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Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond (1997)
Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond (1997)
Technology
Many suitable wild species
Large, dense, sedentary, stratified societies
Food surpluses, food storage
Many domesticated plant and animal species
East/West Axis
Ease of species spreading
The Most Important Domesticated Mammals
1.
2.
3.
Why would these five domesticated mammals be so important in helping tribes and
civilizations to grow and develop?
Draw an icon on your map to represent the geographical origin of the five major
domesticated mammals.
Why might the origin of all these important domesticated animals be the continent of
Eurasia?
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ANSWERS: The Most Important Domesticated Mammals
•
•
•
Most of them are big docile animals with herd hierarchies that allow them to be easily
domesticated. They can be used for milk, meat, clothes, weapons, beasts of burden (for
agriculture), beasts of war (horse), fertilizer. All of these uses make them important in
helping a population grow, specialize, become sedentary (growth of cities), and expand over
less fortunate groups. For thousands of years, until the Industrial Revolution in the 18th
century, they were the best resources and technology in the world.
Sheep: west and central Asia. Goat: West Asia. Cow: Eurasia. Pig: Eurasia and North
America. Horse: Southern Russia.
Luck. Biological/geographical luck. Pure and simple. Some biologists theorize that because
Eurasia runs along a similar climate/latitude, it was more hospitable for the growth and
evolution of mammals. And, since Eurasia is by far the largest continent, its size allowed for
more diversity and growth of species.
Mammalian Candidates for Domestication
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
Which continent was the origin for the most domesticated mammals? Why might this be?
What’s surprising about the lack of domesticated mammals in sub-Saharan Africa?
Why might the east-west axis of Eurasia (as opposed to the north-south axis of other land masses)
be critical in diffusing the domestication of mammals throughout the continent?
What barriers might decrease the diffusion of domesticated animals in the Americas and Africa?
List at least 5 specific advantages for the development of civilizations in Eurasia having so many
large domesticated mammals.
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ANSWERS: Mammalian Candidates for Domestication
1.
Eurasia is the origin of 13 of 14 of the most important large domesticated mammals. Why? Luck.
Biological/geographical luck. Pure and simple. Some biologists theorize that because Eurasia runs
along a similar climate/latitude, it was more hospitable for the growth and evolution of mammals. And,
since Eurasia is by far the largest continent, very diverse ecologically, and so its size allowed for more
diversity and growth of species. Also, see #3 below.
2.
Sub-Saharan Africa has by far the largest land mammals today—elephants, rhinos, lions, giraffes,
zebras—and yet none of them were ever domesticated. Either their growth rate is too slow (ex.
Elephants take 15 years to reach adulthood), diet (no mammalian carnivore has ever been domesticated
for food because of biomass conversion is so inefficient), nasty disposition (Zebras and hippos get
meaner and meaner as they grow older), inability to procreate in captivity (Cheetahs).
3. The east-west axis of Eurasia (as opposed to the north-south axis of other land masses) encouraged
diffusion of mammal domestication throughout the continent because of the similar latitude and
climates. In contrast, the north-south axis in Africa and the Americas prevents diffusion. For example,
camels thrive in the Sahara desert but cannot live in tropical Africa. And, the Alpaca of Peru never made
its way north to Mexico in pre-Columbian times.
4. In addition to the north-south axis of both continents, the isthmus of Panama serves as a bottle neck and
slows down diffusion. There are physical barriers like the mountains of the Andes and climate obstacles
such as the Sahara desert, the Kalahari, and the tropics.
5. List at least 5 specific advantages for the development of civilizations in Eurasia having so many large
domesticated mammals: more meat, food to feed growing population, healthier diets, more fertilizer for
agriculture, beasts of burden for agriculture, horses for warfare, bones for warfare, clothes production,
transportation, germs, abundant food frees up labor to specialize in other tasks such as warfare, plant
cultivation, religion, public works (pyramids being the most famous example), political leadership,
trade, writing, tool making, and eventually the rise of urban areas.
Germs
1.
2.
3.
How might these deadly diseases have passed from land mammals to humans?
