A Historic Shift
In the recent debate over an anti-gun segment by CBS contributor Nancy Giles, a few commenters included dietary benefits on...
In the recent debate over an anti-gun segment by CBS contributor Nancy Giles, a few commenters included dietary benefits on their list of reasons for hunting.
Around the same time, a friend linked me to an interesting and highly relevant paper by UCLA professor Jared Diamond, published in 1987. Titled, “The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race,” Diamond’s piece says the shift from a hunter-gatherer society to an agricultural society was among humanity’s most disastrous developments, and led to compromised health and the division of social classes — among other things.
One of the studies he used to support his argument was conducted by a University of Massachusetts team, who examined skeletons buried at Dickson Mounds, near the confluence of the Spoon and Illinois Rivers. The remains offer a before-and-after health profile of the shift from a hunter-gatherer culture to maize farming around 1150 A.D.
As compared to the hunter-gatherers, the later farmers had:
– An almost 50% increase in enamel defects, which indicates malnutrition
– A fourfold increase in iron-deficiency anemia, evidenced by a bone condition
– A threefold increase in bone lesions, which reflects infectious disease
– A rise in degenerative spinal conditions, which could be a result of demanding physical labor
– A 7-year drop in life expectancy
Diamond's paper is full of such evidence in support of the level of nutrition generally enjoyed by hunter-gatherer cultures. Of course, this isn't news to us (not even back in 1987), but it is an interesting illustration of a truth I know I enjoy asserting every chance I get. -K.H.