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Polarization, identity and clash of cultures over food security in the stone age

Polarization and distancing like red and blue states are nothing new in the cultural clash between farmers and hunters in the search food security through identity, tradition, and family. Did the world have conservatives and liberals, warrior farmers defending their land against hunter-gatherers who fed themselves from fishing and forest? Did the farmers invent slavery to eventually work their bigger ranches, taking the hunters as captives? Did the fishermen/women trade with the farmer? Europe seems to have erupted in a civil war for food security thousands of years ago in the stone age.

Polarization, identity and clash of cultures over food security in the stone age.
Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Or did the culture clash push most of the hunters to the far north regions of Europe where the growing season for farming was very short? Who pushed the hunters out of Spain all the way up to Finland? The genes tell a story of cultural clash and vying to keep the family identity and ethnic familiarity in the war between hunters and farmers, the landed and the hunter, the nomad and the permanently settled landlord?

About 7,000-7,500 years ago the Mediterranean Sea swelled. Seawater pushed northward, slicing through what is now Turkey. Funneled through the narrow Bosporus, the water hit the Black Sea with 200 times the force of Niagara Falls. Each day the Black Sea rose about six inches (15 centimeters), and coastal farms were flooded. Seared into the memories of terrified survivors, the tale of the flood was passed down through the generations and eventually became the Noah story and a lot of other flood-related stories, according to the National Geographic site, "Ballard and the Black Sea."

The cultural clash between farmers and hunters in Europe

Was this the motivation that brought farmers from southeast Europe to Central Europe about that time in prehistory which caused a culture clash between the farmers crowding out the hunters indigenous to Central and Northern Europe since Mesolithic times (the middle stone-age years)? The cultural clash is about survival and food security. It's also a comparison of the Paleo diet high in fish and wild plants and the farmer's diet, mostly vegetables, grains, fermented fruits and berries, and any livestock that can be kept on a farm, along with eggs and eventually cheese and bread.

Prehistoric peoples had their red and blue states in the sense that they divided themselves into hunters-gatherers and farmers-harvesters. People in prehistoric times settled into groups that tilled or terraced the land where they planted grains, vegetables and fruits and corralled animals such as sheep and goats, cows, or pigs and poultry. And other groups distanced themselves from the farmers where they spent their food-sourcing time hunting animals, fishing, gathering shellfish and wild plants, and sometimes fermenting the wild berries and other plants into medicinal beverages.

Culture identity clashes

In stone-age times, just like today, you had your conservatives, people who owned land and farmed or kept livestock, those who didn't own land but used the area they lived in to hunt and fish or forage, and a distance away, nomads who traveled to find food, hunted somewhat, and also may have raised livestock in different areas during different seasons, but their houses were temporary and seasonal.

The conservatives or the red states of the stone age were 'conservative' in the way that they defended their farmlands, built sturdy houses and settled onto a particular space of land, and defended their land like warriors if anyone uninvited trespassed on their property, usually with the intent to take food and/or other supplies for survival such as fuel. The farmers learned to preserve food by drying or pickling and did some of the hunters. The point is those red and blue states (or states of mind) of the stone age, kept their distance. You may wish to check out the October 10, 2013 Washington Post article by Joel Achenbach, "Stone Age farmers, hunters kept their distance." Hunters lived on the average about 249 miles away from the farmers in prehistoric times.

Did the hunters of the coldest areas of Europe keep their distance from the farmers who came from the palm latitudes in stone-age times?

Sure, they kept their distance. But they also married one another eventually to create modern population, say the genetic analyses. But it took thousands of years. During those centuries, farmer and hunter kept their distance and didn't mix. They seemed to be as far apart as they could manage to avoid conflict or to stay with their own familiar ethnic identity and languages. Few people like to be thrown into unfamiliar cultures when the stone age era was based on survival of those who had access to food and water, then shelter and clothing against the cold.

A recent study chronicles the rise of agriculture in Europe. Analysis of Stone Age remains shows that farming moved north across the continent, according to the April 26, 2012 news release, "New study chronicles the rise of agriculture in Europe." An analysis of 5,000-year-old DNA taken from the Stone Age remains of four humans excavated in Sweden is helping researchers understand how agriculture spread throughout Europe long ago. According to Pontus Skoglund from Uppsala University in Sweden and colleagues, the practice of farming appears to have moved with migrants from southern to northern Europe.