When might these germs have passed on to humans? And what would have been the result?
How might this explain why the Inca were ravaged by disease but the Spaniards received no
diseases in return.
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ANSWERS: Germs
•
•
•
The diseases most likely moved from mammals to humans after humans domesticated them
and slept near them and their body fluids.
Domestication of these animals took place gradually across Eurasia over the last 10,000
years. The result is that there was a cycle of plagues that devastated populations in Eurasia.
But, the surviving populations build up anti-bodies.
The Inca and the Aztecs had only one large domesticated mammal between them, the
Alpaca, which was confined to a small area in the Andes. Eurasia had already domesticated
many animals, survived plagues, and passed on anti-bodies to the ancestors. So, this explains
why germs went one direction, from Spaniards to native Americans. It was the result of
animal domestication, the diseases from these European animals, and the head start antibodies that the Europeans had.
Domestication of Grasses (Wheat)
1.
2.
3.
4.
Which part of the world was origin of the largest-seeded grass in the world (BTW, mostly wheat).
On you map, somewhere in the mediterranean area, write “32/56 of native, largest-seeded grasses in the
world”.
Why might the east-west axis of Eurasia (as opposed to the north-south axis of other land masses) be
critical in the diffusion of domesticated plants throughout the continent?
List at least 5 specific advantages for the development of civilizations in Eurasia having the best natural
candidates for the domestication for wheat and rice.
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ANSWERS: Domestication of Grasses (Wheat)
1.
2.
3.
4.
Eurasia is the origin of 32 of 56 of the largest-seeded grasses in the world. Biological luck.
The east-west axis of Eurasia (as opposed to the north-south axis of other land masses) encouraged
diffusion of plant domestication throughout the continent because of the similar latitude and climates.
In contrast, the north-south axis in Africa and the Americas prevents diffusion because there are many
different climate areas to move through. For example, wheat can’t grow in tropical areas.
List at least 5 specific advantages for the development of civilizations in Eurasia: food to feed growing
population, healthier diets, larger populations can overrun smaller ones by sheer numbers, surplus food
leads to extra food for domesticated animals making them bigger and healthier for work and food
source, makes large societies settle down in order to guard food source, abundant food frees up labor to
specialize in other tasks such as warfare, plant cultivation, religion, public works (pyramids being the
most famous example), political leadership, trade, writing, tool making, and eventually the rise of urban
areas.
Eurasian Size and Population
1.
2.
What might be some advantages of Eurasia having the largest population in the world over
the last thousands of years?
What might be some advantages of Eurasia having the largest continent in the world?
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ANSWERS: Eurasian Size and Population
1.
2.
The spread of humans around the world and the population size of Eurasia shows that the continent has
had an enormous head start over other areas of the world, especially the Americas. Eurasian
civilizations could triumph over other groups by sheer numbers. Also, the larger population meant there
were more people, tribes and civilizations competing with each other to develop technology and better
means of warfare. It also meant there were more individuals born to become the next generation
inventor.
The large size of Eurasia (30% larger than the Americas) allowed for more growth of population
because there was simply more room. It also allowed for more competing societies to evolve which
challenged each other to advance technologically and politically.
Writing
1.
2.
3.
Which continent discovered writing before all the others?
Based on the chart above, what might be the prerequisites for discovering writing?
What are the advantages for a society that discovers writing?
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ANSWERS: Writing
1.
2.
3.
Eurasia
Ultimate causes include plant domestication, animal domestication, pottery,
development of villages and chiefdoms, use of metal tools, rise of states (such as
Egypt, Sumer, Babylon, Indus valley civilizations). Writing has never been invented
in nomadic societies—sedentary living (agriculture) is a key prerequisite for the rise
of large urban areas and the specialization of labor needed to support experts in
technologies such as writing.
A society that discovers writing can keep track of its history, complicated rules and
laws, complicated market transactions, religious rules, technological information such
as navigating ships, historical accounts such as Cortez’s conquering of the Incas
which Pizarro read, scientific experiments, etc. Every detail of the current civilization
can be passed on to the next.
