Archeologists used to assume that the transition from the hunter-gatherer’s life to a farmer’s life was caused by the discovery that farming was easier. In fact this is not true. Studies have shown that the hunter-gatherers had to work less hard (about 20 hours a week for adults) than farmers do to get an adequate diet. There was more food in a farming community (because everyone, man, woman, and child worked) but it was less varied. The farmers had a worse diet and their health was worse, both because of a poor diet and because they lived in close proximity and transmitted diseases (see this summary).

The Presbyterian minister, David Brainerd, discovered that the Indians on the New York / New Jersey border did not have a high opinion of white people. Not only did they think that whites were morally worse (see previous blog), whites had a harder way of life.

In trying to ascertain the Indians’ religious ideas, Brainerd discovered

After the coming of the white people, they seemed to suppose there were three deities, and three only, because they saw people of three different kinds of complexion, viz. English, Negroes, an themselves.

It is a notion pretty generally prevailing among them, that it was not the same God that made them, who made us; but that they were made after the white people: which further shows that they imagine a plurality of divine powers. And I fancy they suppose that their god gained some special skill by seeing the white people made, and so made them better: for it is certain they look upon themselves, and their method of living (which, they say, their god expressly prescribed for them,)  vastly preferable to the white people, and their methods. And hence will frequently sit and laugh at them, as being good for nothing else but to plough and to fatigue themselves with hard labour; while they enjoy the satisfaction of stretching themselves on the ground, and sleeping as much as they please; and have no other trouble than now and then to chase the deer which is often attended by pleasure rather than pain.

The Indians thought that their way of life was easier than the whites’; they were correct, but farming can support greater numbers. Paradoxically the diseases cultivated by these numbers were what did the hunter-gatherers in (see Guns, Germs, and Steel).

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