Module 7: (skip this module)

Overview

The material in this section focuses on the changes that have ensued in the transition to agriculture as a subsistence technology. This information contributes to our understanding of humans adaptability and how they adjust to and interact with their environments.

Objectives

1. To understand the impact of agriculture on human health.

2. To understand the evidence of nutritional deficiencies in osteological remains.

3. To compare and evaluate diets of foragers and agriculturalists.

Activities

A. Foraging/farming diet comparison
Group Issue Paper:
Write a Group Issue paper focusing on the issue of diet and health comparisons in populations with different subsistence patterns. You should focus on answering the following questions. The paper should be typed and the assignment should be about 4 – 5 pages (double spaced). Due: Wed. Feb. 22, 2006.  (30 points)

  1. This case study has focused on evidence of malnutrition in skeletal remains. How do the results of Cassidy’s project compare to that of Goodman and Armelegos?
  2. If you were working with a present-day population of farming peoples (either small-scale cultivators or larger-scale farmers), what physical evidence would indicate malnutrition in children?
  3. If farmers have more health problems than hunter-gatherers, as the Cassidy study suggests, why did most human populations shift to food growing as their primary subsistence? What are the advantages?  Why is it difficult to return to a foraging existence once people have settled into farming villages?
  4. How to these hypotheses proposed by Milton and by Goodman and Armelagos compare to those of Eaton and Konner? What are the similarities? What are the differences. Which one (or what parts of any of the articles) do you feel are the most valid? Defend your position.

B. Adapting and Adjusting to the Agricultural Way of Life.
Due: Monday Feb. 26, 2007
Anthropologists have long been interested in the biological and cultural specializations or adaptations that people have made in order to consume some foods. These adaptations are particularly noticeable when we look at the impact agriculture (and domestication of plants and animals) has had on us. Working in your group – each individual choose one food/nutrient discussed in the articles (cassava, maize or lactose) and research the biological and/or cultural adaptations that are discussed. Combine your information to develop a portfolio on Human – Food adaptations. (36 points)

Portfolio Format:
Introduction/ Concept review (Group = 6 points)
Human- Food adaptation short paper (Individual = 24 points)
Summary/Conclusions (Group = 6 points)
Short class presentation – (Group)

COMPARING NUTRITION IN PREHISTORIC

HUNTER-GATHERERS AND FARMERS

The material in this exercise comes from a study by physical anthropologist Claire Cassidy, who compared evidence of nutritional health in the skeletal remains of two populations: agriculturalists who lived about 400 years ago in what is now eastern Kentucky, and hunter-gatherers who lived in western Kentucky about 5,000 years ago. Habitat variables (animals, plants, water, and climate) were very similar for both populations.

The basic research question was: Was the health and nutrition of farmers better than the health and nutrition of hunter-gatherers in prehistoric times?

One reason why this question is important is that anthropologists had assumed that people who grew their own food had stable supplies and even a surplus, whereas hunters were thought to have unpredictable resources. However, there is some evidence that drought, infestation of insects, and famine were all too frequent problems of agriculturalists. Ethnographies of some foraging groups, such as the San of the Kalahari and the Hadza of Tanzania, have shown ample food supplies and a healthful variety of seasonal foods.

Dietary patterns:
The hunter-gatherers had a high protein, low carbohydrate diet. They ate large quantities of river mussels and snails. They also ate deer, small mammals (e.g., squirrels, porcupine, raccoon, etc.), wild turkey and other birds, box turtle, and fish. Sometimes they ate dogs ceremonially, and they also often ate gathered wild plants such as wild grapes, acorns, blackberries, sunflowers, and hickory nuts.

The agriculturalists had a high carbohydrate, low protein diet. They grew corn, beans, and pumpkin, and they gathered a wide range of wild plants. Wild animals such as deer, elk, turkey, turtle, and fish were eaten, but constituted a much smaller proportion of the diet. Corn provided a weaning food for young children.

The primary sources of data were:

  • analyses of animal and plant remains to assess types of food eaten
  • skeletal analyses giving estimates of age at death and life expectancies
  • analysis of long bones for evidence of growth arrest due to malnutrition or infection
  • analysis of teeth for evidence of growth arrest, malnutrition, caries, and abscesses
  • analysis of skulls for evidence of iron-deficiency anemia

Evidence of malnutrition and growth arrest could be seen in:

  • Harris Lines (bone scars) in the tibia (the inner and larger bone of the leg between the knee and ankle; also called the shinbone). These are lines of heavier deposition of calcified material which appear in childhood following malnutrition.
  • Enamel hypoplasia on the teeth. This shows up as horizontal lines, pits, or grooves on the teeth and is caused by malnutrition in childhood. (See the photograph on p. 146 of McElroy/Townsend).
  • Periosteal inflammation, changes in the long bones with thickening or development of stripes of smooth material or of rough, porous patches on the bone surfaces. On X-rays the bones show a layering, “onion-skin” effect in young children. This syndrome is evidence of infection; the disease may have been treponematosis (similar to present day yaws, pinta, and syphilis).
  • Tooth decay, as indicated by caries (“cavities”) and by tooth abscesses (infection of the pulp cavity)
  • Porotic hyperostosis of the skull; these lesions are caused by iron-deficiency anemia (see the photographs on pp. 147 and 150 of McElroy/Townsend).

