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Let's say the world itself provides food in such amounts, the agriculture is not needed.

In our world agriculture was one of the main driving force of civilization, so without it no labor division, no emeregence of class systems, perhaps no cities and permanent settlements. So could there be any "spark" in such scenario, that H-G's start to build it?

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    $\begingroup$ Why would they develop a complex civilization for? I assume that by a "complex civilization" you mean a state. States are oppressive -- they limit individual liberty; but in a world of limited resources they are useful. In our history states emerged as structures for managing resuorces such as workforce, land, and water. If they don't need such resources, then there is no need to manage them. It is essential for you to imagine what would be the basic functions of the state. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Aug 30 '17 at 13:12
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    $\begingroup$ Stephen Baxter's book Stone Spring is about such a civilisation - Mesolithic peoples struggling to hold back the sea as sea level rises after the end of the ice age. The sequel, Bronze Summer, has lots of culture clash between the hunter-gatherer culture and farming cultures. $\endgroup$ – DrBob Aug 30 '17 at 13:16
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    $\begingroup$ Eventually they learn strength comes in numbers to take down powerful beast or fend off predators, always 1 alpha to lead the hunts while the youngs and olds stay put and secure the valuables. Pretty soon communication becomes more precise and complex, you got class system eventually ways to pass down power knowledge to future generation. $\endgroup$ – user6760 Aug 30 '17 at 15:05
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    $\begingroup$ you really need to define what you mean by complex civilization, do you mean technology? societal structure? large population? The phrase itself is to vague and broad to make for a meaningful answer. $\endgroup$ – John Aug 30 '17 at 15:42
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    $\begingroup$ Do you want them to remain hunter/gatherers while having a civilization? OR, do you want them to settle down into a sedentary civilization for some reason other than agriculture? They are both very different scenarios, but they are both examples of hunter-gatherers developing civilization. $\endgroup$ – Shane Aug 30 '17 at 21:22

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I think the closest that you can find in history is probably something like Gobekli Tepe which seems to have been created as a religious site that multiple tribes of hunter gatherers would have visited and co-operated in the building and maintenance of.

This is also meant to be one of the first places that grains were cultivated with wild grains being protected here from grazing animals and being cultivated from there. If you were in a world where losing out on food like this to grazing animals wasn't an issue then it's not unforeseeable that the wild food that is growing there isn't given much significance by the people there and it continues to develop as a cultural and religious hub where tribes can co-operate with each other.

The 'spark' in that sense would be to create a place for cultural and religious gatherings and a place where trade between tribes could be done.

carved stone from gobelki tepe

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    $\begingroup$ Gobekli Tepe is said to be where we stopped being hunter-gatherers and became settled farmers. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Aug 30 '17 at 13:25
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    $\begingroup$ ...in other words, it was built by new farmers, not hunter-gatherers. $\endgroup$ – T.E.D. Aug 30 '17 at 13:59
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    $\begingroup$ I was thinking about Gobekli tepe when I read the question and here is your fine answer! I have added a sweet picture which I hope will get you more votes. Maybe you are not supposed to do that when you edit other peoples answers. I will find out soon. $\endgroup$ – Willk Aug 30 '17 at 16:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Separatrix - OK, you made me look it up. The earliest (megalith) phase of Göbekli Tepe is "Pre-pottery Neolithic". That's a fancy way of saying they were farmers who didn't have pots. So no, this answer is not all that relevant to the question (although it may have inspired it). $\endgroup$ – T.E.D. Aug 30 '17 at 17:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Will - They were part of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A. Other notable exemplars including Jericho. Any meat they ate yes, probably would have been hunted because they hadn't domesticated any animals yet. However, their grains came from cultivated cereals of barley and wild oats. I suppose if you really want to split hairs you could insist pre-domesticated cultivation is merely "gathering". But the difference between that and early agriculture isn't huge. The difference between it and your typical image of a forager is huge. $\endgroup$ – T.E.D. Aug 30 '17 at 18:41
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In any environment with abundance of food, populations increase exponentially until there's not enough food for all. This describes a caracteristical S-shaped growth function. It works for bacteries in a petri dish, wild wolves reintroduced in a forest, and humans in a fruitful world.

