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Guns, Germs, and Steel The Fates of Human Societies By, Jared Diamond


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Title: Guns, Germs, and Steel The Fates of Human Societies By, Jared Diamond

Guns, Germs, and SteelThe Fates of Human
SocietiesBy, Jared Diamond
  • Group Members Mike Gregory, Leslie Day, Kyle
    Senescu, and Peter Estlick

  • Yalis Question
  • Why is it you white people developed so much
    cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black
    people have little cargo of our own?
  • Why did wealth and power become distributed as
    they now are, rather then in some other way? For
    instance why werent Native Americans, Africans,
    and Aboriginal Australians the ones who
    decimated, subjugated, or exterminated Europeans
    and Asians?

  • Penetrated no farther than northern Germany and
  • Lacked the necessary technology to survive in the
    cold (needles, sewn clothing, and warm huts)

  • Technology allowed them to live and adapt to cold
  • allowed them to migrate to colder places.
  • Modern people expanded into Siberia around 20,000
    years ago.
  • may have led to the extinction of Eurasias wooly
    mammoth, and wooly rhinoceros.
  • About 40,000 years ago the Cro-Magnons, with
    their modern skeletons, superior weapons, and
    other advanced cultural traits spread into
    Europe. Within a few thousand years there were no
    more Neanderthals, who had been evolving as the
    sole occupants of Europe for hundreds of
    thousands of years.

Australia/ New Guinea
  • Many radiocarbon dated sites attest to human
    presence in Australia/ New Guinea between 40,000
    and 30,000 years ago.
  • Early Australians and New Guineans were probably
    capable of traveling over water barriers, using
    watercraft. Evidence for watercraft does not
    happen for about 30,000 years later anywhere else
    in the world.
  • Australia once had big mammals much like Africa
    today. Big animals including a giant kangaroo, a
    giant python, land dwelling crocodiles, and a 400
    lb. Ostrich like flightless bird.
  • His theory is that humans killed these animals.
    Personally, I cant fathom why Australias
    giants should have survived innumerable droughts
    in their tens of millions of years of Australian
    history and then would have chosen to drop dead
    almost simultaneously (at least on a time scale
    of millions of years) precisely and just
    coincidentally when the first humans arrived.

Migration to The Americas
  • Earliest human remains found in Alaska date back
    around 12,000 B.C followed by a profusion of
    sites south of the Canadian border and in Mexico
    just before 11,000 B.C. These sites are called
    Clovis sites. Named after the Clovis arrowhead
    found at these sites.
  • The Americas filled up very quickly because
    people were reproducing at a rapid rate. This led
    us to travel and expand more south to Patagonia.
    We went from the Canadian/ US border to
    Patagonia, which is about 8,000 miles south of
    Canada in 1000 years. An average of about 8 miles
    a year, which would make sense because they were
    hunter gatherers and needed to keep moving in
    order to have adequate food.
  • Like Australia/ New Guinea, the Americas had
    originally been full of big mammals. One can
    pinpoint many of the big mammals extinctions to
    happen around the time of the first findings of
    human bones. The Shasta ground sloth and
    Harringtons mountain goat in the Grand Canyon
    area both disappeared within a century or two of
    11,100 B.C.

Chapter 2 A Natural Experiment of History
  • On November 19 ship carrying 500 Maori armed with
    guns, clubs, and axes arrived followed on
    December 5, by a shipload of 400 more Maori.
    Groups of Maori began to walk through Moriori
    settlements, announcing that the Moriori were now
    their slaves, and killing those who objected.
  • The outcome of this event could have been
    predicted. The Moriori were a small group of
    hunter gatherers, had very simple technology and
    weapons, had a lack of strong leadership, and
    were inexperienced at war. The Maori invaders
    came from opposite conditions. They had a dense
    population of farmers, had a long history of
    wars, had more-advanced technology and weapons,
    and also had strong leadership.
  • This story illustrates a brief, small-scale
    natural experiment that tests how environments
    affect human societies.

Polynesia Continued
  • What can we learn from all of Polynesia about
    environmental influences on human society? What
    differences among societies on different
    Polynesian islands need to be explained?
  • Large populations that thrive with food
    production such as domestication of animals and
    farming have time to develop technology. We can
    see that without efficient means of production of
    food, people had to hunt for themselves, and
    didnt have the time to develop new weapons or
    technology. With efficient production of food,
    people are able to specialize in other areas.

