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Based on Jared Diamond's Pulitzer Prize-winning book of the same name, Guns, Germs and Steel traces humanity's journey over the last 13,000 years – from the dawn of farming at the end of the last Ice Age to the realities of life in the twenty-first century. Inspired by a question put to him on the island of Papua New Guinea more than thirty years ago, Diamond embarks on a world-wide quest to understand the roots of global inequality.
An Inca procession
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Why were Europeans the ones to conquer so much of our planet? Why didn't the Chinese, or the Inca, become masters of the globe instead? Why did cities first evolve in the Middle East? Why did farming never emerge in Australia? And why are the tropics now the capital of global poverty? As he peeled back the layers of history to uncover fundamental, environmental factors shaping the destiny of humanity, Diamond found both his theories and his own endurance tested.
The three one-hour programs were filmed across four continents on High Definition digital video, and combinied ambitious dramatic reconstruction with Women farming in moving documentary footage and computer animation. Papua New Guinea They also include contributions from Diamond himself and a wealth of international historians, archeologists and scientists. Guns, Germs, and Steel is a thrilling ride through the elemental forces which have shaped our world – and which continue to shape our future.
Episode One : Out of Eden
Jared Diamond’s journey of discovery began on the island of Papua New Guinea. There, in 1974, a local named Yali asked Diamond a deceptively simple question: “Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo, but we black people had little cargo of our own?” A tropical rainforest in Papua New Guinea inequality. Diamond realized that Yali’s question penetrated the heart of a great mystery of human history -- the roots of global
Why were Europeans the ones with all the cargo? Why had they taken over so much of the world, instead of the native people of New Guinea? How did Europeans end up with what Diamond terms the agents of conquest: guns, germs and steel? It was these agents of conquest that allowed 168 Spanish conquistadors to defeat an Imperial Inca army of 80,000 in 1532, and set a pattern of European conquest which would continue right up to the present day. Diamond knew that the answer had little to do with ingenuity or individual skill. From his own experience in the jungles of New Guinea, he had observed that native huntergatherers were just as intelligent as people of European descent -- and far more resourceful. Their lives were tough, and it seemed a terrible paradox of history that these extraordinary people should be the conquered, and not the conquerors. To examine the reasons for European success, Jared realized he had to peel back the layers of history and begin his search at a time of equality – a time when all the peoples of the world lived in exactly the same way. Time of Equality At the end of the last Ice Age, around thirteen thousand years ago, people on all continents followed a so-called Stone Age way of life – they survived by hunting and gathering the available wild animals and plants. When resources were plentiful, this was a productive way of life. But in times of scarcity, hunting and gathering was a precarious mode of survival. Populations remained relatively small, and the simple task of finding food occupied every waking moment. Around eleven and a half thousand years ago, the world's climate suddenly changed. In
an aftershock of the Ice Age, temperatures plummeted and global rainfall reduced. The impact of this catastrophe was felt most keenly in an area known as the Fertile Crescent, in the modern Middle East. Here, hunter-gathers had thrived on some of the most useful and plentiful flora and fauna in the world. They had even developed semi-permanent settlements to exploit the resources around them. Now, with their food options disappearing from the menu on a daily basis, these people did something remarkable. They began to cultivate the hardiest species of surviving plants and animals, even bringing seeds back to their villages and planting new stock. They were becoming farmers. An Agricultural Revolution Diamond learns that the act of transplanting a wild plant and placing it under human control totally transforms that plant's DNA. Characteristics which aid survival in the wild, disappear in favor of qualities which suit human consumption. The plant becomes domesticated – and wholly dependent on human control for survival. Only a handful of places in the world played host to this Development of early agricultural revolution. In most cases, plant domestication farming in the Fertile was a precursor to the development of advanced Crescent civilizations. Along with the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East, independent domestication of wild plants is believed to have occurred in Ancient China, in Central and Southern America, in sub-Tropical Africa, and in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. So, Diamond asks, why did each of these parts of the world go on to develop advanced civilizations, while the farmers of New Guinea were apparently left behind? The luck of the draw Diamond discovers that the answer lies in a geographical luck of the draw – what mattered were the raw materials themselves. Of all the plant species in the world, only a limited number are possible, or useful, to domesticate. To Diamond's astonishment, most of these species are native to Europe and Asia – species like wheat, barley and rice, which grew wild in abundance in only these parts of the world. Two more species are native to Tropical Africa (sorghum and yams) while only one is native to the Americas (corn), and to Papua New Guinea (taro). Not a single domesticable plant grows wild in Australia.
And that's not all. Diamond discovers a similar dramatic inequality in the distribution of domesticable animals. Animals dramatically increase the productivity of farming, through their meat, milk, leather, dung, and as beasts of burden. Without them, farmers are trapped in a cycle of subsistence and manual labor. 12 of the 14 Of all the animal species in the world, only 14 have ever domesticable animals in been domesticated. 12 of these are native to Eurasia. One, the world reside in the llama, is native to South America – and the farmers of Eurasia New Guinea managed to domesticate the pig. But pigs can't pull plows, and until the arrival of Europeans in the 20th century, all New Guinean farming was still done by hand. From tools to cities Diamond realized that the development of successful and productive farming, starting nearly 12,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent, was the critical turning point in the origins of global inequality. From this point on, one group of people – the natives of Eurasia – would have a head start on the path to civilization. Successful farming provides a food surplus, and allows some people to leave the farm behind and develop specialized skills – such as metal-working, writing, trade, politics, and war-making. Plus, the simple geography of the continent of Eurasia – one coherent landmass spread on an east-west axis, with universal latitudes and climates – allowed these technologies and ideas to spread beyond the Middle East with ease. Without the environment, or the time, to develop similar skills, the farmers of New Guinea became trapped in their highland isolation. Diamond concludes that from the end of the Ice Age, geography ensured that different societies around the world would develop at different speeds. If Yali's people had had all the geographic advantages of Europeans, perhaps they could have conquered the world. Epilogue Diamond believes the blueprint for global inequality lies within the land itself, its crops and animals. But can this way of seeing the world really shed light on the great turning points of human history? Can Jared Diamond explain how a few hundred Europeans were able to conquer the New World, and begin an age of domination: the age of guns, germs and steel?
Episode Two : Conquest On November 15th 1532, 168 Spanish conquistadors arrive in the holy city of Cajamarca, at the heart of the Inca Empire, in Peru. They are exhausted, outnumbered and terrified – ahead of them are camped 80,000 Inca troops and the entourage of the Emperor himself. Yet, within just 24 hours, more than 7,000 Inca warriors lie slaughtered; the Emperor languishes in chains; and the victorious Europeans begin a reign of colonial terror which will sweep through the entire American continent. Why was the balance of power so unequal between the Old World, and the New? Can Jared Diamond explain how America fell to guns, germs and steel? Two Empires Spaniard Francisco Pizarro has gone down in history as the man who conquered the Inca. Leading a small company of mercenaries and adventurers, this former swineherd from a provincial town in Spain managed to demolish one of the most sophisticated Empires the world has ever seen. Pizarro, leader of the Spanish conquistadors From Pizarro's home town of Trujillo, Jared Diamond pieces together the story of the Spaniards' victory over the Inca, tracing the invisible hand of geography.
On the surface, the Spaniards had discovered a foreign empire remarkably similar to their own. The Inca had built an advanced, politically sophisticated, civilization on the foundations of successful agriculture. They had ruthlessly conquered their neighbors in South America, and by 1532 governed a vast territory, the length and breadth of the Andes. But as Jared discovers, the Inca lacked some critical agents of conquest. Horses vs Llamas Eurasia boasted 13 of the 14 domesticable mammals in the world as native species. Among these was the horse. As Diamond learns, the horse was fundamental to the farming success of Eurasian societies, providing not only food and fertilizer but also, crucially, load-bearing
power and transport – transforming the productivity of the land. The only non-Eurasian domesticable animal species in the world was the llama – native, by chance, to South America. The Inca relied on llamas for meat, wool and fertilizer – but the llama was not a load-bearing animal. Llamas can't pull a plow, nor can they transport human beings. And unlike horses, llamas could never be ridden for war. Spanish horsemanship, based on principles of cattle-herding, was famous throughout Europe for its manoeuvrability and spontaneity – skills learned by Pizarro's conquistadors in their youth. Horses could charge, mounted soldiers could slay with brutal efficiency. Diamond realizes that, to a people like the Inca, who had never seen humans ride animals before, the psychological impact of these alien mounted troops must have been huge. Steel vs bronze But Pizarro's men only brought 37 horses to Peru. So where did the rest of their shock value lie? Well, once again, the Europeans had something the Americans didn't – they had steel. For thousands of years throughout Eurasia, metal-working technology had evolved from the simplest ore-extraction of the first Neolithic villages, to the highlysophisticated forging of steel, in cities like Toledo and Milan. Geography had endowed Europe with rich sources of iron and wood, and a climate conducive to high-temperature metallurgy. Thanks to the geographic ease with which ideas spread through the continent of Eurasia, discoveries like gunpowder could also migrate thousands of miles, from China to Spain. And political competition within Europe fuelled a medieval arms race. Pizarro's conquistadors were armed with the latest and greatest in weapons technology – guns, and swords. The Inca, by comparison, had never worked iron or discovered the uses of gunpowder. Geography had not endowed them with these resources. Nor had they received technologies from other advanced societies within the Americas. This included a technology even more critical to Spanish success than their weapons, writing.
Writing On the eve of battle, Pizarro and his men discuss how to tackle the vast army of the Inca. It seems an impossible task. But they have a secret weapon up their sleeve – the weapon of past experience. Jared Diamond travels to the library of Salamanca University, to read for himself the published accounts of Hernan Cortes' conquest of Mexico. Only twelve years before Cajamarca, Cortes and his men had faced similar odds against the vast army of the Aztec Empire. But somehow Cortes had captured the Emperor and conquered the land for Spain. Cortes and his soldiers sent their written accounts back to the general public in Europe, where they were widely published. Diamond discovers a repository of dirty tricks at Salamanca – a collection of handbooks for would-be conquistadors. And on the eve of battle, it was the printed lessons of Cortes that inspired Pizarro and his men. By contrast, the Inca Emperor Atahualpa had never heard of Cortes, or even of his own neighbors, the Aztecs. Thanks to the geography of the Americas, it was practically impossible for any ideas, technologies, or even news, to spread from north to south. So whilst the Mayan civilisation of Central America had invented a form of written communication, it had never got as far as Peru. The Inca were isolated – and Atahualpa had never even seen a book before. Showdown So, when presented with a copy of the Bible on November 16th, 1532, Atahuallpa throws the alien object to the floor, prompting a furious and surprise attack from the conquistadors. The combined impact of mounted troops, gunpowder and sharpened steel lead to a massacre, and Atahuallpa is personally seized by Pizarro himself. Inca Emperor Atahualpa had never seen writing Lethal gift of livestock In a matter of hours, the Inca Empire lies in ruins. But the story of Eurasian triumph isn't over.
Seven thousand Inca died at Cajamarca. Over the course of a generation, the Spaniards killed tens of thousands more. But Diamond learns that up to 95% of the native population of the entire Americas were wiped out after the conquest.
Genocide alone can't account for this number. Instead, he discovers, native Americans fell victim to European germs – infections which they had never encountered before. And Diamond realizes that European diseases like smallpox were a fatal inheritance of thousands of years of mammal domestication – the lethal gift of livestock. European farmers, rearing cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, horses and donkeys, lived in close proximity with their animals - breathing, eating and drinking animal germs. Eventually some diseases crossed over to the human population and the resulting epidemics wiped out millions of Europeans. But each time, a few people would survive and the immunities they'd developed passed through their genes to the next generation. The conquistadors who sailed to the Americas carried immunities like these. But in Peru, the llama was never brought indoors, and never milked so the prospect for the spread of disease was severely reduced. But then the Europeans arrived and a single Spanish slave arrived, infected with smallpox and the consequences were devastating. The disease emptied the continent, killing millions of indigenous people who lacked any prior exposure, and therefore any immunity. The European triumph was complete. So Diamond has shown how guns, germs and steel had conquered the New World. But will his theories work in every corner of the globe?
Episode Three : Into the Tropics
So far, Jared Diamond has demonstrated how geography favoured one group of people – Europeans – endowing them with agents of conquest ahead of their rivals around the world. Guns, germs and steel allowed Europeans to colonize vast tracts of the globe – but what happened when this all-conquering package arrived in Africa, the birthplace of humanity? Can Jared Diamond's theories explain how a continent so rich in natural resources, could have ended up the poorest continent on earth? Guns Germs and Steel triumph again...? Jared's journey begins on a steam train in Cape Town, designed to carry civilization to
the heart of the so-called 'dark continent'. In the Cape, Jared discovers a landscape and way of life that feels very European – farms growing cattle, wheat, grapes and barley; settler communities dating back over three hundred years. He realizes that the first European settlers in southern Africa were dealt a very lucky hand by geography – they landed in one of the few temperate zones of the southern hemisphere – a climate to which their crops an animals were ideally suited. These foundations of their historical success worked for them even 6,000 miles from home and they were able to sweep aside the indigenous hunting communities with ease – assisted by the impact of European germs. But these settlers were not ones to stand still. A mass migration known as the Great Trek took thousands of Dutch settlers north and east – into unknown territory – and, as they found to their cost, into Zulu land. The Zulus had built a sophisticated African state based on military conquest – and now they resisted European invasion. But eventually, overcoming the limitations of their weapons and inheriting new, automatic weapons form industrialized Europe, the settlers triumphed over their rival African tribes - at the cost of thousands of lives. Jared observes that the story of Guns, Germs and Steel seems to be unfolding all over again. But having swept aside native opposition beyond the cape, Jared asks, could the settlers build a new life of their own? Enter the Tropics As the settlers traveled further north, life suddenly became a lot harder. The foundations of their success, their crops and animals, refused to grow. They were forced to barter for food from their neighbours. And they started to fall ill with a mysterious and terrifying fever. It was a complete reversal of the usual pattern of European conquest. Reconstruction: A European settler suffers Jared realizes that, unlike elsewhere in the world - where from malaria in colonial Europeans had landed in a temperate zone and traveled from Africa east to west, maintaining similar climates - here in Africa, Europeans landed in the south and migrated north, moving through latitude zones and experiencing radically different climates. In fact, as they crossed the Limpopo River, they had entered the Tropics. So what had changed?
Temperate crops such as wheat simply can't survive in a tropical climate. Nor can European animals – plagued by the diseases which thrive in the Tropics. But all around them, Europeans could see successful, agricultural Africans growing their own crops, farming their own animals. How could they do this? Jared sets out to learn more about the secrets of tropical Africa. The African Story Stopping off in a school, Jared discovers that the enormous diversity of modern tropical Africa is reflected in the hundreds of languages still spoken across the continent – many of which are mastered by kids at a very young age. But the inherent similarity of these languages indicates a common ancestral root – a single language spoken by a group of ancient tropical farmers from the Niger-Congo region, who have come to be known as Bantu. About 5,000 years ago, these Bantu farmers began to spread beyond their native northwest region, moving into new lands, picking up crops and animals as they went. Eventually, Bantu culture spread across most of tropical Africa, reaching as far as the Zulu territories of the south. Physical evidence for this vast tropical diaspora is scant, but archaeologists have found clues at a site on the banks of the Limpopo known as Mapungubwe – the place of the jackal. Here there is evidence for a complex, agricultural state supporting thousands of people throughout southern Africa – farming sorghum and cattle, forging iron, exporting gold and tin and importing exotic materials and precious stones from as far away as India and China. The discovery of Mapungubwe overturned centuries of prejudice about African history and proved the continent played host to a sophisticated tropical civilization centuries before the arrival of Europeans. But, Jared wonders, how did the Africans achieve all this in a climate tailor-made for the spread of disease? Germs reversed Elsewhere in the world, European germs laid the foundations for European conquest decimating native populations who had no previous exposure to diseases like smallpox. But in tropical Africa, the indigenous peoples seemed to survive both imported European germs, and the tropical fevers which were decimating European settlers. Jared discovers that smallpox in fact may have evolved in tropical Africa – and had certainly been present in the continent for thousands of years. So African cattle-farmers
had evolved antibodies and immunities similar to their European rivals; they had even invented methods of smallpox vaccination, conferring immunity for life. And their lifestyles were designed to avoid infection from mosquitoes, carriers of the deadly malaria parasite. Over centuries of exposure, tropical Africans evolved degrees of physical immunity to the worst effects of this tropical disease. But they also learned to live in high or dry locations, away from the natural habitat of the mosquito, and to limit the level of disease transmission by keeping their communities relatively small. African civilization had evolved strategies which helped them survive – even thrive – in the topics. So, Jared asks, where did this civilization go? An Empire robbed Geography endowed Africa with one last temptation for European colonizers – natural resources, like copper, diamonds and gold. So, unable to build their own societies in the tropics, European governments turned to cheap African labour instead to maximize the profit from these resources. Over the course of two generations, brutal regimes throughout central Africa ripped tropical civilization to shreds. They tore men women and children from their homes, and forced them to live and work together in the pursuit of industrial raw materials. Jared discovers that the very tracks of steel on which he has been riding throughout his journey, were built on the back of this colonial exploitation. And the legacy these regimes left behind? A continent plagued by disease. When colonial governments destroyed a way of life built up over thousands of years, they left tropical Africans naked to the forces of their environment. Today, diseases like malaria are resurgent throughout tropical Africa – malaria is still the number one killer of African children under 5-years-old. Brought to a children's hospital in Zambia, Jared discovers for himself the tragic consequences of this disease. Possible futures...? So, Jared concludes, what has his epic journey through world history taught him, after all? That modern global inequalities have been shaped by geography's influence over our history.
That geography – and advantages such as guns, germs and steel – are the great forces that have shaped the history of our world and continue to shape the experience of countries like Zambia. But does that mean that Jared is a determinist? That he believes the peoples of the world are destined to follow their geographic destiny, for either good or bad? Well, no – and for countries like Zambia, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Other tropical nations have managed to lift the burden of diseases like malaria. Governmentfunded research, new drugs, even a vaccine, today offer hope to the people of Zambia. Jared concludes that we can only achieve a better future if we have a more comprehensive understanding of our past. Only by recognizing the role which geography, and our environment, have played in our history, can we begin to overcome today's problems. Because while geography and history may give us our start in life, they should never dictate our destiny.
Transcript of Episodes
Episode One : Out of Eden – Transcript
Drama reconstruction – Procession on mountainside/battle Voiceover: Modern history has been shaped by conquest – the conquest of the world by Europeans. The Conquistadors led the way. A few hundred men came to the New World and decimated the native population. The secret of their success? Guns, Germs and Steel. Ever since, people of European origin have dominated the globe, with the same combination of military power, lethal microbes and advanced technology. But how did they develop these advantages in the first place? Why did the world ever become so unequal? These are questions that Professor Jared Diamond has spent more than 30 years trying to answer. One of the most original thinkers of our age, Diamond has traveled the world looking for clues. He set himself a daunting task – to peel back the layers of the past, and explore the very roots of power in the modern world. Jared at Blacksmiths Jared Diamond: Whatever I work on for the rest of my life, I can never work on questions as fascinating as the questions of guns, germs and steel, because they’re the biggest questions of human history. Voiceover: What separates the haves from the have nots? How have guns, germs and steel shaped the history of the world?
Titles: Episode 1: Out of Eden Jared in boat on river, photographing birds Voiceover: Jared Diamond’s quest to uncover the roots of inequality began in the rainforests of Papua New Guinea. Jared in rain forest with Papua New Guineans Voiceover: Diamond is a professor at UCLA in Los Angeles. He’s a biologist by training, a specialist in human physiology. But his real passion has always been the study of birds. Jared Diamond: I love watching birds in this place. I began watching birds when I was seven years old in the United States. Then it was just a matter of identifying them. I came here when I was 26 years old, to New Guinea, and it was love at first sight. Voiceover: Diamond has been making regular trips to New Guinea ever since..and is now a leading expert on the bird life of the island. But in the course of his fieldwork he’s become just as curious about the people of New Guinea. Jared Diamond: Over the years I’ve gotten to know and like thousands of New Guineans. I’ve learned several of the languages, and much of what I know about birds I picked up from them. Voiceover: There have been people living in New Guinea for at least 40,000 years – much longer than on the continents of North and South America. They’re among the most culturally diverse and adaptable people in the world. So why are they so much poorer than modern Americans? The question was put to Diamond bluntly by a man called Yali, whom he met on a beach more than 30 years ago. Yali Voiceover: Why you white man have so much cargo and we New Guineans have so little? Jared Diamond: Yali’s question really threw me. It seemed so simple and obvious, and I thought it must have a simple and obvious answer, but when he asked me, I had no idea what that answer was. Yali Voiceover: Why you white men have so much cargo and we New Guineans have so little? Archive: B&W footage plane landing in New Guinea, New Guineans, white man with New Guineans Archive: B&W still – New Guineans with Western objects Archive: B&W footage New Guineans carrying goods and white men/with plane/walking Voiceover: New Guineans use the word cargo to describe the material goods first brought to their country by Westerners. Cargo was regarded by many as evidence of the white man’s power. It was treated with an almost religious reverence. For their part, Western colonials typically believed that power was determined by race. They saw themselves as genetically superior to the native population. To them, it was only natural that they
should have so much cargo and New Guineans so little. Jared Diamond: To me, any explanation based on race is absurd. I know too many really smart New Guineans to believe there’s anything genetically inferior about them. It’s their ingenuity and their quickness to learn that have always impressed me. They can go empty-handed into some of the most difficult environments on earth, knock up a shelter in a few hours and survive. I wouldn’t know where to start. In this environment I’d be helpless without them. So why didn’t these ingenious people invent metal tools, or build great cities, or develop any of the other trappings of modern civilization? High-speed shots New York City street scenes Jared Diamond: The world that I’m from is so different. The modern U.S. is the richest, most powerful state on earth. It’s crammed with more cargo than most New Guineans could ever imagine. But why? That’s what Yali wanted to know. How did our worlds ever come so different? Ancient Egyptian structures Voiceover: Diamond realized that Yali’s question was far bigger and more complex than it first appeared. It was really about the roots of inequality – a question as old as human history itself. Greek and Roman ruins, Mayan sculpture Jared Diamond: Why, since ancient times, have some societies progressed faster than others? What allowed the Egyptians to build great pyramids while most of the world was still scratching out a living? How did the Greeks ever develop such an advanced civilization? Or the Romans? Or the Maya? Jared Diamond: All great civilizations have had some things in common – advanced technology, large populations, and well-organized workforce. If I could understand how those things came into existence, then I’d understand why some people marched faster than others during the course of history. Globes in darkened room, pan across to Jared reading Voiceover: Diamond set out to explore the division of the world into haves and have nots. It was a massive challenge that few scholars would have dared take on. He was a scientist, not a historian. How could he possibly solve the great puzzles of human history? Graphic showing earth from space Voiceover: To understand where inequality came from, Diamond needed to identify a time before inequality, when people across the world were living more or less the same way. He had to turn back the clock thousands of years, back before the first civilizations. Back into prehistory. 13,000 years ago, the ravages of the last Ice Age were over. The world was becoming warmer and wetter. One area where humans were thriving was the Middle East.13,000 years ago, the Middle East was far less arid than today, with more forests, trees and plants. People here lived like people everywhere at this time – as
hunter/gatherers in small, mobile groups. They were frequently on the move, making shelters wherever they could find animals to hunt or plants to gather. They’d live in these shelters for weeks or months at a time, as long as they could keep feeding themselves. But as seasons changed and animals migrated, they’d move on, to the next valley or ridge, looking for new sources of food. New Guineans and Jared hunting in rainforest Voiceover: One of the few places on earth where it’s still possible to find people hunting and gathering is the rainforest of Papua New Guinea. Jared Diamond: Instead of just reading about this lifestyle in archaeological books, I’ve been lucky enough to witness it first hand, to see for myself how we all lived 13,000 years ago, and how we found food. To catch an animal requires skill, stealth, and encyclopedic knowledge about hundreds of animal species. You have to be pretty smart to be a hunter. Early Middle Eastern people hunting deer Voiceover: 13,000 years ago, people in the Middle East hunted in the same way, tracking down whatever game they could find. But the fundamental problem with hunting is that it’s never been a productive way to find enough food. It takes time to track each animal. And with a bow and arrow, there’s no certainty of how the hunt will end. Jared learning to fire arrows with New Guineans Voiceover: Because hunting is so unpredictable, traditional societies have usually relied more on gathering. In this part of Papua New Guinea, the gathering is done by women. An important source of food here is wild sago. By stripping a sago tree they can get to the pulp at the centre, which can be turned into dough and then cooked. Although it’s physically harder work, gathering is generally a more productive way of finding food than hunting. But it still doesn’t provide enough calories to support a large population. Jared Diamond: This jungle around us, you might think it’s a cornucopia, but it isn’t. Most of these trees in the jungle don’t yield, don’t give us anything edible. There were just a few sago trees, and the rest of these trees don’t yield anything that we could eat. And then sago itself has got limitations – one tree yields only maybe about 70 pounds of sago. It takes them three or four days to process that tree, so it’s a lot of work really for not a great deal of food, plus the sago starch is low on protein, and also the sago can’t be stored for a long time. And that’s why hunter/gatherer populations are so sparse. If you want to feed a lot of people, you’ve got to find a different food supply, you’ve got to find a really productive environment, and it’s not going to be a sago swamp. Cereal crop being harvested Voiceover: In the Middle East, there were very different plants to gather. Growing wild between the trees were two cereal grasses, barley and wheat. Far more plentiful and nutritious than sago. These simple grasses would have a profound impact, setting humanity on the course towards modern civilization. But it would take a catastrophic change in the climate before this would happen.
