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Guns Germs and Steel The Fates of Human Societies. By Jared Diamond 1997. Text extracted from Chapters 1-10. After the Ice Age. Human societies began to change 13,000 years ago when the last ice age melted. After the Ice Age.

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guns germs and steel the fates of human societies

Guns Germs and SteelThe Fates of Human Societies

By Jared Diamond


Text extracted from Chapters 1-10

after the ice age
After the Ice Age
  • Human societies began to change 13,000 years ago
    • when the last ice age melted
after the ice age3
After the Ice Age
  • Different societies resulted:
    • Some literate, industrial
    • Some illiterate, agricultural
    • Some hunter gatherers retaining stone tools
inequality and extermination
Inequality and Extermination
  • “Those historical inequalities have cast long shadows on the modern world,
  • because the literate societies with metal tools
  • have conquered or exterminated the other societies."
yali s question
Yali’s Question
  • Yali, a New Guinea politician asked
  • "Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea,
  • but we black people had little cargo of our own?"
distribution of wealth
Distribution of Wealth
  • To rephrase,
  • "why did wealth and power become distributed as they now are,
    • rather than in some other way?”

Distribution of Wealth in the World

common explanations
Common explanations
  • Racial or genetic superiority?
    • No objective evidence for this theory
common explanations8
Common explanations
  • Cold climate stimulates inventiveness?
  • But Europeans inherited from warm climate peoples
    • agriculture,
    • wheels,
    • writing, and
    • metallurgy
  • Japan inherited
    • Agriculture, metallurgy, writing
    • Industrial Revolution
cro magnons
Cro Magnons
  • Cro-Magnons moved into Europe 40,000 years ago.
  • Technologies:
    • Tools, needles, fishhooks, harpoons, bows and arrows, sewn clothing, houses, carefully buried skeletons, art, hunting big prey.
  • Displaced or killed off Neandertals
spreading out
Spreading Out
  • 40,000-30,000 years ago
  • Technology: water craft to cross from Asia to Indonesia to Australia and New Guinea.
  • Time period correlates to
    • massive extinction of large game in those places.
large game in eurasia
Large Game in Eurasia
  • Diamond's theory:
    • large game survived in Eurasia because
    • humans took a million years
      • to develop tools
      • become lethal predators of large game
    • Gave Eurasian game time to adapt.
spreading to the americas
Spreading to the Americas
  • 20,000 years ago
  • Technology: clothing and shelter to survive Siberia
    • led to migration to Americas by 12,000 BC.
    • It took 1,000 years for humans to get to S. America.
  • Time period correlates to
    • massive extinction of large game in Americas:
      • Horses, lions, elephants, cheetahs, camels, and giant ground sloths.
chatham islands
Chatham Islands
  • 1835
    • Chatham Islands discovered by British Seal Hunting ship
    • 500 miles off coast of New Zealand
    • News told to native New Zealanders
  • Chatham Islands:
    • Abundance of fish, food
    • Inhabitants numerous
      • Don’t know how to fight
      • No weapons
maori of new zealand
Maori of New Zealand
  • Nine hundred of the native Maori people of New Zealand,
    • armed with guns,
    • arrived in the Chatham Islands
    • announced that the Chatham Islands people (the Moriori)
    • were now their slaves,
    • and killed those who objected.
moriori slaughter
Moriori Slaughter
  • An eyewitness account said
    • "The Maori commenced to kill us like sheep...
    • We were terrified, fled to the bush,
    • concealed ourselves in holes underground, and in any place to escape our enemies.
    • It was of no avail; we were discovered and killed
    • -- men, women, and children indiscriminately".


