Agriculture & Civilization Caused Greater Health Problems & Lower Life-Spans

Any student who took Anthropology 101 with me should remember our lecture over the dawn of agriculture and civilization. In spite of thought to the contrary, civilization did not bring with it toilet paper and toothpaste. In fact, agriculture and its accompanying sedentary (vs nomadic) lifestyle had an extremely negative impact on our overall health, quality of life, and life-span.

Along with raising crops, the human diet became extremely limited – most early peoples lived on only two or three staple crops. Your grandmother was right, variety is the spice of life – limited food stuffs mean limited nutrients, vitamin deficiencies, and (with the rise of grain agriculture) a destruction of our dental health. When we look at the skeletons of early agricultural peoples, their bones are marred with distinctions of malnutrition, vitamin deficiencies, dental caries (fancy word for extremely large and painful cavities), and we shrunk (several inches shorter than our hunter-gatherer counter-parts). We also worked a lot harder – both physically and in terms of hours.

For more on recent findings about this topic, check out this Science Daily Article.


4 thoughts on “Agriculture & Civilization Caused Greater Health Problems & Lower Life-Spans

  1. Jim Wheeler

    Absolutely!!! And anyone who doubts it should read William Manchester’s, “A World Lit Only By Fire”. It depicts in graphic detail the natural horrors visited on Homo Sapiens as they struggled to adapt to living in towns and cities instead of roving tribes. (Warning: the book should be rated M for mature.)

    1. Jennifer Lockett Post author

      For some reason, this always sparked some debate in my classrooms. We simply can’t imagine that foraging would somehow be better than life in cities. The realities are, however, that we were healthier, worked less, and lived longer until, well, the recent past. Still, I do love my air conditioning and TiVoing Sci Fi…

  2. Jim Wheeler

    Ah, but that’s not all, Jennifer. There were no dentists, no novocaine, no anesthetic. No blogging. Yikes. I’m with you. Scrap the time machine!

    😆 Jim

    1. Jennifer Lockett Post author

      I also *really* hate spiders… like a lot. Like, they haunt my nightmares. Pretty sure that there are a lot more spiders in the great out doors. Of course, living in the *modern* world is way more awesome than civilization even 100 years ago – when they also had no novocaine, a good dentist could pull that tooth pretty fast, anesthetic could kill (more than now), and still no blogging!!


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