Graphic showing earth from space with ice spreading Voiceover: 12,500 years ago, the world’s climate became highly volatile. The long-term thaw that had brought about the end of the last ice age suddenly went into reverse. Global temperatures dropped, and ice age conditions returned. Rocky mountainsides with people standing and walking Voiceover: The world became colder and drier. The Middle East suffered an environmental collapse. Animal herds died off. So did many trees and plants. The drought lasted for more than 1,000 years. People were forced to travel farther and look much harder for any source of food. But despite the conditions, they would somehow survive, even prosper. Here in the Middle East, a new way of life would come into being, one that would change the face of the earth. SUV driving through desert to dig site, Ian Kuijt driving Voiceover: Ian Kuijt is a Canadian archaeologist who specializes in the Stone Age history of the Middle East. His work has focused on a site in the Jordan Valley, near the Dead Sea – a place known as Dhra'. Kuijt is a co-director of the dig, and works with an international team of archaeologists. They’ve uncovered the remains of ancient dwellings that were clearly more sophisticated than any hunter/gatherer shelters. They believe this was a small village, one of the earliest permanent villages anywhere in the world. People were starting to put down roots. Dr Ian Kuijt, Notre Dame University: What we would have had is this village of, I don’t know, 40, 50 people, living in the same place. We would have had a series of oval huts that would have been partially cut into the ground, and these would have been very much the, the first time people settled down and lived in communities in a really extensive way. Voiceover: When they radiocarbon dated the site, they discovered that the village first emerged 11,500 years ago – at the same time as the end of the drought in the Middle East. But how was it possible to feed an entire village if times were so hard? After four years of digging at Dhra’, the archaeologists believe they have an answer. It lies in this unique structure. Ian Kuijt: What you can see here is the outline of a mud wall coming all the way round here, and then inside we have a series of upright stones that have been chipped in such a way where you can see a notch on them, and there would have been a series of beams over the top of that, with a floor across it, and basically you would have had a dry, humidity-controlled environment, where they could take grain, they could take any plants, they could dry them out, put them in here, protect them from insects, protect them from moisture, protect them from water percolating through. What that ends up being from our perspective is probably the world’s first granary in some form – a place where they were able to store food at a particular location on a year-round basis. Computer Generated Image showing likely construction of original building, people harvesting grain, mountain-sides, people sowing crops
Voiceover: The team at Dhra’ believes the granary was an oval-shaped mud wall building at the centre of the village; a place where grain could be stored collectively. And the grains that were being stored were primarily wheat and barley. While other plants were no longer available, these cereal grasses were hardy enough to survive, and durable enough to be stored for years. But if this was a time of scarcity, how was there enough grain to fill a granary? The answer suggests a radical shift in human behavior. At some point during the drought in the Middle East, people started growing their own food. Unable to maintain a mobile way of life, they would have stayed close to any source of water they could find, and planted new fields of wheat and barley around them. Ian Kuijt: Rather than just following food sources around different locations, for the first time what people start to do is that they bring these resources back to them. Not just as harvested food, but they’re bringing them as seeds, and they’re growing them next to their village, and that’s the first time, really this is the first time we see this anywhere in the world. Voiceover: The Stone Age people of the Middle East were becoming farmers – the first farmers in the world. High-speed footage of plants growing Voiceover: Without realizing it, these new farmers were changing the very nature of the crops around them. With every round of planting and harvesting, they’d favor ears of wheat and barley whose seeds were the biggest, tastiest or easiest to harvest. Traits that were useless to the plant in the wild thrived under human cultivation. Ian Kuijt: They interrupted the cycle. They interrupted the normal environmental cycle and started to select these individual plants and basically rewarding those that were going to be most profitable to them, and so even though it was accidental, once that whole process started, people were starting to control nature. Crop laboratory with scientists working and early Middle Eastern crop harvesting Voiceover: The way crops are changed by human interference is known as domestication. Today it happens in research labs, with scientists selecting genes and breeding crops to be ever more useful to humans. It’s a very precise, deliberate process. But not so different from what the first farmers were doing unconsciously, thousands of years ago in the Middle East. Jared in boat on river, New Guineans hunting, Women with sago, Plane taking off, View from airplane Jared Diamond: The transition to farming was clearly a decisive turning point in human history. People who remained hunter/gatherers couldn’t produce anywhere near as much food as farmers, and also couldn’t produce much food that could be stored. They were always going to be at a chronic disadvantage. Now I needed to know where else in the ancient world people had become farmers. If I could establish links between the spread of farming and the spread of civilization, I’d be well on my way to answering Yali’s question. Graphic showing earth from space with areas of crop cultivation
Voiceover: There are only a few parts of the ancient world that developed farming independently. Not long after the Middle East came China, where people grew another high yield cereal grass – rice. Pockets of farming also emerged in the Americas, based on corn, squash and beans. Later, in Africa, people farmed sorghum, millet and yams. And in most places where farming emerged, a relatively large, advanced civilization followed. But there was an exception to the rule. An area where farming didn’t bring the same benefits – the highlands of New Guinea. View of New Guinea from plane, New Guinean farmers working Voiceover: For 50 years after Westerners colonized New Guinea, they thought the highland valleys in the interior were uninhabited. In fact, they were the most densely populated part of the island, with one of the oldest systems of farming in the world. Archaeologists now believe that people have been farming here for almost 10,000 years – almost as long as the people of the Middle East. Jared with crowd of New Guineans, New Guinean farmers working Jared Diamond: It’s amazing to think that these people, Yali’s people, were some of the earliest farmers in the world. But if they were farmers, why weren’t they propelled down the same path towards civilization as the people of the Middle East or China or Central America? Why didn’t they end up producing their own cargo? Voiceover: New Guinea farmers themselves were surely no less talented than farmers anywhere else in the world. So what was the difference? Jared Diamond: Highland agriculture was based on crops like these taro roots, which are very different from cereal crops. Taro is much more work. You’ve got to plant it one by one, unlike wheat where you throw your hand and spread the seed, and these New Guinea crops can’t be stored for years the way wheat can – they rot quickly, they have to be eaten in a short time. They’re also low in protein compared to wheat, so these farmers of the New Guinea highlands suffered from protein deficiency. People tending banana crops, giant spiders Jared Diamond: There’s not much protein to be gotten from New Guinea’s other crops, either. People here farm local varieties of bananas, but although bananas are rich in sugar and starch, like taro they’re low in protein. In fact, people in the highlands have so little protein that sometimes they eat giant spiders to supplement their diet. Jared studying in room Jared Diamond: I’d reached a moment of realization. Farming was clearly crucial to the story of human inequality. But, just as important was the type of farming. People around the world who had access to the most productive crops became the most productive farmers. Voiceover: Ultimately it came down to geographic luck. Archive: B&W footage mechanized crop harvesting, B&W footage bread production, B&W footage trains and cars, B&W footage New Guineans Early Middle Eastern crop harvesting
Voiceover: It’s an audacious idea that the inequalities of the world were born from the crops we eat. According to Jared Diamond, Americans have had an advantage over New Guineans because for centuries they’ve grown crops that are more nutritious and productive. Crops like wheat, which provides about a fifth of all the calories they eat. The wealth of modern America could never have been sustained by taro and bananas. But Diamond’s idea seems almost too simple. Could plants alone really have the power to shape the course of human history? Or was there something else at play? Another reason for the division of the world into haves and have nots? Woman grinding corn, people harvesting crops, goats being herded Voiceover: By 9,000 years ago, the first settlements in the Middle East were giving way to much larger villages. People were only able to live on this scale by becoming more productive farmers. They were surrounded by fields of domesticated wheat and barley, but by now they also had another steady source of food. Dr Louise Martin, Institute of Archaeology, University College London: What we see happening about 9,000 years ago is a remarkable transformation in the way that humans are interacting with animals. We begin to see a process of animal domestication, by which we mean humans were controlling where they were moving, they were controlling their feeding, and they were controlling their breeding. Instead of having to go out to hunt, you have a dependable meat supply on the hoof, year-round, around your site, rather than being subject to seasonal variations in wild game. Goats being milked and combed Voiceover: As well as meat, animals could be used for their milk, providing an ongoing source of protein. Their hair and skins could be used to make clothes for extra warmth. Over time, domestic animals became an integral part of the new agricultural way of life. Goats being watched, people harvesting crops Louise Martin: We know that the communities which first started to have domestic animals already had cereal crops, so they were cultivators, and the combination of these particular animals and plants becomes an extremely attractive package, in that they’re complementary. After the harvest period, animals could be turned out on the stubble, and they can actually eat the remains of the cereal crop harvest. In their turn, animal dung can be used to provide sort of a fertilizer for the cereal crops as well, the crops, so the whole, the whole package, you know, is seen to be mutually beneficial, both for the animals and the plants and of course for the humans. Goats being milked and combed, Goats, sheep, pigs and cattle in fields, Mules pulling ploughs, New Guinean farmers working, with pig Voiceover: Goats and sheep were the first animals to be domesticated in the ancient world, and were eventually followed by the other big farm animals of today. All of them were used at first for their meat, but they all prove useful in other ways, especially with the invention of the plough. Before the industrial revolution, beasts of burden were the most powerful machines on the planet. A horse or an ox, harnessed to a plough, could transform the productivity of the land, allowing farmers to grow more food and feed
more people. In New Guinea and many other parts of the world, people never used ploughs because they never had the animals to pull them. Pigs, New Guinean men carrying poles and farmers working Jared Diamond: The only big domestic animal in New Guinea was the pig, and it wasn’t even native – it came in from Asia a few thousand years ago – while Europe and Asia had not only pigs but also cows, sheep, goats, horses, buffalo, camels and so on. Now pigs do give you meat, but pigs don’t give you the other products that you get from those European and Asian animals. Voiceover: Pigs don’t give you milk, or wool, or leather or hides, and most important of all, pigs can’t be used for muscle power – pigs don’t pull ploughs or pull carts. The only muscle power in New Guinea was human muscle power. Jared studying Jared Diamond: Even today, there are no beasts of burden in New Guinea, and almost all of the farm work is still done by hand. But if farm animals were so useful, why didn’t New Guineans domesticate any of their own? I decided to add up all the animals in the world that have ever been domesticated, and I was amazed by what I found. Animals of all kinds Archive: B&W footage people chasing elephants Voiceover: There are nearly two million known species of wild animals, but the vast majority has never been farmed. Most insects and rodents are of no practical use to humans, and not worth the effort of farming. Some birds, fish and reptiles have been domesticated, but most are simply impractical to farm. So are most carnivores, not because they’re dangerous but because you’d have to grow other animals just to feed them. The best animals to farm are large, plant-eating mammals. And over the years, humans have probably tried to domesticate all of them, usually without success. Despite repeated efforts, Africans have never domesticated the elephant. Elephants at work Voiceover: In South Asia, some elephants are used as work animals. But they’re not farmed for the purpose. Instead, each elephant is caught in the wild and then tamed and trained. It doesn’t make economic sense to farm an animal that takes some 15 years to mature and reach an age where it can start reproducing. Horses in corral, Goats, Sheep, Camels, Water buffalo, Cattle Louise Martin: Animals which made suitable candidates for domestication can start giving birth in their first or second years. They will have one or maybe two offspring a year, so they’re productivity is actually high. Behaviorally they need to be social animals, meaning that the males and the females and the young all live together as a group, and they also have an internal social hierarchy, which means that if humans can control the leader, then they will also gain control over the whole herd or whole flock. Wild animals, Zebra
Voiceover: There is another crucial requirement for a domestic animal. It needs to get along with humans. Some animals don’t have the temperament to live on a farm. A zebra could be an ideal domestic animal, potentially as useful as a horse. But evolving in the midst of Africa’s great predators, zebras have become flighty, nervous creatures. They have a vicious streak that humans have been unable to tame. That may be why zebras have never been harnessed to a plough or ridden into battle. Montage: Wild animals, Domesticated animals Graphic showing earth from space with highlighted areas Jared Diamond: I counted up 148 different species of wild, plant-eating terrestrial mammals that weighed over 100 pounds, but of those 148, the number that has ever been successfully farmed for any length of time is just 14. Voiceover: Goats, sheep, pigs, cows, horses, donkeys, Bactrian camels, Arabian camels, water buffalo, llamas, reindeer, yaks, mithans, and bali cattle. Just 14 large domestic animals in 10,000 years of domestication. And where did the ancestors of these animals come from? None was from New Guinea, or Australia. Or Sub-Saharan Africa, or the whole continent of North America. South America had the ancestor of just one large domestic animal; the llama. The other 13 were all from Asia, North Africa and Europe. And of these, the big four livestock animals; cows, pigs, sheep and goats, were native to the Middle East. The very same area that was home to some of the best crops in the world was also home to some of the best animals. Little wonder that this area became known as the Fertile Crescent. Sky, tilt down to village ruins with man walking, Man sowing seed, Goats, Guar site with ruins Voiceover: The people of the Fertile Crescent were geographically blessed, with access to some of the best crops and farm animals in the ancient world. It gave them a huge head start. What had begun with the sowing of wheat and the penning of goats was leading towards the first human civilization. The archaeological site of Guar in Southern Jordan is 9,000 years old. But it has all the hallmarks of a town. A few hundred people lived here, in rows of houses that were a wonder of technology. Dr Mohammad Najjar, Department of Antiquities, Jordan: Every time I come here, I’m amazed by what those people were doing. Some of the houses have a kind of air conditioning, a, this window here is for, to control the air coming from the street inside the house, and the houses, the walls and the floors of the houses from the inside at least, were covered with plaster. People plastering walls Mohammed Najjar: So people were moving to a concept of homes. It’s, it’s not a place just to sleep, it is a proper home, and people started to decorate the houses from the, from the inside, and people were starting to invest in their homes, because if we are talking about plaster, it is time-consuming, it’s effort-consuming – it’s very expensive to have plastered house. People sowing seeds, making cement, weaving, making plaster
Voiceover: As villages grew bigger, there were more people to work on the land. More people could produce more food more efficiently – enough to support specialists within the community. Freed from the burden of farming, some people were able to develop new skills, and new technologies. Making plaster from limestone was a major technological breakthrough. The stones had to be heated for days at a time, at a temperature of 1,000 degrees. It may seem insignificant today, but understanding how to work with fire was the first step towards forging steel – a technology that would transform the world. People making steel Montage: steel-based products in use Mountains of New Guinea, New Guinean farmers working Voiceover: By contrast, places like New Guinea never developed advanced technology. Even today, some people in the highlands are working in ways that have barely changed for centuries. Archive: B&W footage New Guineans working, Jared with axe, New Guinean farmers working Jared Diamond: When I first came to New Guinea in the 1960s, people were still using stone tools like this axe in parts of the island, and before European arrival, people were using stone tools everywhere in New Guinea. So why didn’t New Guinea develop metal tools by itself? And eventually I realized that to have metalworking specialists who can figure out how to smelt copper and iron, requires that the rest of the people in the society who were farmers, be able to generate enough food surpluses to feed them. Voiceover: But New Guinea agriculture was not productive enough to generate those food surpluses, and the result was no specialists, no metalworkers, and no metal tools. Archive: B&W footage New Guinean people building/creating/working/on water with plane Voiceover: The way of life in New Guinea was perfectly viable. It had survived intact for thousands of years. But according to Diamond, people didn’t advance technologically because they spent too much time and energy feeding themselves. And then Westerners arrived, and used their technology to colonize the country. Pan across Middle Eastern mountains Voiceover: Yet for all its advantages, the Fertile Crescent is not the powerhouse of the modern world, nor is it the bread basket it once was. How did it lose its head start? Abandoned village Voiceover: Within 1,000 years of their emergence, most of the new villages of the Fertile Crescent were abandoned. Ironically, the region had a fundamental weakness. Despite having some of the most nutritious crops on the planet, its climate was too dry, and its ecology too fragile, to support continuous intensive farming. Arid landscape, Jordanian village site Mohammed Najjar: People were destroying the environment. The waters had been overexploited, the trees had been cut, and this is what when, when, when you, when you face
the, the end, I mean you are facing the wall. You will end with landscape like that, mean with, with few trees, with no grass, and with less water. So what we are looking at today is the outcome of over-exploiting the environment. People and goats walking, Craggy mountains, Sunset Voiceover: Unable to farm their land, entire communities were forced to move on. The advantages they’d accrued from centuries of domestication might have been lost. But again, geography was on their side. Graphic showing earth from space, with highlighted areas and arrows Jared Diamond: The Fertile Crescent is on the middle of a huge land mass, Eurasia. There were plenty of places for farming to spread, and crucially, many of those places were to the east and west of the Fertile Crescent, at roughly the same line of latitude. Computer Generated Image – landscape with arrows Jared Diamond: Why’s that so important? Because any two points of the globe that share the same latitude automatically share the same length of day, and they often share a similar climate and vegetation. Crops or animals domesticated in the Fertile Crescent were able to prosper at other places along the east/west axis of Eurasia. Wheat and barley, sheep and goats, cows and pigs all spread from the Fertile Crescent, east towards India and west towards North Africa and Europe. Wherever they went they transformed human societies. Ancient Egyptian art showing farming Voiceover: Once the crops and animals of the Fertile Crescent reached Egypt, they caused an explosion of civilization. Ancient Egyptian farming and construction Pharaoh in temple, Builders, Pyramids Voiceover: Suddenly there was enough food to feed the pharaohs and generals, the engineers and scribes, and the armies of people required to build the pyramids. Roman buildings and sculptures, Fireworks and fire-eaters, Ceiling of Sistine Chapel Voiceover: The same is true of European civilization. From ancient times until the Renaissance, the crops and animals of the Fertile Crescent fed the artists, inventors and soldiers of Europe. In the 16th century, the same crops and animals were taken by Europeans to the New World. At the time there was not a single cow or ear of wheat in all the Americas. Now there are 100 million cattle in the US alone. And Americans consume 20 million tons of wheat a year. Aerial view New York City at night Voiceover: There are some who think Jared Diamond’s argument is too neat and easy. Can the distribution of wealth and power really be reduced to cattle and wheat? What about culture, politics and religion? Surely they’ve been just as important? Diamond’s been criticized for being too deterministic, for ignoring the part people have played in shaping their own destiny.
Jared in boat on river, New Guinean hunters, Women harvesting sago, Jared with New Guineans, New Guinean farmers working Jared Diamond: My years in New Guinea have convinced me that people around the world are fundamentally similar. Wherever you go, you can find people who are smart, resourceful and dynamic. No society has a monopoly on those traits. Of course there are huge cultural differences, but they’re mainly the result of inequality, they’re not its root cause. Ultimately what’s far more important is the hand that people have been dealt, the raw materials they’ve had at their disposal. Voiceover: New Guineans acquired pigs from Eurasia, but not cows or sheep or goats, or horses, or wheat or barley. They didn’t develop in the same way as Europeans or Americans, because they didn’t have the same raw materials. New Guinean marketplace with throngs of people Jared Diamond: I’m not saying that those divisions of the world are set in stone and can’t be changed; it’s quite the opposite. The towns of Papua New Guinea are becoming bigger and more developed, populated by modern New Guineans trying to keep up with the rest of the world. Unfortunately for them, there’s still a big gap to overcome. Yali asking question: Why you white man have so much cargo and we New Guineans have so little? Jared Diamond: Yali caught me by surprise 30 years ago. I had no idea what to say to him then but now I think I know the answer. Yali it wasn’t for lack of ingenuity that your people didn’t end up with modern technology. They had the ingenuity to master these difficult New Guinea environments. Instead the whole answer to your question was geography. If your people had enjoyed the same geographic advantages as my people, your people would have been the ones to invent helicopters. Helicopter taking off, Jared in helicopter Voiceover: Jared Diamond set out to explore the division of the world into haves and have nots. He’s convinced the blueprint for that division lies within the land itself. Conquistadors entering South American city and engaging locals in battle Voiceover: But can his way of seeing the world really shed light on the turning points of human history? Man firing gun to camera, Computer Generated Image of microbes, Swords Voiceover: Can it explain how a few hundred Europeans conquered the New World, and began an age of domination? The age of guns, germs and steel.
