Guns, Germs, and Steel
The Fates of Human Societies
By, Jared Diamond
Group Members: Mike
Gregory, Leslie Day, Kyle
Senescu, and Peter Estlick
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Thesis
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Yali’s Question
“Why is it you white people developed so much cargo
and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people have
little cargo of our own?”
Why did wealth and power become distributed as they
now are, rather then in some other way? For instance
why weren’t Native Americans, Africans, and Aboriginal
Australians the ones who decimated, subjugated, or
exterminated Europeans and Asians?
Neanderthals
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Penetrated no farther than northern
Germany and Kiev

Lacked the necessary technology to survive in
the cold (needles, sewn clothing, and warm
huts)
Cro-Magnons
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Technology allowed them to live and adapt to cold
environment

allowed them to migrate to colder places.
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Modern people expanded into Siberia around 20,000 years ago.

may have led to the extinction of Eurasia’s wooly mammoth, and
wooly rhinoceros.
“About 40,000 years ago the Cro-Magnons, with their modern
skeletons, superior weapons, and other advanced cultural traits
spread into Europe. Within a few thousand years there were no
more Neanderthals, who had been evolving as the sole
occupants of Europe for hundreds of thousands of years.”
Australia/ New Guinea
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Many radiocarbon dated sites attest to human presence in Australia/ New
Guinea between 40,000 and 30,000 years ago.
Early Australians and New Guineans were probably capable of traveling over
water barriers, using watercraft. Evidence for watercraft does not happen
for about 30,000 years later anywhere else in the world.
Australia once had big mammals much like Africa today. Big animals
including a giant kangaroo, a giant python, land dwelling crocodiles, and a
400 lb. Ostrich like flightless bird.
His theory is that humans killed these animals. “Personally, I can’t fathom
why Australia’s giants should have survived innumerable droughts in their
tens of millions of years of Australian history and then would have chosen
to drop dead almost simultaneously (at least on a time scale of millions of
years) precisely and just coincidentally when the first humans arrived.”
Migration to The Americas
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Earliest human remains found in Alaska date back around 12,000 B.C
followed by a profusion of sites south of the Canadian border and in Mexico
just before 11,000 B.C. These sites are called Clovis sites. Named after the
Clovis arrowhead found at these sites.
The Americas filled up very quickly because people were reproducing at a
rapid rate. This led us to travel and expand more south to Patagonia. We
went from the Canadian/ US border to Patagonia, which is about 8,000
miles south of Canada in 1000 years. An average of about 8 miles a year,
which would make sense because they were hunter gatherers and needed
to keep moving in order to have adequate food.
Like Australia/ New Guinea, the Americas had originally been full of big
mammals. One can pinpoint many of the big mammals extinctions to
happen around the time of the first findings of human bones. The Shasta
ground sloth and Harrington’s mountain goat in the Grand Canyon area
both disappeared within a century or two of 11,100 B.C.
Chapter 2: A Natural Experiment of
History
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On November 19 ship carrying 500 Maori armed with guns, clubs, and axes
arrived followed on December 5, by a shipload of 400 more Maori. Groups
of Maori began to walk through Moriori settlements, announcing that the
Moriori were now their slaves, and killing those who objected.
The outcome of this event could have been predicted. The Moriori were a
small group of hunter gatherers, had very simple technology and weapons,
had a lack of strong leadership, and were inexperienced at war. The Maori
invaders came from opposite conditions. They had a dense population of
farmers, had a long history of wars, had more-advanced technology and
weapons, and also had strong leadership.
This story illustrates a brief, small-scale natural experiment that tests how
environments affect human societies.
Polynesia Continued
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“What can we learn from all of Polynesia about
environmental influences on human society? What
differences among societies on different Polynesian
islands need to be explained?”
Large populations that thrive with food production such
as domestication of animals and farming have time to
develop technology. We can see that without efficient
means of production of food, people had to hunt for
themselves, and didn’t have the time to develop new
weapons or technology. With efficient production of
food, people are able to specialize in other areas.
Chapter 3: Collision At Cajamarca
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The Spanish Conquistador Francisco Pizarro led a group of 168
Spanish soldiers to the Inca city Cajamarca on November 16, 1532.
Major battle between New World and Spain
Atahuallpa was absolute monarch of the largest and most advanced
state in the New World, while Pizarro represented the Holy Roman
Emperor Charles V (also known as King Charles I of Spain),
monarch of the most powerful state in Europe.
The Spanish (only 168) killed about 5000-6000 of the panic stricken
Incas, and captured the ruler Atahuallpa. Later exploiting him for a
ransom that would give Spain a massive amount of gold, then later
killing Atahuallpa.
“How did Pizarro come to be at
Cajamarca? Why didn’t Atahuallpa instead
try to conquer Spain?”
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Pizzaro had European technology, like the ships that
took them to the Americas. Lacking such
technology, Atahuallpa did not expand overseas.
Spain had a centralized political organization that
enabled Spain to finance, build, staff, and equip the
ships.
The invention of writing which Spain had and the
New World did not.
Hunter-Gatherer Societies
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Move frequently in search of wild plants and animals, no permanent
home
Smaller population
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Hunter-gather mother can only carry one child along with her few
possessions
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Nomadic hunter-gatherers would space their children about 4 years apart
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Hunter-gather mother can only carry one child along with her few
possessions
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Nomadic hunter-gatherers would space their children about 4 years apart
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Breastfeeding, sexual abstinence, infanticide and abortion Smaller population
Breastfeeding, sexual abstinence, infanticide and abortion
Relatively egalitarian
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Lack of full-time bureaucrats, and have small-scale political organization
at the tribe level
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All able bodied hunter-gatherers are obliged to devote most of their time
acquiring food
Agricultural Societies
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Within last 11,000 year people started turning
to termed food production:
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domesticating wild animals and plants, and eating
the livestock and crop
Must remain near fields and orchards
Early farmers
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spent more hours per day at work
than hunter-gatherers
smaller less well nourished
Suffered from serious diseases
and many died
Agricultural Societies
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Can store food surplus