Why did Europe Pass up China?
1.
2.
Based on the images of China and Europe,
which one’s geographical shape is more of a
centrifugal force and which is more of a
centripetal force? Why?
In terms of economic, technological and
industrial development, what might be the
benefit of having many different nations
competing in a fragmented Europe as
contrasted with the long-unified nation of
China?
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ANSWERS: Why did Europe pass up China?
1.
2.
The indents, peninsulas, and large islands of Europe create a more
fragmented/centrifugal environment for societies/nations. Europe has dozens of major
languages and has never been fully united.
In the more politically fragmented Europe, countries competed and challenged each
other. This ignited drives for technology and wealth and innovation. If one
government made the bad decision to not pursue a technology, others might take up
the cause. In the politically unified China, one emperor could make a bad decision for
all of China and doom the country. For example, Christopher Columbus succeeded on
his fifth try to get funding for his trip from the hundreds of European princes. Most
people doubted him. But there was and has always been such disunity in Europe, that
he had other choices. In contrast, China in the 14th century suddenly decided to but
the breaks on industrialization and stop the scientific revolution that was occurring,
famously decreeing that the new invention, the mechanical clock, would be destroyed
and forbidden. And that was it for the entire kingdom.
Collision at Cajamarca
Nov 16, 1532
Farncisco Pizarro, representing the Holy Roman Empire, Charles V, monarch of most powerful country
in Europe, group of 168 Spnaish soldiers (only 62 mounted on horse), in unfamiliar territory, ignorant
of the local inhabitants, 1,000 miles from nearest reinforcements in Panama.
Incan Emperor Atahuallpa in the middle of the largest empire in the Americas. He was obeyed as a
god. Million of subjects and surrounded by 80,000 soldiers. Nevertheless, Pizarro captured him within
a few minutes of meeting him. Held him for ransom for 8 months while demanding the largest ransom
in history (22 by 17 foot room be filled with gold). Pizarro promised not to kill the emperor, but
reneged when he got the gold.
Decisive moment in history when there occurs the greastest collision of civilization in modern history.
It’s story is replayed throughout the world in other similar stories, form New Guinea to Mexico, to
Vietnam to china.
The square of cajamarca Incans had been hit by disease (travelled from Mexico) ; previous emperor
had died.
Priest, Vicente de Valverde: advanced toward the emperor with cross in one hand, bible in the other: “I
am a Priest of God, and I teach Christians the ghings of God and in like manner I come to teach you.
What I Teach is that which God says to us in this Book. Therefore, on the part of God and of the
Christians, I beseech you to be their friend, for such is God’s will, and it will be for your good.”
Atahualpa asked for the book. Priest gave it to him, but A didn’t know how to open it. As priest leaned
forward to help open it, A, in great anger, knocked away his arm and threw the book on the ground.
Priest: “Come out! Come out, Christians! Come at these enemy dogs who reject the things of God.
That tyrant has thrown the holy book on the ground. March out against him, for I absolve you!”
Pizarro gave signal to blow cannon, then horses came out. The Incans were unarmed, and the
Spaniards killed at will with their iron swords. The Incan soldiers had wood clubs and stone and cloth
armor, no match for the sharpened iron swords and metal armor and mounted horses.
They grabbed A’s litter. Terrifed at the firing of cannons and the huge horses and the swords fled in
terror.
7,000 Incans lay dead. The Spaniards chased them for miles and did not lose one Spaniard. How?
There were more battles and with the Incans and each time they lost thousands and tens of thousands.
Pivotal moment in world history.
Why did Pizarro come to cajamarca? Why had Atahualpa not come to Spain to conquer the Spaniards?
Why was a version of this story repeated throughout the world when Old and New worlds clashed?
Start with proximate factors: Why did Pizarro succeed at Cajamarca?
Other factors: Pizarro came from a literate society. Pizarro had read about the military strategies of
western civilization and especially the success of Hernan Cortez’s conquering of the Aztecs 11 years
earlier. He modeled his attack on Cortez. Pizarro was a copycat.
But, what about the ultimate factors?
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