maori explanation
Maori Explanation
  • A Maori conqueror explained:
    • "We took accordance with our customs and we caught all the people.
    • Not one escaped.
    • Some ran away from us, these we killed, and others we killed -- but what of that?
    • It was in accordance with our custom".
natural history experiment
Natural History Experiment
  • This is a natural history experiment.
  • Both the Maori and Moriori
    • descended from the same Polynesian farmers who settled New Zealand.
  • When the the Moriori moved to the Chatham islands
    • hundreds of years earlier
    • could not farm due to the cold climate, and
    • became hunter/gatherers.
  • They learned to live peacefully because their resources were so limited.
  • The New Zealand Maori
    • continued farming
    • dense populations
    • more complex technology and political organization
    • ferocious wars:
  • The difference was geography.
  • Competing agricultural societies are prone to warfare
conquest of the new world
Conquest of the New World
  • "The biggest population shift of modern times
  • has been the colonization of the new World by Europeans,
  • and the resulting
    • conquest,
    • numerical reduction ,
    • or complete disappearance
  • of most groups of Native Americans".
  • The Incas were conquered by the Spaniard Francisco Pizarro.
pizarro s forces
Pizarro’s Forces
  • Pizarro had 168 soldiers.
  • They were in unfamiliar territory,
    • ignorant of the local inhabitants,
    • were 1000 miles away from reinforcements,
    • and were and surrounded by the Incan empire
      • with 80,000 soldiers led by Atahuallpa.
guns germs and steel
Guns, Germs and Steel
  • Pizarro had
    • steel armor
    • swords
    • horse mounted cavalry
    • guns
      • a minor factor
  • Pizarro
    • ambushed and captured Atahuallpa
    • used religion to justify it.
    • collected a huge ransom in gold and silver,
    • killed him anyway.

Inca Gold

  • In addition to horses and steel, conquistadors had:
    • Superior ocean going ships
    • Superior political organization of the European states
  • Carried infectious diseases that wiped out 95% of Native Americans
    • smallpox, measles, influenza, typhus, bubonic plague
  • Superior knowledge of human behavior
    • from thousands of years of written history.
why not the other way
Why not the other way?
  • Still, why was it that the Europeans had all of the advantages instead of the Incas?
  • Why didn't the Incas
    • invent guns and steel swords,
    • have horses,
    • or bear deadly diseases?


Inca Warrior

advantages of agricultural societies
Advantages of Agricultural Societies
  • More food, more people.
  • Domestic animals
    • Meat
    • Pull plows, carts
    • Transportation, war
    • Furs, fiber
    • Fertilizer
    • Deadly germs
advantages of agricultural societies29
Advantages of Agricultural Societies
  • Sedentary Existence
    • Short birth intervals
    • higher population densities
  • Grain Storage
    • Support specialists:
      • Kings
      • bureaucrats
      • soldiers
      • priests
      • artisans.
unequal conflicts
Unequal Conflicts
  • "Much of human history has consisted of unequal conflicts
    • between the haves and the have-nots:
      • between peoples with farmer power and those without it,
      • or between those who acquired it at different times."
independent crop domestication
Independent Crop Domestication
  • Middle East (8,000 BC)
    • Wheat, pea, olive
  • China
    • Rice, millet
  • Mexico (3,000 BC)
    • Maize, squash, beans
  • Andes mountains
    • Potato
  • USA
    • Sunflower

Other people adopted these crops (and domesticated animals) later as a cultural package

adoption by hunter gatherers
Adoption by Hunter-Gatherers
  • Sometimes domesticated plants and animals were adopted by hunters/gatherers
    • Native Americans in U.S.
  • Sometimes hunters/gatherers were displaced by agriculturalists
    • European expansion in Australia, Tasmania