denser population by permitting a shortened birth
interval
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Can bear as many children as they can feed
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Birth interval around 2 years
Once enough food stockpiled, political elite can
gain control of food produced by others
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Assert taxation, escape the need to feed themselves
and participate in full-time political activity
Surplus food also used to feed professional soldiers,
priests, artisans and scribes
To Farm or Not to Farm
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Food production and hunting-gathering were alternative
strategies competing with each other
Food production caused by:
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Decline in the availability of wild foods
Depletion of wild game
Increased availability of wild plants
Development of technologies for collecting,
processing, and storing wild foods
Took thousands of years to shift from complete
dependence on wild foods to a diet with very few wild
foods
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In early stages of food production people both collected wild
foods and raised cultivated ones
Transition from Hunter-gatherer
societies to Farming societies
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Transition came rather fast in Fertile Crescent, as late as 9000 B.C.
people still had no crops or domestic animals
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By 6000 B.C. some societies were almost completely dependent on
crops and domestic animals
Fertile Crescent may have faced less competition from the huntergatherer lifestyles than in other areas

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Food production package soon became superior to the hunter-gatherer
lifestyle
Two-way link between rise in human population density and the rise
in food production
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were entirely dependent on wild foods
Much denser populations of food producers enabled them to displace or
kill hunter-gatherers by sheer numbers
In areas suitable for food production hunter-gatherers met 2 fates:
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Displaced by neighboring food producers
Survived by adopting food production themselves
Examples of Early Major Crop Types around the Ancient World
Area
Cereals, other grasses
Pulses
Fiber
Roots, Tubers
Melons
Fertile
Crescent
Emmer wheat, einkorn
wheat, barley
Pea, lentil,
chickpea
flax
muskmelon
China
Foxtail millet,
broomcorn millet, rice
Soybean, adzuki
bean, mung bean
hemp
[Muskmelon]
Mesoamerica
Corn
Common bean,
tepary bean,
scarlet runner
bean
Cotton, yucca,
agave
Jicama
Squashes
Andes,
Amazonia
Quinoa, [corn]
Lima bean,
common bean,
peanut
cotton
Manioc, sweet
potato, potato,
oca
Squashes
West Africa
and Sahel
Sorghum, pearl millet,
African rice
Cowpea,
groundnut
cotton
African yams
Watermelon,
bottle gourd
India
[wheat, barley, rice,
sorghum, millets]
Hyacinth bean,
black gram, green
gram
Cotton, flax
Ethiopia
Teff, finger millet
[wheat, barley]
[pea, lentil]
[flax]
Eastern
United states
Maygrass, little barley,
knotweed, goosefoot
Jerusalem
artichoke
New Guinea
Sugar cane
Yams, taro
Cucumber
Squash
Crop Domestication
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Growing a plant and thereby consciously or
unconsciously, causing it to change genetically from its
wild ancestor in ways of making it more useful to human
consumers
There are 200,000 of species of flowering plants
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Only few thousand eaten by humans
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Only few areas of the world developed food production
independently, and did so at widely different times
Food production arose independently in:
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Few hundred have been domesticated
Fertile Crescent, China, Mesoamerica (central and southern
Mexico and adjacent areas of central America), Andes and
possibly adjacent Amazon Basin, Eastern United States
Earliest in the Fertile Crescent for both plant and animal
domestication
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Largest zone of Mediterranean climate
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Mild wet winters, long hot dry summers
Animal Domestication
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Animal selectively bred in captivity and thereby modified
from its wild ancestors, for use by humans who control
the animal’s breeding and food supply
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wild animals being transformed into something more useful to
humans
Candidate for domestication:
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any terrestrial herbivorous or omnivorous mammal species
weighing over 100 lb
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only 14 such species were domesticated before 20th century.
Eurasia had most candidates, 72 due to large landmass,
diverse ecology, habitats ranging from tropical rain
forests through temperate forests, deserts and marshes
to tundra’s
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Lost fewest candidates to extinction in the last 40,000 years
Percentage of candidates actually domesticated is highest in Eurasia
Animal Domestication
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5 out of 14 became widespread and important around
the world:
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Cow, sheep, goat, pig and horse
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many have changed in various ways from their ancestors
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ancient 14 were spread unevenly all over globe