Episode Two : Conquest – Transcript
Spanish coming into Inca city and challenging Ataxalpa Voiceover: One day in November, 1532, the New World and the Old World collided… Spaniards and Incas in battle, Spaniards moving on with captured Incas Jared on river in boat, in helicopter, studying old maps Voiceover: 168 Spaniards attacked the imperial army of the Incas in the highlands of Peru. Before the day was out, they had massacred 7,000 people, and taken control of the Inca Empire. Not a single Spanish life was lost in the process. Why was the balance of power so uneven between Old World and New? And why, in the centuries that followed, were Europeans the ones who conquered so much of the globe? These are questions that fascinate Professor Jared Diamond. He is on a quest to understand the roots of power, searching for clues in the most unlikely places. He’s developed a highly original theory that what separates the winners from the losers is the land itself – geography. It was the shape of the continents, their crops and animals that allowed some cultures to flourish while others were left behind. But can this way of seeing the world shed light on the events of 1532? How can geography explain the conquest of the world by guns, germs and steel? Titles: Episode 2: Conquest Conquistadors traveling, led by Pizarro, on mountainside Voiceover: For two years, a band of Spanish conquistadors has been traveling in search of gold and glory. They’re not professional soldiers, but mercenaries and adventurers, led by a retired army captain, Francisco Pizarro. He’s already made a fortune for himself in the colonies of Central America. Now he’s taking his men south, into unknown territory. They are the first Europeans to have climbed the Andes, and ventured this far into the continent of South America. Pizarro and conquistadors finding local inhabitants Voiceover: As they travel, they find evidence of a large native civilization. They’ve reached the edge of the mighty Inca Empire. For Indians and Spaniards alike, any encounter is a clash of cultures. These Indians have never seen white men before, and have no idea of the threat they represent. They can’t imagine that within a few days, these strangers will turn their world upside down. Earth from space, with highlighted areas Voiceover: By the 1530s, the Inca Empire was enormous. It stretched along the length of the Andes, from modern-day Ecuador to central Chile, a distance of 2,500 miles. But just 500 miles to the north began the colonies of Central America and the Caribbean – prized possessions of the Spanish empire. At the time, the Spanish king controlled a third of mainland Europe, but Spain itself had only recently become a unified state, having fought off 700 years of occupation by Islamic Moors. Pizarro’s home, with Jared walking around it
Voiceover: It was still a rural society. Most of the conquistadors came from villages and small towns in the heart of the country; towns like Trujillo, where Pizarro grew up. He spent much of his childhood here, working as a swineherd in the fields nearby. Today he’s remembered as a great warrior. His statue dominates the main square in Trujillo, and his family home has been turned into a museum. Jared Diamond has come here to explore the world of the conquistadors, and understand the secret of their success. Statue of Pizarro Jared Diamond: This is Francisco Pizarro, a Spaniard who conquered the most powerful state in the New World, the Inca Empire. Why did Pizarro and his men conquer the Incas instead of the other way round? It seems like a simple question. The answer isn’t immediately obvious. After all, Pizarro started out as a rather ordinary person, and Trujillo here is a rather ordinary town. So what is it that gave Pizarro and his men this enormous power? Pizarro and conquistadors traveling Jared Diamond: Why am I so interested in Pizarro’s conquistadors? Because their story is such a grimly successful example of European conquest. And for 30 years I’ve been exploring patterns of conquest. Voiceover: Jared Diamond is a professor at UCLA in Los Angeles. But most of his fieldwork has been done in Papua New Guinea. His time there inspired him to explore the roots of inequality in the modern world. To understand why some people have been able to dominate and conquer others. Looking back thousands of years, he argues that farming gave some cultures an enormous head start, and those who were lucky enough to have the most productive crops and animals became the most productive farmers. Agriculture first developed in a part of the Middle East known as the Fertile Crescent. Over time, crops and animals from the Fertile Crescent spread into North Africa and Europe, where they triggered an explosion of civilization. By the 16th Century, European farms were dominated by livestock animals that had come from the Fertile Crescent. None were native to Europe. They provided more than just meat. They were a source of milk and wool, leather and manure. And crucially, they provided muscle power. Mules pulling ploughs, Incas cultivating land as llamas look on, Conquistadors riding onto Inca land Voiceover: Harnessed to a plough, a horse or an ox could transform the productivity of farmland. European farmers were able to grow more food to feed more people, who could then build bigger and more complex societies. In the New World, there were no horses or cattle for farming. All the work had to be done by hand. The only large domestic animal was the llama, but these docile creatures have never been harnessed to a plough. The Incas were very skilled at growing potatoes and corn, but because of their geography, they could never be as productive as European farmers. Horses gave Europeans another massive advantage – they could be ridden. To the Incas, the sight of Pizarro’s conquistadors passing through their land is extraordinary. They’ve never seen people carried by their animals before. Some think they are gods, these strange-looking men, part human, part beast. The horses that seemed so exotic to the Incas had already been used in Spain for 4,000 years. In an age before motorized transport, they allowed people
to be mobile, and control their land. Jared watching Javier riding Voiceover: When Javier Martin is not herding cattle, he gives displays of traditional horsemanship. Javier Martin: This style of riding is known as jimeta. The emphasis is on control and maneuverability, using bent knees to grip the sides of the horse, and only one hand on the reins. Very different from the more formal style of medieval knights. By the 16th century, the jimeta way of riding had become the dominant style of the Spanish cavalry. This is how the conquistadors would have ridden their horses. Jared Diamond: It’s an amazing display of a big animal being controlled by a person, precise control, stopping and starting and turning. Javier told me that he has been riding since he was five years old, and when I watched this, I have a better understanding where the conquistadors were coming from. They were masters of these techniques, and they learned these techniques for working with bulls, but the techniques were also good in a military context as well, and I can see that this control would let you ride down people in the open. People who had never seen horses before would have been absolutely terrified watching this. It would be strange and frightening, and that’s even before one of these animals is rushing towards you, riding you down, about to lance you and kill you. Inca messenger running to give news to Ataxalpa Voiceover: News of the godlike strangers on their four-legged animals is taken by royal messenger to the emperor of the Incas, who’s camped in the valley of Cajamarca in northern Peru, guarded by an army of 80,000 men. Ataxalpa being beautified Voiceover: Ataxalpa is revered as a living god, a son of the sun itself. He’s in Cajamarca on a religious retreat, giving thanks for a series of recent military triumphs. Messenger giving Ataxalpa the news Voiceover: When he hears about the progress of the Spaniards, he chooses not to have them killed. Instead, he sends back a message. He invites them to join him in Cajamarca, as quickly as possible. Messenger running to give reply Efrain Trelles, Historian: Ataxalpa wanted the Spaniards to come to Cajamarca and enter into a trap, and to be sure that they would do so; he played like a psychological game with them, sending presents, asking them to come. Ataxalpa knew that the Spaniards were not gods. The intelligence reports speak of people wearing wool on their faces, like a lamb or like an alpaca, they’re just like an animal. Then they went from one place to the other wearing on top of their heads a little pot that has never been used for cooking. You need to be crazy to walk with a pot, but you must be beyond salvation if you arrive to a camp and you don’t use that pot to cook. Ataxalpa had an idea that these were subhumans. What could a few horsemen and a hundred or so Spaniards do to the powerful Inca? Virtually nothing.
Art depicting Spanish in battle Voiceover: But Ataxalpa’s spies don’t realize that the Spanish are armed with some of the best weapons in the world. At the time of the conquistadors, Spain had the biggest army in Europe, orchestrated from the imperial capital, Toledo. For more than 700 years the Spaniards had been at war, fighting against the Moors and other European armies. There was an arms race in Europe. To survive, the Spaniards needed to keep up with the latest in weapons technology. Man and Jared firing and loading guns Voiceover: By the 1530s, the Jacobus was an important part of the Spanish arsenal. Gunpowder had originally come from China, but its use as a weapon was pioneered by the Arabs. In European hands, guns became lighter and more portable, and were used for the first time by foot soldiers on the battlefield. The Jacobus was still a crude weapon, but would go on to change the face of warfare. Jared Diamond: To us moderns, this gun doesn’t seem useful for anything, it’s like a joke. Its aim is terrible, it takes a long time to reload, and while the shooter’s reloading it a swordsman would come in and kill him, but the Incas hadn’t even gotten this far, and even this gun, with its sound and with the smell and with the smoke and with every now and then a person that it manages to kill, would have been terrifying to someone who had never seen this before. This would have been shock and awe, 1532 style. Sword smith at work as Jared watches Voiceover: For all its bluster, the technology of gunpowder was still in its infancy. The real power of the conquistadors lay elsewhere, with the production of steel. Toledo had some of the best sword smiths in the world. But why were people here able to craft deadly steel weapons, while the Incas were still making simple bronze tools? Man handling sword Jared Diamond: There was nothing innately brilliant about Europeans themselves that allowed them to be the ones to make high quality swords. Just as with guns, swords were the result of a long process of trial and error that began outside Europe. People started working with metal in the Fertile Crescent 7,000 years ago, and because Europe is geographically close to the fertile crescent, Europeans inherited this metal technology. But they took this technology on to a new level. European soldiers demanded stronger, longer, sharper swords. Jared Diamond: This is what a Toledo sword looks like when it’s finished. This particular one is modeled on the sword that Pizarro carried. It’s a fearsome weapon. It’s used for stabbing and it’s also used for slashing, and I can easily understand how the person wielding the sword could kill dozens of people within a short time. Mike Loads, Historical Weapons Expert: Swords like this, rapiers, represented a high point in a very sophisticated metalworking technology. You think about what the qualities are that are needed in a sword. First of all, it has to be hard enough, the metal has to be hard enough to take a sharp edge, and that requires steel that is iron infused with carbon, and the more carbon you put into the iron, then the harder the metal is. But if you
make it too hard, then it’s brittle, and that’s no good because as you hit somebody, your sword would break, and so you also need your sword to have a certain pliability, an ability to bend and spring back into shape. And it’s got by heating it to certain temperatures, plunging it into cold water, immense amount of experimentation, it took centuries to get to the level of sophistication where you could get something so long and elegant and fine, and deadly as the rapier. Swordfight Voiceover: The rapier, with its extra long blade, was developed as a dueling weapon, but became so fashionable in Renaissance Europe; it was the sword of choice for any aspiring gentleman. Mike Loades: The word rapier derives from the Spanish term “espara ropera”, and that means dress sword. And for the first time in Spain, we start to see people wearing the sword with their everyday clothing, their civilian dress, going about their everyday business. They didn’t do that in the Middle Ages. This is something new in the 16th century, and it’s saying I have arrived, I am a gentleman, I am upwardly mobile, and I claim ancestry from the knights of the Middle Ages. It was very much a symbol of the conquistadors’ aspiring greed. The thing that drove them through all their hardships, the thing that made them go to the Americas, was their lust for gold, their lust for selfadvancement, and the rapier absolutely symbolized that overbearing avarice. Conquistadors traveling, looking across valley to huge town and massed troops Voiceover: On November 15th 1532, Pizarro’s band of adventurers entered the valley of Cajamarca. They’ve been told that Ataxalpa is waiting for them here. But they’re not prepared for the sight that greets them. In the hills beyond the town of Cajamarca is the imperial Inca army – 80,000 men in full battle order. The conquistadors’ own journals bear witness to their first impressions. Diary Reading: Their camp looked like a very beautiful city. We’d seen nothing like it in the Indies until then, and it scared us, because we were so few and so deep in this land. Spanish entering Inca camp and being taken to Ataxalpa Voiceover: Pizzaro sends a party of his best horsemen into the heart of the Inca camp. They are led by Captain De Soto. They are gambling that Ataxalpa will allow them to pass through the camp unharmed, and agree to meet them. Efrain Trelles: Soto’s visit had a very important psychological purpose; to intimidate the Inca in front of his people. Challenging him with the horse. Ataxalpa at first didn’t react to Soto’s presence, as if nobody had entered the room. Once the, the horse comes eye to eye with the Inca, the Inca is still calm, showing that the horse has no impact on him, calling Soto’s bluff. The captain advanced so close that the horse’s nostrils disturbed the fringe of the Inca’s forehead. But the Inca never moved. And then, after a brief silence comes Ataxalpa’s explosion. He was telling them, the time has come for you to pay. I understand this as the time has come for you to pay with your lives. Soto I understand was nervous enough to come back with fear to the, the camp, and as we know, the Spaniards spent the night before in extreme fear.
Spaniards’ camp at night Voiceover: The conquistadors had made their camp in the town of Cajamarca. Many of them are now convinced they are facing oblivion. 168 soldiers, 1,000 miles from any other Spaniard, facing an army of 80,000 Incas. Diary Reading: Few of us slept that night. We kept walking the square, from where we could see the campfires of the Indian army. It was a fearful sight, like a brilliantly starstudded night. Voiceover: Pizarro and his most trusted officers debate their options for how to deal with Ataxalpa. Some advise caution, but Pizarro insists their best chance is to launch a surprise attack the next day. It’s a tactic that’s worked successfully in the past. Twelve years before Pizarro went to Peru, another famous conquistador, Hernan Cortez, had gone to Mexico and encountered another formidable civilization; the Aztecs. He conquered the country by kidnapping the Aztec leader and exploiting the ensuing chaos. Cortez’s story was later published and became a bestseller, a handbook for any would-be conquistador. It can still be found in the great library of Salamanca University in Northern Spain. Jared Diamond: This wonderful library here can be thought of among other things as a repository of dirty tricks, because in these books are the accounts of what generals had been doing to other generals for thousands of years in the past and across much of Eurasia, and here from this library we have a famous account of the conquest of Mexico with all the details of what Cortez did to the Aztecs and what worked. That was a model for Pizarro to give him ideas what exactly to try out on the Incas, whereas the Incas without writing, had only local knowledge transmitted by oral memory, and they were unsophisticated and naïve compared to the Spaniards because of writing. Voiceover: But if books were so useful, why couldn’t the Incas read or write? To develop a new system of writing independently is an extremely complex process, and has happened very rarely in human history. It was first achieved by the Sumerian people of the Fertile Crescent at least 5,000 years ago. They pioneered an elaborate system of symbols called cuneiform, possibly as a way of recording farming transactions. Ever since, almost every other written language of Europe and Asia has copied, adapted or simply been inspired by the basics of cuneiform. The spread of writing was helped enormously by the invention of paper, ink and moveable type, innovations that all came from outside Europe but were seized upon by Europeans in the Middle Ages to produce the ultimate transmitter of knowledge – the printing press. The written word could now spread quickly and accurately across Europe and Asia. The modern world would be impossible without the development of writing. Jared studying maps Voiceover: But there’s another part of the world where a new system of writing was invented independently. In Southern Mexico, at least 2,500 years ago, native people developed a way of working with symbols that involved into the Mayan script. But if the Maya had writing, why didn’t it spread south to the Andes and help the Incas become
literate? For Diamond, the answer lies in the shape of the continents. Jared Diamond: Here were Europe and Asia forming the continent of Eurasia, a giant continent but it’s stretched out from east to west, and narrows from north to south. The American continent is long from north to south, narrow from east to west – very narrow at Panama where it narrows down to less than 100 miles. The two continents are of the same lengths, about 8,000 miles in maximum dimensions, but Eurasia is 8,000 miles from east to west, and the Americas are 8,000 miles from north to south, it’s as if these continents were rotated 90 degrees of each other. Voiceover: Diamond has already shown that crops and animals could spread easily east and west across Eurasia. Because places the same latitude automatically share the same day length and a similar climate and vegetation. But the American continents were the opposite of Eurasia. A journey from one end of the Americas to the other is a journey from north to south, a journey through different day lengths, different climate zones, and dramatically different vegetation. These basic differences hindered the spread of crops and animals as well as people, ideas and technologies. The people of the Andes were chronically isolated, without access to writing or almost any other innovation from elsewhere in the Americas. By contrast, Pizarro and his men were geographically blessed. As Spaniards, they enjoyed the benefit of technologies and ideas that had spread easily across Eurasia. Jared Diamond: The events of 1532 were clearly influenced by deep causes, over which no individual Spaniard or Inca had any control. The shape of the continents, the distribution of plants and animals, the spread of Eurasian technology, these were facts of geography, and at almost every turn of the drama, geography was tilted in favor of the Europeans. Conquistadors preparing for battle, inter-cut with Ataxalpa being prepared for day’s events Inca party en route to meeting Voiceover: It’s the morning of November 16th, 1532. Ataxalpa has agreed to meet the Spaniards in the town of Cajamarca, and sends his entourage ahead of him. But he makes a fateful decision; that his soldiers should not carry weapons. Efrain Trelles: The Indians were musicians and dancers. They were soldiers, but unarmed. Why would Ataxalpa unarm his own soldiers? Why, because he was in the festivity, he was celebrating. He wasn’t going to war. He was going for a celebration so that the whole people could see how the alleged gods would run away in fear. The fact that some people believed that the Spaniards were gods would play better in the hands of Ataxalpa’s purpose. If I know they are not gods and I defeat the gods, then of course everybody will be with me. But what if I defeat the gods with no show of force at all? Then I am beyond the gods. Party with Ataxalpa on litter Voiceover: While Ataxalpa and his men enter Cajamarca, the Spaniards are waiting, hidden from view. Ataxalpa coming into main square with troops
Diary Reading: There were five or 6,000 men and behind them, the figure of Ataxalpa, seated in a very fine litter, lined with feathers and embellished with gold and silver. Many of us pissed ourselves out of sheer terror. Efrain Trelles: The square is filed with Ataxalpa’s people, but there’s, there’s not one Spaniard at sight. Ataxalpa asks, ‘Where are these dogs?’ One of his right hands answers, ‘They have run away because they are afraid of magnificent Inca’. Of course the whole crowd listened to this and believed that this was the case. Ataxalpa receiving visit from Spanish priest Subtitles: I come before you in the name of Christianity… Pizarro sends out his priest to confront Ataxalpa. Subtitles: …to show you the path of truth The conquistadors are obliged to try and convert native people before any resort to violence. Subtitles: What are you talking about hair face? Subtitles: I am the Son of the Sun! Subtitles: I have the right to govern my people Subtitles: What right do you have to speak to me in this way? Subtitles: My authority comes from The Lord Subtitles: His Word is written in this book Subtitles: This is your power? Ataxalpa has never seen a book before. He doesn’t know what to do with it. Subtitles: It’s worthless Subtitles: I don’t hear the word you speak of Subtitles: How dare you, Indian dog! Subtitles: Come out, Spaniards! Subtitles: Destroy these dogs who don’t respect things of God! Spaniards open fire and battle begins Efrain Trelles: At that moment, with the crowd absolutely unprepared, the horses come. There was massive panic. Mike Loades: Just imagine the scene in Cajamarca. The Incas hadn’t seen horses before, and these aren’t ordinary horses, these are Spanish horses, fierce, big, fighting horses. They could get in amongst men, they would trample men and they made the most excellent platform. From the horse, you could stab down to the left, stab down to the right, you could cut, you could scythe, hacking all about you. Voiceover: If only the Incas had known that what you had to do against cavalry was stand firm, then they’d have been alright, they had superior numbers, but they didn’t know that. They fled, they broke ranks, and then the horsemen could get in amongst them and they cut them down. Mike Loades: There was an Inca god called Viracoxa, and he was a white man, and he
was the god of thunder, and they thought these men with their aquabuses were the very incarnation of Viracoxa. Efrain Trelles: The Inca Ataxalpa was in his litter, held by his carriers. As soon as they were able to do it, the Spaniards went after the litter. And they started killing the carriers. One carrier would fall, and another one would replace him. Only at the very, very, very end of the tragedy, the litter started to move because there were no more carriers left. As the litter falls, Pizarro himself captures Ataxalpa. His plan has worked to perfection. Ataxalpa is taken to a makeshift prison in the royal quarters at Cajamarca. Diary Reading: He thought we were going to kill him, but we told him, no. Christians only kill in the heat of the battle. Voiceover: Outside, thousands of Incas are dead. The rest of the army has retreated to the hills. In spite of a massive imbalance in number, Spanish horses, swords and strategy have proved decisive. But the Spaniards possessed another weapon they didn’t even know they had – a weapon of mass destruction that had marched invisibly ahead of them. Spanish slave showing signs of illness Voiceover: Today, the war against infectious disease is waged at biological research centers like Porton Down in Southern England. They produce vaccines here against the world’s deadliest viruses. In the 16th century there were no vaccines, and there was no protection from the rampant spread of infectious disease. Twelve years before Pizarro arrived at Cajamarca, a Spanish ship sailed to Mexico. On board, one of the slaves was suffering from the first signs of a fever. He was the first person to bring a deadly disease to the American mainland. The disease was smallpox. Within weeks, the smallpox virus would spread from a single source to infect thousands of native Americans. Dr Tim Brooks, Health Protection Agency, Porton Down: Smallpox gets into the body when you breathe in the particles, and they attach themselves to the back of your throat and the inside of your lungs. About two to three days into the illness, then the classic rash appears, and in its worst forms, this takes over the whole of the body with initially pimples and then enormous blisters until the whole of the skin, starting with the hands and the face and then spreading down to cover the rest of the body, is taken over by the smallpox blisters. From that time on, the patient is highly infectious. Because each of those blisters is packed full of smallpox particles, then if you burst a blister, fluid will come out and large numbers of viruses will be spilt onto whatever it touches. Ten to twelve days later, his friends would be taken ill, and then ten to twelve days after that, their friends. That kind of rate means the disease spreads exponentially. Its rate of increase gets bigger and bigger and bigger the more people are infected, until eventually it will cause tremendous devastation in the population. Depiction of smallpox victims, Smallpox victim being nursed Jared in field looking at cows and sheep, Livestock in fields Voiceover: The first smallpox epidemic of the New World swept through Central America and reached the Inca Empire. Wherever it went, the virus decimated native
populations, making them easier prey for Spanish conquest. But why were the germs so one-sided? Why did the Spaniards pass their diseases onto the Incas, and not the other way around? Jared Diamond: This is Pizarro’s secret weapon; pigs and cows, sheep and goats, domestic animals. Remember that Pizarro was a swineherd. He grew up in huts like this, in intimate contact with domestic animals, breathing in their germs, drinking the germs in their milk, and it was from the germs of domestic animals that the killer diseases of humans evolved, for example our ‘flu evolved from a disease of pigs transmitted via chickens and ducks. We acquired measles from cattle; we acquired smallpox from domestic animals, so that these worst killers of human people were a legacy of 10,000 years of contact with our beloved domestic animals. Voiceover: During the Middle Ages, infectious diseases swept through Europe and claimed millions of lives. But paradoxically, repeated epidemics made Europeans more resilient. In each outbreak, there were always some people who were genetically better able to fight off the virus. These people were more likely to survive and have children. In the process, they’d pass on their genetic resistance. Over centuries, whole populations acquired some degree of protection against the spread of diseases like smallpox – a protection the Incas never had. Tim Brooks: Once smallpox was taken to the New World, nobody in the New World had ever seen a disease like this before, so the number of people who were susceptible was much greater. There was no natural immunity, and so therefore the number of people who could both contract the disease and then spread it, and the number of people to receive it once it had spread, was much higher. Voiceover: More people would die, and more people would be susceptible to catch it in the first place. It would spread rapidly throughout the population, and the death toll would be enormous. Jared Diamond: Why hadn’t Native Americans encountered smallpox before? And why didn’t they have any deadly diseases of their own to pass on to the Spaniards? It’s simply because they didn’t have the same history of contact with farm animals. The Incas had llamas, but llamas aren’t like European cows and sheep. They’re not milked, they’re not kept in large herds, and they don’t live in barns and huts alongside humans. There was no significant exchange of germs between llamas and people. Voiceover: The key to Diamond’s argument is the distribution of farm animals around the world. Aside from the llama, all the large farm animals were native to Eurasia and North Africa. None was ever domesticated in North America, Sub-Saharan Africa, or Australia. As a result, the worst epidemic diseases were also native to Eurasia and North Africa, and were then spread around the world with deadly effect. There’s been a long debate about the number of indigenous people who died in the Spanish conquest of the New World. Some scholars think there may have been a population of 20 million Native Americans, and the vast majority, perhaps 95%, were killed by Old World diseases. A continent virtually emptied of its people.