Agricultural know-how wasn't the only thing that early European farmers introduced to the region. Based on their genetic data, Skoglund and the researchers say that Europe's first farmers eventually mixed their genes with the hunter-gatherers who lived there—a relationship that set the stage for today's modern European genome. Farmers were buried under megaliths. And hunters were buried in flat-bed grave sites.

"We analyzed genetic data from two different cultures—one of hunter-gatherers and one of farmers—that existed around the same time, less than 400 kilometers (249 miles) away from each other," said Skoglund, according to the news release, New study chronicles the rise of agriculture in Europe. "After comparing our data to modern human populations in Europe, we found that the Stone Age hunter-gatherers were outside the genetic variation of modern populations but most similar to Finnish individuals, and that the farmer we analyzed closely matched Mediterranean populations."

The hunters were outside the genetic variation of modern populations, but somewhat similar to Finns, and the farmers matched modern Mediterranean populations

These findings likely have something to do with the expansion of farming across Europe, according to the researchers. "When you put these findings in archaeological context, a picture begins to emerge of Stone Age farmers migrating from south to north across Europe," said Skoglund, according to thje news release. "And the result of this migration, 5,000 years later, looks like a mixture of these two groups in the modern population."

The researchers report their data in the 27 April 2012 issue of the journal Science, which is published by AAAS, the nonprofit international science society. Most experts agree that the agricultural way of life originated about 11,000 years ago in the Near East before it reached the European continent some 5,000 years later. But this new study should help scientists understand the impact of that agricultural revolution on human diversity.

Skoglund and his colleagues performed their analysis with the ancient remains of three hunter-gatherers who were associated with the Pitted Ware Culture and excavated from the island of Gotland, Sweden, along with those of a farmer, who was associated with the Funnel Beaker Culture and excavated from Gökhem parish, Sweden

"We know that the hunter-gatherer remains were buried in flat-bed grave sites, in stark contrast to the megalithic sites that the farmers built," said Mattias Jakobsson, a senior author of the Science report, also from Uppsala University, according to the news release. "The farmer we analyzed was buried under such a megalith, and that's just one difference that helps distinguish the two cultures."

Ancient hunter-gatherers had a distinct genetic signature that was similar to that of today's northern Europeans, while the farmer's genetic signature closely resembles that of southern Europeans, according to the researchers. Interestingly, these ancient genomes don't share many similarities with modern-day Swedes, despite their discovery and excavations in Sweden.

Hunter-gathers had genes most similar to extreme-northern populations

"The fact that the hunter-gatherers are most similar to Finns, Orcadians and other extreme-northern populations suggests that they were indeed the last major part of the Mesolithic meta-population that populated large parts of Europe before the early farmers appeared," said Anders Götherström of Uppsala University, who is another senior author of the Science report. "And the fact that the farmer is most similar to southeastern Europeans makes sense too, as that is from where the spread of agriculture north and eastward started."

"The results suggest that agriculture spread across Europe in concert with a migration of people," added Skoglund in the news release. "If farming had spread solely as a cultural process, we would not expect to see a farmer in the north with such genetic affinity to southern populations."

The researchers suggest that Europe's early, intrepid farmers traveled north across the continent, settled in the northern regions and eventually mixed with resident hunter-gatherer populations. Consequently, the genomes of most modern Europeans were likely shaped by this prehistoric migration that first brought farming to the continent, they say, according to the recent study.

The report by Skoglund et al. was supported by the Lars Hierta Memorial Foundation, Nilsson-Ehle Donationerna, Marie Curie Actions, the Danish National Research Council, the Royal Swedish Academy of Science and the Swedish Research Council.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science as well as Science Translational Medicine and Science Signaling.

Polarization comes out of the stone age

In another recent study, hundreds of skeletal remains , many from a newly discovered cave in Germany, have produced a startling reminder of the power of social boundaries. You have the blue states and the red states, the conservatives defending their land--the warriors--and the indigenous people hunting like cowboys and Indians. But the cowboys and Indians were all from the same continent, stone age Europe. Only Europe was divided then into the north and south, like when the civil war happened. But this civil war was more civil, so scientists think, because the north and south married one another.

What brought farmers from Southeast Europe (Aegean region) to Central Europe 7,500 years ago? Could it have been the great flood from melting glaciers that poured into the Mediterranean and then broke through the Bosphorus, forming the Black Sea out of what it used to be back then, a smaller, freshwater lake? See, "Ballard Finds Traces of Ancient Habitation Beneath Black Sea." Or check out the site, "Ballard and the Black Sea" for updates. Usually when farmers from the south move to the north it's because of a disaster happening back home or the children ran out of land to farm in the geographic area of their families and identity.

