Guns Germs and Steel
Chapter 7: How to Make an Almond

Fleshy Fruits

Selection of Desired Qualities
 Eventually humans selected desired qualities:
Traits Selected Unknowingly Difficulty of Domestication

Wheat and peas easy to domesticate in Fertile Crescent (8,500 B.C.)

Fruit and nut trees harder to domesticate(4,000 B.C.) due to long growing season.

Fruit trees that needed grafting took even longer


Cereals are low in protein, but the deficit is made up by pulses (beans, peas, lentils)  in most food systems.

Sowing by Broadcast

Grains in Eurasia were sown by broadcast, later in animal plowed fields to give monoculture.

Digging Sticks

In new world, planting done by digging stick, (no plow animals domesticated), leading to mixed gardens.

Almonds and Oaks
Almonds more easily domesticated:

Oaks never domesticated:  
Chapter 8:  Apples or Indians

Domesticated Plants

Domestication Requirements
Several domesticable  plants had large ranges, but domesticated only in one place.
  Why not in others?
Domestication required settling down, and had to be worth it with several plants domesticated, not just one.

Fertile Crescent

Fertile Crescent Advantages

Fertile Crescent Domestication Meso America
 Independent Domestication

In New Guinea or USA, food also independently domesticated, but limited crops.
Indigenous peoples usually walking encyclopedias about wild foods.
Was it culture that rejected domesticated crops?
Unlikely since imported crops readily adapted and then populations took off.
Problem was in the plants available for domestication.
Poor candidates for grain domestication
No large animal domestication,
Crops domesticated had limited calories and protein.

New Guinea

New Guinea crop was Taro:
Low in protein, leading to eating of

USA crops were squash, sunflower, sumpweed and goosefoot.
 Not enough of a crop package to sustain large populations without hunting and gathering, until Maize imported 2000 years later.
 Therefore it was the lack of an entire suite of animal and plants available for domestication that was responsible for the late start of food production in N. America.

Chapter 9:  Zebras, etc

Domesticated Animals

Of the 14 large (over 100 lb) successful domesticated animal species in the world

Large Animals

Of 148 large herbivorous or omnivorous species in the world Not a Cultural Issue

Why have 134 out of 148 big species not been domesticated?
1) Diet too finicky (ex: koala)
2) Growth rate too slow (ex: elephants, gorillas)
3) Captive Breeding. Some animals have elaborate mating rituals that they won't do in captivity (ex: cheetah, vicuna)
4) Nasty Disposition. (ex: grizzly bear, African buffalo, onager, zebra, hippo, elk)
5) Tendency to panic. (ex: deer, antelope, gazelles).
6) Social structure.

Chapter 10:  Spacious Skies and Tilted Axes

Easier to spread East-West

It was easier for domestic plants and animals (later, technology like wheels, writing) to spread East-West in Eurasia than North- South in Americas.




Amber Waves of Grain
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