38 Theories Why Humans Became Sedentary

(p. 36) . . . if people didn’t settle down to take up farming, why then did they embark on this entirely new way of living? We have no idea–or actually, we have lots of ideas, but we don’t know if any of them are right. According to the historian Felipe Fern├índez-Armesto, at least thirty-eight theories have been put forward to explain why people took to living in communities: that they were driven to it by climatic change, or by a wish to stay near their dead, or by a powerful desire to brew and drink beer, which could only be indulged by staying in one place. One theory, evidently seriously suggested (Jane Jacobs cites It In her landmark work of 1969, The Economy of Cities), was that “fortuitous showers” of cosmic rays caused mutations in grasses that made them suddenly attractive as a food source. The short answer is that no one knows why agriculture developed as it did.

Making food out of plants is hard work. The conversion of wheat, rice, corn, millet, barley, and other grasses into staple foodstuffs is one of the great achievements of human history, but also one of the more unexpected ones.

Source:
Bryson, Bill. At Home: A Short History of Private Life. New York: Doubleday, 2010.
(Note: italics in original; ellipsis added.)

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