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Neanderthals, Bandits and Farmers

Colin Tudge

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To purchase Neanderthals, Bandits and Farmers

Title: Neanderthals, Bandits and Farmers
Author: Colin Tudge
Genre: Science
Written: 1998
Length: 53 pages
Availability: Neanderthals, Bandits and Farmers - US
Neanderthals, Bandits and Farmers - UK
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  • How Agriculture really began
  • Part of the Darwinism Today series, from the Darwin@LSE Project. (See links for further information.)

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Our Assessment:

B+ : small but entertaining and interesting account of how farming might have begun

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Discover . 10/1999 Corey S. Powell
Natural History D 11/1999 R. Brian Ferguson

  From the Reviews:
  • "Neanderthals, Bandits and Farmers is too speculative for my tastes. (...) (Colin Tudge) admits that "this is indeed only a hypothesis" and that evidence is scant. I would go further and say that the theory is baseless and not in the least Darwinian." - R. Brian Ferguson, Natural History

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Each title in the Darwin Today series aims to be, according to the editors, "an authoritative pocket introduction to the Darwinian ideas that are setting today's intellectual agenda." Short surveys, some 15,000 words in length, they cover a variety of subjects, from farming to sex to politics. Refer to the links for further information.

       Colin Tudge's small book barely mentions Darwin, though the conclusions he reaches are, indeed, shaped by Darwinism. Tudge challenges the widely held belief that farming first began in the Middle East about 10,000 years ago. He sets out here to prove that proto-farming actually began much earlier -- about 40,000 years ago.
       His interpretation of how farming really began is quite convincing -- in part because he acknowledges a gradual transition to an agricultural lifestyle, with the proto-farmers not solely depending on agriculture for their food. Tudge paints an interesting Darwinian picture of the forces that moved man towards agriculture (as opposed to trying to survive merely on whatever was at hand), and he demonstrates that it was possible for this transition to take place earlier than is generally thought.
       The benefits of agriculture were great, giving man a great deal of control over his food supply -- but, as Tudge points out, the costs were also high. A vicious circle of rapidly growing populations (because of the steady food supply) and the resulting need to cultivate more land made for an arduous life. Similarly, once the move towards dependency on agriculture had been made there was no turning back.
       Of interest is also how Tudge shows the devastating impact human migration had on native wildlife, especially in the Americas and Australia, with many genera wiped out over a short period of time. This, too, illustrates part of his argument: that that the transition to farming was a natural step for man to take given the circumstances, and not an idea that slowly spread from the Middle East -- whereby the concept of farming naturally takes on different forms under different conditions (and may not initially be recognized as such).
       Tudge's brief account is thoughtful and entertaining, and he makes a good case for his theory. Recommended.

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Neanderthals, Bandits and Farmers: Reviews: Colin Tudge: Darwin@LSE: Other books in the Darwin Today series under review: Other books under review that might be of interest:

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About the Author:

       Colin Tudge is a research fellow at the London School of Economics

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