Ataxalpa playing chess Voiceover: After the initial shock of his capture, Ataxalpa became a cooperative prisoner. He learned to speak Spanish, and play chess with his captors. The Spaniards realized he was more useful to them alive than dead. He was allowed to re-establish his court in prison, as long as he ordered his people to accept Spanish rule. He also ordered them to melt down a vast amount of treasure. Pizarro had promised Ataxalpa his freedom in return for the gold. It proved to be an empty promise. Having handed over 20 tons of gold and silver, Ataxalpa was no longer useful to his captors. He was garrotted to death, in the same square where so many of his followers had been slaughtered eight months earlier. With Ataxalpa dead, the conquistadors went on to colonize the rest of Peru. Relying on the power of their guns, germs and steel. Voiceover: Gold from the Spanish colonies was brought back to Seville in Southern Spain. There’s little activity in the Guadocreata River today, but in the 16th century, this was among the most important, busiest ports in the world. A steady flow of ships carrying treasure from the Americas helped Spain become one of the richest nations on earth. The conquistadors had changed forever the relationship between Old World and New. Jared Diamond:: I came to Spain to answer a question – why did Pizarro and his men conquer the Incas instead of the other way around? There’s a whole mythology that that conquest and the European expansion in general resulted from Europeans themselves being especially brave or bold or inventive or smart, but the answers turn out to have nothing to do with any personal qualities of Europeans. Yeah, Pizarro and his men were brave, but there were plenty of brave Incas. Instead, Europeans were accidental conquerors. By virtue of their geographic location and history, they were the first people to acquire guns, germs and steel. Steam train, Slaves in chains, Guns being loaded and fired on people armed with spears Voiceover: By the end of the 19th century, European powers had ventured down the Americas and colonized Africa, Australia and much of Asia. The process that began at Cajamarca had reached its logical conclusion. European guns, germs and steel were reshaping the world.
Episode Three : Into the Tropics – Transcript
Sunrise over African landscape, African mountains and landscapes Jared in Zambian hospital, with sick children Voiceover: Africa. It’s been called the birthplace of humanity, the land where our ancestors took their first steps. Yet only recently revealed as the home of a vast tropical civilization. Cities and kingdoms once spread across the continent, then vanished, leaving barely a trace. What happened to this great achievement? Professor Jared Diamond has set out to explore the great patterns of human history. It’s a journey that has taken him from the jungles of New Guinea to the snow-capped peaks of Peru. His quest, to understand why one people, Europeans, have conquered so much of the world. Diamond argues that the roots of European triumph stretch back thousands of years, and rest in the power of geography. Geography gave Europeans the most productive crops and animals on the planet, and these allowed them to develop guns, germs and steel – three great forces of conquest that have shaped human history. Now, Diamond is setting out on the last stage of his quest to discover what happened when guns, germs and steel came to Africa. And to ask what role these forces still play. But Diamond’s journey will test much more than theories. It will also test the man himself. Titles: Episode 3: Into The Tropics Steam train Voiceover: A Class 19D South African Railways steam locomotive. Built Glasgow, Scotland, 1932. It is a testament to technology and human achievement. A tool built to carve a path across a continent. A lasting symbol of the triumph of European guns, germs and steel. Jared aboard steam train Voiceover: This engine and its tracks of steel will carry Jared Diamond through the story of Africa. It is a tale with its roots in ambition and greed, peoples of Europe reaching out beyond their native lands in a quest for global conquest. Jared Diamond: As Europeans expanded around the world, they conquered other people, they built railroads, they developed rich societies modeled on Europe, they had done this successfully in North America and South America, in Australia, and then they arrived in Africa, and it looked as if the same thing were starting all over again. Voiceover: But Africa would be different. A place of dangers and secrets, hidden from these foreign invaders. The first European settlers arrived in Southern Africa in the mid 1600s. They landed here, in the Cape of Good Hope, at the southernmost tip of the continent. They quickly established themselves in this new land, laying out farms, planting wheat and barley, ranching cattle and sheep.
African landscape with train Jared Diamond: This may sound strange but it’s from ordinary agriculture like this that my theory of guns, germs and steel arose. My quest began more than 30 years ago, on a trip to Papua New Guinea, when I began to try to understand why the people there lived so differently from Europeans and Americans. The beginnings of the answer, I realized, depended on farming. New Guineans had only a few native crops that they could grow, and no native farm animals, while my ancestors, even 10,000 years ago, had been blessed with an abundance of domestic plants and animals. Over the centuries this had given them a huge advantage that let them develop cities, nations and even colonies abroad. Voiceover: But Southern Africa is 5,000 miles from Europe. How was it possible for the settlers to import European crops and animals to such a distant part of the world? As much as skill, it came down to good fortune. Geography had dealt the settlers an immensely lucky hand. They had stumbled across one of the few parts of the southern hemisphere that feels just like Europe. Because the Cape and Europe lie at a similar latitude, or distance from the equator, and this means that the temperature and climate of these widely separated regions are almost exactly the same. The Europeans were able to establish prosperous farms and settlements, properties now owned by their descendants – people like Hempies Du Toit. Jared Diamond: So your family has been here for centuries on this land. How do you feel about the land yourself then? Hempies Du Toit, Annandale Farm, South Africa: Well I’ve always loved the land since childhood days and it comes, agriculture’s been in our family for so many generations. Jared Diamond: Tell me about the history of this farm. Hempies Du Toit: Well the, the land was occupied in 1683, I mean that was only a couple of years after the first settlers came to the Cape. Voiceover: But settlers like the Du Toit knew that this was not an empty land. Even today their farms turn up evidence of the Cape’s original inhabitants, a people known as the Koysan. Hempies Du Toit: Oh this is interesting. This is a, this is from the Stone Age. Prior to the occupation of this land in 1683 by the settlers, this land was most probably occupied by Koysan people. These were the tools they used to, to scrape the skins when they tanned the skins. Jared Diamond: Beautiful. Hempies Du Toit: And you can see how easily, how nicely it fits into your hand. Jared Diamond: Yeah. Voiceover: With the arrival of Europeans, these native peoples were driven from their
land. But they also faced an invisible and even more devastating agent of conquest. A force Diamond has identified as one of the greatest in human history – germs. Jared Diamond: Realizing the importance of farming led me to the next big surprising discovery of guns, germs and steel. Domesticated animals had given Europeans one advantage of which they were completely unaware. By living in close proximity to their livestock, they had become infected with viruses and germs of those animals, which evolved into diseases of humans. Through exposure over centuries, Europeans had developed some resistance to those diseases. But as Europeans spread around the world, they encountered peoples who didn’t have that same resistance, and who then fell victim to devastating outbreaks of infection, especially of smallpox. In the Americas, millions of native people died from this one disease, and here in the Cape it wrought the same havoc on the Koysan peoples. Voiceover: Through their farming and their germs, Europeans had established a firm foothold in the southern tip of Africa. Now, they looked to expand. Jared Diamond: In the 1830s there was a burst of the pioneer spirit such as had been seen in the European expansion across North America and Australia. This time it was Dutch settlers, and these pioneers moved into the interior like the pioneers moving across North America and Australia. Voiceover: Over the course of the 1830s, thousands of Dutch farmers with their families and possessions loaded into wagons left the Cape in search of new land to settle. They called themselves the voertrekkers, and these pioneers all wielded another agent of European conquest – the gun. Paul Garner, Battlefield Historian: This is a muzzle-loading rifle, typical of the weapon that every Voertrekker would have had in his wagon. The Boers were particularly adept at using this weapon. Voiceover: They could reload it and fire from horseback. These muzzle-loading rifles are still much admired by the voertrekkers’ descendants. Derek Engelbrecht, Settler Descendant: Every single man that was in, in good health had at least two or three of these particular rifles. Posselt Lawrens, Settler Descendant: In those days it must have been the person’s life, you know. Everything depended on that, you know. Derek Engelbrecht: They hunted with them, they protected themselves with them. Posselt Lawrens: It was part of him, you know, if you didn’t handle a gun in that day there was something wrong with you. Yeah. Man firing gun and Jared watching and firing it himself Jared Diamond: Guns and the steel from which they’re made were the last two of the great advantages that Europeans carried with them around the globe. Sword smith working as Jared watches
Jared Diamond: Guns are the result of thousands of years of complex technological developments, which began outside Europe but which Europeans perfected. And that was all because of the head start that their farming had given them thousands of years previously. Derek Engelbrecht: You know, the flintlock rifle, it was, you know, I shouldn’t really say this but it was nearly like as important as a cellphone is today. You can’t go without your cellphone; in those days you couldn’t go without your flintlock rifle. Fire, with settlers tending it and in encampment at night Voiceover: Armed as they were, the European settlers must have been confident they could overcome any obstacle as they pushed further into the African interior. By February 17th 1838, the voertrekkers had reached 800 miles inland from the Cape. But they were entering an alien and unexplored land. Zulus approaching settlers’ encampment and attacking it, leaving camp burning Voiceover: Suddenly out of the darkness swept a native African army. Their victims barely had time to fire a single shot from their rifles before they were completely overwhelmed. Within hours, nearly 300 voertrekkers lay dead. Child crying in camp at morning as settlers lie dead Voiceover: Their enemy had struck without mercy. Killing men, women and children alike. Who could have committed such a ruthless and calculated assault, stopping the Europeans in their tracks? In fact, the voertrekkers had trespassed across the border of a mighty African kingdom. Inhabited by people very different from the Koysan of the Cape. They had encountered the Zulus. Paul Garner: When they ran into the Zulus, they ran into a group of people who were very different to anybody else they’d been up to, up against up until that point in time. This was an organized group of people. Archive: B&W still – Zulu warriors Voiceover: The Zulus were the authors of a unique and highly developed African state. Their military skills had allowed them to overwhelm their native African neighbors. They held more than 30,000 square miles of land, and had established a sophisticated economy and society. The ferocity of the Zulu defense of their land was something the voertrekkers had simply not expected. Paul Garner: It was more than the voers could handle. They, they, they were not prepared for the attack from the Zulus. They were up against a king who could mobilize an army of 10-15,000 men without any problem at all. It could take on almost anybody, they were absolutely fearless. Voiceover: The voertrekkers were stunned and devastated. Had they, and the power of guns, germs and steel met their match in Africa? The voertrekkers showed little interest in who the Zulus were, or how they’d developed such a sophisticated state. They wanted a showdown. They gathered their scattered forces behind a great circle of wagons, and
readied themselves for battle. At dawn on 16th December 1838, more than 10,000 Zulus stormed across the horizon, charging in to destroy the outnumbered settlers. But this time, the Europeans were able to use their technology to maximum effect. To increase the rate of fire from their muzzle-loading rifles, some would shoot while others would reload. Derek Engelbrecht: They would shoot, hand the gun over, take the next gun, fire, hand the gun over. So every five or six seconds you could fire a shot. See that, that was the important thing. Voiceover: This time, not a single Zulu could get within ten paces of the encampment. It was a massacre. Paul Garner: The voertrekkers had probably killed an estimated 3-3,500 Zulus. The Boers themselves suffered only three injuries. Voiceover: The conflict became known as the Battle of Blood River. The Zulus had been broken. Guns, germs and steel had prevailed. Steam train being stoked, Jared studying on train Jared Diamond: The victorious European settlers pushed on beyond Zulu lands, while new developments in their technology let them increase the pace of conquest. Railroads were key. With railroads one could transport lots of people and their supplies over vast areas. And so in Africa, Europeans started to build railroads, move into the interior and transport themselves and their supplies. Voiceover: This was the era of the industrial revolution, a revolution that introduced one further weapon to the colonization of Africa. A weapon that put the same devastating firepower seen at Blood River into the hands of just a single man. Paul Garner: This is a Maxim gun. What made this weapon such a great weapon, as opposed to the old single-shot weapons that had been used in years before, is this gun could fire continuously for up to 500 rounds a minute. It had the equivalent firepower of probably 100 men in a company with single shot weapons. Voiceover: As they drove further into Africa, Europeans encountered new tribes, some just as hostile to invasion as the Zulus had been. But for peoples like the Matabele, there was simply no answer to the world’s first fully-automatic weapon. The Matabele conflict of October 1893 lasted a matter of hours. Paul Garner: The settlers mowed down those Matabele warriors until there were only a few of them left. It was a real case of ancient technology up against the latest and greatest as far as European inventions were concerned. Jared Diamond: It seems like the birth of a new age. Europeans carving the path into the interior of Africa. Conquering tribe after tribe, settling where they pleased. Guns, germs and steel triumphant. Except now, those settlers would find themselves facing an entirely new enemy – one that had once been their greatest ally. Geography.
Voiceover: As they moved north, settlers cleared land for farms, confident they could build a prosperous life in Africa. But with little warning, things began to go awry. The land became impossible to plough. Their crops refused to grow. Their shoes fell apart in the mud. And that was only the start. Jared Diamond: The second big problem that Europeans encountered was their animals died. Their horses and oxen had been a big part of the European advantage elsewhere in the world – oxen as draught animals, and horses as their military animals, but here their animals were dying. Voiceover: For thousands of years, these domesticated animals and crops had sustained European civilization. Without them, there would have been no guns, germs and steel; no history of conquest and colonization. And now the settlers themselves began to fall ill with terrible fevers, while all around them they could see native Africans farming, herding cattle, healthy and alive. How was this possible? What were the secrets of this strange new land? Jared Diamond: The ideas behind guns, germs and steel all spring from an understanding of geography. And geography explains why Europeans were now failing. Voiceover: European crops had grown well in the Cape, because the Cape was a mirror of the European world, lying on a similar latitude. But as the settlers progressed into the African interior, they’d been moving north, closer and closer to the Equator. At about 23 degrees south, near the River Limpopo, they passed a major geographical boundary known as the Tropic of Capricorn. They were leaving behind their familiar European climate and entering a totally different world. They had entered the Tropics. Compared to the European or temperate zones, the Tropics operate by entirely different rules. Instead of the four seasons of Europe, North America and the Cape, here there are just two – the dry season, and the rainy. Wheat and barley, the crops that had sustained European civilization for centuries, had not evolved to survive in this tropical climate. Yet the native Africans, the Zulus, the Matabele, all the tribes that the settlers had encountered, depended on agriculture just as much as the Europeans. How were they succeeding as the Europeans failed? Even today, the continent of Africa is composed of thousands of different tribal groupings. Each is subtly distinct from the next, in custom and language. Children singing in classroom as Jared watches Jared Diamond: Such diversity means that most Africans have to master more than one language, and they acquire those skills at a very young age. Jared asking children about the languages they speak Jared Diamond: I would like to find out how many languages you speak. Who here speaks, knows how to speak Bemba? Aha. Does anybody else know how to understand or speak Lozi? You speak Lozi. Child: Yes. Jared Diamond: Do you also speak Bemba?
Child: Yes. Jared Diamond: Is there another language that you speak also? Child: Lovak. Jared Diamond: Lovak. That’s four languages. That’s good. Most Americans speak only one language. After a little exposure to these different languages, you begin to realise one thing – they all sound remarkably similar. I’m fascinated with languages, and wherever I’ve been going I’m asking Africans, what’s your language and tell me some words in your language, so here’s what I found out for the word for sun. In the Neanga language, sun is azuba, in the Bemba language it’s haka zuba, in Chiwa it’s dzuba, and in the Senga languages, zuba again. Or the word for water. In the Neanga language it’s manzi and in Bemba it’s amenchi, and in chiwa it’s manzi, similar to each other again. Marketplace with people buying and selling Jared Diamond: What do these linguistic similarities tell us? That there is a common root for most of the modern languages of tropical Africa. A single ancestral language spoken by a single group of people from which the many languages of today have descended. Voiceover: Linguistic analysis has isolated a family of languages known as Bantu, which originated in tropical West Africa. About 5,000 years ago, the early Bantu speakers began to spread into new lands, bringing their crops, their animals and their language with them. And over centuries, Bantu culture evolved, diversifying into hundreds of tribes, expanding across the tropical region of Africa. But the truth of this pan-African civilisation was suppressed for many years. Dr Alex Schoeman is trying to overturn the legacy of South Africa’s racist past. She has been excavating an archaeological site on the banks of the Limpopo River. Alex Schoeman, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa: In the early part of the 20th century, and there were rumors in the white South African community about this place, in their minds linked to the Queen of Sheba or some other early white civilization in Southern Africa, trying to show that the Phoenicians or the Subeyans, basically anybody who was a bit lighter-skinned than Africans, were here first, and they found the opposite, that Africans actually had amazing great history and that they had earlier states running before, way before any white set foot in Africa. Voiceover: This site, known as Mapungudwe, the place of the jackal, formed the heart of a kingdom similar to the earliest civilizations in Europe. Alex Schoeman: Mapungudwe was the core, it was the capital of a massive state, and about 5,000 people living around this hill, but then you had several thousand other people living in the valley who produced the agricultural surplus to feed the city or town. They had cattle, they had sheep, they grew sorghum, millet, and they worked iron. It was a massive, amazing development that occurred in Southern Africa. Voiceover: And this was not an isolated state. It formed part of a much larger economic
network that had spread across Southern Africa and beyond. Alex Schoeman: These are Mapungudwe beads, they’re gorgeous blue ones, these are glass beads that came down the Indian Ocean coast, and through them we know that Mapungudwe’s part of an international trade network, linking it all the way to the coast. It’s an incredible African accomplishment, to set up such a complex trade network that links all the way into Northern Botswana, bringing material from there and taking it all the way to the Indian Ocean coast. Early African farmers Jared Diamond: So, Africans had overcome the problems of agriculture that defeated the European settlers. They had developed a unique tropical system of agriculture that had spread across the continent, and become the foundation of complex societies, trading as far afield as India. But there was an even more extraordinary story at the heart of this flourishing tropical civilization. Voiceover: As soon as they entered the tropics, Europeans and their imported animals had fallen victim to terrible disease. Fevers wracked their population. Yet tropical Africans showed fewer of the same effects. Many of them even survived that most lethal of European weapons; smallpox – the disease that had devastated the native peoples of North and South America and the Koysan of the African Cape. How was this possible? Diamond believes it all comes back to geography. Many of the diseases that were killing the settlers and their European livestock were unique to the tropical world. They had never encountered them before. It was a complete reversal of the usual pattern of conquest. Jared Diamond: In the New World, the germs had been a weapon on the side of the Europeans killing indigenous people. Here it was indigenous germs, to which Europeans had not a history of exposure, and so here we have guns germs and steel again, but the germs working in the opposite direction, killing Europeans.The settlers and their imported livestock had fallen victim to a host of tropical infections and diseases. But African cattle, over thousands of years, had developed resistance to many of these tropical germs. And these cattle might also explain why tropical Africans had not succumbed to smallpox on the same scale as the Koysan people of the Cape. The smallpox virus originally crossed over from cattle to man centuries ago, and experts now believe it may have first originated in tropical Africa. Africans were certainly familiar with the disease. They had even developed methods of vaccination that bestowed immunity for life. And there was more. Native Africans had also developed antibodies against one of the most virulent diseases on earth. Malaria. Carried by the humble mosquito, this was the disease that was now overwhelming the European settlers. But tropical Africans were combating malaria with more than just antibodies. Their entire civilisation had evolved to help them avoid infection in the first place. They tended to settle in high or dry locations, away from the wet, humid areas where mosquitoes breed. And by living in relatively small communities, spread out over vast areas, Africans could limit the level of malaria transmission. It was an extraordinary achievement. But the Europeans understood little of the Africans’ way of life. They built settlements by the rivers and lakes they used for water, in places infested by mosquitoes. Thousands died.
Jared Diamond: So it seemed that the tropics had defeated European guns, germs and steel. And that Africans had emerged triumphant. They had evolved a complex civilization well suited to the tropical world. A civilization that had spread throughout the continent in a vast cultural Diaspora. Voiceover: Was this the end of European guns, germs and steel in Africa? What would the future hold for this mighty tropical civilization? The Europeans had failed to settle Africa’s land. This would become no North or South America. But Africa still had one great draw for the colonizing powers – vast reserves of natural resources; copper; diamonds; gold. European conquest and the story of guns, germs and steel would now enter a whole new age. Archive: B&W footage Africans laboring and building Voiceover: In the late 1800s, is what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Belgians drove millions of native Africans from their villages, setting them to work gathering rubber, mining copper and other minerals. Burning their homes behind them. Reducing their 1,000 year old tropical civilization to dust and ashes. Few were as brutal as the Belgians, but across the continent, millions of Africans were compelled to abandon a way of life perfectly adapted to the tropics, and to labor for Europeans. To ferry Africa’s natural wealth back to Europe, the colonizers turned again to their technology, building ever greater railroads. After more than half a century and the labor of tens of thousands, tracks of shining steel reached all the way from the Cape into the very heart of the tropics. Constructed for Europeans to extract Africa’s wealth. Built on the ruins of African civilization. Jared Diamond: All this time, I’ve been uncovering the train of guns, germs and steel across Africa. And even this train and the track it rides on lie at the heart of my story. These tracks are still in use, still fulfilling their original purpose. Trains travel from the southern tip of Africa into modern Congo and Zambia, ferrying back tons of copper and other minerals. But Africa today is no longer a continent of colonies. Its nations are free and independent. What place is there for my theory of guns, germs and steel in modern Africa? Voiceover: The end of the line for Jared Diamond. Civil war in the neighboring Congo makes it too dangerous to travel the last few miles of this track. But even here, the reality of modern Africa is clear. Jared Diamond: I’m now in the centre of the African tropics, and I’m in Zambia, one of the poorest countries in Africa and really in the whole world. The average annual income here is a few hundred dollars, and the lifespan, average lifespan of a Zambian is 35 years, so I myself have now lived nearly two average Zambian lifetimes. What goes through my mind here is, what can history and geography and guns, germs and steel tell us that would help us understand the plight of Zambia today? In modern Zambia I see few signs around me of the great native civilizations that once flourished in tropical Africa. What I see instead is a country shaped by colonization. I see towns and cities that grew up next to the mines and railroads established by Europeans, and built on the European model. What about the great forces that originally shaped this continent and its people? The forces behind its conquest by Europeans. Where are guns, germs and steel in modern Africa?