Farmers showed up from the Near East and Southeast Europe about 7,500 years ago, and populated Central Europe as those living in Central Europe moved into Northern Europe perhaps to avoid the farmers and to keep their distance

The farmers brought their grains with them and began farming all over Central Europe. But another study says the indigenous hunters and gatherers kept their distance from the farmers.

For at least another 2,000 years, these distinct groups refused to marry and combine resources. Instead, they kept their distance and would rarely cross their cultural boundaries to find a mate. Until the farmers reached the northernmost parts of Europe such as Scandinavia. Eventually, the two groups did marry one another's offspring.

You have one scenario where the indigenous people who somewhat resembled the Finns, but with genes different from modern people of today, backed off and largely disappeared from the scene altogether, fleeing to the north to continue their fishing, hunting, and gathering what grows in the wild. Eventually, they returned to move closer to the farmers. But for centuries they didn't intermarry. It was as if the farmers took so much land from the hunters that social boundaries and perhaps resentment grew because now the hunters appeared to be migrating or pushed to the far north, from Central Europe into the frozen climate of Scandinavia.

2000 years of parallel societies in stone age Central Europe that avoided one another

You can check out the recent study published October 2013 in Science,2000 Years of Parallel Societies in Stone Age Central Europe,” one of two new papers on Neolithic Europe published online recently by the journal, Science. It's as if the hunters-gatherers wanted to preserve their ancient ways of finding food instead of digging into the dirt and planting grains or farming other foods, including raising livestock.

The study's abstract notes that debate on the ancestry of Europeans centers on the interplay between Mesolithic foragers and Neolithic farmers. Foragers are generally believed to have disappeared shortly after the arrival of agriculture

Foragers versus farmers or foragers move away from farmers moving into their territory?

To investigate the relation between foragers and farmers, researchers examined Mesolithic and Neolithic samples from the Blätterhöhle site. Mesolithic mitochondrial DNA sequences were typical of European foragers, whereas the Neolithic sample included additional lineages that are associated with early farmers. However, isotope analyses separate the Neolithic sample into two groups: One with an agriculturalist diet and one with a forager and freshwater fish diet, the latter carrying mitochondrial DNA sequences typical of Mesolithic hunter-gatherers. This indicates that the descendants of Mesolithic people maintained a foraging lifestyle in Central Europe for more than 2000 years after the arrival of farming societies.

Were farmers/ranchers fighting the hunters because they had to defend their land? Or did they push the Central European hunters into the far north of Scandinavia and Finland where the winters were frozen? The scenario is full of tension between farmers and those who don't own land or live in permanent housing. Was it a fight between cowboy and rancher?

No one wrote down the scenario because written languages weren't common in that part of the world at the time. So archaeologists have to look at tools, pottery, charcoal, burials, and genes

Europe seemed to be divided by climate into the red and blue states we see in the USA, but with emphasis on farmers and hunters afraid of one another, afraid to clash, until two thousand years passes, and then they marry one another and settle down to farming with hunting on the side. How the scientists are piecing together what happened then is through analysis of mitochondrial DNA from skeletal remains. The genes point to the migration patterns and lineages.

Analyzing what farmers ate and what hunters-gathers ate involves studies of the variety of foods showing up in the carbon, sulfur and nitrogen isotopes in the prehistoric people's teeth and bones. Archeogeneticists can tell whether a diet was mostly fish or heavy in grains. Were the farmers vegetarians or did they raise livestock and keep them in barns and corrals?

Did the hunters adopt farming because they married farmers' daughters?

If the hunters were pushed into the far north of Europe and Central Asia, how could they have married the farmer's daughter living in Central Europe whose grandparents migrated from southeast Europe, such as the Aegean Sea area? An enduring debate for decades has been whether agriculture arose in Europe through “cultural diffusion,” in which the techniques of farming and animal husbandry were adopted by the indigenous population from distant sources, or whether an entirely new population of people migrated Southeast to Northwest and kicked out out the natives/indigenous peoples because their farming tools could be shaped into weapons to defend the land they settled?

