The epic series of books that cover how life feeds itself, from single cells to modern humans
The First Supper explores the evolution of foodways—that is, how organisms evolve to gather food in their environment and process the underlying nutrients. All animals generally follow the same steps in their foodways. They sense food in their environment, move (locomote) to that food, then hunt, gather, ingest and digest that food into nutrients. Those nutrients are then metabolized for energy, growth and maintenance; or stored or synthesized from one form into another. Animals also use their brains, especially cognition and sociality, for most parts of their foodways.
While focusing primarily on primates and especially humans, these books also cover the evolution of foodways from life’s origins to modern man, focusing on pivotal organisms along the way, including eukaryotes, plants, mammals, primates, including hominoids and specifically humans.
These books focus on the single cells, eukaryotes, because, while appearing billions of years ago, they are found in all plants and animals alive today. They then focus on plants because they are the base of the food chain for all animals. After briefly covering mammals, these books shift to primates in general and then the specific primates that most resemble humans, including capuchins, baboons and chimpanzees—then focus on the various extinct hominoids that evolved towards humans, including australopithecus, early homo and homo erectus. Finally they arrive at the real focus of these books: ourselves—homo sapiens through Paleolithic, Neolithic and Modern times. Overall these books cover the big history of foodways from eukaryotes to mammals but focus mostly on primates and humans most of all.
Through these books our readers recognize the origins of their foodways in other life forms, including eukaryotes, plants and many other animals from wolves to chimpanzees, showing our intimate relationship to all organisms. Our reader also recognizes that nearly all parts of themselves are designed originally for their foodways: their eyes for seeing particular foods; their ears for hearing the communications of conspecifics; their tongue for tasting specific nutrients; their locomotion for hunting and gathering specific foods in their environment. Their teeth, jaws and guts are designed for digesting specific foods into nutrients—and their cells for utilizing those nutrients for energy, maintenance, growth, storage and synthesis.
Our readers also discover that most of their brains evolved originally for foodways, especially their cognition, which includes the identification, categorization, counting and manipulation of various foods, as well as knowing the location of those foods in space and time. Their sociality also evolved mostly around foodways, including their social structures, divisions of labor, as well as their instincts for competition and cooperation, including their dark drives for war and rape and their enlightened drives for morality, empathy and love. Once understanding the purpose of their underlying design of their bodies and brains, our readers can use this knowledge to optimize their diet and lifestyle for themselves—and thus harness their genetic potential to create more vital and fulfilling lives for themselves and others.
In the overviews of The First Supper books ahead, the content is not referenced; however, these books themselves cite hundreds of footnotes to established, peer reviewed journals. As such these overviews are essays awaiting more substantiation and development in the books themselves.
Book One starts with the Big Bang and continues to the origins of macronutrients—and then covers the foodways of the first single cells, prokaryotes and eukaryotes. After briefly covering plants and mammals, the book then focuses on primates, especially the ones that most resemble humans such as capuchins, baboons and chimps.
The Big Bang created all the atoms of our universe, including carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen. These organic atoms then formed into three classes of macronutrients: sugars, fatty acids and amino acids. These macronutrients, along with sixteen other minerals, formed into prokaryotes and then into the larger and more powerful eukaryotes. Since eukaryotes predominate in all plants and animals, including humans, we focus on their foodways in detail, especially their metabolism and synthesis of macronutrients—so that our readers understand the relationship between their diet and the cells inside their body.
Next we focus on the foodways of plants since they are the origins of nearly all nutrients consumed by animals. In photosynthesis plants capture from the air and soil their “food”—that is, three of the organic atoms that, with the help of electrons from the sun, are then formed into glucose. From glucose plants then eventually make other sugars, fructose most of all, as well as many fatty acids. Once gathering nitrogen from the soil, they also make all twenty of the amino acids. Next we cover the foodways of mammals, including wolves, deer and boar, to see the origins of our own more primitive foodways.
However most of this book focuses on non-human primates (called just “primates” from now on.) While differentiating from other mammals, primates formed the base of our more specific foodways. While most mammals have acute hearing and smelling for finding food, primates evolved more acute vision, allowing them to see their colorful foods embedded in their complex, dimensional jungles; and we humans inherited this same form of vision. While most mammals locomote over the land, primates climb through the trees and some of them walk upright like ourselves—so we see the origins of our own locomotion. Primates inherited their teeth from mammals—but then adapted those teeth to more specific diets that, in turn, help us understand the design of human teeth. Primates also inherited their guts from omnivirous mammals—but then adapted those guts to their more specific diets and we in turn inherited our guts from primates. And all mammals, primates, as well as humans, have the same forms of cellular metabolism, and nutrient storage and conversion.
