I was struck by this passage from Nicholas Wade’s “Before the Dawn”: “In Japan, for example, people lived as hunter-gatherers until around 250 BC when the cultivation of dry rice was introduced. Foraging and dry rice farming existed side by side until AD 300 when wet rice began to be cultivated. This required large scale irrigation, and at the same period the first chiefdoms and archaic states emerged”. As an ignorant round-eye, I am prone to conflating China & Japan and recalled how old China’s agricultural civilization is (though I forget if it’s older than Egypt). If the Japanese were barbarians for so long it’s surprising the Chinese didn’t conquer them.

Another surprising bit was his discussion of gracilization (trend toward lighter, more fragile bones, particularly the skull). I already knew that aborigines have retained the thick skulls of our ancestors (as apparently did the Fuegians), but I was surprised that Euros are behind the curve. “Gracilization is farthest advanced in sub-Saharan Africans and Asians, with Europeans still in some instances showing large size and robusticity”. A violation of Rushton’s Rule, not an unprecedented occurrence.

I didn’t read any more of Wade after getting off the train, but I did read John Hewetson’s introduction to Mutual Aid and was amused by the many contradictions between the books. Wade cites Keeley & Le Blanc on the constant violence & warfare among primitive peoples, not just primitive agriculturalists but also hunter-gatherers (and Wrangham on the violence of chimpanzees). Hewetson amusingly refers to to the warring primitive agriculturalists as “degenerated remnants of more advanced cultures of the past”, which don’t think would be popular among the cultural relativist anthropologists of today. Robert Edgerton might agree with the sentiment, though the language sounds more like Lovecraft. It’s also amusing when Hewetson points out how debunked Malthus is by the expansion on wealth starting near Malthus’ own time and in Hewetson’s era culminating in the vast destruction of foodstuff’s while many go hungry. If only he knew of the horrors capitalism had in store for the future. Another interesting fact noted is that Malthus’ Darwin-inspiring tract was written in response to William Godwin. Oddly enough, despite Hewetson writing his introduction in 1987, there is no mention of Dawkins’ attack on “propagation of the species” reasoning or sociobiology more generally.

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