Farmers have less leisure time than hunter-gatherers, study suggests

Farmers have less leisure time than hunter-gatherers, study suggests
Credit: University of Cambridge

Hunter-gatherers in the Philippines who adopt farming work around ten hours a week longer than their forager neighbours, a new study suggests, complicating the idea that agriculture represents progress. The research also shows that a shift to agriculture impacts most on the lives of women.

For two years, a team including University of Cambridge anthropologist Dr. Mark Dyble, lived with the Agta, a population of small scale from the northern Philippines who are increasingly engaging in agriculture.

Every day, at between 6am and 6pm, the researchers recorded what their hosts were doing and by repeating this in ten different communities, they calculated how 359 people divided their time between , childcare, domestic chores and out-of-camp work. While some Agta communities engage exclusively in hunting and gathering, others divide their time between foraging and .

The study, published today in Nature Human Behaviour, reveals that increased engagement in farming and other non-foraging work resulted in the Agta working harder and losing . On average, the team estimate that Agta engaged primarily in farming work around 30 hours per week while foragers only do so for 20 hours. They found that this dramatic difference was largely due to women being drawn away from domestic activities to working in the fields. The study found that women living in the communities most involved in farming had half as much leisure time as those in communities which only foraged.

Dr. Dyble, first author of the study, says: "For a long time, the transition from foraging to farming was assumed to represent progress, allowing people to escape an arduous and precarious way of life.

"But as soon as anthropologists started working with hunter-gatherers they began questioning this narrative, finding that foragers actually enjoy quite a lot of leisure time. Our data provides some of the clearest support for this idea yet."

The study found that on average, Agta adults spent around 24 hours each week engaged in out-of-camp work, around 20 hours each week doing domestic chores and around 30 hours of daylight leisure time. But the researchers found that time allocation differed significantly between adults.

For both men and women leisure time was lowest at around 30 years of age, steadily increasing in later life. There was also a sexual division of labour with women spending less time working out-of-camp, and more time engaged in domestic chores and childcare than men, even though men and women had a similar amount of leisure time. However, the study found that the adoption of farming had a disproportionate impact on women's lives.

Dr. Dyble says "This might be because agricultural work is more easily shared between the sexes than hunting or fishing. Or there may be other reasons why men aren't prepared or able to spend more time working out-of-camp. This needs further examination."

Agriculture emerged independently in multiple locations world-wide around 12,500 years ago, and had replaced hunting and gathering as the dominant mode of human subsistence around 5,000 years ago.

Co-author, Dr. Abigail Page, an anthropologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, adds: "We have to be really cautious when extrapolating from contemporary hunter-gatherers to different societies in pre-history. But if the first farmers really did work harder than foragers then this begs an important question—why did humans adopt agriculture?"

Previous studies, including one on the Agta, have variously linked the adoption of farming to increases in fertility, population growth and productivity, as well as the emergence of increasingly hierarchical political structures.

But Page says: "The amount of leisure time that Agta enjoy is testament to the effectiveness of the hunter-gatherer way of life. This leisure also helps to explain how these communities manage to share so many skills and so much knowledge within lifetimes and across generations."

Explore further

What hunter-gatherers can tell us about fundamental human social networks

More information: Engagement in agricultural work is associated with reduced leisure time among Agta hunter-gatherers, Nature Human Behaviour (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41562-019-0614-6 ,
Journal information: Nature Human Behaviour

Citation: Farmers have less leisure time than hunter-gatherers, study suggests (2019, May 20) retrieved 20 August 2019 from
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May 20, 2019
The evolutionists will always get it wrong because they simply discredit the one source of truth - the bible.
The bible is clear on this issue - human beings were vegetarians first - Genesis 1:29 and only after the world wide flood did they get to eat meat.
The land got cursed when Adam sinned and did not produce what it was supposed to and just getting it to produce as required was made to require a lot of work - "by the sweat of your brow you'll eat".
So dear evolutionists, carry on fumbling in the dark because that is what you chose - walking in darkness, stumbling from one mystery to the next, banging your heads in frustration because you reject the light.

May 20, 2019
This seems like a carefully-done study, particularly the data collection.
I have to say, though, that I well remember hanging out with Richard Lee, back there in the mid-sixties, and learning that the San had a lot of leisure time (and ate mostly vegetables, but that's another story).
So the idea isn't new -- the authors of this one don't claim that it is, of course.
Unfortunately I have to clean coffee from my screen now, because of what the all-too-predictable FredJose wrote. What nonsense!

May 20, 2019
Agriculture was another desperate attempt to feed pops that were growing faster than the food supply. Grass is the last thing a respectable hunter-gatherer would eat.
The bible is clear on this issue - human beings were vegetarians first - Genesis 1:29 and only after the world wide flood did they get to eat meat
Another godder who doesnt know his holy book.

"The context of the commandment to Noah is important. If you read it in context, it is not for the first time allowing meat as food, it is simply forbidding eating meat that is not slaughtered, meat which is still alive, with blood coursing through it's veins."

May 20, 2019
Fred is referring to gen1:29;

"29 Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food."

-but fails to include the context. In the next verse god says;

"30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food."

-and as we know, many of those beasts are carnivores. God doesnt restrict THEM to veggies, nor does he give them permission along with noah. So we have to conclude that gen 1:29 is not restrictive, it just fails to include the whole menu;

"The text only states the positive command that man could eat vegetation; it does not explicitly forbid the eating of meat"

Another point;

"Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them." Gen 3:21

-so animals were indeed dying for clothes.

May 20, 2019
fumbling in the dark because that is what you chose
Freds god is indeed a 'god of the gaps'. As this discussion about vegetarianism shows, freds god left glaring gaps, omissions, and errors in his book which allow freds people to reinterpret and retranslate what IS there to make it say whatever they want.

Vegetarian? Fine. Its right there in the first book. Unless you like meat, then you can certainly conclude that livestock and burnt offerings are for human consumption. Maybe only for levites and kohannin? Who knows?
walking in darkness, stumbling from one mystery to the next, banging your heads in frustration because you reject the light
-And as fred will point out, unbelievers are so untrustworthy, so indecent, so immoral, that the god of infinite goodness and mercy will condemn them to eternal torture just for doubting he exists. So of course believers will want nothing to do with them.

Religious bigotry is a very sick form of darkness dont you think? Fred?

May 20, 2019
worth it because creates stock piles outside equitorial latitudes.

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