In the final sections of this book we focus on primates that most resemble humans in their foodways, including spiders, capuchins, macaques, baboons and chimpanzees. The folivorous (leaf eating) primates are more unlike humans: Since leaves are higher in fiber and toxins and lower in macronutrients, folivores consume diets lower in the macronutrients, creating, in turn, lower metabolism in their bodies, especially in various tissues like the brain and muscles. Since leaves are more ubiquitous and easier to find, these primates need less sensing, locomotion and brains to acquire their food. In summary they consume diets that provide lesser metabolism but they also need lesser metabolism to find their food.
The omnivorous primates, however, are more like humans: Since their diet—mostly fruits and insects—are higher in macronutrients but lower in fiber and toxins, they consume diets with greater nutrition, creating greater metabolism, especially in the brain and muscles. From fruit they access glucose for their larger brains; from insects they access amino acids and fatty acids, including the ones most needed by their brains. Since these same foods are scattered and harder to find and capture, these primates need more sensing, locomotion and brains to acquire their foods. So like humans these primates evolved more complex forms of vision, especially around color, depth and complexity, as well as more complex and efficient forms of locomotion to cover larger and more intricate territories. And they evolved larger brains for navigating their larger territories, for gathering their more scattered and seasonal fruits, for hunting faster and more evasive insects and for cooperating with their conspecifics. In summary omnivores consume diets that provide greater metabolism but they also need greater metabolism to find their more difficult to acquire food.
Also while leaves are difficult to digest, fruits and insects are easier to digest, especially because they are lower in fiber and toxins. For this reason the omnivores have smaller teeth, jaws, and guts—which allows them to direct nutrients away from digestion and towards other tissues, especially their brains. Since receiving more of their macronutrients in their diet, omnivores both make and convert fewer nutrients inside their bodies. They also have faster metabolisms, especially in their brain, but live longer. In general most omnivorous primates that specialize on fruits primarily and insects secondarily posses these foodways—the same foodways as humans.
In the final section of this book, we cover how these more human-like primates evolved larger brains through three of their foodways. First, as already suggested, these primates evolved larger brains because they consumed more brain foods, specifically fruits for glucose, the principal energy for the brain, and insects for cholesterol and polyunsaturates, the principal building-blocks in the brain. At the same time brains also require many more nutrients, per mass, than nearly all other organs in the body. Second, these primates evolved larger brains because they directed more of these brain nutrients from their digestive to their nervous system.
Third, these primates evolved larger brains because they needed larger brains, and greater cognition, to acquire their brain foods, specifically fruits and insects—which are more diverse, scattered, seasonal and difficult to capture. Since their foods are more diverse, omnivores need greater cognition to know the identities, categories, amounts and behaviors of many types of food. Since their foods are more scattered in space and time, they need greater cognition to see and track their foods in their environment; to know the location of their foods in their territory; and to navigate their territories with efficiency. Since these foods are harder to acquire, these primates need greater cognition for more sophisticated forms of hunting and gathering.
Omnivores also evolved larger brains for greater sociality which, in turn, allows them to better acquire their food. With greater sociality and cooperation with conspecifics, they better sense food in their environment, communicate the whereabouts of that food, and locomote, capture and share their food, as well as protect that food from rivals. In summary omnivorous primates evolved their larger, human-like brains because they consume more brain nutrients, direct more of those nutrients to their brains—and need larger brains to acquire those same nutrients.
As expressed as simple and approximate equations, the foodways of folivores and omnivores are thus:
Foodways Equation of Folivorous Primates:
Total Nutrition (decreased)
Total Metabolism (decreased)
Or in other words, folivores eat reduced nutrients, creating reduced metabolism through their foodways, with the exception of digestion and conversion. They thus devote more of their limited nutrition to their digestive system and less to their nervous system.
Foodways Equation of Omnivorous Primates:
Total Nutrition (increased)
Total Metabolism (increased)
Or in other words, omnivores eat increased macronutrients, creating increased metabolism through their foodways, with the exception of digestion and conversion—which then allows them to direct less of their greater nutrition to their digestive sytems and more to their nervous systems. With their more advanced nervous systems and locomotion, these primates are thus able to acquire their more difficult to capture foods.
By the end of this first book, our readers learn the origins of their cellular foodways in eukaryotes, the origin of their nutrients in plants; and the origins of their animal foodways in mammals and their more specific and advanced foodways in primates, and especially the more human-like primates with greater nutrition and bigger brains. They also learn how diets with greater nutrition, with their concomitant foodways, result in larger brains and more advanced cognition for primates.
The second and upcoming books reveals that these same foodways allowed for larger brains in hominoids, including australopithecus, homo erectus as well as ourselves: homo sapiens. The third and final book reveals that these foodways, originating deep in our past and encoded in our DNA, were transformed into something different and alien to our nature during the agricultural revolution.
