Horticultural and pastoral societies

A few thousand years later, new technology arrived and started to change many hunting and gathering societies. Horticulture is technology based on using hand tools to cultivate plans. The hoe’s essential tools are the hoe to work the soil and the digging stick to punch holes in the ground for seeds. 

But it was not a fit for everyone – people in particularly arid regions (such as the Middle East) or mountainous areas (such as in the Alps) found horticulture to be of little value. These people turned to a different strategy for survival, pastoralism, which is technology based on animals’ domestication. Finally, others combined the best of both worlds – horticulture and pastoralism to produce a variety of foods. 

These new technologies significantly increased food production, enabling communities to support not tens but hundreds of people living together. Pastoralists remained nomadic, leading their herds to new grazing lands. However, horticulturalists in comparison settled down, moving on only when they fully depleted the soil. These settlements, joined by trade, comprised multi-centred societies with overall populations reaching often thousands of people living together. But it is not the only reasons!

Domesticating plants and animals generates a material surplus – more resources than are necessary to sustain day-to-day living (I would say that this was the point where things started turning in a bad direction). A surplus let some people get away from the job and daily work of securing food, and let them to create crafts, engage in trade or serve as priests. All of this created, in comparison to hunters and gatherers, way much more complicated and specialised social arrangements in the society.

When it comes to moral leadership, horticulturalists practice ancestor worship and conceive God as creator. Pastoral societies carry this belief even further viewing God as directly involved in the well-being of the entire world. 

The new technology intensified social inequalities. As now some families produced more food than others, they took positions of relative power and privilege. As well they created alliances with other elite families to ensure that social advantages continue over generations, and here is a crucial point where a formal system of social inequality emerges

Along with this newly arrived social hierarchy, rudimentary government – backed by military force – is formed to shore up elites’ power.

Even if the domestication of plants and animals made societies more productive, we have to not forget that advancing technology is never brings only advantages. Compared to hunters and gatherers, horticultural and pastoral societies display more social inequality and, in many cases, engage in slavery, protracted warfare and even cannibalism. 

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