Hospital interior with patients and families Dr Christine Manyando, Tropical Diseases Research Centre, Zambia: In Zambia, malaria is endemic. It is the number one public health problem, and when you look at the children particularly, when you go to a health facility, up to 45% of the children in the outpatient facility of the hospital will actually be presenting with malaria. Hospital with patients and their parents Coffin shop exterior Voiceover: Germs, one of Diamond’s great forces of history, are still shaping the story of modern Zambia. Not just the recent scourge of AIDS, but also that ancient tropical disease that defeated Europeans – malaria. Malaria is now the number one killer of African children under five years old. Christine Manyando: This old register will just show you the picture of, of the number of deaths that would have occurred within the hospital. Most of them are children below five years, one year six months, three years, five months, one year, most of them are really below five years. Voiceover: Tropical Africans once lived in settlements spread out over large areas, which minimised the spread of malaria. But now they’re living in modern high-density cities and towns, and the rate of infection has increased dramatically. The burden of germs is one of the greatest problems afflicting the country. Christine Manyando: Undoubtedly malaria has a very big economic burden on us as a country, because as you may be aware, if so many children would be suffering from malaria, if we just look at the children who are in this ward, these mothers would be working somewhere and being productive, so that’s one direct way in which we know productivity’s been affected to a large extent. Professor Nick White, Centre for Tropical Medicine, Oxford University: It’s been estimated by eminent economists that the 1% negative growth each year in Africa over the last half a century can be attributed entirely to malaria. Voiceover: The immunities and antibodies that Africans had developed over thousands of years to protect them from malaria no longer provide sufficient protection. The strains of the disease are mutating, and standard drugs are becoming less effective. In the high malaria season, up to seven children a day die in this hospital. Jared Diamond: You’re used to this. I’m, I’m not. I’m – what is this, what does this scene make you feel about – your work in Zambia? Christine Manyando: Exactly. To be frank with you, Jared, I wouldn’t say I’m used to this, because I don’t think there’s anyone who can be used to sickness and eventually death, especially of people that you love so very much and are a part of you. It is, it is something that in fact I would say because of the magnitude of the problem, one would
wish to do everything they possibly could do. Children in hospital, and Jared crying Christine Manyando: Because of the fact that….. Jared Diamond: There’s a difference between understanding something intellectually and experiencing it at first hand. In my book, germs was one of the three main forces of history and it’s impersonal, and it’s still different and it hits me to be in a place where germs are in action. Jared on plane/view from plane Jared Diamond: Thirty years ago I set out on a journey. A quest to understand the origins of inequality in our world. I discovered that this story stretched back to the beginning of civilization, and rested on the geography of our planet. When humans first started farming, one small area in the world was lucky enough to have the best crops and animals, which gave one group of people a unique advantage in history. Europeans perfected guns and steel evolved lethal diseases and germs. They then used these tools to conquer continents and to build extraordinary wealth. I conclude that geography, and guns, germs and steel, have been the strongest forces to shape the history of our world. Here in Zambia, these forces are still shaping the world today. Tropical germs are overwhelming this country and its people, and driving them into poverty. Does that mean that Zambia will always remain a victim of these great forces of history and geography? And that Africa is condemned to a future as poor as its present? Absolutely not. And I would say that the message is a hopeful one, it’s not a deterministic, fatalistic one that says, forget about Africa and underdeveloped areas. It says there are specific reasons why different parts of the world ended up as they did, and with understanding of those reasons, we can use that knowledge to help the places that historically were at a disadvantage. Voiceover: Malaysia and Singapore are among the richest and most dynamic economies in the world. Like Africa, they are tropical countries, with the same problems of geography and health, the same endemic malaria. But both transformed themselves by understanding their environment. Fifty years ago, these countries realized the burden that geography and germs could be. Through concerted effort, they managed to almost entirely eradicate malaria from their land, transforming their economies and way of life. The story of Malaysia and Singapore shows what an understanding of geography and history can do. Jared Diamond: Explanations give you power, they give you the power to change. They tell us what happened in the past and why, and we can use that knowledge to make different things happen in the future. Voiceover: The government of Zambia agrees. They have set up a nationwide project to try to eliminate malaria from the country, just as in Malaysia and Singapore. New drugs, even a possible vaccine, are giving them an increasing chance of success. Christine Manyando: The control of malaria will mean an improvement in the welfare of
the people, and an improvement in the welfare of the people will mean increased productivity, and increased productivity will mean that we will be a wealthy nation, because that will mean that then people will have sufficient, not only food but sufficient time to do things that make a human being complete and whole and able to lead a fulfilled life. Voiceover: Jared Diamond’s quest has been to understand the great forces of human history. But it is still the very smallest of details, the lives of individual human beings, that lie at the heart of his work. Jared Diamond: When we talk about history we talk about development, we talk about competition between societies and the wealth of nations, it can sound intellectual, but here in Africa there are human faces on it. Voiceover: And for Diamond, even after 30 years of thought and enquiry, the questions behind guns, germs and steel remain as important as they ever did. Why is our world divided between rich and poor, and how perhaps can we change it? Jared Diamond: I feel that whatever I work on for the rest of my life, I can never work on questions as fascinating as the questions of guns, germs and steel, because they’re the biggest questions of human history.
The Story of... At the heart of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel are the stories of apparently commonplace things, such as wheat, cattle, and writing. Diamond believes the uneven distribution of these simple elements shaped the course of global history and played a vital part in the epic story of continental competition. Diamond also focuses on the physical geography of the world in which we live. For instance, natural impediments such as mountain ranges or bodies of water created isolated civilizations. He argued that continents which were easily traversible, such as Europe encouraged trade among different people and stimulated development. In this section explore the basis of Diamond's theory through the Story of... Crops, Animals, Germs, Technology and Geography.
Zebra are native to Africa but have never been domesticated like their relative, the horse.
The Story Of... Wheat More of the world's farmland is devoted to wheat than to any other crop. At the end of the twentieth century, close to 570 million acres, or one-sixth of all the arable land on the planet, was used to grow wheat. Six hundred million tons are produced annually around the world, 60 kilograms of which will be consumed by the average American every year. Yet this extraordinary seed-bearing grass, which alongside rice provides 41% of the calories consumed across our globe, was originally native to just a tiny region of western Asia. Cultivated by the earliest Neolithic farmers in the hills and valleys of Syria, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq over 13,000 years ago, wild-growing wheat has since changed beyond recognition. In the wild, as it still grows in those places today, wheat evolved to shatter in the late summer breeze, spreading its tough-coated seeds far and wide.
Wheat is the most adaptable of all the domesticable crops
But the act of human harvesting, using bare hands or primitive sickles, favored those rare mutant plants whose ears were less likely to shatter; whose grains were softer and larger, and therefore more appetizing. By subconsciously selecting, favoring, and re-planting these seeds, humans were unwittingly transforming the plant's dominant DNA — and created an entirely new species. The wheat used for bread today is almost unrecognizable from its ancient ancestor. An iridescent blue-green for most of the year, it has shorter stalks, fatter non-shatter ears, and plump grains which are easy to thresh and mill. Farmed alongside its surviving wild ancestor throughout the modern Middle East, bread wheat is testament to the power of human interference over thousands of years. Wheat was a critical element of European success, both at home and abroad. Designed to thrive in temperate climates, it was easily exported to North America, South America, the Cape of South Africa and the south-east corner of Australia. Wherever wheat was successful, colonial farmers could establish a model European society — although this prosperity was often achieved at the expense of indigenous populations. Modern wheat, the product of ancient genetic engineering, symbolizes the success of the European model — success dictated by a fluke of botanical geography.
The Story Of... Rice Almost half the world's population is dependent on rice for their daily survival – this includes practically all of Asia, where the cereal grain has been a staple since the earliest days of Neolithic farming. Rice is believed to have been domesticated nearly ten thousand years ago in China. Related to wheat and other wild-growing cereal grasses, the plant grows to around four feet and thrives in submerged land in the coastal plains, tidal deltas and river basins of tropical, semitropical, and temperate parts of the world. When rice seedlings are 25 to 50 days old, they are transplanted to a paddy that has been enclosed and Riice is the staple food submerged under 2 to 4 inches of water. This water must for 50% of the world's remain in the field throughout the growing season. population Some academics have argued that the need for organized, reliable irrigation in the cultivation of rice may have influenced the political destiny of Asian cultures — significantly the rapid historical development of a centralized Chinese state. Rice’s importance has spread beyond central Asia. Just like wheat, rice has become an integral element of a successful agricultural package around the world. So-called wild rice, which can reach 10 feet in height, grows in shallow marshes and along the shores of streams and lakes throughout North America. Natural stands of wild rice were a staple for Midwestern Native Americans, but the species was never domesticated by them, and never provided the basis of a complex, agricultural economy. By geographic chance, America inherited a subtly different native grass species to the Asian ancestor of modern commercial rice — and on such coincidences the destinies of millions of people throughout history have turned.
The Story Of... Corn Corn, or maize (from the Native American, 'masa') is one of the most widely distributed food plants in the world – exceeded in acreage only by wheat. Corn is grown from 58 degrees north latitude, in Canada and Russia, to 40 degrees south latitude in South America, with a corn crop maturing somewhere in the world every month of the year. It is the most important crop in the United States, which produces about half the world's total tonnage. Corn's wild ancestor, teosinte, is native to southern Mexico, and formed the staple of the earliest agricultural communities throughout the Americas. From its origins in central America, the crop spread up the western coast to northern America, and penetrated the jungles of Panama and Colombia to reach the fertile terraces of the Inca Empire in the South. Corn is one of the most Like other cereal crops, the process of domestication has popular crops in the fundamentally changed the genetic structure and behavior of world today the plant. Where ripe cobs of teosinte grew no larger than a human thumb, maize plants can now reach over eight feet in height, with cobs growing ten inches long. The crop was seized upon by European colonists of the New World, and exported back to Europe and to other colonies beyond. Thanks to its preference for steady rains and its long growing season, maize has been particularly successful throughout southern and tropical Africa, where corn seed, or mealies, are pulped and boiled into porridge or mash. Corn also provides the basis for flatbreads around the world, including tortillas, hominy grits, corn flakes and, of course, popcorn. Chicomecóatl, Aztec goddess of sustenance and corn, was one of the most ancient and important goddesses in the Valley of Mexico. Often portrayed as the wife of corn god, Centéotl, Chicomecóatl was portrayed with a red-painted face, wearing a distinctive rectangular headdress of red paper and holding a double ear of corn in each hand.
The Story Of... Sorghum
Sorghum, also known as millet, is a robust, tall cereal grass which grows wild throughout Tropical Africa and was the staple cereal for the earliest African agricultural communities. Sometimes growing as high as 15 feet, sorghum is especially valued in hot and arid regions of the world, for its natural resistance to drought and heat. Its grains are usually mashed into a pulp, boiled and eaten, while its tough stalks can be used to make brooms and brushes.
Sorghum is one of only two domesticated native African crops High in carbohydrates, sorghum offers less protein than maize, rice or wheat, and those communities who rely on this staple sometimes suffer nutritionally as a result.
Originally domesticated nearly 7000 years ago in modern-day Ethiopia, sorghum was adopted by the migrating farmers of the tropical Niger-Congo and Sahel regions, and combined with their wet-tropical crops such as African yams and oil palms. Tolerant to both drought and flood, it has become adapted to poor soils and can produce grain where many other crops would fail. This one crop is probably largely responsible for the success of the African agricultural revolution, laying the foundations for the extraordinary medieval trading empires seen throughout tropical Africa, and centered around prosperous city-states such as Mapungubwe.
The Story Of... Cattle The most emblematic livestock animal of the all-conquering Eurasian agricultural package, the modern cow is descended from an ancient wild ancestor that was native throughout Europe, Asia and North Africa at the end of the Ice Age, and domesticated by the earliest Neolithic farmers around 8000 years ago. Cattle were not the first large mammals to be domesticated by humans – they were probably beaten to the punch by goats and sheep – but it is the humble cow, and her partner, the ox, who have made the greatest impact on agricultural productivity around the world. Cattle are the most versatile domesticated animals on the planet. When killed for meat, their carcass yields oil, fat, The mighty cow, bone, twine and other useful materials, while their hides arguably the foundation give us leather for clothes, shoes and shelter. During their of modern western lifespan they provide milk, which can be turned into cream, civilization butter, cheese and yogurt; they can bear heavy loads, or pull plows and carts; they tolerate being tethered to other animals and improve their loadbearing capacity as a result; they provide tons of nutritious fertilizer and consume some of the by-products of arable farming. Before the industrial revolution, beasts of burden like the humble cow were the most powerful machines on the planet. So how did they ever become domesticated, and placed under human control? As Jared Diamond observes in his book Guns, Germs, and Steel – Domesticable animals are all alike [but] every undomesticable animal is undomesticable in its own way. Incredibly, of the millions of species of animals that exist in our world, only 14 large mammals have ever been domesticated. That's because they were the only 14 to fulfil all four basic criteria for domestication. And none fulfilled them as magnificently as the cow. What do you look for in a domesticated animal? 1. Size Domesticated animals have got to be large, to be worth the effort of human control. Their primary purpose, after all, is to provide their owners with a steady and reliable source of meat – and there's not much meat on a mouse, or a monkey. Livestock might also be required to bear heavy weights – including human riders – or pull a heavy load, so, by default, most domesticated mammals tend to weigh over 100 pounds. Modern cattle can weigh anywhere between 800 and 4000 pounds, whilst their ancestor, the aurochs (Bos Primigenius), was even larger, standing more than 6 feet tall at the shoulder.
2. Temperament It's no good trying to catch and domesticate a large load-bearing mammal, if it's got a nasty temper! Any animal weighing over 100 pounds is capable of killing a man with a single kick – so the earliest farmers deliberately targeted those species that tended towards docility amongst humans, and a predictable, herd mentality. Species they ruled out included solitary predators like large wild cats; gazelle, whose tendency to panic and bolt made them impractical to catch and pen; and even relatives of the aurochs, such as the ancestors of modern day bison – unpredictable giant mammals with a habit of stampeding without provocation. By contrast, the modern cow is famous for her sweetnatured temperament, content to graze in heavily managed herds, chewing cud and watching the world go by. 3. Growth rate Large, generally docile mammals who then take years to mature, can also be ruled out. To be economically viable, domesticated animals should grow quickly and reach their full potential within a few years. This criteria rules out elephants, for example, who can take up to fifteen years to reach adult size. At heart, domestication has an economic incentive, and some propositions are better than others. Cattle take just two or three years to mature.
The cow is content to be in a herd under human control 4. Diet Finally, it's simply a waste of time and effort to feed, raise or capture one animal, only to have to then feed it to another. The best animals for domestication are herbivores, or at a push, omnivores – and the cow will happily eat only grass. She'll also consume a huge proportion of the inedible by-products of arable farming – wheat, barley and rice hay – doing humans an additional favor along the way. So, what is the wannabe farmer left with? He must capture a large, docile herbivore, weighing over 100 pounds, content to be part of a herd under human control. Of the fourteen mammals which have ever wholly conformed to this profile, nine of them are still confined to limited parts of the world. Only five have become ubiquitous farmyard animals across our planet. Those five are the goat, the sheep, the pig, the horse, and – our champion – the cow. Their ability to provide meat, dairy and draft while reproducing themselves and eating nothing but grass, has made cows a source of wonder throughout human history – objects of worship, even – to which European civilization may owe its very existence
The Story Of... Goats Domesticated nearly 10,000 years ago in the Zagros mountains of modern-day Iran, goats are arguably the oldest farmyard animal in the world. Descendents of the ancient wild goat, the panang, the domestic goat is primarily a dairy animal, a large portion of its milk being used to make cheese and other by-products. One or two goats can supply enough milk to sustain a single family for a whole year. For large-scale milk production, goats are inferior to cattle in the temperate zone, but vastly superior in colder and There are 101 different rougher climates. Goat flesh is edible, and some breeds, breeds of goats around particularly the Angora and Cashmere, are raised for their the world wool. Common goat wool has also been used throughout history across the continent of Eurasia for basic linen, while young goats provide 'kid' leather. Goats are easier to look after than either cattle or sheep. Notorious for eating a wide range of foods goats can clamber up steep inclines and digest even the toughest plant matter. They can also be penned in physical and climatic conditions which might be unsuitable for either cattle or sheep. Nevertheless, throughout the Middle East, from the earliest days of livestock farming, flocks of goats have been partnered with flocks of sheep, since the grazing habits and byproducts of both animals complement one another. Where sheep are placid grazers, legendary for following a leader, goats are more fastidious and inquisitive browsers, infamous for wandering off on their own accord. Playful and intelligent, the goat has been a mainstay of European and Asian culture for as long as the founder crops of wheat, rice and barley.
The Story Of... Sheep Evolutionary cousins of the goat, sheep have been domesticated for at least 7,000 years and are descended from a wild species which roamed the plains of the Fertile Crescent throughout the Neolithic period. Sheep mature very quickly, and many breed when they are just one and a half years old. They can weigh between 80 and 400 pounds and are farmed primarily for their thick, versatile wool. Milk, sheepskin and lamb are also valuable by-products, while their feces, rich in nutrients, can be almost as efficient fertilizer and fuel as cow dung. However, sheep can’t bear loads or pull any kind of machinery. Sheep require constant Notoriously timid animals, and vulnerable to predators, human attention great care has had to be taken by sheep-farmers throughout history. Their vulnerability has become almost a cliché, enshrined in the biblical analogies of the shepherd and his flock. At the end of the twentieth century, there were estimated to be more than a billion sheep in the world. A mainstay of the Eurasian food package, they were exported successfully to other temperate parts of the world and have proved particularly popular in Australia and New Zealand – where they outnumber the local human population by 10 to 1. The Story Of... Pigs
Domestic pigs are descended from wild relatives which still populate parts of Europe and Asia. Domesticated at least 7000 years ago in the Fertile Cescent and in China, the pig is of limited use compared to other Eurasian livestock and farmed primarily for its meat. Nevertheless, the pig is perhaps the easiest farmyard animal to look after, because, like humans, they are omnivorous and will eat practically anything --including scraps from the kitchen. The pig was originally domesticated in China and Papua New Guinea Guinea. Pigs have been central to Chinese culture ever since, and the country today is the world's leading producer of pigs. Prized in some parts of Europe for their ability to hunt precious truffles, the pig is also the only large domesticable mammal to have provided traditional sustenance to the farmers of Papua New
Contrary to popular assumption, pigs are in fact very clean animals. Their famous mudbaths are merely a way to cool themselves down, since pigs have no sweat glands at all. However, like other domesticated mammals, pigs have been responsible for transferring some diseases to the human population, thanks to the proximity in which Eurasian farmers have tended to live with their livestock. Human diseases suspected of having evolved from contact with pigs include influenza and scabies. The Story Of... Horses Domesticated in central Asia around five thousand years ago, the horse was instrumental to the development of Eurasian civilization. Unlike most other large mammals, it was not farmed for its meat, milk or hides. Instead, the horse was harnessed solely for its incredible strength – to pull plows, vehicles, and most significantly, to carry humans themselves. Without horses, the evolution of complex European economies and trading networks would have been unthinkable. Most significantly, the horse transformed the art of war. From the earliest horse-drawn chariots of the Hittite empire, to the bareback cavalrymen of Attila the Hun, the warhorse has become synonymous with Eurasian military success. European civilization Spanish horses were instrumental in the conquest of the ascended to power on New World. Neither the Aztec nor the Inca had ever seen the backs of horses humans riding animals before; the psychological impact of mounted troops was tremendous. Hernan De Soto, comrade of Pizarro, famously rode his horse right into the Inca Emperor's throne room. Eyewitnesses later recalled: "The captain advanced so close that the horse's nostrils stirred the fringe on the Inca's forehead. But the Inca remained still, he never moved." Spanish conquistadors like de Soto were inheritors of some of the finest riding techniques in the whole of Eurasia. The jineta riding style, unique to Spanish cattle-ranchers, emphasized spontaneity, speed, balance in the saddle and maneuverability. Bull-fighting, a pastime which grew out of Spanish ranching, also helped riders and their horses improve their techniques of forceful advance and swift retreat. The conquistadors who sailed to the New World had grown up on ranches and farms. They had ridden horses since their youth, and brought their finest animals with them. The
consequences for the peoples of the New World were catastrophic. On the morning of November 16, 1532, a surprise charge of just 37 Spanish horses, concealed in the Inca town of Cajamarca, unleashed an orgy of bloodshed. Europeans had known for centuries that foot soldiers stood a good chance against cavalry if they stood firm and repelled the outnumbered mounted troops. But the Inca had no experience of this, nor could they have read about others' experiences, since they were geographically isolated and had no written records from which to learn. Instead, they panicked and tried to flee, allowing the outnumbered conquistadors to run through them with great speed and efficiency.
The Conquistadors mastery of the horse allowed for a swift defeat of the Inca empire
But the great irony of the conquistadors' victory was that, until about 10,000 years ago, the horse's wild ancestor had flourished throughout the Americas. The plains of North America had in fact been the natural homeland of the Equus species, some of which migrated across a narrow land passage to the plains of central Asia. Then, between 10,000 and 8,000 years ago, the species vanished from the Americas – it is believed, through a combination of over-hunting and climatic change. The submersion of the Bering Strait meant no subsequent, reverse migration could occur from central Asia, and the horse remained absent from the Americas until its reintroduction by Europeans. The Story Of... Llamas
The only large mammals ever domesticated within the Ancient Americas, Llamas and alpacas are evolutionary cousins of the camel – although they lack the camel's signature hump. Like camels, llamas are intelligent and gregarious herbivores, but when aggravated, overburdened or other-wise annoyed, they tend to hiss, spit, kick, and refuse to move, often lying down in protest. The llama was central to the success of the Inca empire meat, dung and hides. Domesticated by Native Americans more than 5,000 years ago, llamas average around 4 feet tall at the shoulder. Primarily kept for their wool, they are also used for their
Llamas are kept in paddocks and never brought indoors; nor are they milked for human consumption. This has meant that very few diseases have ever jumped species from llama
to man, compared to the host of diseases which Europeans inherited from living in close proximity to their livestock. The llama’s high tolerance for thirst, and appetite for a broad range of plants, made it key to Native American transport and communication throughout the Andes. Although llamas can average between fifteen and twenty miles a day, llamas lack the strength of oxen, camels and horses,so they’re unable to carry adult humans or pull any kind of machinery. Even if the Inca had discovered the wheel, no llama could ever have pulled a cart larger than a wheelbarrow. At the time of the Spanish conquest of the Americas, llamas were used in great numbers to transport silver ore from the Inca mining network. One Spanish observer guessed that as many as 300,000 llama were used to export the produce of one particular mine (Potosi, in modern Bolivia), alone. But geography had ensured that the continent's only loadbearing mammal remained isolated, known only to the The Llama, central to the indigenous peoples of the Andes. The inhospitable jungles success of the Inca of the Panamanian isthmus and the deserts of South empire America ensured that no llamas – and no Inca – had ever reached the Aztecs, or beyond. The Story Of... Zebra and the Puzzle of African Animals Perhaps the most puzzling question Jared Diamond encounters as he investigates animal domestication is: Why were no large mammals ever domesticated in tropical Africa? Africa, south of the Sahara, is home to the richest diversity of animal life on the planet, including some of the largest mammals on earth. So why did the Africans never domesticate the rhino? Why did they never farm the hippo? The elephant? Or the giant wildebeest? Perhaps most strangely of all, given the importance of the horse to European history, why did tropical Africans never domesticate their own species of wild horse, the zebra? Zebra are closely related to the domesticated horse, sharing a genus (Equus) and a common ancestor. They stand nearly five feet at the shoulder, live in small family groups or herds, are sociable herbivores who breed well in public and live in harmony with their mammalian neighbors, like antelopes and wildebeest. They are even strong enough to carry an adult human on their backs.