Book Two covers the evolution of the foodways of “our lineage”—that is, the primates and specifically the hominoids that evolved towards humans. We start with “our theoretical ancestor” who birthed our line of evolution about seven million years ago—then continue through australopithecus, early homo, homo erectus all the way to Paleolithic homo sapiens. Thus this book covers the evolution of our own most immediate foodways all the way to foraging humans, otherwise known as hunters and gatherers, who lived prior to about ten thousand years ago.
Anthropologists have not yet found the fossilized remains of “our theoretical ancestor” so these books use the chimpanzee as their model because scientists believe they were quite similar to each other. Since chimps are so well studied, this book thus creates, at least in theory, the foodways of “our theoretical ancestor.”
Next this book focuses on “our lineage”—again the extinct hominoids that evolved towards humans, including the various australopithecus and homo’s. Because these hominoids are extinct, scientists obviously cannot study them directly—and thus must sleuth their foodways with various scientific methods. First, they recreate their climate and ecosystems using data from ice cores and fossilized plants, animals and pollens. Second, they reconstruct their bodies, locomotion, ingestion, as well as the size and shape of their brain and possibly other organs through analyzing their fossilized bones and teeth. Third, scientists reconstruct their diet through studying the remains of the food on their teeth and analyzing the type of carbon in their enamel. Fourth, they reconstruct their lifestyles by studying their stone tools and fossilized plants and bones. Fifth, they analyze their DNA, even our own DNA, to see when certain genes evolved. Finally, and more theoretically, scientists compare “our lineage” to extant primates similar to them, like baboons and savannah chimps, to make comparisons and analogies. Once all this information is considered, from the “theoretical ancestor” to Paleolithic humans, and then woven together into one narrative, this book then draws some conclusions about the evolution of our more specific foodways—conclusions that in some cases are either entirely or somewhat accurate and in other cases pending further investigation.
About seven million years ago, our “theoretical ancestor” was quite similar to the omnivorous primates discussed in Book One—but of all these primates, they were most like the chimp. Diurnal and social, they lived in lush tropical jungles in Africa, specializing on fruits while consuming smaller amounts of insects, seeds and leaves—thus giving them access to ample amounts of all three macronutrients, including the brain nutrients, sugars, polyunsaturates and cholesterol. Since these foods are more difficult to acquire, our theoretical ancestor possessed the usual foodways of omnivorous primates outlined in Book One. They possessed more complex vision for greater color, depth and complexity. They had more complex and efficient locomotion, climbing through the trees, or knuckle walking over the ground, to cover larger territories; they even walked upright for short distances. They had more complex hunting and gathering. Since consuming foods easier to digest, they had smaller jaws, teeth and guts. They had faster metabolisms, especially in their brains, enhanced nutrient storage and reduced nutrient synthesis. They also had larger brains, along with enhanced cognition and sociality. In other words, the “theoretical ancestor” was much like many other omnivorous, human-like primates, the chimpanzee most of all, in their foodways.
For many millions of years, they existed this way as one, stable species. However, about seven million years ago, their environment started to change, forcing them to evolve into another species. Due to changes in both the geography and weather, eastern Africa became hotter and drier, eradicating the rainforests and creating mixed terrains consisting of stands of trees, grasslands, shrublands and deserts interspersed with lakes and rivers. With the loss of many of their trees, and especially fruit trees, “our lineage” lost much of their principal ancestral foods—that is, fruit, insects and leaves.
So our “theoretical ancestors” were forced to adapt their foodways, less by changing them and more by enhancing them. First they continued to consume tree foods but also added more ground foods. For carbohydrates, they continued to consume fruits but also added tubers, seeds and berries—which allowed them to access more sugar. For proteins they continued to consume insects and plants but increasingly consumed larger animals, such as rodents, ruminants and shellfish. As compared to plant proteins, animal proteins are easier to digest, free of toxins and more abundant, balanced and diverse in amino acids. For fats they also consumed more animals, especially their marrow, brain and adipose, that, compared to plant fats, were easier to digest, free of toxins, as well as more abundant and diverse in their fatty acids. So like the “theoretical ancestor,” our lineage continued to consume ample amounts of all three macronutrients but increased their quality and abundance.