Chapter 3 Collision At Cajamarca
  • The Spanish Conquistador Francisco Pizarro led a
    group of 168 Spanish soldiers to the Inca city
    Cajamarca on November 16, 1532.
  • Major battle between New World and Spain
  • Atahuallpa was absolute monarch of the largest
    and most advanced state in the New World, while
    Pizarro represented the Holy Roman Emperor
    Charles V (also known as King Charles I of
    Spain), monarch of the most powerful state in
  • The Spanish (only 168) killed about 5000-6000 of
    the panic stricken Incas, and captured the ruler
    Atahuallpa. Later exploiting him for a ransom
    that would give Spain a massive amount of gold,
    then later killing Atahuallpa.

How did Pizarro come to be at Cajamarca? Why
didnt Atahuallpa instead try to conquer Spain?
  • Pizzaro had European technology, like the ships
    that took them to the Americas. Lacking such
    technology, Atahuallpa did not expand overseas.
  • Spain had a centralized political organization
    that enabled Spain to finance, build, staff, and
    equip the ships.
  • The invention of writing which Spain had and the
    New World did not.

Hunter-Gatherer Societies
  • Move frequently in search of wild plants and
    animals, no permanent home
  • Smaller population
  • Hunter-gather mother can only carry one child
    along with her few possessions
  • Nomadic hunter-gatherers would space their
    children about 4 years apart
  • Breastfeeding, sexual abstinence, infanticide and
    abortion Smaller population
  • Hunter-gather mother can only carry one child
    along with her few possessions
  • Nomadic hunter-gatherers would space their
    children about 4 years apart
  • Breastfeeding, sexual abstinence, infanticide and
  • Relatively egalitarian
  • Lack of full-time bureaucrats, and have
    small-scale political organization at the tribe
  • All able bodied hunter-gatherers are obliged to
    devote most of their time acquiring food

Agricultural Societies
  • Within last 11,000 year people started turning to
    termed food production
  • domesticating wild animals and plants, and
    eating the livestock and crop
  • Must remain near fields and orchards
  • Early farmers
  • spent more hours per day at work
  • than hunter-gatherers
  • smaller less well nourished
  • Suffered from serious diseases
  • and many died

Agricultural Societies
  • Can store food surplus
  • denser population by permitting a shortened birth
  • Can bear as many children as they can feed
  • Birth interval around 2 years
  • Once enough food stockpiled, political elite can
    gain control of food produced by others
  • Assert taxation, escape the need to feed
    themselves and participate in full-time political
  • Surplus food also used to feed professional
    soldiers, priests, artisans and scribes

To Farm or Not to Farm
  • Food production and hunting-gathering were
    alternative strategies competing with each other
  • Food production caused by
  • Decline in the availability of wild foods
  • Depletion of wild game
  • Increased availability of wild plants
  • Development of technologies for collecting,
  • processing, and storing wild foods
  • Took thousands of years to shift from complete
    dependence on wild foods to a diet with very few
    wild foods
  • In early stages of food production people both
    collected wild foods and raised cultivated ones

Transition from Hunter-gatherer societies to
Farming societies
  • Transition came rather fast in Fertile Crescent,
    as late as 9000 B.C. people still had no crops or
    domestic animals
  • were entirely dependent on wild foods
  • By 6000 B.C. some societies were almost
    completely dependent on crops and domestic
  • Fertile Crescent may have faced less competition
    from the hunter-gatherer lifestyles than in other
  • Food production package soon became superior to
    the hunter-gatherer lifestyle
  • Two-way link between rise in human population
    density and the rise in food production
  • Much denser populations of food producers enabled
    them to displace or kill hunter-gatherers by
    sheer numbers
  • In areas suitable for food production
    hunter-gatherers met 2 fates
  • Displaced by neighboring food producers
  • Survived by adopting food production themselves

Examples of Early Major Crop Types around the
Ancient World
Crop Domestication
  • Growing a plant and thereby consciously or
    unconsciously, causing it to change genetically
    from its wild ancestor in ways of making it more
    useful to human consumers
  • There are 200,000 of species of flowering plants
  • Only few thousand eaten by humans
  • Few hundred have been domesticated
  • Only few areas of the world developed food
    production independently, and did so at widely
    different times
  • Food production arose independently in
  • Fertile Crescent, China, Mesoamerica (central and
    southern Mexico and adjacent areas of central
    America), Andes and possibly adjacent Amazon
    Basin, Eastern United States
  • Earliest in the Fertile Crescent for both plant
    and animal domestication
  • Largest zone of Mediterranean climate
  • Mild wet winters, long hot dry summers

Animal Domestication
  • Animal selectively bred in captivity and thereby
    modified from its wild ancestors, for use by
    humans who control the animals breeding and food
  • wild animals being transformed into something
    more useful to humans
  • Candidate for domestication
  • any terrestrial herbivorous or omnivorous mammal
    species weighing over 100 lb
  • only 14 such species were domesticated before
    20th century.
  • Eurasia had most candidates, 72 due to large
    landmass, diverse ecology, habitats ranging from
    tropical rain forests through temperate forests,
    deserts and marshes to tundras
  • Lost fewest candidates to extinction in the last
    40,000 years
  • Percentage of candidates actually domesticated is
    highest in Eurasia

