Re: Pigs (was Re: No Anthropology here)

Gerold Firl (
19 Sep 1995 12:53:19 -0700

In article <43f0fb$> (Bruce Scott TOK ) writes:

>One minor thing to add to your comments is the long-term source of the
>"famine" which may have caused the desperate need for the rulers to
>force people away from pigs in ancient SW Asia: population growth due
>to the energy "success" of intensifying agriculture. This leads to
>desertification as the quality of the soil degrades due to overuse.

Yes -

>Thus, while pork husbandry worked well in the original SW Asian
>environment, it worked less well as time wore on. And the people
>keeping the State records would have been able to notice the trend.

I don't think the calculus was based on an explicit comprehension of
caloric efficiency, however. More likely, it was simply noticed that
pigs caused strife; wherever pigs were found, conflict also existed.

For example, people who had herds of swine had an interest in
preserving woodlands, which provide the kind of environment in which
pigs will flourish. If the forest is removed, and the land converted to
grain production, it will support more population; this would look very
tempting to starving farmers, particularly when they have a few goats
who provide them with a little bit of animal protein. Goats climb trees
to eat the leaves, and can destroy a forest without hardly trying.

Harris notes that in the balkans, where pockets of christian and muslim
populations are densely mixed, there is often a clear increase in
forest cover when passing from muslim to christian territory.

>The reason they had to force the change is that the interest of the
>State to slow down and then stop pork husbandry was often offset by the
>fact that in some places it was still advantageous. This would have
>caused others to try to maintain it past the point of diminishing
>returns. Note that it is "diminishing returns" that is important. This
>is why the change is not abrupt but passes through a phase during which
>control and distribution of the meat production is in the hands of an
>elite group.

The forest lands probably would fall under the jurisdiction of
high-status segments of the population, whichmakes it difficult for the
priests to rule against it. More likely, such a prohibition would only
be enacted after some kind of breakdown, where the pigs could be blamed
as the cause of the trouble, and society could rebuild around a new
ecological base.

Disclaimer claims dat de claims claimed in dis are de claims of meself,
me, and me alone, so sue us god. I won't tell Bill & Dave if you won't.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @ ..hplabs!hp-sdd!geroldf