Findings of the study

hunters-gatherers farmers
infant mortality higher, birth-12 months lower, birth-12 months
child mortality 44% died before age 17 54% died before age 17
high death rates ages 1-4
av. life expectancy at age 18, life expectancy is age 36 at age 18, life expectancy is age 30
evidence of growth
arrest
present in higher numbers
evidence of regular, brief
periods of seasonal hunger
present in lower numbers
evidence of irregular periods
of longer duration (famine)
evidence of iron-
deficiency anemia
absent present in 50% of children
under 5 years old
evidence of infection
inflammation in bones
present in lower numbers present in higher numbers
tooth decay, abscesses low rate, average of 1 caries some tooth loss in old age due to wear high rate, average of 7 caries
tooth loss in children

Conclusions of the study:

1. In general, the health of the hunter-gatherers was better than the agriculturalists. Hunters had superior nutrition, especially in childhood. Child mortality was especially high in farming villages around the time of weaning, ages 2-4, probably due to higher rates of disease, both nutritional and infectious.

2. Birth and early infancy were more dangerous stages in hunting groups than in farming groups. About 15 percent of infants died before age 12 months in hunting groups; around 8 percent of infants of farmers died in the first year. However, in the 1-3 year age group, 20 percent of the farmers’ children died, and only about 12 percent of the hunters’.

3. Life expectancy in both groups was higher in females than in males, and average life expectancy for a newborn female child of a hunting group was considerably higher (average of 23 years) than for a male child of a farming group (average of 16 years). These life expectancies are calculated on the groupings of skeletal material into age intervals; aging in children is based on tooth eruption sequence and bone maturation, whereas in adults it is based on pubic symphysis wear and tooth wear.

4. Children in both groups experienced growth arrest in middle childhood, as indicated by Harris Lines (bone scars). An average of 11.3 bone scars were found on hunter-gatherer shinbones, and an average of 4.1 in the farming groups. In the hunters, the distribution of bone scars is very regular, indicating that periods of hunger were normal and seasonal, perhaps every winter. In the farmers, the lines were more random, indicating that famine was irregular but probably more severe. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that enamel hypoplasia, present in both groups, was far more severe in the farming group.

5. The poor dental health of the agriculturalists is probably due to the high sugar content and soft consistency of cultivated food. Adult males had an average of 6.74 caries per mouth; adult females had an average of 8.5 caries. Hunting-gathering adults had an average of 0.73 caries per mouth for males and 0.91 caries for females. The high rate of tooth decay in farmers contributed to high tooth loss and probably high infection rates as well, and in children such tooth problems would seriously interfere with nutrition and growth.

This information is taken from Claire M. Cassidy, “Nutrition and Health in Agriculturalists and Hunter-Gatherers: A Case Study of Two Prehistoric Populations,” in Nutritional Anthropology, Norge Jerome, Randy Kandel, and Gretel Pelto, eds., Redgrave Publishing Co, 1980, pp. 117-145.

This information comes from Anth 275 (Fall 2002) taught by:
http://pluto.fss.buffalo.edu/classes/apy/mcelroy/medapy01/exercise5.html

Activity questions
Answer he following questions. You may work in a group but you should hand in your papers individually. The answers should be typed and the assignment should be about 3 pages (double spaced). Due 11/13.

1.         This case study has focused on evidence of malnutrition in skeletal remains. How do the results of Cassidy’s project compare to that of Goodman and Armelegos?

2.         If you were working with a present-day population of farming peoples (either small-scale cultivators or larger-scale farmers), what physical evidence would indicate malnutrition in children?

3.         If farmers have more health problems than hunter-gatherers, as the Cassidy study suggests, why did most human populations shift to food growing as their primary subsistence? What are the advantages?   Why is it difficult to return to a foraging existence once people have settled into farming villages?

4.         How to these hypotheses proposed by Milton and by Goodman and Armelagos compare to those of Eaton and Konner? (15)

What are the similarities?

What are the differences.

Which one (or what parts of any of the articles) do you feel are the most valid? Defend your position.

