civilizations were unique and developed with very little help from other parts of the world. American Corn is indigenous to America and Native Americans hybridized this grain to produce huge ears compared to the grains of the 'Old World'. Other 'New World' developments like the peanut or groundnut, a pea that planted itself in the ground,and the potato continue to be important world crops. Native Americans developed writing, metal and the wheel; but never used the wheel for beasts of burden. In fact Native Americans did not domestic livestock too much and preferred to keep most meat in a wild or semi-wild state. The dog was domesticated thousands of years ago by most people of the world, including Native Americans.
In spite of the differences there were many similarities between the world civilizations. Farming brought its share of problems to include exponential population growth, increased diseases, increased warfare and despotic rulers. Initially there is evidence of harmonious theocratic empires, but eventually these crumble; including those in the Americas. Since Europeans disrupted cultural development so much, we will never know how Native American traditional cultures would have faired. We will next look at some traditional Native American cultures at the moment of European contact..