In adapting to their new environment, “our lineage” maintained many of the same foodways of “our theoretical ancestor” but also enhanced them. Both the “theoretical ancestor” and “our lineage” saw well, unlike most mammals, but our lineage adapted to see more expansive and scattered images in their more treeless terrains. Both climbed and walked upright—but “our lineage” adapted greater bipedalism to cover larger territories over open ground to access more scattered food. They both hunted and gathered similarly but “our lineage” evolved more sophisticated strategies and tools. While “our theoretical ancestor,” hunted with simple sticks, “our lineage” eventually adapted sticks bound with sinew to stone tips. While our “theoretical ancestor” never stored food outside of his body, “our lineage” stored enormous amounts of foods outside their bodies for weeks and months at one time. While our “theoretical ancestor” shared food only with their offspring and sexual partners, “our lineage” shared enormous amounts of food with their whole group.
As compared to the “common ancestor,” “our lineage” at first evolved larger and flatter teeth for the tougher foods like tubers and seeds on the savannah until, about the time of homo erectus, they adapted smaller teeth for their more tender foods, like more animal foods, as well as grinded, soaked or cooked foods. The “common ancestor” and “our lineage” maintained the same basic anatomy and functioning in their digestive system but our lineage, at home erectus, shrank the overall size of their gut, especially their colon, through eating cooked foods lower in fiber. Both maintained the same basic metabolisms, but “our lineage” enhanced their metabolism, especially of glucose and fatty acids, and stored more nutrients inside their bodies in their livers and adipose. Both maintained the same forms of nutrient synthesis, but “our lineage” synthesized fewer nutrients from one form into another because they received more nutrients from their diet.
Our lineage maintained the same large brains of the theoretical ancestor but also enlarged them to eventually three times their size. First they enlarged their brains by consuming even more brain nutrients, gathering more sugars from both fruits and starches, and gathering more fatty acids from larger animals as well as shellfish. Second they enlarged their brains by directing more of these brain nutrients to their brain; since their animal and grinded and cooked foods were easier to digest, they directed even more nutrients away from their digestive system and towards their nervous systems.
And third they enlarged their brains because they needed larger brains to acquire their brain nutrients. Since their diets were even more diverse with both plant and animals foods, and with tree, ground and marine foods, they evolved larger brains to know the types, categories, numbers of those foods. Since these foods were even more scattered in space and time, they evolved larger brains to navigate larger and diverse territories and timelines while also knowing the positioning of their food. They evolved more sophisticated methods of hunting, especially for certain animals like rodents or ruminants that could outrun them or fight back; and more sophisticated forms of gathering, especially for plants like tubers buried under the ground. They evolved more sophisticated tools to help them capture and process foods.
They evolved larger brains for greater sociality in bigger, more cooperative groups, for acquiring even more food. With larger brains they knew the identities, behaviors and status of more conspecifics and the relationship of those conspecifics to each other and the whole group. They knew how to better cooperate with those conspecifics to sense, locate and capture food in their environment; they covered bigger territories and then better communicated the type, location and behaviors of food to their conspecifics. They also better gathered plants and hunted animals through complex and coordinated strategies—and better stored and processed their food. They further evolved various forms of sociality, such as morality and empathy, for the sharing of food. All of this, in turn, provided them with enormous advantages in acquiring the macronutrients needed for their brains as individuals and groups.
Or as expressed in simple and approximates graphs and mathematics, “our lineage” maintained the same foodways equation of omnivorous primates—just enhanced them:
Foodways Equation of “Our Lineage” (australopithecus, homos, and homo sapiens)
Total nutrition (increased through fruits and more starches and animal foods) (increased)
Total metabolism (increased)
Capture: hunting and gathering. (increased)
Storage of nutrients (increased)
Conversion of nutrients (decreased in most cases)
Brains: cognition (increased)
In other words, “our lineage” evolved towards humans with increased nutrition resulting in increased metabolism for many parts of foodways, including sensing, locomotion, capture, storage and brains. Because this increased nutrition—that is, cooked plant starches and animals foods— was easier to digest, our lineage shrank their ingestion and digestion, allowing more increased nutrition for their brain which, in turn, allowed them greater cognition to acquire their more hard to acquire foods.
About the time of Homo erectus, “our lineage” adapted their foodways less through biological evolution and more through cultural evolution. While trending overall towards hotter, drier and more barren, eastern Africa also fluctuated constantly over short periods of time—sometimes becoming colder, wetter and lusher again. Because of the speed of these changes, our lineage could not adapt fast enough biologically, through natural selection—which is too rigid and slow, requiring eons of generations. So “our linage” adapted through cultural evolution instead—that is, using their larger brains, they adapted through cognition and sociality, sometimes on the spot or at least within one generation—and then handed these adaptations down to their offspring. To hunt various animals, they did not require millions of years to adapt greater speed, sharper fangs and greater aggression. Instead they innovated throwing spears and sharper knives and cooperative and complex hunting strategies. Instead of evolving better senses, like smell and hearing, to locate food like other mammals, they domesticated dogs to sense for them and better remembered the location of their food in space and time.