A second paper recently published in Science, shows how scientists analyzed hundreds of skeletal remains from multiple sites in Central Europe. This second study shows the culture clash and the mad dash for land with good soil for raising food which could feed a larger family

That could mean lots of skirmishes and wars as the warrior farmers defend the land they settled on as squatters so to speak. As far as clashes, the farmer and hunter fight also pits type A "farmer blood type" against the cave-man type O hunter blood type that supposed to be more meat and fish or Paleo diet oriented than the largely vegetarian, grain, plant, and some livestock diet of the fruit-feeding farmer from the palm latitudes.

You can check out that study. Research shows how the farmers brought with them farm animals as livestock, took over the land, and pushed the hunters into the more northern part of Europe where the growing season for farmers is short. The land may be frozen much of the year. And the hunters are left to survive on a meat, marrow, and fish diet in their rivers or pick the wild berries there for a short growing season. Some hunters made a type of bread without using grain, but instead using various root vegetables growing in the wild.

Did cultural diffusion happen or not?

Did Europe (and Central Asia) become a parallel universe with hunters and farmers staying as far away from one another as possible to avoid the clashes as the warrior farmers defended their land against the 'wolves' (hunter-gatherers) trespassing and hungry?

The parallel societies also shows a lot of intermarriage between farmers and hunters. The “parallel societies” evidence is based on skeletal remains found in a cave near the German city of Hagen. The cave, called Blätterhöhle, or Leaf Cave, has a long, narrow entrance, and was not discovered until 2004. Excavators found more than 400 skeletal remains. The DNA evidence showed that some people were descendants of hunter-gatherers and some were from the farming lineage. The shocker is they didn't intermarry for thousands of years.

Hunters ate a diet high in fish. Farmers made their foods from grains. Each group stuck to his family's habit of eating patterns and diets. They didn't admix at first, not for a long time. When the archaeogeneticists did their isotopic analysis, it showed they shared the same cemeteries, that is the grounds where they buried their dead. That sharing of where the dead were buried went on for up to 600 years.

They knew one another. But were they ever close friends or simply neighbors who traded with one another? But they really didn't marry one another. The reason is that they wanted to each keep identity and family. The southeastern European farmers living now in Central Europe wanted their language and culture.

The indigenous Northern Europeans wanted their identity also. So they stayed apart for thousands of the red and blue states...the conservatives and the liberals. Only which was which? Segregation was rampant, the scientists surmise. But it wasn't based on color of hair, eyes, or skin. They looked similar enough. But psychologically their ethnic identity meant staying close to family. So they didn't mate with people from the other group. Farmers married farmers and inherited land.

And the landless, poor hunters married other landless poor hunters for thousands of years, eventually perhaps gleaning off the excess fruit and vegetables, eggs, or other foods produced by farmers...until more modern times, when hunting eventually became a way to find food in the forest for the poor and landless and taken up by the rich and landed gentry as a hobby as in the hunt as sport instead of to survive and quell hunger because dinner already was on the table from the farm.

The centuries when hunters disappeared into the forest changed when hunger took over or the forest was cut down by the farmers building permanent housing. Eventually you end up with ice-age type herders in the North with their reindeer herds that supply most of the food needs as well as clothing from the skins. And the farmers in Central Europe start planting their apple trees. But that takes thousands of more years.

In the end, they do marry and admix, but that's in more current times. That's why the genes of Europeans today show an admixture between hunter and farmer. And original hunter genes from the stone age aren't showing up in modern people, but the comparison of the genes puts them closer to the modern Finns. Were the hunters pushed further North by the farmers moving into their Central European hunting grounds? Or did they disappear from eventual intermarriage with the farmers thousands of years later?

Did the civil war in the USA back in the 1860s repeat the similar culture clash of Central Europe 7,000 years ago between the farmer/rancher and the hunter/fisherman/gatherer who didn't own land or have a permanent home (other than a boat and perhaps a temporary house made of bones and animal skins, or log cabin when it snowed)? Think of today's Lapland communities and their reindeer herds traveling hundreds of miles compared to the vineyards of Central and Southeastern Europe or the grain belts and green belts versus the snow belts and forests Scandinavia, Finland, or Siberia.

On another note, farmers eventually may have had slaves, not the landless hunters because the hunters spent most of the day fishing for food. Do you still have a somewhat similar clash of identity between vegetarians and carnivore preferences where meat is perceived as more masculine than vegan foods, the farm-to-fork food security of the historic organic vegan farmer? The stone-age farmer was more of a rancher.

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