Friday, October 03, 2008

History and anthro stuff, like you've never seen that around here.

...and apparently Blogger is having some scheduled outrage, so apologies in advance for half-posts, edited to add, or the gods know what.


Hunter-gathering and the fifteen hour work week: yes. We have sold out, in return for Stuff (my general term for material wealth that we don't need to survive). Granted, some of that Stuff is good - medical care leaps to mind - but really, the reason we farm now, and always did, was due to rising populations. No way the planet could support six billion people with hunting and gathering. (I DO think we could feed everyone with a massive overhaul of worldwide agriculture and more creative farming practices, but that's a rant for another day.) So, it's all a tradeoff. Eating is nice. So are antibiotics.

There are quite a few examples showing that people have farmed when population required it, and gone back to hunting and gathering when possible. Most famously, the Polynesians in New Zealand and the Chatham Islands (that little archipelago to the east of New Zealand). NZ is in a temperate zone, and so the 'canoe plants' that the Polynesians took everywhere as guranteed food, didn't work. So the Maori shifted to hunting and gathering until they ate everything (took about two hundred years; they made quite a few bird species extinct), then they shifted back to farming local plants. There were of course related rises and falls of population as they shifted around. Generally a huge drop in population, then a shift in food production, and population would recover - whether they shifted to farming or hunting and gathering.

ApartmentCat mentioned Jared Diamond in the comments of our last hunter-gatherer post. I can't believe I haven't mentioned him yet. But if you find this subject interesting, and would like to know more without having to read really dense and dry academic papers, try "Guns, Germs, and Steel" by, yes, Jared Diamond. He's great. Very readable, and his conclusions draw not only on facts, but HUMAN NATURE. (Such as, why would people work more than they had to?) The title of the book derives from his mission statement; he set out to figure out why Europeans wound up dominating the planet, culturally. I like his answer. Mostly? Dumb luck. Euros wound up with all the right natural resources to get off to an early start with civilization. If anything, less technical societies/cultures are on average smarter than Euros are; they have to be to make up for the lack of natural resources. His conclusions offend a lot of ivory-tower types (especially the ones with ivory skin to go with their towers) but I find his work extremely sensible and realistic, and instead of leaving out inconvenient information, he pulls in facts from all kinds of related issues.

On a vaguely related note (it's culture, kinda), now that I've got software to support the huge charts I need to make, to produce the Newgrange sweater for potential pattern sale, I'm getting started. At least with the charts. Then I'll need a test knitter to try a larger size, but that won't be for a while yet. For those who are new around here and wondering what in hell the Newgrage sweater is, well, it's a two-color stranded/steeked jumper based on this:

The lintel stone at Newgrange in Ireland. You know. Megaliths? Bronze age? Crazy-cool stuff?

After that, I want to do start on the Chinese bronze-based project.

(This is a bronze flask, inlaid with silver, I think from the Han Dynasty. Pretty sure.)

Or maybe this.

(Very old probably frame-knit silk jacket made for export in Spain and Italy. These are some of the earliest known knitted clothes in Europe and date back to the 1400s at least.)


(Kimono made from elm fiber by the Ainu, an ancient people from the northern islands of what is now Japan. I'm thinking jacket knit in linen.)


(Bust of SOMEONE from Mohenjo-Daro, Indus Valley civilzation, Harrapan period. They think. I'm thinking two shades of terra-cotta in a tunic.)

And I'm thinking a kid's sweater based onthis would be a hoot:

(If I have to identify this, you have no business being on the internet.)

Anyway. Unlimited graphing capabililties make me giddy. Teeheehee.


MagicChupacabra said...

I don't recognize that last pic. What is it?

Anonymous said...

I'm willing to knit larger sizes! I need to come up with sweaters fast, since the economy has dictated my house will not be warm this winter (unless I stoke the woodstove, and I'm lazy.) So sign me up.


Louiz said...

I'm re-reading The Science of the Discworld again, and (I forget where it was so cant find the exact quote now) they said that food production increases in this ratio: 1 2 3 4 whereas people increase in this ratio: 1 2 4 8. Which is amongst other things why farming became popular - you could vaguely predict how much food you would have at the harvest.

And a pacman jumper? cool.

Netter said...

I'm too lazy to go look, did Diamond write Collapse? It's been in my living room for a year. Also, what kind of yarn were you thinking of for the Newgrage test knit? Just wondering if I have stash to test knit for you. Pacman sweater would be great, and probably not just for kids.

historicstitcher said...

Diamond did write Collapse, and I haven't read it yet. I discovered Guns Germs and Steel when my son was a toddler, and I read it cover to cover at the kitchen table waiting for him to feed himself his meals!

I can't stand it anymore, Julie! After the Christmas-crafting is over for the season, lets chat about co-authoring a book (or 3)! You have so many ideas similar to designs I have in my head!!! And the history-thing? So needs to be in there!!