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Biological Changes in Human Populations with Agriculture

Clark Spencer Larsen
Annual Review of Anthropology
Vol. 24 (1995), pp. 185-213
Published by: Annual Reviews
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2155935
Page Count: 29
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Biological Changes in Human Populations with Agriculture
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Abstract

Agriculture has long been regarded as an improvement in the human condition: Once Homo sapiens made the transition from foraging to farming in the Neolithic, health and nutrition improved, longevity increased, and work load declined. Recent study of archaeological human remains worldwide by biological anthropologists has shown this characterization of the shift from hunting and gathering to agriculture to be incorrect. Contrary to earlier models, the adoption of agriculture involved an overall decline in oral and general health. This decline is indicated by elevated prevalence of various skeletal and dental pathological conditions and alterations in skeletal and dental growth patterns in prehistoric farmers compared with foragers. In addition, changes in food composition and preparation technology contributed to craniofacial and dental alterations, and activity levels and mobility decline resulted in a general decrease in skeletal robusticity. These findings indicate that the shift from food collection to food production occasioned significant and widespread biological changes in human populations during the last 10,000 years.

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