Guns, Germs and Steel Chapter 6 QS:

1. What questions will Diamond attempt to answer in this chapter?

Why did hunters and gatherers shift to food production (farming)?

Why did the shift occur at ~8500BC?

Why did some hunters and gatherer societies reject food production, or only slowly make the change?


2.  Explain how scholarly research has upended the commonly held stereotypes about hunters and gatherers.  Use these terms in your explanation: work, nourishment, stature and age.

Most food producers are not better off than hunters and gatherers and often have to work more to feed themselves. Archaeological research has shown that early farmers often had worse nourishment, smaller stature and lived to lower ages than hunters and gatherers.  


3. What is relationship between hunting and gathering and being sedentary or migratory?

Contrary to the stereotype of nomadic hunters and gatherers, Diamond points out that many hunters and gatherers were sedentary. He even speculates that a higher percentage of hunters and gatherers were sedentary prior to the spread of farming.


4. According to Diamond, why did nomadism become a primary strategy of hunters and gatherers?

Hunters and gatherers were forced to turn to nomadism as farming took over more and more of their land resources.


the shift from hunting and gathering to food production did not always coincide with a shift from nomadism to sedentary living.


5. What factors made the shift from hunting and gathering to food production so slow in most parts of the world?

1. There was no existing model of farming for hunters and gatherers to emulate. Secondly, farming systems developed only gradually over millenia of trial and error.


6. What two factors made the shift from hunting and gathering to food production so rapid in southeastern Europe?

Southeastern Europe’s cultures were close to the early farming cultures and possibly could have witnessed the benefits of farming.  Most importantly, the hunting and gathering system of cultures in southeastern Europe were not particularly productive.



7. What five factors led to the general shift from hunting gathering to food production during the past 10,000 years?  Be sure that you understand each of them.

1. Decrease in availability of wild foods: For example extinction of large mammals in the Americas.

2. Increase in the availability of “domesticable wild plants” because of global warming at the end of the Pleistocene.

3. Accumulation of technological innovations that made farming a practical system of subsistence: development of sickles, storage...

4. Rising population density.

5. Farming occupied hunters and gatherers’ land resources and made that strategy obsolete. 


8. How did climate changes at the end of the Pleistocene and food production cause population densities to rise?

Global temperatures rose at the end of the Pleistocene and made more of Earth’s surface habitable for plants and animals. This, along with technological progress, appears to have allowed hunters and gatherer populations to increase.  With higher population densities, farming became more attractive because it is more productive and can feed more people than hunting and gathering.  


9. Explain how the rise of food production was an auto-catalytic process. 

An auto-catalytic process is one that increases in speed over time. Think of how fast silicon chip miniaturization has proceeded. That’s an example of an auto-catalytic process. Regarding food production, Diamond concludes that increases in population density forced farmers to innovate and increase production, which fed more people, which led to further population growth, which forced farmers to innovate and increase production...


10. What paradox did this auto-catalytic process lead to?

It led to a treadmill that forced farmers to labor to produce more food for more people, but, in some cases, resulted in undernourishment of those people.


11. Explain why the indigenous peoples of Californias Central Valley didnt make the shift from hunting and gathering to food production. Indigenous peoples of the Central Valley had productive hunting and gathering systems and were separated from early farmers by extensive deserts.