Trugannini, last Remaining Tasmanian Aboriginal, 1868

head start
Head Start
  • "The peoples of areas with a head start on food production
    • thereby gained a head start on the path leading to guns, germs and steel.
    • The result was a long series of collisions between the haves and have-nots of history."
food production
Food Production
  • Food production often led to
    • poorer health
    • shorter lifespan
    • harder labor for the majority of people.
early plant domestication
Early Plant Domestication
  • Humans unknowingly selected for traits:
    • seed size, fiber length
    • lack of bitterness
    • early germination
    • selfing
    • dispersal mutations
      • wheat that does not shatter
      • seeds that stay in pods

sowing by broadcast
Sowing by Broadcast
  • Grains in Eurasia were sown by broadcast,
  • later in animal plowed fields to give monoculture.
digging sticks
Digging Sticks
  • In the new world,
    • planting done by digging stick
    • no domesticated plow animals
  • Result: mixed gardens.
80 of world s production
80% of World’s Production:
  • Wheat
  • Maize
  • Rice
  • Barley
  • Sorghum
  • Soybean
  • Potato
  • Cassava
  • Sweet potato
  • Sugar cane
  • Sugar beet
  • Banana
major domesticated crops
Major Domesticated Crops
  • No new plants domesticated in modern times
  • All of these domesticated  thousands of years ago.
  • Need a suite of domesticated plants to make agriculture work
    • Thus new plants domesticated where agriculture already successful
fertile crescent attributes
Fertile Crescent Attributes
  • Mediterranean climate.
  • Wild stands of wheat
  • Hunter/gatherers settled down here before agriculture, living off grain
  • High percentage of self pollinating plants -- easiest to domesticate.
  • Of large seeded grass species of the world, 32 of 56 grow here.
  • Big animals for domestication: goat, sheep, pig, cow
meso america
Meso America
  • In Meso America, the only animals domesticated were turkey and dog
  • Maize was slow to domesticate.
  • Occurred 5,000 years after domestication of wheat
big 5 domesticated animals
Big 5 Domesticated Animals
  • Horse
  • Cow
  • Pig
  • Sheep
  • Goat
  • All from Eurasia
large animals
Large Animals
  • Of 148 large herbivorous or omnivorous species in the world
    • Eurasia had 72
    • Africa 51
    • Americas 24
    • Australia 1
  • Most cannot be domesticated
why have 134 out of 148 big species not been domesticated
Why have 134 out of 148 big species not been domesticated?
  • Diet too finicky
    • koala
  • Growth rate too slow
    • elephants, gorillas
  • Won’t breed in captivity
    • cheetah, vicuna
  • Nasty Disposition.
    • grizzly bear, African buffalo, onager, zebra, hippo, elk
why have 134 out of 148 big species not been domesticated46
Why have 134 out of 148 big species not been domesticated?
  • Hard to herd (no dominance structure)
    • deer, antelope
  • Tendency to panic.
    • deer, antelope, gazelles
  • Solitary
    • only cats and ferrets domesticated
  • Territorial
    • rhino
easier to spread east west
Easier to spread East-West
  • It was easier for domestic plants and animals
    • later, technology like wheels, writing)
  • to spread East-West in Eurasia
  • than North- South in Americas.
  • Some crops domesticated independently in both S. America and Meso America
    • due to slow spread
      • lima beans
      • common beans
      • chili peppers
  • Most crops in Eurasia domesticated only once.
  • Rapid spread preempted same or similar domestication.
  • Fertile Crescent crops spread to Egypt, N. Africa, Europe, India and eventually to China.
  • East-West spread of plants, animals easier
    • due to same day-length, similar seasonal variations.
  • Temperate N. Africa crops did not reach S. Africa until colonists brought them
    • Sahara
    • Tropics
  • Tropical crops spread West to East in Africa with Bantu culture,
    • did not cross to S. Africa due to climate.
  • Distance between cool highlands of Mexico and Andes was only 1,200 miles but separated by low hot tropical region.
  • Thus, no exchange of crops, animals, writing, wheel.
    • Only maize spread.
  • It took 2,000 years for maize to cross 700 miles of desert to reach U.S.A.
  • It took another 1000 years for maize to adapt to U.S.A. climate to be productive
not a cultural issue
Not a Cultural Issue
  • Some species like cows, dogs, pigs independently domesticated in different parts of the world.
    • These animals were well suited for domestication.
  • Modern attempts to domesticate:
    • eland, elk, moose, musk ox, zebra, American Bison
    • are only marginally successful.