Study Questions for Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel, Chapter 4 and 5
1) What was the moral of the story Diamond tells us at the start of
The settlement of the West was simply one example of the victory of agricultural cultures over hunter-gatherers.
2) Identify the quotation that describes the chapter objective.
"Before we devote the next six chapters to understanding how geographic differences in food production arose, this chapter will trace the main connections through which food production led to all the advantages that enabled Pizarro to capture Atahuallpa" p. 86
3) What is the advantage of "the strength of brute numbers"?
Brute numbers of farmers allowed them to dominate lower population hunter-gatherer societies. The population of farmers was able to grow because agriculture increased the yield of edible plant material.
4) How did domesticated animals promote population growth?
"By furnishing meat, milk, fertilizer, and by pulling plows." Meat and milk increased protein and caloric consumption. Fertilizer and plowing increased agricultural yields and increased the amount of arable land, thus increasing food supply protein and caloric intake.
5) What are the advantages of a sedentary lifestyle for population
A sedentary lifestyle allowed farmer cultures to reduce birth interval (from 4 yrs. to 2), which increased birthrate and family size. "together with their ability to feed more people per acre, lets them achieve much higher population densities than hunter-gatherers."
Sedentary lifestyle makes storage of food surplus possible.
6) Name some of the "indirect" consequences of domesticating
Domesticated animals, and plants, provided fiber for clothing, blankets, nets, and ropes.
Domestication of large mammals revolutionized transportation of humans and cargo: long distances and large cargoes.
Domestication of horse revolutionized warfare.
Domesticated animals were source of germs that caused infectious diseases in humans. Farming populations developed immunity to these diseases but spread these diseases to populations without immunity, which caused extremely high mortalities.
Domesticated plants and animals led to development of politics, technology, military. So to answer Yali’s question, we have to look into where, when, and how this development happened.
7) What would you say is
the objective of Chapter 5? Paraphrase (that is, be sure to use your own
The objective is to answer the question, why did agriculture and herding develop in some places but not in others (especially in those areas that have since become agricultural regions)?
8) Name the 5 locations that independently gave rise to
agriculture. Be sure to note the times.
Southwest Asia 8,500 BC
China 7,500 BC
Mesoamerica 3,500 BC
Andes 3,500 BC
Eastern US 2,500 BC
9) What is a "founder" package? This is a very
important point. One of Diamond's crucial arguments is that the spread of
agriculture was very important. This movement will play a very large role
Diamond uses the term "founder package" to refer to the collection of imported domesticates that "founded local food production." Because of the increase in food production made possible by this group of domesticated plants and animals, local people could become sedentary, which allowed them to domesticate further local plants. The source region of the most important founder package (wheat, barley, sheep) was SW Asia.
10) Name the 3 locations that gave rise to agriculture after they
received a founder package.
This package diffused to W. Europe (Mediterranean), the Indus Valley, Egypt, and possibly Ethiopia.
"The peoples of areas with a head start on food production thereby gained a head start on the path leading towards guns, germs, and steel"
But, now, what geographical differences account for the varying dates of the onset of domestication and agriculture?