* * *
To reconstruct the foodways of our extinct and unobservable ancestors, this book also uses another methodology—that is, we compare the “theoretical ancestor” as modeled by chimps to contemporary humans. We then notice our enormous similarities—and then also our unique differences—which then usually reveal the way that our ancestors recently evolved. In other words we humans are still mostly “the theoretical ancestor” at our core, but with some powerful adaptations that happened over the past several million years. Our “theoretical ancestor” and humans share similar forms of locomotion: both climb trees and walk upright; chimps are frequently observed walking upright for short distances. So we see our similarities. But the “theoretical ancestors” climb better than us; but we walk and run better than them. So we see our differences that inform on the ways that we evolved more recently; accordingly, “our lineage” evolved greater bipedalism several million years ago in response to the deforestation in eastern Africa.
As another, less obvious example, this book consider our adaptation to starch. Both chimps and humans prefer carbohydrates in their diet; both digest, utilize, store and synthesize the underlying sugars in the same way while powering their larger brains with glucose. However, our “theoretical ancestor” evolved in jungle rich with fruits but scarce in starches and accordingly they digest fruit well but starches less well: chimps produce only trace amounts of the enzyme, amylose. Humans still digest fruit as well as our “theoretical ancestor,” as many of us continued to consume fruit throughout our evolution. So we see our similarities. However, we humans evolved with starches such as tubers, sedges and seeds and accordingly we started producing more amylose back several millions years ago and currently produce about seven times as much as chimps. So we see our differences that informs us about our recent adaptation to the starch found in ground foods.
As even another example, this book considers the similarities and differences in the cognition and sociality of chimps and humans. While perhaps hard to believe, chimps express almost every form of cognition performed by man, including language, math, tool use, strategic thinking, future planning, theory of mind and others. Furthermore, most parts of our sociality originated with them, including our social structures, divisions of labor and food sharing. In fact humans did not completely invent any form of cognition or sociality. So we see our similarities. However, we also see our differences as humans profoundly increased the complexity of these pre-existing forms of cognition and sociality—so that every trait listed above is way more developed.
* * *
Around three hundred thousand years ago, “our lineage” evolved from Home erectus into Homo sapiens: that is, Paleolithic humans, otherwise known as hunter and gatherers or foragers. With their enormous brains humans adapted their foodways less through biological and more through cultural evolution, instantaneously, enabling them to radiate outward to inhabit nearly every ecosystem on earth, including grasslands, forests, jungles, deserts, tundra and oceansides, that all contained many different types of foods. In turn, Homo sapiens adapted many types of diets and foodways. At the extremes some human foragers lived on the tundra, eating almost entirely fatty land or sea mammals while others lived in tropical Africa, eating mostly plant foods like tubers, fruits, seeds as well as lean animals like insects, birds, rodents and ruminants. Even amidst these extremes, humans shared many of the same underlying foodways while differentiating on other parts of foodways.
Humans adapted to their unique ecosystems using three, principal dynamics. First, when certain essential nutrients were not available in their environment, they adapted by converting other nutrients into that essential nutrient. In Eurasia during the Ice Age on the tundra, humans had limited access to glucose from plants; so they converted certain amino acids and glycerol into glucose inside their livers—thus allowing them to fuel their brains. Second, as already covered, they adapted with cultural evolution, using their larger brains to create tools, strategies and sociality that were then handed down to their offspring. For sensing, they domesticated dogs to help them smell and hear their prey and enemies. For locomotion, they devised strategies and built sleds and boats. For capture they hunted with spears, atlatls, and bows and arrows. They ground their food with stones, mortal and pestles and predigested their food with fermentation and cooking. And they shared their food with everyone in their group, especially the unlucky—who would then share with them later on. And they taught all of these adaptations to their children.
Thirdly they also continued to adapt through biological evolution, with natural selection, nutrigenetics and epigenetics, with unique genes and traits that made them slightly different from most other humans. All human foragers walk upright but some evolved shorter or longer, or thicker or thinner, bodies to adapt to their specific ecosystems and climate. They adapted different levels of pigmentation in their skin relative to the amount of sunlight in their environment and vitamin d in their food. They adapted differences in digestion and metabolism relative to the types of foods and nutrients found in their environment.
Towards the end, this book reconstruct the foodways of various Paleolithic humans, including the Herto and Klaises from Africa, the Cro-Magnon from Eurasia and the Kebarans and Natufians from the Levant. Since these people are now extinct, we sleuth their foodways in similar ways as with extinct hominoids. We also reconstruct the foodways of human foragers who lived in more recent and even contemporary times because we have better, more direct observation of them, including the Plains Indians, the Inuit, the Hadza and Aborigines. In all these cases we see the common patterns in foodways, as well as the unique adaptations that happen through nutrient synthesis, cognition, sociality and natural selection.
