(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists to this day wonder what served as a catalyst for the development of human civilization. And it seems that one plausible hypothesis has become more.
It is believed that the first civilization on earth was the ancient Mesopotamia of the 4th millennium BC.
The dawn of human civilization is often associated with the advent of agriculture. As food production increased, so did the population, trade, and taxes.
At least that’s what the prevailing theory of scientists says. U.S. economists have put forward a competing hypothesis, and it suggests that food surplus alone was not enough to drive the transition from hunter-gatherer societies to hierarchical states that eventually led to civilization.
Instead, numerous datasets spanning several thousand years show that this prevailing theory is empirically and experimentally flawed.
Even when some parts of the world began to farm and produce surplus food, this did not necessarily lead to complex hierarchies or tax-collecting states. It wasn’t until people began to grow food that could be stored, shared, sold, and taxed that social structures began to take shape.
What Scientists Have Found
It is probably the forced storage of cereals (wheat, barley and rice) and not taro, yams or potatoes that underlies almost all classical civilizations.
The facts show that if the land was capable of growing crops, then complex social structures were much more likely to take shape and develop in the territory.
“The relative ease of confiscation of grains from the population, the high energy density and longevity of cereals increase their appropriability, thereby contributing to the emergence of a tax-collecting elite,” the authors of the hypothesis note.
The researchers suggest that hierarchies beyond chiefdoms did not arise in any of the societies dependent on root or tuber plants, even if there were more than enough roots to feed everyone.
“Thus, we agree with the conventional productivity theory that farmers in hierarchical societies produce surpluses, but we argue that surpluses do not create an elite, but an elite creates a food surplus on which it can prosper,” write American economists led by Joram. Myshar
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