Zebras are notoriously hard to tame Pity the poor human, therefore, who might try to domesticate a zebra in the wild. During the colonial era, some adventurous Europeans tried to harness this African horse. Lord Rothschild famously drove a zebra-drawn carriage through the streets of Victorian London. Yet these creatures were never truly domesticated — they were never bred and sustained explicitly under human control. Why is it so hard to tame the zebra? Survival of the Fittest. Zebra and other African game evolved characteristics to help them survive one of the harshest environments on earth.
Zebras are also notoriously difficult to catch. They have evolved superb early-warning mechanisms , such as peripheral vision far superior to other horses. Often bad tempered, they grow increasingly antisocial with age and once they bite, they tend not to let go. A kick from a zebra can kill — and these creatures are responsible for more injuries to American zookeepers each year than any other animal.
Africa was the birthplace not just of humanity, but also of much of our planet's plant and animal life. Species which remained on this continent rather than migrating to new lands, evolved alongside one another for millions of years, becoming highly attuned to the predatory nature of their environment. Sharing their habitat with some of the most dangerous predators on earth, including lions and cheetahs, leopards and hyenas natural selection forced African wildlife such as the zebra to evolve clever survival techniques. Similar antisocial characteristics have prevented the domestication of other African wild game. Rhinos, at over 5 tons in weight and immensely strong, could have been terrific beasts of burden for African farmers -just imagine the sight of a rhino-mounted cavalry! Yet rhinos are spectacularly bad-tempered and unpredictable. Although they have poor eyesight, their senses of smell and hearing are especially acute. Despite their bulk, rhinos are remarkably agile, and when provoked into a charge — often by little more than an unfamiliar smell or sound — an agitated rhino can reach speeds of up to 45 km per hour, even in dense undergrowth. The hippo, could also have offered unique agricultural and military advantages to African civilization. However, the hippo's aggressive nature, crushing jaws and four-and-a-half ton size make them deadly. They are also extremely territorial — males often fight to the death over control of a harem. Hippos are said to account for more human deaths throughout Africa per year than any other mammal, except the lion. A pattern emerged. African herbivores were simply too aggressive for human control. Elsewhere in the world, mammals evolved in isolation from human interference — after
all, man only lived outside of Africa for a fraction of his existence on earth-- around 50,000 years. When man arrived in Eurasia and in the Americas, native herbivores were by nature less cautious and more receptive to human control. But in Africa, man and beast have evolved alongside one another for millions of years. Large mammals have learned to avoid — or if necessary, attack — human beings, resisting capture with some of the most sophisticated physiological characteristics on earth. Germs The Story Of... Smallpox – and other Deadly Eurasian Germs Much of the credit for European military success in the New World can be handed to the superiority of their weapons, their literary heritage, even the fact they had unique load-bearing mammals, like horses. These factors combined, gave the conquistadors a massive advantage over the sophisticated civilisations of the Aztec and Inca empires. But weapons alone can't account for the breathtaking speed with which the indigenous population of the New World were completely wiped out. Within just a few generations, the continents of the Americas were virtually emptied of their native inhabitants – some academics estimate that approximately 20 million people may have died in the years following the European invasion – up to 95% of the population of the Americas. No medieval force, no matter how bloodthirsty, could have achieved such enormous levels of genocide. Instead, Europeans were aided by a deadly secret weapon they weren't even aware they were carrying: Smallpox. Smallpox is a viral infection which usually enters the body through the nose or throat. From here the virus travels to the lungs, where it multiplies and spreads to the lymphatic system. Within a few days, large pustules begin to appear all over the victim's skin. Starting with the hands and the face, and then spreading to cover the rest of the body, each blister is packed full of Smallpox acted as a smallpox DNA. If punctured, these blisters become highly form of biological infectious, projecting fresh smallpox particles into the air weapon and onto surrounding surfaces -such as someone else's skin. It is a disease that requires close human contact to replicate and survive.
The total incubation period lasts 12 days, at which point the patient will will either have died or survived. But throughout that period, if gone unchecked, they may have passed the disease to an enormous number of people. But the disease requires close human contact to replicate and survive. Smallpox is a remarkably effective, and remarkably stable, infection – research has shown that over the course of 10 years, as few as three individual bases may change in a strain's DNA. The disease found an effective formula thousands of years ago, and there's no reason to change it. So where does this deadly disease come from, and why was it linked to Europeans? For thousands of years, the people of Eurasia lived in close proximity to the largest variety of domesticated mammals in the world – eating, drinking, and breathing in the germs these animals bore. Over time, animal infections crossed species, evolving into new strains which became deadly to man. Diseases like smallpox, influenza and measles were in fact the deadly inheritance of the Eurasian farming tradition – the product of thousands of years spent farming livestock. These epidemic Eurasian diseases flourished in dense communities and tended to explode in sudden, overwhelming spates of infection and death. Transmitted via coughing, sneezing and tactile infection, they wreaked devastation throughout Eurasian history – and in the era before antibiotics, thousands died. But not everyone. With each epidemic eruption, some people survived, acquiring antibodies and immunities which they passed on to the next generation. Over time, the population of Europe gained increased immunity, and the devastating impact of traditional infections decreased. Yet the people of the New World had no history of prior exposure to these germs. They farmed only one large mammal – the llama – and even this was geographically isolated. The llama was never kept indoors, it wasn't milked and only occasionally eaten – so the people of the New World were not troubled by cross-species viral infection. When the Europeans arrived, carrying germs which thrived in dense, semi-urban populations, the indigenous people of the Americas were effectively doomed. They had never experienced smallpox, measles or flu before, and the viruses tore through the continent, killing an estimated 90% of Native Americans. Smallpox is believed to have arrived in the Americas in 1520 on a Spanish ship sailing from Cuba, carried by an infected African slave. As soon as the party landed in Mexico, the infection began its deadly voyage through the continent. Even before the arrival of Pizarro, smallpox had already devastated the Inca Empire, killing the Emperor Huayna Capac and unleashing a bitter civil war that distracted and weakened his successor, Atahuallpa.
In the era of global conquest which followed, European colonizers were assisted around the world by the germs which they carried. A 1713 smallpox epidemic in the Cape of Good Hope decimated the South African Khoi San people, rendering them incapable of resisting the process of colonization. European germs also wreaked devastation on the aboriginal communities of Australia and New Zealand. More victims of colonization were killed by Eurasian germs, than by either the gun or the sword, making germs the deadliest agent of conquest.
The Story Of... Malaria – and other Deadly Tropical Germs The role that germs have played in history, is not confined to those that originated in the temperate parts of the world. As anyone who has ever travelled into the tropics will know, this region is also plagued by infection. The viruses found in the cooler parts of the planet have evolved to benefit from seasonal variations in temperature. Influenza is one such virus, which thrives during the winter, when humans are forced together into confined spaces. Tropical diseases are luckier: they thrive year-'round in the heat and humidity of their region. These diseases exist at a fairly constant level, and are therefore known as endemic. A virus such as influenza is one of the simplest biological organisms on earth – it's little more than a strain of DNA. The parasites responsible for endemic tropical germs, however, are far more complex – they are tiny animals which are born and multiply inside the metabolic system of another creature. Parasites responsible for some of the nastiest diseases of the tropical world include trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), schistosomiasis ( blood flukes), parasitic worms and, most deadly of all, malaria. Malaria-carrying mosquitos require temperatures of more than 68 degrees Fahrenheit, which is why malaria-carrying mosquitoes are only found in tropical parts of the world. Endemic throughout tropical Africa and other parts of the tropical world, particularly Papua New Guinea – malaria is responsible for more deaths every year than any other infectious disease. Malaria kills one African child every thirty seconds and accounts for over a million deaths a year around the world.
Malaria traveling throught the blood stream Malarial mosquitoes inject tiny parasites into the blood of their victim. The parasites head for the liver, where they multiply and then explode into the blood. As they invade healthy red blood cells they generate a sticky glue on the outer
surface which forces the blood to stick to the sides of capillaries and arteries. Instead of a healthy flow of fresh oxygen-carrying blood around the body, malaria causes anemia and organ malfunction through iron and oxygen deprivation. In the most serious cases – if it affects the blood supply to vital organs of the body, like the liver, heart or brain – the disease can be fatal. 'Cerebral malaria' is the name given to the most serious manifestation of the disease, where patients slip into coma because the blood supplying their brain has become too sticky. The name 'malaria', meaning bad air, was coined during the colonial era to describe a disease that struck without warning and without discrimination. This single disease was the most serious obstacle to European conquest of the tropical world, responsible for thousands of settler deaths throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Yet, mysteriously, the immigrants' African neighbors seemed to survive. Cattle and horses imported from Europe also seemed to drop dead as soon as they entered the Tropics. So what allowed African cattle, as well as their owners, to survive these tropical germs? The answer was simple evolution. Over centuries of exposure to parasitic infections like malaria and sleeping sickness, tropical Africans and the livestock they bred had developed degrees of resistance – and even immunity in some cases. The African way of life was designed to avoid mosquito-borne infection. Africans made their homes in high, dry areas when they could, away from the natural habitat of the mosquito. Also, African communities remained fairly small, which limited the level of disease transmission. Unfortunately, the arrival of colonizing Europeans, with their steam trains, machine guns and dreams of industrial wealth, wreaked terrible damage on these centuries-old mechanisms of survival. Torn from their villages, forced to live and work together in massive numbers and in unsanitary conditions, tropical Africans fell ill as never before. The scourge of malaria throughout Africa today is, in part, the consequence of the destruction of a way of life which had existed for thousands of years. Today, malaria is holding back progress on the continent of Africa. Besides killing millions of children under five, higher rates of transmission mean that adults now also become sick and suffer debilitation. This cripples economic productivity and traps the population in a cycle of poverty. In spite of a literacy rate of 80%, the tropical nation of Zambia has 10% child mortality and one of the poorest economies in the world – it's no coincidence that most Zambians are infected by malaria at least five times a year. But there is hope. Malaria is treatable – and even eradicable. New drugs offer the hope of cheap vaccination for the most vulnerable in society, while education programs aim to rid the tropical world of the scourge of mosquitoes. Simple measures, such as the use of
insecticide-treated bed nets, can have a dramatic effect. In the 1950s, the World Health Organization instituted a global malaria eradication program, and succeeded in ridding the disease from large parts of the tropical world. Most significantly, the islands of Singapore and Thailand were liberated from the disease and have since seen massive economic benefits. Today, Singapore is among the richest nations in the world, proving that the obstacle of tropical germs is not insurmountable. Technology The Story Of... Steel Humans’ ability to transform mineral ores into useful materials has shaped the course of human history. Those civilizations that have been armed with a greater range of metal technologies have always defeated their rivals. In particular, steel has governed the destiny of ambitious Europeans. The conquistadors who swept through the New World were armed with steel swords forged in the Spanish city of Toledo. Settler communities in North America and the Cape of Good Hope were able to capitalize on European-invented steel rails, steel locomotives and steel ships to transform their model European economies. From its creation in the forges of medieval Europe, through its key Early metal work fuels role in the Industrial Revolution, to the triumph of modern the development of steel technologies, steel has always been one of the greatest agents of conquest of human history. Steel is an almost uniquely European technology. It would not have been possible without the earliest experiments with fire and minerals, conducted by Neolithic hunters and farmers over ten thousand years ago. Thanks to the dry environment of the Fertile Crescent, fire pits could be kept ablaze for several days, raising a temperature sufficient to transform limestone into plaster. Before long, this technology was applied to other mineral ores — copper technology brought forth the Bronze Age and iron technology the Iron Age. Once iron ore had been smelted, steel was only a matter of time. Those parts of the world that were too wet to keep an open furnace ablaze for several days could never make the leap to even the simplest pyrotechnology. The tropical jungles of Papua New Guinea, for example, could never sustain an open fire for more than a few hours. Lacking sufficient conditions to allow them to even begin to experiment, the hunters of the New Guinean lowlands were trapped by their geography in a perpetual Stone Age — until the arrival of metal-bearing Europeans.
The right conditions alone were not enough — budding ironmongers and steel-smiths also needed the right raw materials. Europe struck lucky. Steel's complex manufacture requires large quantities of iron ore and plentiful, carbon-rich forests, plus access to fastflowing water for power and transport. All of which were readily available in Europe. From the earliest days of European civilization, the forests of Germany and northern Italy became the home to iron technology. The products they created were unique throughout the world — single plates of armor hammered from one sheet of metal; lightweight longswords with heavy counterweight pommels; and, delicate rapiers designed for popular duel. These swords, from the Spanish espada robera, or sword of the robe, were invented in the late fifteenth century as an ultra-modern, ultra-chic dress-sword for the upwardly mobile. It was the pride of Toledo, a Spanish city that by the late Middle Ages rivalled any Italian or German city for sword manufacture. Toledo steel was famous throughout the Old World — and soon became infamous throughout the New World.
The development of steel forever changed the art Geography gave European metallurgy another precious of warfare advantage. Thanks to what has become known as the 'optimal fragmentation principal,' the physical environment of Europe allowed a significant interplay of political independence, economic competition and technological collaboration. In other words, the geography of the European continent destined it to host thousands of communities, all jostling for power and prestige. By the mid-fifteenth century, the latest forging techniques were used to create the strongest, sturdiest, lightest and most flexible armor and swords. Geography had made it inevitable that this precious technology would be used by Europeans to perfect the art of war. Iron and bronze technologies were also common in the Far East; but without the competitive incentive of Europe, the applications of these materials remained fairly limited. Armor never developed the unique and versatile qualities of European plate armour. Swords remained relatively uniform in style, and thanks to the ease with which technologies could spread from east to west, innovative Asian inventions, such as gunpowder were rapidly snapped up by the voracious European war machine.
It has long been known that agricultural civilizations in Africa were producing iron long before the arrival of Europeans — the deadly, lightweight, Zulu Assegai was testament to the skill of native African ironmongers. But recent studies have also confirmed the independent production of steel in Africa as well — a technology previously believed to be uniquely European. Nevertheless, indigenous Africans were about 1,000 years behind their European rivals — and we will never know what they might have gone on to
achieve, had the trajectory of African culture not been interrupted by colonialization. Civilizations in the Americas lacked equivalent iron resources — but were rich beyond imagination in copper, tin, and precious metals like silver and gold. This, after all, had been the incentive for European exploration — the search for Eldorado, the quest to seize a paradise made of gold. The invaders were not disappointed. Gold was so common in the land of the Incas, it was used purely for decoration and bore no inherent monetary value. Protected solely by bronze weapons and knives carved from stone, the Inca Empire fell easily to deadly Spanish steel.
The Conquistadors won an easy Victory against inferior Inca weapons technology The Industrial Revolution catapulted Europe into a position of unprecedented global domination over the course of the nineteenth century. Building on colonial conquest accrued over the previous 200 years, industrialization transformed the lands of the Americas, Africa and Asia into economic satellites of Europe — producing and consuming raw materials and manufactured goods to fuel imperial economies,spawning 'European' cities thousands of miles away from home. The British, French, Belgian, Dutch and German Empires of the late 19th and early 20th centuries would have been unthinkable without the awesome power of steel. The Story Of... Writing One of the most important inventions in human history was undoubtedly the development of writing. Life without this innovation would be unthinkable today. Emerging independently in just a handful of places around the world, writing comprehensively transformed early agricultural societies. A technology which was invented primarily to record accounts rapidly exploded into a means of informing, recording and expressing all of the political, social, cultural, historical, and most intriguingly, private, thoughts and actions of all walks of society.
Cuneiform is recognized Writing is believed to have first evolved around 5,000 years as the earliest writing in ago, in a region of the Fertile Crescent called Sumer. An human history elaborate system of symbols known as cuneiform was developed to permanently record official accounts on clay tablets — but it didn't take long for cuneiform to be used for political and historical events as well — even legends, such as the fabled story of Gilgamesh, the oldest written story in the world.
At the same time, the native peoples of Central America were experimenting with their own unique form of symbolic representation, culminating in the written hieroglyphs of the Mayan civilisation of Southern Mexico. And up to 4,000 years ago, the people of China had developed the third independent system of writing in history, crafting their own complex system of symbols and characters. From these three founder systems evolved all of the complex alphabets, languages and writing systems in the world. Semitic alphabets, evolved from Sumerian, dominate the so-called Indo-European language family. Chinese has shaped the languages of southeast Asia. The one writing system that seemed to go nowhere was, tragically, the Central American language of the Maya. Why? Because geography had conspired to keep the Maya isolated from their neighbors. There were few trade networks to carry new technologies beyond the Mexican plateau — particularly south, through the impassable isthmus of Panama. There weren't even any load-bearing mammals to transport humans across such trade networks, had they existed. The people of the Americas communicated only sporadically, from shore to shore — which meant there was never the consistency of communication to necessitate using the written word. So Mayan symbols remained local only to central America — seized upon and largely destroyed when Europeans arrived. In each of these three cases, writing evolved as a useful by-product of a complex, economically specialized, politically-stratified society, built on agricultural surplus. While such cultures evolved all over the world, only Eurasia had the right conditions to trigger the next great evolutionary step. Because, almost as significant as the invention of writing itself, was the invention of printing. Developed in central Europe in the mid-fifteenth century, from metal and ink technologies which had evolved across Eurasia, movable type allowed the rapid dissemination of multiple copies of any written work. Printed books became bestsellers in a Europe undergoing enormous social change. Middle class artisans and landowners from independent mercantile towns were increasingly economically and politically powerful — and increasingly literate, thanks to the boom in universities. The printed word capitalized on this social transformation. So what does this mean for the story of Guns, Germs, and Steel? Writing — and printing — acted as an additional agent of conquest for the Europeans. Thanks to printed accounts, Pizarro and his conquistadors read about successful tactics employed by their predecessors elsewhere in the New World. In particular, they pored over Hernan Cortes' best-selling account of the conquest of the Aztec Empire, just 10 years before. Printing gave Europeans access to a wealth of historical, cultural and military knowledge from previous eras, which the Inca — a non-literate society — could never have had.
The Inca Emperor had never seen a book before he met Pizarro. When presented with a copy of the Bible, he tried to listen to it, smell it, shake it — the idea of reading was simply incomprehensible to him. In the heat of the moment, this reaction caused dreadful offense and triggered the Spaniards' brutal attack on the people of Cajamarca. But in the long term, what this cultural misunderstanding represented was the chronic isolation of the Inca Empire. Inca Emperor Atahualpa Their geographic neighbors, the Maya, had developed crude had never seen writing forms of writing, but these and other inventions had never spread south to the Andes. Political, social, and military organization inside the Inca Empire was checked by the limitations of human memory. Throughout human history whenever literate societies clashed with non-literate societies, the victors were usually the ones capable of later recording their great achievements for posterity. To the victor goes the recording of history. The Story Of... Latitude and Climate Daily life on our planet is governed by fundamental universal forces, far beyond our control. A chance product of our distance from the Sun, and the physical properties of the earth itself, factors like latitude and climate have played a central part in the grandest patterns of human history. But how do they work? Latitude expresses any distance north or south of the Equator, in degrees between 0 and 90, and measured from a point of origin at the center of the earth. Lines of latitude are significant not just for global navigation – but, more fundamentally, because they reflect the changing angle of the sun in respect to the earth. This alone determines day length, seasonality, and to a large extent, climate.
Latitide expresses distance north or south For example, a person standing anywhere between 23.25 degrees north, and 23.25 degrees south of the Equator will – at some point during the year – be standing directly perpendicular to the rays of the Sun. In this region there is hardly any fluctuation in day length or seasonality, apart from a tendency towards cooler, drier weather when the earth tilts away from the sun (wintertime), and hotter, wetter weather when the earth tilts towards the sun (summertime). As we move north or south of the tropics, and farther away from the Equator, the difference between hours of daylight, compared to hours of nighttime, will start to
increase. At forty degrees, for example, with the earth tilting away from the sun, the day will be much shorter than the night (wintertime). If the earth is tilting towards the sun, the day will last much longer than the night (summertime). Winter and summer in these parts of the world cycle between much broader climatic extremes than at the Equator – winters are very cold, dark, and often wet; summers are very hot, bright, and often dry. And in these latitudes there are also transitional phases, or seasons, known as autumn and spring, where the hours of nighttime and daytime reach momentary equilibrium. In these so-called temperate zones, seasonality has a major impact on which plants, animals, and even diseases can thrive. Beyond 66 degrees north or south of the Equator, in the so-called arctic regions, the seasons reach their most dramatic extremes. In the summer, the sun never sets, whilst in the winter, the sun never rises. The temperature here remains cold all year round and in such inhospitable conditions very few plants or creatures can thrive. Any two points east or west of one another, which share the same latitude, will also share the same day length, and therefore – by and large – the same climate. Plants and animals which thrive at a given latitude, will tend to thrive at the same latitude anywhere else on the planet – either north or south of the Equator. So, if there is an easy east/west overland migration route for those crops or animals, they will tend to successfully export themselves beyond their point of origin. However, it is very unusual for plants and animals which thrive at one latitude, to be able to survive at dramatically different latitudes. Successful migration north or south is extremely rare, because moving through different latitude zones means moving through dramatically different climates, day lengths, and environmental conditions. In this context, latitude has had massive implications for the grandest patterns of history, seen most clearly in the differing fortunes of Eurasia, Africa and the Americas.
The Story Of... The Shapes of the Continents One of the most surprising revelations in Guns, Germs and Steel, revolves around simple, basic geography: the shape of the continents themselves. The product of millions of years of geological flux, continental shape may have had a fundamental impact on the progress of human societies. Continents that are spread out in an east-west direction, such as Eurasia, had a developmental advantage because of the ease with which crops, animals, ideas and technologies could spread between areas of similar latitude.