This book thus cover the origins of our foodways in our “theoretical ancestor” and then how those foodways evolved further in “our lineage” from Australopithecus, Homo erectus, all the way to Paleolithic Homo sapiens—basically, ourselves, as hunter gatherers. We cover the origins and evolution of each step of our foodways from sensing to locomotion, to hunting and gathering, to ingestion and digestion and then the utilization of the underlying nutrients through catabolism, anabolism, storage and synthesis. We also cover the origins of our cognition and sociality and their continued evolution. And we show that “our lineage” evolved through enhancing the same foodways as found in many other omnivorous primates, the chimps most of all—that is, they increased their total nutrition and their total metabolism, thus dispersing more metabolism amongst nearly all parts of their foodways, especially their locomotion and brains but with the exception of digestion and conversion of nutrients.
By the end of this book, our reader learns an enormous amount about the evolution of their general primate, as well as their specific human, foodways. Through understanding their Paleolithic foodways, even in their variation, our reader also understands their most primal, biological and authentic foodways—even as our readers are so removed from them in modern time. Ultimately they understand the reason for our being, the purpose of our design, as seen through lens of biology. Once understanding all this, the reader can then change his own foodways even within the context of modern culture to optimize his diet and lifestyle, minimize his susceptibility to physical and psychological pathologies, unleash his genetic potential—and live more peacefully and vibrantly in accord with his true nature, both in solitude and in community with others.
Book Three covers the foodways of humans from the origins of agriculture through the rise of civilizations and then into our modern era. During this time humans transitioned from foraging to agricultural foodways, resulting in radical changes in all aspects of their existence.
Though emerging rapidly about ten thousand years ago with humans, agriculture nonetheless originated deeper in evolution in both animals and humans. Some beetles farm by carefully selecting certain strains of fungi and transporting them inside trees; the fungi then eats the tree and births spores that the beetles eat. Once the tree is spent the beetles then transport the fungi to another tree. And some ants herd by shepherding tiny bugs, called aphids, into feeding pastures while also protecting them from other predators and clipping their wings to keep them from flying away; the aphids in turn emit sugary secretions form their anuses which the ants then feed upon. The ants also occasionally eat the aphids. Some monkeys locomote repeatedly along the same paths, defecating fruit seeds along the way—literally planting rows of fruit trees, albeit inadvertently, in their own territories. In all these cases the relationships are symbiotic, meaning both predator and prey gain advantages in survival from each other.
Some human foragers, perhaps for hundreds or thousands of years, practiced the first steps of farming—that is, scattering seeds along fertile lands and merely waiting for them to yield food later. And some foragers perhaps herded in simple ways as well: forty thousand years ago, Cro-Magnon may have herded reindeer in the same way as many cultures that exist today as evidenced by cave paintings that depict reindeer with tethers around their necks.
But technically humans started the agricultural revolution about ten thousand years ago in the Levant. By that time Homo erectus, Neanderthals, as well as Homo sapiens had existed for hundreds of thousands of years, some of them inhabiting the Levant amongst the plants and animals that were later domesticated. Yet we do not have any evidence that they practiced agriculture—all of which asks the question: even if some simple animals can farm and herd, why did humans not start until only ten thousand years ago? While able to conjecture about the question, anthropologists ultimately do not have the answer.
However, as long as about twenty thousand years ago but still ten thousand years before the “agricultural revolution,” Levantine cultures were already progressing towards agriculture. The nomadic foragers called the Kebaranslived during one of the warming interglacials in an ecosystem rich with grasslands, lakes and forests—perhaps ideal conditions for humans. They used stone sickles for harvesting wild grains and stone grinders for processing many of the seeds that were later domesticated, including wheat, barley and various legumes and nuts like pistachios and almonds. Like other foragers witnessed in more recent time, they may have merely thrown various seeds onto fertile lands to augment their yield, perhaps even weeded or watered and then used these crude gardens to ambush animals; if they did, we would not necessarily have the evidence. They also used microliths for hunting enormous herds of migrating gazelles as well as goats and sheeps and aurochs that were later domesticated.
After the Kebarans, but still in the midst of the warming interglacial, another culture emerged called the Natufians. Like their predecessors, they were foragers but unlike nearly all other foragers, they were also sedentary because they collected enough food in one location to sustain themselves. They also used stone sickles and grinders for grains, legumes and tubers while also hunting gazelles, as well as sheep, goats and aurochs. They lived in round huts where they stored enormous amounts of foods underground, such as grains, nuts, and legumes and used grindstones as well to make breads consisting of multiple grains and tubers. Overall they lived peacefully without much warfare in one of the most idyllic and abundant ecosystems ever—that soon, however, came to an end.