Links:

Paleolithic Diet Page

http://www.panix.com/~paleodiet/

Poster Session ICES Conference: Evolution of the human diet

http://www.cast.uark.edu/local/icaes/conferences/wburg/wburg.html

Chimpanzee Hunting Behavior and Human Evolution: Article by Craig B. Stanford. American Scientist 1995.

http://www.unl.edu/rhames/chimphunt/chimphunt.html

The food time-line

http://www.gti.net/mocolib1/kid/food.html

Notes – Introduction to Nutritional Anthropology

Changes in diet due to series of transitions:

  • domestication/technology- foraging, pastoralism, hortic, ag, intens ag
  • world wide distribution of cultigens/
  • commercialization of food

Dietary Transitions:

  • Domestication: (process not an event)
    • Active human interference in the life cycle of plant or animal species in such a way the fitness decreases.
      • altering the genetic characteristics of plant (and animal)
      • especially affecting repd cycle – seeds
      • Middle East, SE Asia, Asia, So Asia, Meso-America
  • Domestication related to Subsistence Technologies:
    • Horticulture
    • Agriculture (terms differ based on technology)
    • Intensive Agriculture
  • Impact:
  • Theme:
    • Changes in diet and dietary and nutritional adaptation due to series of transitions:
      • domestication/ technology- foraging, pastoralism,hortic, ag, intens ag
      • world wide distribution of cultigens/
      • commercialization of food

Domestication

Characteristics of domesticated plants

  1. Plants that have been domesticated are genetically distinct from their wild progenitors.
    1. Wild plants develop via natural selection that ensures their survival in the environment.
    2. Once a plant is domesticated, it is artificially selected to suit human needs and not necessarily for survival value. In fact, some modern cultivated plants could not even survive in the wild. For example, seeds dispersal of corn does not happen because of the way modern husked ears have been selected.
    3. Many cultivated plants and domesticated animals came from the same regions of the world, called centers of origin. From these centers, cultivated plants were dispersed and spread to other areas of the world.
  2. The wild ancestors of several cultivated crops still exist. As these are often the only sources of germ plasm for the continued development of new cultivars, or human-selected kinds of domesticated crops, collection of seed and protection of wild populations is now an international goal in maintaining genetic diversity of crop plants.

The Food Timeline: Check it out

http://www.gti.net/mocolib1/kid/food.html

1. Discordance hypothesis:

Attempts to reconstruct the Paleolithic diet:

  1. Half the fat – three times the protein
  2. Fat was more polyunsaturated, but cholesterol intake much higher
  3. Very little refined carbohydrates
  4. 1/4 sodium; more potassium than sodium
  5. Twice the calcium that we consume
  6. High micronutrients – esp folate, ascorcbic acid, B12 and essential fatty acids
  7. Very high non-nutrient fiber most from fruits and veg, not grains
  8. Foods – bulky and filling

2. Lock & Key Hypothesis

  • Cultural knowledge developed in conjunction with domestication
  • Information on how to exploit plants
  • Removing compounds
  • Detoxifying

In human societies -knowledgewas stored in culturally specific beliefs and practices about food & cuisine

Example: Corn deficiency disease Pellagra

4 Ds

Corn:   If treated with alkali solution before consumption the alkali liberates the niacin from an indigestible complex and significantly improves amino acid quality

World wide distribution of cultigens:

  • Potato, Tomato – Americas, Europe
    • Enhanced diet – especially vit C
  • Corn, Sweet Potato, Peanut, Tomato — China
    • Today provide about 37% of country’s food supply
  • Corn – Africa
    • Being grown by 1550 had big impact in some areas, especially because of pellagra

3. Genetic adaptation:

  • Lactose intolerance
    • milk ferments in the intestine
      • Gas, intestinal pains, cramps, vomiting
  • Estimate that at 5-6 years of age loose ability to digest lactose (sugar)
  • In some populations retain ability to digest lactose – lactase enzyme is maintained
    • Long history of dairying practices – possibly a mutation which was selected for
      • Two theories:
        • Dairy pop
        • Northern areas- facilitate calcium absorption

4. General problems assoc with agriculture:

  1. Inc pop
  2. Dec diversity of diet
  3. Inc deficiency diseases
  4. Environmental impact
    1. clearing land
    2. overgrazing
    3. Salination from irrig
    4. Desertification
  5. Changes in health:
    1. Deficiency diseases
    2. Epidemic diseases:
      1. Crowding
      2. Sedentism
      3. Animal vectors
      4. Malaria

Impact:

  1. Population increase
  2. Disease inc, such as pellagra
  3. Other nutritional problems –
Assignments (See assignments page)