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cows, pigs, and sheep became smaller
several have smaller brains and less developed organs
no longer needed for use of escape from wild predators
N America, Australia, and sub-Saharan Africa had none at all
13/14, including all major 5 confined to Eurasia
Reasons why 134 species were not domesticated:
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Growth Rate, Problems of Captive Breeding, Nasty Disposition,
Tendency to panic, Social Structure, Diet
Major axes of the Continents
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East-West
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Allowed crops to quickly launch agriculture over the band of
temperate latitudes
Crops spread so rapidly because they were already well
adapted to the regions to which they were spreading
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Within 1,600 years the Fertile Crescent package of crops and
animals spread over 5,000 miles east-west
North-South
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Large landmasses with a very large north-south axis results
in slow diffusion
Africa and The Americas
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Most of the Fertile Crescent founder crops reached Egypt very
quickly and spread to Ethiopia, but stopped after that
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Domesticates never made it south of the equator until around
8,000 years after they were domesticated in the Fertile Crescent
Fertile Crescent
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Fertile Crescent’s first domesticated crops and
animals came to meet humanity’s basic needs:
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
Carbohydrates, protein, fat, clothing, traction and
transport
Earliest site for many developments:
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Cities, writing, empires and civilization
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All sprang from a dense human population, stored food
surpluses, and feeding non-farming specialists made possible
by the rise of food production in form of crop cultivation and
animal husbandry
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Continental differences in axis orientation affected the
diffusion of food production, and other technologies and
inventions
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The invention of the wheel in Southwest Asia spread rapidly
west and east within a few centuries
The wheel invented independently in Mexico failed to spread
south to the Andes
In general, societies that engaged in intense exchanges
of crops, livestock, and technologies related to food
production were more likely to become involved in other
exchanges as well
 People of areas with a head start on food
production thereby gained a head start on the
path leading toward guns, germs, and steel
Evolution of Germs
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Major killers of
humanity through our
recent history have
been infectious
disease that evolved
from animal diseases:
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smallpox, flu,
tuberculosis, malaria,
measles, and cholera
Man with smallpox
Epidemics
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Spread quickly and efficiently
Illness is acute
Ones who recover develop antibodies
Tend to be restricted to humans
Agriculture and the spread of
disease
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Agriculture sustains much higher
population densities than the huntergatherer lifestyle
Farmers are sedentary and live amid their
sewage
Writing
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Use of writing originated
in Southwest Asia,
Mesoamerica, and China
Other cultures
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Blueprint copying
Idea diffusion
Initially used in complex
stratified societies by elite
groups
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Writing was not used by
hunter-gather societies
Some complex societies
never developed writing

(i.e. Incas, sub-Saharan
West Africa)
Technology
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First printed (stamped) document
Cretan Minoan Phaistos disk - 1700 B.C.
Technology
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For inventions to flourish, society must
accept them.
Influences
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Economic advantage
Social value and prestige
Compatibility with vested interests
East with which advantages can be observed
Levels of Society
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Band
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5 to 80 people
Related by blood
Nomadic
Tribe
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Hundreds of people
Fixed settlements
Chiefdom
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Thousands of people
Intensive Food Production
States
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Over 50,000 people
Many villages and a capital
One or more languages
and ethnicities
Good at developing
weapons for war, providing
troops, and promoting
religion
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Australia is by far the driest, smallest, flattest, most infertile,
climatically most unpredictable, and biologically most impoverished
continent
Australia is the sole continent where, in modern times, all native
peoples still lived without any of the hallmarks of so-called
civilization-without farming, herding, metal, bows and arrows,
substantial buildings, settled villages, writing, chiefdoms, or states.
Native Australians
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Developed some of the
earliest known stone tools
Developed by far the
earliest watercraft
Australia was colonized
by Europeans