Animal Domestication
  • 5 out of 14 became widespread and important
    around the world
  • Cow, sheep, goat, pig and horse
  • many have changed in various ways from their
  • cows, pigs, and sheep became smaller
  • several have smaller brains and less developed
  • no longer needed for use of escape from wild
  • ancient 14 were spread unevenly all over globe
  • N America, Australia, and sub-Saharan Africa had
    none at all
  • 13/14, including all major 5 confined to Eurasia
  • Reasons why 134 species were not domesticated
  • Growth Rate, Problems of Captive Breeding, Nasty
    Disposition, Tendency to panic, Social Structure,

Major axes of the Continents
  • East-West
  • Allowed crops to quickly launch agriculture over
    the band of temperate latitudes
  • Crops spread so rapidly because they were already
    well adapted to the regions to which they were
  • Within 1,600 years the Fertile Crescent package
    of crops and animals spread over 5,000 miles
  • North-South
  • Large landmasses with a very large north-south
    axis results in slow diffusion
  • Africa and The Americas
  • Most of the Fertile Crescent founder crops
    reached Egypt very quickly and spread to
    Ethiopia, but stopped after that
  • Domesticates never made it south of the equator
    until around 8,000 years after they were
    domesticated in the Fertile Crescent

Fertile Crescent
  • Fertile Crescents first domesticated crops and
    animals came to meet humanitys basic needs
  • Carbohydrates, protein, fat, clothing, traction
    and transport
  • Earliest site for many developments
  • Cities, writing, empires and civilization
  • All sprang from a dense human population, stored
    food surpluses, and feeding non-farming
    specialists made possible by the rise of food
    production in form of crop cultivation and animal

  • Continental differences in axis orientation
    affected the diffusion of food production, and
    other technologies and inventions
  • The invention of the wheel in Southwest Asia
    spread rapidly west and east within a few
  • The wheel invented independently in Mexico failed
    to spread south to the Andes
  • In general, societies that engaged in intense
    exchanges of crops, livestock, and technologies
    related to food production were more likely to
    become involved in other exchanges as well
  • People of areas with a head start on food
    production thereby gained a head start on the
    path leading toward guns, germs, and steel

Evolution of Germs
  • Major killers of humanity through our recent
    history have been infectious disease that evolved
    from animal diseases
  • smallpox, flu, tuberculosis, malaria, measles,
    and cholera

Man with smallpox
  • Spread quickly and efficiently
  • Illness is acute
  • Ones who recover develop antibodies
  • Tend to be restricted to humans

Agriculture and the spread of disease
  • Agriculture sustains much higher population
    densities than the hunter-gatherer lifestyle
  • Farmers are sedentary and live amid their sewage

  • Use of writing originated in Southwest Asia,
    Mesoamerica, and China
  • Other cultures
  • Blueprint copying
  • Idea diffusion
  • Initially used in complex stratified societies by
    elite groups
  • Writing was not used by hunter-gather societies
  • Some complex societies never developed writing
  • (i.e. Incas, sub-Saharan West Africa)

  • First printed (stamped) document
  • Cretan Minoan Phaistos disk - 1700 B.C.

  • For inventions to flourish, society must accept
  • Influences
  • Economic advantage
  • Social value and prestige
  • Compatibility with vested interests
  • East with which advantages can be observed

Levels of Society
  • Band
  • 5 to 80 people
  • Related by blood
  • Nomadic
  • Tribe
  • Hundreds of people
  • Fixed settlements
  • Chiefdom
  • Thousands of people
  • Intensive Food Production
  • States
  • Over 50,000 people
  • Many villages and a capital
  • One or more languages and ethnicities
  • Good at developing weapons for war, providing
    troops, and promoting religion

  • Australia is by far the driest, smallest,
    flattest, most infertile, climatically most
    unpredictable, and biologically most impoverished
  • Australia is the sole continent where, in modern
    times, all native peoples still lived without any
    of the hallmarks of so-called civilization-without
    farming, herding, metal, bows and arrows,
    substantial buildings, settled villages, writing,
    chiefdoms, or states.

