Origins of Agriculture

Origins of Agriculture

Rubric for Assignment 1


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  1. The Origins of Agriculture


At roughly the same time in both Mesoamerica and South America, populations began to take up agriculture, which was a very different subsistence practice than hunting and gathering.


Discuss the development of agriculture.  Include in your answer:

(a) a consideration of how agriculture differs from hunting and gathering (2 points);                                       (b) what the term “domestication” means (2 points);

(c) how a domesticated species differs from its wild ancestor (including a specific example of a species of plant or animal domesticated in Latin America to illustrate these differences) (1.5 points); and

(d) how the domestication of plants and animals may have occurred.  (1.5 points)


Discuss why the transition to agriculture was such a significant foundational development for future civilizations – i.e., what are some of the other changes in human lifeways that were associated with the development of an agricultural subsistence base and why (i.e., what did an agricultural subsistence base allow for and require)?    (3 points — You should describe at least two different things here.]




  1. The Origins of Power and Social Inequality


At roughly the same time in both Mesoamerica and South America, we see a number of developments that suggest the beginnings of increasing sociopolitical complexity, including formal leadership.  Among these developments are the construction of the first monumental public architecture and, shortly thereafter, the appearance of “horizons” in the archaeological record.


Discuss the significance of these developments as indicators of increasing sociopolitical complexity.

What does the appearance of monumental structures represent?  (1 point)

What appears to have been the function of these earliest structures (1 point), and what does their function suggest about the nature of early formal leadership and the source of early leaders’ authority?  (2 points)


What are horizons?  (1 point)

Using the Olmec Horizon in Mesoamerica and/or the Chavin Horizon in South America as an example (1 point for clearly incorporating these as examples), describe what horizons are (i.e., how they appear in the archaeological record), and what they appear to additionally represent or be associated with. (1 point)

What is their potential significance, with regard to increasing sociopolitical complexity, in the regions they extend across?  (3 points – i.e., discuss 3 features of horizons and their objects/distribution of those objects).