APPLIED ANTHROPOLOGY Kindest Regards, all! I am profusely sorry for not being around here nearly as much as I would like. Life gets in the way sometimes. Those of you here that know me, know I have a pressing interest in prehistoric humanity. I have long had questions regarding the origins of religion, thought, civilization, morality and the like, and how these things fit into an evolutionary paradigm. Over the course of many discussions I think we have concluded that not all of these questions have ready answers, and what answers there are, are rightfully shrouded in mystery. As with so many disciplines relating to prehistory, a great deal of the answers offered are in truth suggestions. Educated suggestions to be sure, but suggestions just the same. Some time back, approaching two years now as I recall, I stumbled on a piece of research that intrigued me concerning the development of agriculture. And that piece of research got set aside before I could do anything with it, and became misplaced. I am happy to report that I have re-found this research, and have taken a little time to look into it. The original paper I found is at: The Origins of Agriculture: Rise of Civilization or Defying Evolution? Titled “The Origins of Agriculture, Rise of Civilization or Defying Evolution?”, by Promise Partner. Ms. Partner presented some intriguing information that has had me thinking from time to time over the last two years. It would probably be best to begin with a cursory overview of the traditional view of the development of agriculture. It is surmised that some rare individual realized that if “he” planted and tended a crop instead of migrating with the herds as a nomad (hunter / gatherer), “he” could have a bountiful supply of food and lots of free time for recreation. This led to opportunity to develop things like the wheel, astronomy, mathematics, walled cities and civilization as we know it. A great deal occurred in a relatively short span of time, such as the development of war as an art, the development of iron tools, and shortly was to come codified law. All of this is traditionally associated with the region between the two great rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, the region referred to as the Fertile Crescent, in what is today called Iraq. Of course, what those first crops were is open still to question. It is often presented that those crops would have likely been cereals, perhaps wheat, barley or some other cereal grain. (This is usually supported by engravings and writings from Egypt and Sumer / Babylon showing the cultivation and use of grain.) Here is where Ms. Partner’s paper presents some intrigue. It seems cereals are not typical foods for nomads. Now, this takes a bit of reasoning to sink in, so bear with me. Cereal, grain, is not “human” food. Humans have not “evolved” as animals to eat grain. Witness the intense amount of people in the world with allergies, some very severe, to grain products. So if the human body is not equipped to handle grain, why in the world did someone take the time and make the effort to cultivate grain? Remember, this cultural shift was tremendous, this person or persons who decided to cultivate the ground instead of following the herds was making an until then unheard of shift in their thinking and reasoning, developing a brand new cultural design with no blueprint. They were following an uncharted path, definitely the road less traveled. So why did they base this new cultural design on cereal, if cereal is lacking in nutritional value compared to the variety and nutrition offered by the nomadic lifestyle? Now, I had heard some other reports elsewhere regarding how certain foods affect us. Indeed, it is said that Hippocrates, the father of medicine himself, admonished all to “let you food be your medicine, and your medicine your food.” Herbalists the world over understand that foods affect our bodies. Of course, this subject can easily carry off into it’s own tangent, about how western civilization is poisoning itself through the food supply via “artificial” ingredients, but I will save that for another day. Closer to the subject at hand, I have heard reports associating the Salem Witch hunts and the French Revolution to Ergot spores on their rye crops. It seems an overly wet year in each instance caused the rye to spoil in the fields. The people, having little else to eat and no other viable choice, ate the spoiled grain in their bread. Trouble is, Ergot is a natural hallucinogen, very closely related to LSD (Lysergic acid Diethalymide, forgive my spelling). So, while we all have the telling of the Witch hunts and the French Revolution fairly well ingrained in our heads, it is interesting to consider that the people involved in these instances of “mass paranoia” were under the influence of a powerful hallucinogen! Proceeding with these thoughts in mind, Ms. Partner’s paper suggests that people ate cereals because of the “chemical rewards” grain offered to humans. It appears there are certain chemicals, related to opioids, which are contained in grain. These chemicals trigger mild euphoric feelings in humans, as well as other mental status changes, including addiction. Ms. Partner’s paper suggests what I feel is a very poignant question: if “evidence suggests that health declined with the adoption of agriculture,” why did “we” become agrarian in the first place? A closely related tangent suggests the reason was alcohol. Now, to be sure, fruit ferments on its own in nature, and I have read of instances of chimpanzees and giraffes getting drunk on fermented fruit. So it is not unreasonable to presume that prehistoric humans likely got drunk from time to time eating fermented fruit. At some point, as suggested by certain ancient religious texts, “man” figured out how to control and maintain the process of fermentation, providing better quality and quantity of product. Especially considering the adoption of growing grain as a nutritional resource, it seems to make sense that the reason for doing so, initially or incidentally, was for the purpose of fermenting beer. Keep in mind, fermented grain still has the “opioid” chemicals intact in the brew. This seems to me to suggest why some people become addicted, not just to alcohol, but to carbohydrates in the form of bread and cereal as well. Civilization did not grow from nomadic cultures. Every culture that has developed to the point of influential significance has grown from an agrarian base, I can think of no exceptions. Cultures that have remained nomadic through the centuries have been those we “civilized” peoples have looked down upon as uncivilized, brutish, backward and barbarian. It seems a major component of civilization is an addiction to opioid neuro-chemicals found in grain and grain products. Civilization is born from a bunch of drug addicts, and we are still addicted some ten thousand or so years later! Interesting stuff to consider. Comments, anyone?