By Neil Silberman
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Additional info for Between Past and Present: Archaeology, Ideology, and Nationalism in the Modern Middle East
From Early Culture to Full Cultural Systems Evidence for early culture is sketchy. e. Ideas and practices about death developed fairly early. Several human groups began to bury their dead, suggesting some belief in an afterlife—particularly when tools were included with the body. , in Europe and elsewhere. This art was both decorative and symbolic, designed to conciliate the ﬁerce spirits of the mammals being killed. All this suggests some early religious ideas relating to 49 • HUMAN HISTORY FROM ORIGINS THROUGH EARLY CIVILIZ ATIONS • beliefs about divine forces manifest in nature, including powerful animals such as the wild bull, that needed to be conciliated through rituals and magic—the origin of polytheistic religions and of religious art.
Mostly, as we will see, each system not only developed but also spread independently. But China and sub-Saharan Africa experienced encounters between two (China) or three (Africa) of the agricultural systems, which produced unusual complexity. For ﬁve independent hunting-and-gathering cultures to have made separate transitions to agriculture required compelling forces. Most experts today favor a carrot-and-stick explanation: The cultures were driven into transition by population growth and environmental overload and attracted by social advantages.
Disease actually increased, in part because population densities rose and because many diseases of livestock transferred to humans. Living together, people and animals thickened the web of infectious connections. Agricultural villages were ten or twenty times larger than foraging camps. They multiplied and formed clusters over the landscape, interacting through trade and social contacts. Rivers, streams, and wells became contaminated. Dysentery and other intestinal disorders were especially debilitating for young children and contributed to their malnutrition.