Europe was destined to be a cultural melting pot Continents that spread out in a north-south direction, such as the Americas, had an inherent climatic disadvantage. Any crops, animals, ideas and technologies had to travel through dramatically changing climatic conditions to spread from one extreme to the other. Technologies such as gunpowder were able to migrate 6,500 thousand miles from China, where they originated, to Western Europe, where they reached their apogee, in a matter of centuries. The wheel, on the other hand, developed in southern Mexico, never even managed the 500-mile journey south to the Andes. But the influence of continental formation runs even deeper than this. Some have argued that coastlines, mountains and valleys may help us understand something as fundamental as the differing historical paths taken by Europe and China. This is a puzzle which has occupied historians for generations. Given that Chinese civilization had evolved for almost as long as the civilizations of the Fertile Crescent, and by extension, Europe; given that China had even developed a phenomenal navy capable of trans-Pacific exploration nearly 100 years before Columbus set sail for the Indies, how come Europeans were the ones who took over the world – and not the Chinese? Jared Diamond believes geographical phenomena can explain these differing paths. Chinese civilization was founded on the domestication of irrigation-dependent crops. Rice grows in the wild along riverbanks and in swampy regions where the grasses enjoy year-round partial submersion. In order to replicate this environment, the earliest Chinese farmers had to construct fairly complex systems of irrigation, supplied by the Yangtze and Yellow rivers. This, it is argued, influenced the development of two social phenomena. First, the establishment of a central social organization and hierarchy,
founded upon the construction and maintenance of irrigation networks. Second, because of the geographic distribution of the Yellow and Yangtze rivers – flowing almost parallel to one another, from central China to the pacific coast – Chinese civilization grew organically outwards, from one central-east heartland – a heartland which controlled the mechanics of irrigation. European civilization, on the other hand, was founded upon the domestication of rainfalldependent crops – wheat and barley, which will grow anywhere, as long as it rains for part of the year. This, Diamond argues, allowed farming communities, villages, towns and eventually cities to emerge autonomously, all across Europe. There was never any need for a central authority to control irrigation across the continent. Instead, from its very inception, European society was destined to become fragmented – independent, autonomous and competitive. So what about the shape of the continents? China is essentially a fertile basin, enclosed by a ring of insurmountable geographic obstacles – ocean to the east, desert to the north, mountains to the south and an enormous, man-made wall to the west. This centrally-organized culture, which could expand rapidly for thousands of miles right up to its natural borders, could exist quite happily in isolation providing irrigation agriculture was maintained. It had no need to compete with neighboring states. In fact, the basin of China was so vast, there were few neighboring states, and for thousands of years the Chinese empire progressed along its own isolated path. Europe, on the other hand, with it four mountain ranges, five peninsulas, dozens of rivers, islands, and proximity to the coast of north Africa, was geographically destined to become a cultural melting pot. Independent, organically grown states emerged cheek by jowl, and were separated by distinct, but not insurmountable, geographical barriers. In 1492, rejected by the King of Portugal for lack of funds, Christopher Columbus simply travelled to Portugal's neighbor and rival, Castile, and instead pitched for exploration funds there. Fuelled by the desire to compete, patrons and princes throughout Europe were prepared to invest in outlandish ventures, and provided Columbus with the necessary capital to explore new lands. In China, the greatest treasure ships that the world had ever seen, were disbanded one day, on the whim of an Emperor. Unlike Columbus, the Admiral of the Imperial fleet, had no rival princes on whom he could call. There was little incentive for China to seek its fortune outside of its heartland – the Empire had everything it needed, right in its own backyard. And in such a vast nation ruled by the will of one man, there was simply no choice but to obey. Simply put, the ramifications of basic geography could be profound: Spain claimed the Americas instead of China, and Europe soon conquered the world.
The Story Of... Cities and Civilizations The first great civilizations of the ancient world – Mesopotamia, Samarra, and Uruk – were born in the fourth millennium before Christ. They were home to great civilizations, built on the foundations of successful farming communities. The birth of farming in just a handful of places around the world had a profound impact on the course of human history. Wherever communities could produce a sufficient agricultural surplus, thanks to the domestication of local crops and animals, then villages, towns and cities would eventually follow. A surplus of agricultural products allowed some members of a community to leave the fields behind, and develop new skills. The earliest evidence for this lies in the Fertile Crescent. Here, among the world's first permanent settlements, farming communities began to build larger and sturdier houses made of stone. They created pathways, staircases and Eurasian cities public spaces. Experimentation with metal technology developed after those in began. They pooled their resources, wove linen and wool the Fertile Crescent from larger herds of animals, ventured abroad and exported their produce to neighbors far and wide. The earliest farmers provided food for the earliest builders, stonemasons, plasterers, blacksmiths, weavers and potters. Economic specialization had begun. With the urban explosion came culture and politics, democracy, dictatorship and war. Where the Fertile Crescent led, soon all of Eurasia would follow.
JARED DIAMOND Jared Diamond is one of America's most celebrated scholars. A professor of Geography and Physiology at the University of California, he is equally renowned for his work in the fields of ecology and evolutionary biology, and for his ground-breaking studies of the birds of Papua New Guinea. Author Jared Diamond Author of eight books and numerous academic monographs, Diamond's best-selling The Rise and Fall of the Third
Chimpanzee won two science prizes in 1992. It was the 1997 publication of Guns, Germs and Steel, which sealed Diamond's global reputation. The book has since won the Pulitzer Prize, been translated into 25 languages and sold millions of copies around the world. The ease with which Professor Diamond can encapsulate and explain major patterns in human history, from such an original perspective, ensures that he remains a popular draw to lecture audiences and the international media across the globe. His latest book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, was published in December, 2004 and quickly became a best-seller. Born in Boston in 1937, Diamond now lives in California with his wife and family. Here, he offers a unique perspective on the background to, and impact of, Guns, Germs and Steel. Interview with Jared Diamond Q: When you set out to write Guns, Germs and Steel what was it you actually wanted to prove? JD: When I set out to write Guns, Germs and Steel I wasn't trying to prove anything, but I was trying to answer a question; the biggest question of history – why history unfolded differently on the different continents over the last 13 thousand years and the usual answer to this question is the answer that racists come up with; they say its because some people are superior to other people. What we found is that the answer doesn't have anything to do with people and it has everything to do with people's environments. Q: In what sense? JD: The answer has to do with peoples' environments especially in the first place because of the differences in the availability of wild plants and animals suitable for domestication, lots of them in a few areas like the fertile crescent in China and virtually none of them in other areas like the western United States or sub equatorial Africa. Another difference had to do with the shapes and orientations of the continents – those are perhaps the two biggest factors contributing to the explanation. Q: So we're in Africa at moment and it's basically known as the world's basket case, it has the world's worst poverty rate and all the rest of it.... Is there anything in the book that can actually help Africa? JD: Is there anything in my book that can help Africa? I think so yes; I'd say the message of my book is that understanding can help us. There are things in this story that can make a difference to the lives of Africans. We've seen that the economic relative underdevelopment of Africa has nothing to do with African people but it has to do with some very specific factors; tropical agriculture; the history of tropical crops; the tropical disease burden and the history of colonialism – and once you understand these things you can do something about them. For example, one of the messages is, a high priority is to invest in public health; there are other tropical parts of the world like Africa that
recognise the public health burden and they invested massively in public health and they are the countries that have grown the most rapidly economically in the last forty years. That's a hopeful message. Q: I think most people's theories are that most of the problems in Africa are to do with Africans themselves. What would you say to that? JD: There are people who say that the problems of Africa have to do with the Africans. Well the message is, its insoluble! To that I would say that is rubbish, there no evidence for it and that all the evidence is against it. Q What evidence have you seen that would support that? JD Evidence to support that statement that we've seen in Africa include the differences between South Africa, the furthest southern African country, and the smaller tropical areas, the temperate zones have an advantage and its not an accident that South Africa is the richest country in sub equatorial Africa. Q: Isn't it a danger to those who read Guns, Germs and Steel that they read it and it seems like it's such a sweeping theory that covers 10,000 years of history that they might just think that that's the answer and that's it in a bag. So it's no longer race, but now Jared's come up with a theory that it's geography, and that's it, we can just leave it behind. What would you say to that kind of attitude? JD: If someone said at the end of this all, 'it's geography and that's all there is to it', I would say it's geography in an extremely complicated sense – it's taken us several hours to work through these things, and there are many aspects of geography and geography interacts with the choices that people make. Q: So would you say the message of Guns, Germs and Steel is the definitive one; is that the end of your journey? JD: The message of Guns, Germs and Steel, I think is substantially correct in the outlines, but there are many details that we still have to understand... more important, I would say, is that the message is a hopeful one, its not a deterministic fatalistic one which says forget about Africa areas and underdeveloped areas; it says that there are specific reasons why different parts of world ended up as they did and with understanding of those reasons we can use that knowledge to help the places that historically were at a disadvantage. And that is what's going on in the modern world today. Q: The book has sold millions of copies. Why? JD The book has sold millions of copies because it grabs people, it addresses the biggest question of history; why history unfolded differently. It's a question that all of us ask and when we're teenagers its just obvious as you look around in your own country that different peoples fared differently in history. We ask ourselves the question but historians haven't told us the answer, racists have told us the answers and we haven't understood what is wrong with that racist answer and the result is that most of us then back away from the question. We think the question stinks. To raise the question means buying into the racist paradigm. I think that people buy the book because the question is such an interesting one, and because the answer is understandable and is substantially correct.
Q: Having sold millions is there a sense of a burden of responsibility you feel for having unleashed this theory on the world? JD: I don't feel a burden of responsibility for having unleashed this theory on the world, instead I feel a sense of excitement at having learned all this fascinating stuff in the process of going through it. I was learning lots of stuff myself and I was having to explain it to myself and get other people to explain it to me, and then I've gone on to explain these things to other people in the same way that I explained them to myself. Part of the reason, perhaps a large part of the reason why people tell me that the book is clear is because I worked hard to understand these things myself. I worked hard to put these things in terms that I could understand and then having done that it was easy to put these things in terms that other people could understand. Q: Are you proud of it? JD: I feel good about the book, I feel that if I were to die tomorrow, or if were to die 20 years from now and if I were asked what was the most important thing you did in your life, apart from contributing to the happiness of my wife and children, it would be having written Guns, Germs and Steel. Q: When you set out on the journey of Guns, Germs and Steel, what was it you were expecting to achieve, or show? JD: When I set out on the journey of Guns, Germs and Steel, what I was hoping to achieve was an understanding of the grand pattern of history and what I was expecting to show was, that I didn't know. It was a voyage of discovery. Q: What did you discover? JD: I discovered that the explanation for this grand pattern has to do with differences in the environments of different continents and it has nothing to do with differences in people. For example, here we are in Africa, Africa has had a very distinctive history. But to understand this history we have never mentioned anything about African people's biology, except for something about their genetic resistance to malaria, but we've had a lot to say about the African environment. And this illustrates that for Africa, as for the other continents, the reason for the distinctive pattern of history had to do with the environment of that continent. Q: What do you think of racism personally? JD: What do I think of racism, two things, it is despicable but in addition it's wrong, dead wrong. Q Why? JD It's dead wrong because it explains the grand pattern of history by assumptions about differences among people, assumptions for which there's no evidence in favour, lots of evidence against, and we found that the explanation for the grand pattern of history is instead things that we can observe; things to do with agricultural productivity and crops and the shapes of continents.
Q: So you're a scientist really aren't you? JD: I'm a scientist trying to understand history scientifically. Q: Do you think that's a new thing? JD: Do I think it's a new thing to study history scientifically? No, there are plenty of people who have studied history scientifically, but probably because of my background as a scientist I'm more explicit and conscious about it, and also I draw on many different areas of science more than historians who have not had the training in molecular biology and crop genetics and biogeography that I have had. Q: What was the second thing that you learnt on your journey? JD: Another thing that I've learnt on this journey is to put faces, human faces on abstract features of history. We talk about history, we talk about development, we talk about competition between societies and the wealth of nations – here in Africa there are human faces on it. When we go into a malaria ward, and see a child in a coma from malaria, and when we see people who are really poor, that puts a human face on these problems. When we talk about history it can sound intellectual, but history is really the fates of individual people like me, and all like the Africans that we have seen on this journey. Q: Were you moved by what you saw? JD: Yeah, what I saw was moving, even though I've been to Africa five times previously and even though I wrote a whole chapter about Africa, so intellectually this is not new to me, but still to be there in a malaria ward in front of these children and to be looking out at the fields and to see the signs of poverty, yeah, intellectually it's not new but personally it gets to you; it gets me. Q: The great argument against Guns, Germs and Steel is that its purely deterministic, it just says exactly what's going to happen to every country in the world. What do you say to that? JD: A misunderstanding that some people have of Guns, Germs and Steel is that it's deterministic and it says what's going to happen in the future. That's exactly backwards, Guns, Germs and Steel provides us with explanations of what happened in the past, and as in any area of knowledge or any science, explanations give you power, they give you the power to change, they tell us what happened in the past and why and we can use that knowledge to make different things happen in the future. There are countries which for the last several decades have been using that knowledge to make themselves rich even though they were poor 40-50 years ago. That's true for Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Mauritius. There are other countries who can similarly use knowledge to help themselves. Q: Ultimately a lot of people look at the world and they are quite pessimistic about the future of the world. What do you think about that? JD: A lot of people look at the world and they're pessimistic about the future of the world. People often ask me the question; Jared, are you an optimist or a pessimist? And my answer is I'm a cautious optimist! By that, I mean the situation is not hopeless, so I'm not a pessimist. I also mean that our future happiness is not assured, we're going to have to work on it, but if we do work on it we can achieve a better future, and that's why I'm
not a pessimist, I'm not an optimist, but I'm a cautious optimist. Q: Do you trust human beings to be able to do it, because ultimately it comes down to human beings doesn't it? JD: Do I trust human beings to be able to succeed? Yes I trust them to succeed after making lots of mistakes in the process. Q: Give me an idea of how long has this journey been and what does it now mean to you all those years later? When did this journey of Guns, Germs, and Steel start and what does it mean to you now? JD: The journey of Guns, Germs and Steel started exactly forty years ago when I first came to New Guinea and was confronted face to face with the question – why these people had stone tools and yet I'd discovered that they were really bright people, why did such bright people end up with stone tools? So it's been a long journey. Now that I've arrived at a certain end of the journey what it means to me first and foremost is fascination, the stuff is so interesting, the explanations so interesting, they were complex, they were unexpected, the story of the discovery was fascinating, it was something that I was working on, the question was posed forty years ago... Yali's question of 1972 turned it on for me and I began to think about it actively in 1986 and it wasn't until 1997 that I published the book, so its been a long journey – and I feel that whatever I work on for the rest of my life, I can never work on questions as fascinating as the questions of Guns, Germs and Steel because they're the biggest questions of human history! Q: And you're proud of it? JD: I feel good about it, yeah I'm proud of it. I'm proud of it. I sometimes wonder twenty or thirty years from now when I'm in my 80s or 90s and I look back on my life, what meaning will I see to my life? Well I'll be proud of whatever I've been able to do to contribute to the happiness of my wife and children, but the thing that I'll be next proudest of, I think, is Guns, Germs and Steel – coming to grips with these biggest questions of history and I think providing a substantially correct explanation for them! This interview was conducted with Mr Diamond via email in late 2004 by the program's Associate Producer, Susan Horth.
Jared Diamond, the noted evolutionary biologist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel and most recently Collapse, has very definite ideas about why the little people of Flores would not have had sex with modern humans, would not have coexisted long with them in any case, and cannot possibly still survive today—among other cogent thoughts. In this wide-ranging interview, Robert Krulwich picks Diamond's spirited brain about all things floresiensis. BIG STORY ABOUT LITTLE PEOPLE Krulwich: Alright. First let me just ask you, as stories go, to me this is a big one.
But what about to you? Diamond: To me, when I heard of this, I immediately said to myself, this is the most amazing discovery in any field of science in at least the last 10 years. Krulwich: That big? Diamond: Yeah. Krulwich: Why? Diamond: Why? Because it's the most drastically different human that existed in the last million years. And that it turned up—you wouldn't have thought that remarkable new discoveries like this were still waiting to be made among humans. And if made anywhere, I wouldn't have expected it to turn up on the island of Flores, which lots of zoologists have gone to to study Komodo dragons. You wouldn't expect something weird to be lurking there with all the searches for the Komodo dragon. Krulwich: Is the main weird thing that this is an ancient bit of life that is extremely modern all of a sudden? Or is it that there's just another bit of life that you didn't know about? Or both? Diamond: There are two weird things about it. One is that it's so small, smaller than any human or protohuman of the last five million years. And the other thing is that it appears to be a really late survivor of Homo erectus, which we thought was gone long before that. The third amazing thing is that there's the possibility that it coexisted with modern Homo sapiens, which would astonish me—and which I think is probably wrong. But it's open for discussion. Krulwich: If you were to just play a hunch—because, I mean, there are going to be arguments that say nay and there are going to be arguments that say yeah—is your hunch at this point that they actually existed as a separate species? Or that they were a sick bunch of human beings? Diamond: Well, I would bet $10, or 10 to one odds, that they were a separate species and not some deformed, microcephalic [that is, having an abnormally small head] modern humans. Krulwich: Why? Because you want it? Because it's a great tale? Or because there's just something in you that says, yeah, the data will deliver? Diamond: The data already out there—well, the skull does not resemble that of known microcephalics. They've got eight different specimens, or fragments of eight different specimens. The recent information on the brain indicates a very distinctive form of brain. The whole form of the skull is erectus-like, and it's not pathologicalsapiens-like. So everything says yes erectus and no, not a weird sapiens. ISLAND HOPPING Krulwich: Alright. So puzzle number one: This is a creature that came out of Africa, like presumably all of us did, and kind of wandered into Europe and wandered into
Asia. And now we find a variation on this creature on an island. Are you puzzled about how a creature like this would get to an island? Diamond: I'm puzzled, but not very puzzled. One may ask how on Earth did these very primitive humans get to an island? Getting to an island requires boats, and they probably didn't have the brains to have boats. But then reflect: On this island were also elephants that certainly did not have boats. And on another island in the same general area were not only a couple of types of elephants but also buffalo and pigs and at least two species of monkeys. And you can be sure that the buffalo and the monkeys did not have boats or rafts. So whatever way that the buffalo, elephants, pigs, and monkeys got there, humans got there. In fact, we know something about how animals reach islands. One way is they can swim. Elephants can swim reasonably well. Pigs likewise. Certainly humans can swim. The distances involved were slight. Krulwich: Like six or eight or 10 miles? Thirty miles? Something like that? Diamond: I think more like three to 10 miles. The water gaps even today are less than 30 miles. But all this was going on during the Ice Ages, when around the world a lot of water was locked up in glaciers. So sea level was low. And where at present you have shallow seas, up to 10,000 years ago would have been dry land. Like the English Channel used to be dry land. Krulwich: Oh, so you could have walked there conceivably? Diamond: No, you couldn't walk there. These particular channels were never obliterated, as the English Channel was. But they were considerably narrower than they are now. Krulwich: So if you walked most of the distance from Africa to near Flores, and you had a little bit of water between you and it, how would you get across that little bit of water? Not a raft, not a boat, because we're thinking they're too dumb for this? Diamond: Well, there were actually three possible ways. One is, maybe they did have enough brains to have a really primitive raft. For example, maybe they just had bamboo that they lashed together, and it may not take much brains to lash bamboo together. So that's one possibility. Another possibility is they swam—it's a few miles—or they got carried along by the current. Elephants did it, monkeys did it. If monkeys could do it, why couldn't these dumb humans do it? And then thirdly... Krulwich: You mean, you like grab onto a log and float for the afternoon or something like that? Diamond: Even without grabbing onto a log. Just floating. And the third possibility is what you say, that they grab onto a log. But it's bigger than a log. When you're on the coast in low tropical rainforest areas, when there's a big storm, whole pieces of bank get displaced and washed down rivers. Those pieces of bank actually have trees on them; they're like floating islands. That's the way that, for example, lots of rats and lizards reach islands. They get carried out on these big masses of floating
vegetation. So I'd say there are three choices. It's these natural rafts, or they swam or floated, or they had just enough brains to build really simple bamboo rafts. SHRUNK TO FIT Krulwich: Okay. Now, when these creatures arrive on the island, they are normalsized. When we discover them later, they are smaller. What happened? Diamond: What happened? They shrunk in size. There are lots of precedents for that. There were lots of big animals that arrived on small islands and then, over evolutionary time, they shrunk in size. Krulwich: Such as? Diamond: There are lots of elephants, for example. Here where we sit in southern California, about 50 miles off the coast is an island called Santa Rosa that had pygmy mammoths. These were big mammoths that swam out there and ended up shrunk to horse size. There were pygmy elephants on lots of islands around the world. Krulwich: Is a pygmy elephant like 20 percent or 80 percent of the other, regular elephant? How shrinky are those? Diamond: Oh, they can be one tenth the mass. They can be cow-sized elephants. For example, on this very island with pygmy humans, Flores, there were pygmy elephants. So that's one pygmy. There were pygmy buffaloes. There were pygmy deer on quite a few islands. There were pygmy elk. There were pygmy giant deer. There were pygmy hippopotamuses in the Mediterranean. Krulwich: Oh, so getting smaller is kind of normal if you're isolated on an island? Diamond: If you're a big animal that gets isolated on an island, the only way to survive is to get smaller. If you don't get smaller, you die out. Krulwich: Why? Diamond: Because if you're big, the smaller island isn't able to hold enough individuals to make a sustainable population. For example, let's take humans. Suppose these were full-sized humans arriving on that island. Flores is a moderately small island. It might have been big enough to hold, in isolation, say 200 full-sized humans. Of those 200, 100 are males, 100 females. Of the 100 females, 50 are juveniles, and 50 are adults. And of those 50 adults, some are better than others. So what sounds like 200, a viable population, you end up with maybe only 10 or 20 skilled, reproductive females. That gets marginal. And then if you have a drought and a Komodo dragon kills a few of them on top of it, it's just not a viable population. You also get genetic problems—inbreeding—when you've got as few as 200. Now, suppose your humans are not 150-pound humans but 30-pound humans. You
can get five times as many of them. And your population is not 200, but 1,000. Now you've got something viable. Krulwich: So you don't run the risk of everyone being first cousins of everybody else, resulting in a weak genetic situation? If you have more folks, then you have more variation, and you can be a little bit more robust? Diamond: It's not just that you have more variation. You've got more individuals. Few individuals, even if they've got great variation, are at risk of a fluctuation that wipes them out. So that's the reason why we've got on islands around the world all of these—there must be a couple of dozen populations of pygmy elephants and pygmy hippos and pygmy deer and pygmy giant deer and pygmy people. Krulwich: But one could argue that human beings are different from deer and buffalo and elephants, because they can have meetings, you know, maybe hand signals or something to say "Let's not have as many babies this year" or whatever. They don't have to do it inside their bodies. They can do it with their brains. Diamond: Brains are good for solving some problems, and they're not good for solving other problems. If the basic problem is that you don't have enough people, then no matter how smart you are, the population will die out. We have examples of this in modern times. There are modern human populations that were too small and died out. For example, Pitcairn Island, which was colonized by the Bounty mutineers because it was supposedly an empty island. When the Bounty mutineers arrived on Pitcairn in 1790, they found abandoned temple platforms and statues. There had been a human population isolated there. From the size of Pitcairn, we can be confident that there were fewer than 200 individuals. They were able to survive as long as there were boats bringing fresh humans. But once the boats disappeared, that population then died out. So we know that not even modern humans are enough to survive as a small population. Krulwich: So it's crucial to have as many of you as possible. On the other hand, you have to eat and take care of yourself. And that's the tension? Diamond: That's right. Krulwich: So smaller is better? Diamond: That's right. Krulwich: Why does this process begin on islands? What is it about islands that triggers this? Diamond: Restricted space, and hence a restricted population. This dwarfing occurs only on smallish islands. Dwarfing has not been documented for a big island like Japan or Britain. Krulwich: Is it also important that bigger, full-sized adult human beings don't join you from elsewhere periodically? I would think that's the other issue. You don't get
any more biggies. Diamond: Yeah. If you had biggies, the biggies would provide genes. Krulwich: They would have sex with you, and you would have big babies? Diamond: You have sex and you have big babies. But the other thing is if you have biggies, the biggies will rescue the population. So say every generation in come a few individuals. Your population starts to get dangerously small, but then in come a few biggies, and they rescue the population. Krulwich: So you're not surprised, then, that this group of human types could become very small? Diamond: I would say yes and no. On thinking about it, I'm not surprised. The reason that I was surprised initially was that there hadn't been a documented case of dwarfing in island human populations. In retrospect, you could say "Okay, so there's dwarfing in humans. We already had dwarfing in elephants. What's the big deal?" But it was the first. A SPECTACULAR SOLUTION Krulwich: Now, I want to talk about just how small. This is pretty small, as currently gauged. It's like three feet tall. It's very close to—I don't know if you've seen the Austin Powers movies. There's this character who is a mad scientist, and he delights in creating an absolutely tiny version of himself. It's smaller than a dwarf; it's like a three-foot-tall version. He calls it Mini-Me. It seems like movie stuff. In this case, though, a third of standard human size seems very small because it means that everything is a third smaller, particularly the brain. Doesn't that give you pause, a brain that's a third the size of your own? Diamond: It's even worse than that. The estimates of weight are something like 30 pounds compared to modern-sized humans of 150 pounds. So they were about onefifth of human size. Again, if you had told me some scientist has made this amazing discovery of a dwarf human population [and you had asked] how big do you think they were, I would have guessed 80 pounds. Isn't that incredible? So when I say this is the most amazing discovery in the past 10 years, I would never have dreamed that they could have shrunk down to 30 pounds. Krulwich: What's crucial here, the weight, the scale, or the brain? Or all of it? Diamond: The weight and the food requirements. What's required in order to subsist as a smaller population is lots of small individuals with small food requirements. The brain isn't the problem. The food consumption is the problem. Krulwich: But this is tremendously successful then. If you can get down to that scale, then you're really treading very lightly on the land. There can be more and more of you. Diamond: That's right.
