Agriculture's Impact on Human Evolution

Session Date: 
Dec 7, 2012

Beginning some ten to twelve thousand years ago, fully modern Homo sapiens began to alter their diets in ways that would profoundly impact their lives and livelihoods on a global scale. Starting from at least ten independent centers of plant and animal domestication in Asia, South and North America, and Africa, the shift from foraging to farming laid the foundation for remarkable increase in population size and fundamental changes in health, quality of life, and workload. This presentation explores what anthropologists have learned about the alterations of the lives, lifestyles, and wellbeing from the study of bones and teeth of our recent ancestors during the one of the most dynamic periods of human evolution. Just as the process of domestication was complex and involved regional economic, social, and environmental circumstances, the impact of the foraging-to-farming transition on human biology and evolution was varied. In general, however, the outcome of this fundamental behavioral shift in how humans acquire food was decline in health owing to population crowding, reduced nutritional quality, and related factors. Collectively, this outcome was central to creating the circumstances that transformed the human biological landscape into what it is today.

File 2012_12_07_10_Larsen.mp483.7 MB