For decades, scientists have believed our ancestors took up farming some 12,000 years ago because it was a more efficient way of getting food. But a growing body of research suggests that wasn’t the case at all.
“We know that the first farmers were shorter, they were more prone to disease than the hunter-gatherers,” says Samuel Bowles, the director of the Behavioral Sciences Program at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico, describing recent archaeological research.
Bowles’ own work has found that the earliest farmers expended way more calories in growing food than they did in hunting and gathering it. “When you add it all up, it was not a bargain,” says Bowles.
So why farm? Bowles lays out his theory in a new study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The reasons are complex, but they revolve around the concept of private property.
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