When the world won't support their numbers anymore, they'll start fighting for the best locations, or try to steal each other's food. Then they need to produce more food that is naturally available, and to gather for protection (or attack).

In fact that world which produces more food than it's needed, so there's no need of agriculture actually existed. We called it "Earth", and it produced way more food than we needed back then, when there was only 100,000 of us in the whole of Africa.

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    $\begingroup$ While largely (though not entirely) true for humans on Earth, this isn't universal. Predators would keep numbers down without running out of food. Cows, you may have noticed, haven't eaten all the grass. Their population is well under control. Maybe there is regular natural disasters that kill people but leave food abundant. Regular radiation bursts from the sun might do it. Kill off most large complex life, while plants, little critters and bacteria remain. Maybe the 'people' can eat one plant that is poisonous to most everything else and the people breed slowly. $\endgroup$ – Shane Aug 30 '17 at 21:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Shane that's not quite correct. In fact predators run low on food regularly, though not in a sufficiently large scale to die out from it, without any other events impacting their survival. See e.g. the lotka-volterra-equation for a model of this interaction. The way of population control is simply that a lack of food causes the youngs and old animals to die until the either the prey-population recovered far enough or the predator-population shrinked enough. $\endgroup$ – Paul Aug 31 '17 at 0:28
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    $\begingroup$ @Paul We don't disagree. I wasn't clear. Rekesoft said that human population would continue to explode as long as there was abundant food for them. I meant to say that 'Predators could keep our numbers down without us running out of food.' If there is a predator that feeds on humans, human population could avoid both uncontrollable growth and famine. $\endgroup$ – Shane Aug 31 '17 at 15:05
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    $\begingroup$ There are brakes for us humans. The average number of children being had by the G7 countries is very low. Due to life stresses there seems to be a natural inclination towards 0 population growth. But as population growth is an excellent driver of GDP, where there is land available it is important that such counties import people. It might be a gross simplification but if the worlds standard of living were raised to G7 standards universally world population may become fully stable. $\endgroup$ – Quaternion Aug 31 '17 at 21:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Shane While that is certainly a possibility, an apex predator desplacing us from the top of the food chain would be a major desviation from the kind of story the OP was asking for, imho. $\endgroup$ – Rekesoft Sep 1 '17 at 6:42
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Complex societies are a function of population density.

Given this, what we have to look at is how we can get a dense population out of hunting and gathering. In other words, without domesticating the plants and animals used for food.

Here's what you can typically expect for various feeding strategies:

enter image description here

So basically what you need is a place where the environment is so productive that a few specialized gatherers can gather enough food for 100+ people per km2. Or even 10 would be nice.

What this would require is a food source that is so prolific, it cannot be exhausted by feeding 10 people for every square kilometer of land. This would need to be some kind of animal or plant that is practically at pest levels of ubiquity and birth rate.

Reflect that American Bison used to herd in the millions, and passenger pigeons in the billions, but a "traditional farming" society came along and wiped out both. So mammals and birds (which typically only have 1-7 children at a time) probably would not work for this purpose. You'd probably need something that spawns offspring thousands at a time, like many fish, insects, and plants do.

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Sep 1 '17 at 20:09
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Yes, civilisation can develop without agriculture.

The native people of America's Pacific Northwest are an interesting example. None of them were farmers, but they developed a complex and rich culture. This was because, like agricultural societies, they were able to stockpile a food surplus. During the summer they harvested a considerable amount of salmon, which was then preserved in smoke huts. This allowed them to gather together and have the time to create housing, art, social organisations, etc. All this done without ever committing to agriculture.

The issue is simply that your people need to be able to stockpile enough non-perishable food to allow them to survive the winter and spend their time doing something else. Perhaps you can invent some sort of thing like smoked salmon, which is nutritious and can be preserved for future consumption.