During the glacial maximum called the Younger Dryas when temperatures dropped about seven degrees Fahrenheit over several decades, the Natufians were faced with changing ecosystems that produced both less and different types of foods. We have reason to believe that many of the grains became rarer, displaced with shrubbery; and that many of the gazelles were overhunted, reducing their numbers to near extinction. Losing many of their principal foods, the Natufians were forced to adapt through reducing their population, abandoning their sedentary villages, becoming nomadic foragers once again.
However, while struggling with foraging, the Natufians may have reverted to crude forms of farming to survive. They may have intentionally weeded the shrubbery away to farm grains, specifically rye, which grows better in cold and dry conditions—even though we do not have any evidence that they domesticated any seeds through altering their genes. Though the evidence is scant, we have reason to believe that the Natufians survived the Younger Dryas by practicing crude forms of farming of select seeds—even though farming could not proliferate during such harsh conditions.
During the interglacial known as the Holocene, our present era of warm and stable temperatures, other cultures, called The PrePottery Neolithic A, developed farming in full. They settled into sedentary villages like Jericho and farmed oats and barley which grow better in warm and moist conditions and even selectively bred and thus domesticated these seeds. However, they did not herd goats and sheeps but continued to hunt them from the wild with microliths in the same way as their predecessors. They lived with around two thousand people in round huts made from bricks and stones and cooked their food in ovens using heated bricks. They stored enormous amounts of food in granaries between their homes and also underground in their huts—and surrounded their whole villages with walls and towers, ostensibly to protect their food stores from theft by rival groups of humans.
In the next advancement towards agriculture, the cultures of the PrePottery Neolithic B continued to farm but also started to herd animals, specifically goats and sheep. After that agriculture eventually radiated outward around the world, displacing or marginalizing foragers along the way.
Considering all the evidence, Levantine cultures first evolved agriculture because they had the preconditions for agriculture. While other ecosystems contain either fewer or no plants or animals suitable for domestication, the Levantines inhabited ecosystems with enormous amount of plants and animals suitable and desirable for domestication.
Grains and legumes create food within six months of planting and then are easy to store and preserve as compared to other foods. They are also denser in macronutrients and combine to create complete proteins and balanced fatty acids while also providing enormous amounts of glucose. Goats and sheep are are easier and safer to manage because they are small, docile, gregarious and breed in captivity and mature quickly; they also eat foods that humans could provide for them from agriculture, including grains and residual grass. They also provide enormous amounts of complete and collagenous proteins—and sheep in particular carry considerable fat. In contrast nearly all other animals cannot be domesticated. So agriculture emerged in the Levant due to having an abundance of wild foods conducive to domestication—the same foods that are still the most domesticated worldwide.
Secondly, the Levantines also first evolved agriculture because they had hunted and gathered the plants and animals mentioned above for tens of thousands of years before their domestication—so they were better adept at domesticating them. They knew their names, needs, behaviors and their location in time and space. They also innovated tools to hunt and gather these foods—and to process these seeds for greater digestion and reduced toxicity. And thirdly, the Levantines also first evolved agriculture because they were sedentary at various times in their existence.
With these preconditions, this book then traces the various steps towards agriculture, at least theoretically: First, these cultures hunted and gathered the plants and animals that were later domesticated—and thus knew their behaviors, as well as strategies for acquiring and processing them. Second, they stored these plants and animals, especially various seeds, to keep them dry and free from spoilage and predation—as well as theft from others. Without storage they could only eat grains for maybe one or two months out of the year but with storage, they could eat them year-round, thus making grains about ten times more valuable to them. Third, they sprinkled seeds on fertile lands and harvested them later—and then further developed agriculture through weeding, watering, tilling, fertilizing and protecting their crops from predation by other animals. Fourth, they adapted sedentism when food was abundant enough.
Fifth, they genetically altered their plants through selecting seeds with beneficial traits; they first farmed wild grasses that dropped their seeds to the ground before they were harvested but then bred those grasses to hold their seeds intact—thus making them easier to gather. Sixth they domesticated crops that complimented each other nutritionally to create complete proteins, ample glucose, and balances of all the polyunsaturates—thus preventing malnutrition and enhancing nutrition, making agriculture more desirable.
This book also traces the steps towards herding, at least theoretically. With farming the Levantines attracted goats and sheep to their crops and then learned to control them through scaring them away or inviting them to fertilize their fields and even fatten themselves for hunting. Second, these cultures created food surpluses through successful farming—which in turn allowed them to feed and then capture these animals year-round. In the third and final step, they kept these animals enclosed to keep them from running away while also protecting them from predation and theft via tethers and fences.