Native Australians
  • Developed some of the earliest known stone tools
  • Developed by far the earliest watercraft
  • Australia was colonized by Europeans
  • Today Australia is populated and governed by 20
    million non-Aborigines
  • most of them of European descent

New Guinea
  • New Guinea became the part of Greater Australia
    with the most-advanced technology, social and
    political organization, and art.
  • New Guineas population is not only small in
    aggregate, but also fragmented into thousands of
    micro populations by the rugged terrain
  • swamps in much of the lowlands
  • steep-sided ridges and narrow canyons alternating
    with each other in the highlands
  • dense jungle swathing both the lowlands and the

Why Australia did not develop metal tools,
writing and politically complex societies
  • Aborigines remained hunter-gatherers
  • other societies developed populous and
    economically specialized societies
  • Australias aridity, infertility, and climatic
    unpredictability limited its hunter-gatherer
    population to only a few hundred thousand people
  • compared with tens of millions of people
    elsewhere in the world.
  • Meant Australians had far fewer potential

North and South Chinese
  • Northern and Southern Chinese are genetically and
    physically different
  • Northern Chinese
  • more similar to Tibetans and Nepalese
  • they tend to be taller, heavier, and paler,
  • with more painted noses, and eyes that appear
    more slanted
  • Southern Chinese
  • more similar to Vietnamese and Filipino's

How China became Chinese
  • From the beginnings of literacy in China, it has
    had only a single writing system
  • Modern Europe uses dozens of modified alphabets
  • Of Chinas 1.2 billion people, over 800 million
    speak Mandarin
  • language with by far the largest number of
    native speakers in the world.
  • China has been Chinese, almost from the
    beginnings of its recorded history

  • Chinas east-west rivers facilitated diffusion of
    crops and technology between the coast and the
  • Developed by far the earliest cast iron in 500
  • The following 1500 years saw the outpouring of
    Chinese inventions
  • paper, the compass, the wheelbarrow, and gunpowder

  • Austronesian realm-Taiwan, the Philippines,
    Indonesia, and many pacific islands was
    originally occupied by hunter-gatherers
  • lacking stone tools, pottery, domestic animals
    and crops
  • Beginning around the fourth millennium B.C.
    polished stone tools and pottery were present on
    Taiwan and other islands
  • The last phases of expansion during the
    millennium after A.D. 1 resulted in the
    colonization of every Polynesian and Micronesian
    island capable of supporting humans.

Double outrigger canoe
  • The double outrigger canoe allowed travel between
    the islands
  • The invention of the double outrigger canoe may
    have been the technological breakthrough that
    triggered the Austronesian expansion from the
    Chinese mainland

Hemispheres colliding
  • The largest population replacement of the last
    1300 years has been the one resulting from the
    recent collision between old and new world

Why Europeans reached and conquered the lands of
Native Americans, instead of Vice Versa
  • The most glaring difference between American and
    Eurasian food production involved big domestic
    mammal species
  • Eurasians had 13 large mammal species
  • became its chief source of animal protein, wool,
    and hides, and people and goods transport
    compared to Americas one species.

Proximate factors behind the conquest of the
  • Differences in germs, technology, political
    organization and writing
  • Diseases-the infectious diseases that regularly
    visited Eurasian societies
  • small pox, measles, influenza, cholera, plague,
    tuberculosis, typhoid, malaria and others
  • Native Americans hadnt developed the immunity of
    genetic resistance to these diseases like
    Eurasians had

Advantages of European invaders over the Americas
  • Eurasias long head start on human settlement
  • More effective food production
  • greater availability of domesticable wild plants
    and especially animals
  • Europes less formidable geographic and
    ecological barriers

  • Most Americans and many Europeans equate native
    Africans with blacks
  • Even before the arrival of white colonists,
    Africa already harbored blacks and whites
  • One quarter of the worlds languages are spoken
    only in Africa
  • Humans have lived in Africa longer than anywhere
  • Our remote ancestors originated there around 7
    million years ago
  • anatomically modern homo sapiens probably arose
    there since then

Food Production
  • Earliest known evidence of food production comes
    from the Sahara
  • Saharans began to tend cattle and make pottery
    (later sheep and goats)
  • Today the Sahara is too dry for food production
  • Also arose in West Africa and Ethiopia by around
    2500 B.C.

Africas collision with Europe
  • Just as in their encounter with Native Americans,
    Europeans entering Africa enjoyed the triple
    advantage of guns and other technology,
    widespread literacy, and political organization
  • All 3 advantages arose from food production
  • Smaller area for indigenous food production
  • North-South axis which retarded the spread of
    food production and inventions
  • Africas paucity of domesticable native plane and
    animal species
  • Europes colonization of Africa had nothing to do
    with the differences between European and African
    peoples themselves as white racists assume
  • due to accidents of Geography and biogeography

Good Points
  • He reviews human history on every continent
    since the ice age
  • Gives the history of mankind in a unique and
    insightful way.
  • Explains our worlds geography, demography, and
    ecological changes.

Bad Points
  • Very repetitive throughout the book
  • He asks more questions than he answers
  • goes too in depth about some things
  • ex. seeds, where he could be focusing onother
    important things, and if you have any others