Krulwich: It's a very spectacular solution. Diamond: It is. It's a spectacular solution, like the pygmy hippos on the island of Cyprus. They were cute little things about so big [indicates size of a pig]. That's pretty dramatic. Krulwich: What about the brain, though? First of all, these creatures had tools, and they had fire. I know this is not exactly your field, but I'm just curious. Fire is a dangerous thing. Does cooking mean that you're a sophisticate? Diamond: Neanderthals are the first humans for whom there's clear evidence of the control of fire. That is to say, Neanderthal campsites regularly show evidence of hearths. So we know that Neanderthals had fire. Now, Neanderthals had full-size brains, but those brains clearly were not up to the brains of modern humans, because Neanderthals did not invent rapidly, and they didn't have much in the way of art. Fire impresses me a little, but not very much. DRAGONS IN THE DIET? Krulwich: What about the fact, and I'll read you the diet, when they look, they find contemporaneous burnt, chewed, gnawed, or otherwise looking like foodish versions of fish, frogs, snakes, tortoises, birds, rodents, bats, stegodonts... What's a stegodont? Diamond: Stegodonts are the pygmy elephants. Krulwich: Alright. And Komodo dragons. Have you ever seen a Komodo dragon? Diamond: Yes. Closely. Krulwich: Very closely? Diamond: Mm-hmm. Krulwich: I'm looking at one now, in my mind. I don't know how much they weigh, but this one looks like it's 250 pounds or something. What do they weigh? Diamond: Up to 500 pounds. But it's worse than that because while the modern Komodo dragons weigh up to 500 pounds, the archeological excavations that produced the dwarves also produced evidence of a super-size Komodo dragon. Krulwich: Oh, so these dragons are getting smaller, too, over time? Diamond: No, the dragons are different. Warm-blooded animals shrink on islands. Cold-blooded animals often expand on islands, to fill the niche left by lions and tigers that could not get out there. Cold-blooded animals have lower food requirements, and so a cold-blooded animal requires as much food as a warm-blooded animal oneseventh of its size. Krulwich: Oh! So while the mammals are going down, the reptiles could be going
up? Diamond: It happened there on Flores. Flores has the Komodo dragon, the world's biggest lizard today. But in the past apparently it had a super Komodo dragon. Krulwich: What's going on with the mouth of this beast? It's going [makes slurping sound], and there's all this stuff flying in the air. What is that? Diamond: It's very interesting. Komodo dragons, the way that they kill is they're ambush predators. They can run quickly for about 20 or 50 feet and they get exhausted. So they can't chase down a prey. In modern times, Komodo dragons have been hunting introduced goats or buffalo. They wait in ambush, and they race out, and they take a bite. Sometimes they pull the animal down, but sometimes they don't, and the buffalo staggers off. Within a day or two, the buffalo dies an agonizing death of infection within the territory of the Komodo dragon that brought it down. And the reason that the buffalo has died this agonizing death is that Komodo dragons do not brush their teeth. Krulwich: [laughs] Diamond: In fact, they have specialized in not brushing their teeth. Because they've got all this rotting meat between their teeth, their mouths harbor bacteria. And these aren't just the bacteria that you and I would have if we ate steaks and then did not brush our teeth for a week. Komodo dragons have evolved really nasty bacteria. So what happens is the buffalo has been bitten, it staggers off, the wound gets infected, the buffalo gets really sick, and then it falls down in the territory of the Komodo dragon that wounded it. Krulwich: So that spit is—that's poisonous spit? Diamond: It's not spit that contains cyanide. It's spit that contains bacteria like botulism bacteria and anthrax and other things that you would not want to get infected by. Krulwich: So if you wanted to eat one of these things, if that's in your diet, then you'd better come prepared with tools, with some kind of cooperation, because you're only three feet tall. Diamond: Mm-hmm. Krulwich: What do you think? Diamond: Well, if I were three feet tall and I were hunting a Komodo dragon, and I were not yet smart enough to have bows and arrows, which they didn't have for sure, I would vote for a spear. A spear that I could throw. Or a lance. We know that Neanderthals in Europe had spears, so maybe these creatures had spears. This is all assuming that they really hunted the Komodo dragons. Krulwich: Right. Diamond: Because there's the added question of who really killed the stuff? Was it
the dwarves? Or was it the later sapiens? Krulwich: If they were eating them before the sapiens arrived, though, then it really gets interesting. Diamond: Yeah. Then they had to have some way of killing a Komodo dragon. And if I were to do it, I would elect for a thrown spear, so that I didn't have to get in close quarters. A QUESTION OF BRAINS Krulwich: Would I be able to say "Hey, Charlie, move over to the left?" Or have some form of language? Diamond: Not necessarily, because wolves and lions do pretty good communal hunting without any form of language. Krulwich: So having Komodo dragon meat in my diet is not an absolute, not the Harvard Law degree of brains? I mean, it just means that you're a little ahead of the game, but you aren't a monster intelligence? Or does it? Diamond: Unless wolves and lions are graduating from Harvard Law School nowadays, which they certainly were not in my day. Krulwich: [laughs] Diamond: No, I would say hunting a Komodo dragon, that's not the real test of brains. Krulwich: Which leaves us with this other question of, when scientists have now begun looking at endocasts of these brains, they say—well, at least this fellow Ralph [Holloway, an anthropologist at Columbia University] who we talked to—he says, well, they don't look the same as human brains. There could be two reasons for that. They could be sick human brains, in which case they would look like sick human brains, or they could be something different. At the moment, as we're interviewing, the preponderance of view is that they seem to be something different. The question is, can you create a brain that can do more work in a smaller cavity? That's one of the big questions raised here. Diamond: Mm-hmm. Krulwich: What do you think? Diamond: Uh, I wouldn't reject the possibility. Here's a clear example of evolving a brain that can do far better in the same space, or even in less space: The brains of Neanderthals were, on average, slightly larger than the brains of modern humans. But modern humans were far more inventive than Neanderthals. As soon as you get modern humans—sapiens—you begin to get art, you begin to get rapid change of artifacts. You start getting bows and arrows, and spear throwers. You get far more rapid invention than had gone on with 300,000 years of Neanderthals. So the secret to modern humans was not getting a bigger brain. The brain is getting smaller.
Something happened in the reorganization of the brain that made them smarter. Krulwich: But this is a pretty big challenge. We're talking here about one-third the size. Diamond: Mm-hmm. Krulwich: A little bigger than chimpanzees, a lot less big than, for example, you. Diamond: Mm-hmm. Krulwich: So you have to imagine a thinking, conscious, sentient person with a third of your brain. A third. Diamond: A somewhat thinking, somewhat conscious, somewhat sentient person. And without being boastful, I still believe that I would outclass them, and that all of us here would outclass them. They might have had enough brains to make tools, maybe even moderately sophisticated tools. How much brains does that require? People have tried to teach tool-making to chimpanzees. The problem is not so much with their brains as with their hand grip. These dwarves had a good hand grip— people have had a good hand grip for two million years. In truth, it remains to be seen how smart they were. I haven't seen evidence of proto-Einsteins out there yet. UNSAFE SEX Krulwich: Alright. Last set of questions. This has to do with sex mostly. We have this astonishing thought that on this island were two populations—for maybe as many as 40,000 years, Homo sapiens (us) and little people. Now, the eighth-grade definition of species is that if you're a little person and I'm a big person, I wouldn't want to have sex with you because you look "other," and if I did have sex with you, I/we couldn't have a baby. Is that where we are in this situation? Diamond: Uh, yes. The definition of species is reproductive isolation. Populations that don't interbreed with each other given the opportunity would be considered distinct species. So I guess the final question that everybody is too shy to ask about these micropygmies is, did we or didn't we have sex with them? Because the fact is that modern humans, Homo sapiens, eventually arrived at this island of Flores and would have coexisted for some length of time that you can argue about. Did we or didn't we have sex with them? My bet is we did not have sex with them, and here's my reasoning. Although they were small, they would have been tough, nasty characters. About a week and a half ago in Los Angeles, there was a really tragic, awful event in which a couple who had brought up a pet chimpanzee went and visited their pet chimpanzee in an animal shelter with a couple of other chimpanzees that had been kept there for a long time. These were chimpanzees habituated to humans. And something went wrong. Two teenage male chimpanzees attacked the man, and the result was just awful. They pulled off his nose, and [attacked] his eyes. They chewed off every one of his fingers. They chewed out his buttocks. Okay? What do I think would have happened if some full-sized male sapiens had presented
his private parts for having sex with this 30-pound pygmy? I would not have given much for the future of the private parts of that male sapiens. Krulwich: Really? Diamond: I would predict that those pygmies would have been really nasty. Just like any humans would be really nasty. Krulwich: What, because the pygmy looking at the other was like "This is an other. I don't know why he's doing this to me?" Diamond: That's right. This would be hostile. Modern human populations are hostile to each other. It takes something to have sex between modern human populations. Krulwich: How about curiosity? I mean, we all know about folks who, you know, sometimes go off into the barn and do things we don't even need to know about. Couldn't there have been a little person and a big person who just wanted to "I'll show you mine if you show me yours" and it wouldn't have been quite such a hostile act? WIPED OUT Diamond: Almost all sheep are nice [laughs]. Almost all humans are not nice. Example: Today, in Africa, we have chimpanzees. Chimpanzees are about the same size as humans, and genetically they're the species closest to humans. Despite that, there is no attested case of humans having sex with chimpanzees. It would be absolutely lethal. The man who did it would come off without his private parts! Krulwich: Alright. So you're thinking here real speciation. If there were an attempt to inseminate one to the other, what would be the issue, if they were truly a different species? Diamond: The likelihood of a viable hybrid, given the extreme differences, would be rather slight. There are the size differences. One would expect there to be developmental differences, maybe a different duration of pregnancy. I would expect them to be too different. But on top of that, people talk about possible coexistence between the micropygmies and modern sapiens for 40,000 years. I don't believe it. My guess is that within 100 years of modern sapiens arriving on the island, the dwarves would have been exterminated. Krulwich: By the humans? Diamond: By the humans. We know that modern humans, given the opportunity, exterminate other modern humans. I cannot believe that they would have failed to exterminate these dwarves in a very short time. Krulwich: That seems to be your prejudice. I mean, you said the dumbest thing that ever happened was Carl Sagan sending off the message to outer space saying "Here we are, the lovely people on Earth." In your mind, that was called "Come and get me."
Diamond: That's right. I've worked in New Guinea for the last 41 years, and I know what happens in New Guinea. And we have evidence about what happens in traditional human societies, namely, there are uneasy relationships at the boundaries. You certainly don't tolerate strangers, because it's dangerous to tolerate strangers. You try to kill them. When a human population colonizes an area with another human population, there is a touchy negotiation in which either one group exterminates the other or they decide that they can't exterminate the other, so they see if there is some mode of coexistence based on different economics. For example, coexistence between Pygmies and farmers in the Congo basin. Pygmies and farmers don't kill each other. They have different economies, which match. The Pygmies are hunter gatherers; they gather honey, they hunt animals in the jungle. And the farmers grow crops. So the Pygmies and the farmers trade back and forth. They have different economies. It works. In the case, then, of the micropygmies and Homo sapiens [on Flores], both of them would have been hunter gatherers. They would have been competing directly. There would have been no basis for trade, because there wouldn't have been a difference that would have allowed profitable trade. Krulwich: So this would be a case of "I'm here, and therefore you're not, because you're in my way." Diamond: "I'm here, and you're going to be good food, and this is my island." Again, I would bet 10 to one odds on my $10 that the micropygmies did not last. I would give them 100 years. Maybe even just 10 years from the time that full-sized sapiens arrived before they were exterminated. Krulwich: So you don't buy into this 40,000 years of cohabitation at all? Diamond: Absolutely not. STILL WITH US? Krulwich: Let's finish, then, with this question. Is it possible, in this modern world, that these creatures might still be around? Diamond: No [laughs]. Krulwich: Not possible? Diamond: No. It's not possible because humans have been running around every place in the modern world. Why did they discover the micropygmies? Because their bones were buried deeply in the ground. Even archeologists working on the island of Flores came across the bones only relatively recently. There have not been surprising new human populations discovered except in previously unexplored areas like the New Guinea islands. Krulwich: What about folktales? I mean, Norwegians had elves, we have hobbits. Are those just stories people tell each other, or do they have any probative value to scientists?
Diamond: Zero. Krulwich: Zero? Diamond: Zero [laughs]. Krulwich: What do you mean? If you arrive somewhere, don't the stories people tell, don't your ears perk up? Diamond: Yes, my ears [do], but people tell all sorts of strange stories, and some of them are true, and some of them are not true. We have to assess whether they might be true. Might it be the case that after thousands of years of Indonesians tramping around every single island in Indonesia, and after a couple of hundred years of Europeans tramping around Indonesia, and after 100 years of people tramping around the island of Flores 100 years after we discovered the Komodo dragon, might there still be tiny people out there in the jungle? No. No chance whatsoever. Krulwich: Alright. Then I'm going to ask you a stupid very last question. Let's suppose that you wanted to look for one anyway. Where would you look? Diamond: In another galaxy [laughs]. Certainly not on Earth.
A conversation with Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs & Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. Diamond won this year's Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Jared Diamond and his book "Guns, Germs & Steel: The Fates of Human Societies" has won this year's prize for general nonfiction. The work explores the environmental and geographical factors behind differences of power and wealth among the world's people. Diamond is a professor of physiology at the University of California-Los Angeles Medical School. He also pursues research in evolutionary biology in New Guinea and other countries. Thank you for being with us, and congratulations, Mr. Diamond. JARED DIAMOND, Pulitzer Prize, General Nonfiction: Thank you, thank you. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Your book, I believe, grew out of a question posed to you by a politician in New Guinea. What was that question? JARED DIAMOND: I'd been studying bird evolution in New Guinea for 34 years. New Guineans used stone tools until relatively recently. And eventually in 1972, a politician that I ran into on a beach in New Guinea asked me straight out, why is it that we New Guineans were the people using stone tools and you Europeans and Americans were the people who brought steel tools and writing and ships to us. It's a straight question. I couldn't tell 'em the answer, and I've spent much of the last five years trying to understand the reason. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And in the book you use a very dramatic moment in human history, the moment in 1531, when Francisco Pizarro confronted and defeated the leader of the Incas, Atahuallpa, in Peru to also get us into this question. Tell us about that. JARED DIAMOND: That was an incredible moment, one of the most dramatic moments in world history. The Spanish Conquistador, Pizarro, with an army of 169 Spaniards out of contact with his home base marched up to Camajarca in the Andes and ran into the Inca emperor, Atahuallpa, with an army of 80,000. You might think that the 169 Spaniards were about to get smushed. Instead, what happened within a few minutes is that Pizarro captured the Inca emperor, Atahuallpa, and that--held him for ransom--and that led to the downfall of one of the two most powerful native American states in the new world. That really requires explaining. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. And you're quite explicit in this book that you're out to prove that racial factors do not play a role, right? JARED DIAMOND: That's right. Most people, if you ask why is it that here in the United States people of European, Africa, and Asian background are now sitting here occupying land that used to be the land of native Americans, why did history turn out that way, instead of native Americans conquering Africa and bringing in Europeans as slaves,
and most people say, well, or, you know, I hate to admit it but let's face it, it's because Europeans were smarter and they had the get up and go initiative, whereas, these other peoples didn't, and yet there's no evidence whatsoever for intellectual superiority for any IQ advantage of Europeans. So there must be some other explanation. And that was the goal of my book. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Let's go through some of those. Let's being with agriculture and the fertile crescent, that very rich area that's now part of Iraq and Iran. JARED DIAMOND: Agriculture began in the world about 12,000 years ago. The place where it began was the fertile crescent, the area that today is Iraq, Iran, and Syria. And the beginning of agriculture was a key step in the development of what we call civilization because there's no point having a printing press while you're still a nomadic hunter-gatherer. If you move camp every three weeks, you have enough work carrying around your spears and the baby. You don't want--you have no use for a printing press. But once people settle down in agricultural communities, that was the beginning for the development of kings, for feeding people to develop technology, crafts people, people who would develop metal tools, and riding to serve the purposes of the king, and it was also the beginning of the evolution of nasty germs like smallpox and measles that played a key role in European conquest of the new world. It was smallpox and measles and other germs that killed 95 percent of native Americans. But those germs evolved in dense agricultural societies that arose in the fertile crescent and then China 11,000 years ago. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And what's so interesting is that you explain that agriculture arose there because the right wild specially grasses where there and could be domesticated, whereas, they weren't say here in California or in other places. JARED DIAMOND: That's right. It's not that ancient people of the fertile crescent were more gifted or smarter and saw the advances of agriculture. They have no idea what was in store for them. Instead, it just happened, and Eurasia as the biggest continent had the largest number of wild plants and animal species, and, in particular, the fertile crescent was the area where the wild ancestors of the most valuable crop and domestic animals of the modern world grew. Wheat and barley and wild calves and sheep and goats and pigs and horses were native to the fertile crescent, but contrast that say with Australia. Why do you think Aboriginal Australians remained hunter-gatherers? Because no one today has been able to domesticate kangaroos, the only large wild mammals of Australia and the only plant of Australia that has been domesticated was macadamia nuts, but you can't feed a civilization on macadamia nuts alone. You can based on wheat, barley, peas, lentils, and so on. So that's why native Australians remained hunter-gatherers and Eurasians became the first farmers. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And the germs--this surprised me very much--you mentioned the germs. They actually developed from the domesticated animals, and that's why Pizarro could bring the germs that killed, what, 95 percent of the people that he met in the new world.
JARED DIAMOND: That's right. And that's one of the surprising discoveries that we've gained from molecular biology in the last decade or two. That's why people couldn't figure out a hundred years ago the ways in which geography tipped the balance of fate among the world's people. We now know that smallpox, measles, and other epidemic diseases of humans like that evolve from epidemic diseases of our domestic animals with which we came into intimate contact when we started to domesticate them 11,000 years ago. Smallpox may have evolved from a disease of our domestic camels. Measles certainly evolved from a disease of our domestic cattle. And so Eurasian people were exposed to these nasty diseases, gradually evolved immune and genetic resistance to them, but Native Americans, without big domestic animals, except the llamas and El Pacas, did not evolve nasty germs of their own, and so had no immunity when Europeans arrived, bringing smallpox and measles and these other nasty germs. So most native Americans died before they could even reach the battlefield. They were killed by Eurasian germs. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Now, you've been criticized in the New York Review of Books and elsewhere for being too geographically determinist, for not taking into account enough, although you certainly talking about writing and other things, ideas, culture. How do you answer that criticism? JARED DIAMOND: I would answer that by saying that ideas and culture, of course, they're essential in human society, in human history, but ideas and complex technology and culture can evolve only where you have the right environmental conditions, where people are settled down in large societies, in villages, and in cities, which depended upon agriculture. Now, cultural idiosyncracies, yes, of course, they're crucial when you're talking about differences in the fates of societies a hundred miles apart over ten or twenty years or over a century. For example, the fact that that bomb that was planted in Hitler's headquarters on July 20, 1944, the fact that the bomb was two feet too far from Hitler to kill him had enormous consequences but over the course of 13,000 years, accidents to individual people like Hitler or Alexander the Great, you have geniuses for the better or for the worse in Australia and in the new world accidents that happened; accidents where a particular bomb or spear was placed have short-term consequences but not long-term consequences. In the long run what counts is geography that sets the envelope of human societies. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, Jared Diamond, congratulations again and thank you very much. JARED DIAMOND: Thank you. You're welcome. JIM LEHRER: This year's Pulitzer Prize for fiction went to Philip Roth for his novel "American Pastoral." For the record, we invited Mr. Roth to appear on the program but he declined and he sent this statement: "My hope is that the Pulitzer Prize will encourage people to sit down and seriously read my book. Nothing could please me, or, for that matter, any writer more."
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