In the process of inventing and entrenching agriculture, humans radically altered their foodways, their minds and their bodies. Foragers used their senses to locate their food, especially their vision, constantly intimate with the wilderness around them. Agriculturalists used their senses much less, making them more isolated from the world around them. Foragers locomoted dynamically for miles every day searching for food, and migrated to other territories several times per year. Agriculturalists mostly locomoted along lines of plants, repetitively, and stayed in small, cramped territories for the whole year. Foragers used flexible and sophisticated strategies and tools to hunt and gather; agriculturalists did not hunt and gather at all—but instead captured their food inside their structures and managed its growth. Once consuming their foods, however, both foragers and agriculturalists kept most of the same foodways, for ingestion, digestion, metabolism, storage and synthesis. However, agriculturalists further adapted to specific foods such as salt, carbohydrates, alcohol and dairy. Foragers lived in spacious, clean villages in intimate, egalitarian and flexible societies consisting of family and friends—and surrounded by expanses of wilderness. Agriculturalists lived in crowded, infectious fortresses amongst strangers under hierarchical and sometimes oppressive and cruel rulers.
Foragers had adapted to their diet through thousands of years of evolution, and consumed many different plants and animals, providing them with balanced nutrition. Agriculturalists adapted to their diets initially over hundreds or just thousand of years and at times only consumed select seeds, giving them imbalanced nutrition. Agriculturalists also over consumed seeds, mostly grains and legumes, which are toxic in higher amounts, especially when not processed. And they under consumed key nutrients found in fruits and leaves, such as vitamins a, c, k and others. Many suffered famine when crops and herds failed—and were deprived of animal foods and their benefits, including amino acids, fatty acids and various micronutrients. They also consumed novel foods unhealthy healthy for some or all of them, especially when consumed in high amounts, including dairy, various fermented foods like alcohol, as well as enormous amounts of salt. In summary agriculturalists tended to suffer shortages and imbalances in the macronutrients, as well as the micronutrients—and overexposure to certain toxins in food.
Furthermore, due to crowding into villages, especially with animals, agriculturalists consumed contaminated water and, for that and other reasons, were susceptible to infectious diseases. By the time that civilizations like Egypt and Mesopotamia arose, most agriculturalists consumed pounds of bread per day as well as numerous pints of beer, supplemented with smatterings of legumes, fruits and leaves—and only bits of animal foods such as meat, fat and dairy. Accordingly, many agriculturalists, as compared to foragers, declined in their health through: reduced stature, sometimes by as much as five or more inches, reduced gracilization, increased neoteny, poor teeth, crooked bones, rickets, scurvy and many other signs of malnutrition and disease, including various forms of the diseases of civilization, otherwise known as metabolic syndrome, that plague most people in the first world today. Agriculturalists also succumbed to constant infections, including plagues that killed large percentages of the population.
To survive this loss of their health and instincts, agriculturalists did not necessarily adapt new traits but oppressed their natural traits. They controlled their minds with systems of beliefs and controlled their behaviors with laws, taboos and threats of violence and imprisonment. They started the long trend, present to this day, of creating forms of cultural evolution that further alienated them from their biological evolution, creating ongoing existential and physiological discord.
All of which raises the question: if agriculture decreased quality of life, why did humans not return to foraging? Why did agriculture instead expand across the earth, destroying ecosystems and foragers along the way? While not making us better people or societies, agriculture nonetheless increased reproduction and competition—thus allowing it to prosper and conquer. As compared to foragers, agriculturalists produced more babies faster. While human foragers, like chimps, typically have only one child every three years due to constraints placed upon them from their nomadic lifestyles, limited food and challenging ecosystems, agriculturalists typically have one baby every one or two years because they are sedentary and store plenty of food.
At the same time, agriculturalists outcompeted foragers in many different ways: they created more food; surrounded their villages with walls and other defenses; created more tools and weapons and better organized for the acquisition of territory, including war—all of which allowed them to gain more territory from foragers. After destroying all their surrounding ecosystems, and socializing themselves to their new foodways and ill condition, agriculturalists did not even have the option of returning to foraging; like their plants and animals, they too were domesticated, trapped inside their own cultural evolution while slowly and painfully adapting. While not improving the quality of life of humans, while not producing happier, healthier, stronger, smarter, more sociable individuals or groups, agriculture, nonetheless, produced more people with more territory and better tools for protecting that territory, allowing them to proliferate and conquer the earth—thus drawing us to one of the most important humanitarian lessons of evolution: while competition and reproduction drive our evolution, they do not necessarily improve the quality of our life, especially in our cultural environments.
(To be continued….)