Today Australia is
populated and governed by
20 million non-Aborigines

most of them of European
descent
New Guinea


New Guinea became the part of Greater
Australia with the most-advanced technology,
social and political organization, and art.
New Guinea’s population is not only small in
aggregate, but also fragmented into thousands
of micro populations by the rugged terrain:


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swamps in much of the lowlands
steep-sided ridges and narrow canyons alternating
with each other in the highlands
dense jungle swathing both the lowlands and the
highlands.
Why Australia did not develop metal tools,
writing and politically complex societies

Aborigines remained hunter-gatherers


other societies developed populous and economically
specialized societies
Australia’s aridity, infertility, and climatic
unpredictability limited its hunter-gatherer
population to only a few hundred thousand
people

compared with tens of millions of people elsewhere in
the world.

Meant Australians had far fewer potential inventors
North and South Chinese

Northern and Southern Chinese are
genetically and physically different

Northern Chinese
more similar to Tibetans and Nepalese
 they tend to be taller, heavier, and paler,
 with more painted noses, and eyes that appear
more slanted


Southern Chinese

more similar to Vietnamese and Filipino's
How China became Chinese

From the beginnings of literacy in China, it has had only
a single writing system

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Of China’s 1.2 billion people, over 800 million speak
Mandarin

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Modern Europe uses dozens of modified alphabets
language with by far the largest number of native speakers in
the world.
China has been Chinese, almost from the beginnings of
its recorded history
Technology


China’s east-west rivers facilitated diffusion of crops
and technology between the coast and the inland
Developed by far the earliest cast iron in 500 B.C.

The following 1500 years saw the outpouring of
Chinese inventions

paper, the compass, the wheelbarrow, and gunpowder
Polynesia

Austronesian realm-Taiwan, the
Philippines, Indonesia, and many
pacific islands was originally occupied
by hunter-gatherers



lacking stone tools, pottery, domestic
animals and crops
Beginning around the fourth
millennium B.C. polished stone tools
and pottery were present on Taiwan
and other islands
The last phases of expansion during
the millennium after A.D. 1 resulted in
the colonization of every Polynesian
and Micronesian island capable of
supporting humans.
Double outrigger canoe


The double outrigger
canoe allowed travel
between the islands
The invention of the
double outrigger canoe
may have been the
technological
breakthrough that
triggered the
Austronesian expansion
from the Chinese
mainland
Hemispheres colliding

The largest population replacement of the last
1300 years has been the one resulting from the
recent collision between old and new world
societies
Why Europeans reached and
conquered the lands of Native
Americans, instead of Vice Versa

The most glaring difference between
American and Eurasian food production
involved big domestic mammal species

Eurasians had 13 large mammal species

became its chief source of animal protein, wool,
and hides, and people and goods transport
compared to Americas one species.
Proximate factors behind the
conquest of the Americas

Differences in germs, technology, political
organization and writing

Diseases-the infectious diseases that regularly visited
Eurasian societies:


small pox, measles, influenza, cholera, plague, tuberculosis,
typhoid, malaria and others
Native Americans hadn’t developed the immunity of genetic
resistance to these diseases like Eurasian’s had
Advantages of European invaders
over the Americas


Eurasia’s long head start on human
settlement
More effective food production


greater availability of domesticable wild plants
and especially animals
Europe’s less formidable geographic and
ecological barriers
Africa

Most Americans and many Europeans equate
native Africans with blacks



Even before the arrival of white colonists, Africa
already harbored blacks and whites
One quarter of the worlds languages are spoken
only in Africa
Humans have lived in Africa longer than
anywhere else

Our remote ancestors originated there around 7
million years ago

anatomically modern homo sapiens probably arose there
since then
Food Production

Earliest known evidence of food production
comes from the Sahara



Saharans began to tend cattle and make pottery
(later sheep and goats)
Today the Sahara is too dry for food production
Also arose in West Africa and Ethiopia by
around 2500 B.C.
Africa’s collision with Europe

Just as in their encounter with Native Americans,
Europeans entering Africa enjoyed the triple advantage
of guns and other technology, widespread literacy, and
political organization

All 3 advantages arose from food production



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Smaller area for indigenous food production
North-South axis which retarded the spread of food production and
inventions
Africa’s paucity of domesticable native plane and animal species
Europe’s colonization of Africa had nothing to do with
the differences between European and African peoples
themselves as white racists assume

due to accidents of Geography and biogeography
Good Points:



He reviews human history on every
continent since the ice age
Gives the history of mankind in a unique
and insightful way.
Explains our world’s geography,
demography, and ecological changes.
Bad Points:



Very repetitive throughout the book
He asks more questions than he answers
goes too in depth about some things

ex. seeds, where he could be focusing on
other important things, and if you have any
others
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