Man accumulates property and bequeaths it to his children, so that the children of the rich have an advantage over the poor in the race for success, independently of bodily or mental superiority. . . . But the inheritance ofproperty by itself is very far from an evil; for without the accumulation of capital the arts could not progress; and it is chiefly through their power that the civilised races have extended, and are now everywhere extending their range, so as to take the place of the lower races. Nor does the moderate accumulation of wealth interfere with the process of selection. When a poor man becomes moderately rich, his children enter trades or professions in which there is struggle enough, so that the able in body and mind succeed best. CHARLES DARWIN, THE DESCENT OF MAN
THE LAST GLACIAL MAXIMUM preceded the emergence not only of people who looked somewhat different from each other but, far more significantly, of people who behaved differently from all their predecessors. In the southern borders of the western half of Eurasia, around the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, a new kind of human society evolved, one in which hunters and gatherers at last developed the behaviors necessary for living in settled communities. The Pleistocene did not depart quietly but in a roller coaster of climatic swings. After the Last Glacial Maximum, of 20,000 to 15,000 years ago, came a warming period known as the Bolling-Allerod Interstadial, during which plants, animals and people were able to move northward again. But the Bolling-Allerod warming, which lasted from 15,000 to 12,500 years ago, was a false dawn. A second cold period, particularly challenging because it began so abruptly, established its grip on Eurasia. Within a decade, it had sent temperatures plummeting back to almost glacial levels and soon had converted to tundra the vast forests of northern Europe. This deadly cold snap is known as the Younger Dryas, after a dwarf yellow rose, Dryas oc topetala, that grew amid the tundra.
The Younger Dryas lasted for 1,300 years and ended as suddenly as it began, also in a decade or so, according to the cores drilled from through the Greenland ice cap that serve as an archive of global climate. By 11,500 years ago the world was launched on the Holocene, the inter-ice age period that still prevails. These wrenching climatic and territorial changes would have posed severe tests to human survival, doubtless forcing people to resort to many new expedients even in the warmer southern latitudes. The precise chain of cause and effect, if any, remains a mystery. All that can be said for now is that in the Near East, as the Last Glacial Maximum ended, a new kind of human society began to emerge, one based not on the narrow ambit of the forager's life but on settling down in one place. Settling down, or sedentism, as archaeologists say, may sound so simple and obvious, but for foragers it was not nearly so clear a choice. Sedentism tied people to a single exposed site, increasing vulnerability to raiders. Sedentism attracted noxious vermin and disease. Sedentism required new ways of thought, new social relationships and a new kind of social organization, one in which people had to trade their prized freedom and equality for hierarchy, officials and chiefs and other encumbrances. Archaeologists have little hesitation in describing the transition to sedentism as a revolution, comparable to the one that defines the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic 50,000 years ago when behaviorally modern humans emerged from their anatomically modern forebears. Ofer Bar-Yosef of Harvard University refers to these transitions as "two major revolutions in the history of humankind."147
Hunter-gatherers own almost no personal property and, without differences of wealth, everyone is more or less equal. The first settled communities show evidence of a quite different social order. Houses and storage facilities seem to have been privately owned. With personal property allowed, some people quickly acquired more of it than others, along with greater status. The old egalitarianism disappeared and in its place there emerged a hierarchical society, with chiefs and commoners, rich families and poor, specializations of labor, and the beginnings of formal religion in the form of an ancestor cult.
"Daily life in a village that is larger than a forager's band heralds the restructuring of the social organization, as it imposes more limits on the individual as well as on entire households," writes Bar-Yosef. "To ensure the long-term predictability of habitable conditions in a village, members accept certain rules of conduct that include, among other things, the role of leaders or headmen (possibly the richest members of the community), active or passive participation in ceremonies (conducted publicly in an
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