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    $\begingroup$ Farmer is a pretty narrow term. I don't know about much about the agriculture (or lack of it) concerning the natives of the Pacific but I've seen some studies that show that native peoples in western Canada did plant crops. Because of oral history this information was lost but by studying the distributions of plants against where people lived revealed this (checking the genetic markers in the plants to see that plants from the same family where cultivated and moved), this included medicinal plants, and demonstrated that they could transplant aquatic rhizomes over great distances. $\endgroup$ – Quaternion Aug 30 '17 at 22:14
  • $\begingroup$ So while their "farming" didn't resemble what we did today, they could cultivate berry patches and the like, their notion of farming did not have the order and the impact farming of today would have and it would be hard to detect... although you might be right the Pacific peoples might not have done this. $\endgroup$ – Quaternion Aug 30 '17 at 22:17
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    $\begingroup$ I suppose all I wanted to point out is there is a zone between our traditional ideal of agriculture and pure hunter gather, and that is a sort of "encouraging" of beneficial plants, by making efforts to redistribute the seeds and possibly cutting away other plants to encourage their expansion. $\endgroup$ – Quaternion Aug 30 '17 at 22:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Quaternion You state 'farming is a pretty narrow term' then go on to prove that it is actually a very broad term. Exactly what DOES constitute farming? I think you have established that farming is a very BROAD term. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Aug 31 '17 at 17:06
  • $\begingroup$ @JustinThyme it isn't farming but "farmer". The modern farmer who can be responsible for feeding over 200 people (they are less than 2% of the population and production can vary quite significantly). From the point of view of Jules Vern, what the modern farmer takes for granted is pure science fiction. Also something as simple as the metal plow radically changed what a field looks like, from what would look like gardens into these giant rectangular things. What I mean is that when you say farmer it is the modern farmer that comes to mind. $\endgroup$ – Quaternion Aug 31 '17 at 18:07
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TL;DR - Yes

Hunting and gathering still needs to be done to get the food. It might well be done better with tools. Someone becomes known for making spears, they're so good people will give her food in exchange for a spear. If she makes enough spears she doesn't need to gather food at all.

Someone else figures out how to dry out and smush cherry stones, and starts selling cups of coffee. (or makes bread, or cured meat, or...) People will exchange food for coffee (or bread, or meat that keeps). If she makes enough of it she no longer has to gather her own food.

Someone else finds roots underground. They invent the spade. They can "sell" the spades.

The people who "gather" get more and more productive, so less and less people need to do it, so everyone else does other things of value.

The moment someone is good enough at providing something that others will "pay" for that thing, you're en route to civilisation, trade, money, and everything else.

So, yes...

...Unless, in your world, food is so abundant one needs only walk around with their mouth open to be fed. It is after all notable that blue whales don't have civilisation.

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    $\begingroup$ Is it also notable that blue whales don't drink coffee... $\endgroup$ – Luke Aug 31 '17 at 1:26
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    $\begingroup$ @Luke Citation needed... $\endgroup$ – Michael Richardson Aug 31 '17 at 14:34
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Probably depends on your definition of "complex", but certainly there can be very elevated and complex forms of art, storytelling, oral tradition, songs, etc. These are things humans can do internally with shamans, druids, etc. But advanced technology, that would be difficult. Even basic technology usually requires large amounts of tools and a permanent structure. They have to be close to resources as well. This is counter to most hunter-gatherer tribes that must maintain mobility as they follow the food supply around.

You could have small workshops in sledges or wagons pulled by domesticated draft animals, but would a strict HG tribe even domesticate such animals? Remember that even the American natives inherited horses, they didn't domesticate the animal on their own. But if they did, then a small forge or pottery kiln could be pulled along, so some fairly complex pottery and metalworking may be possible, but even bronze age metalworking required mined metals and smelting. Perhaps metal from meteorites?

Would they develop writing? This is a very critical development for true long term information storage and transmission that leads to advancement, but without the need to inventory "your stuff" or trade your stuff with someone elses, I'm not sure a HG tribe would do it. Even map-making, seemingly a no-brainer for a HG tribe, would probably be encoded into song or something or placed on an animal skin with charcoal/tattoo rather than require elaborate paper-making and inking technology.

The previously mentioned Gobleki Tepe structure is an enigma. It dates to 12,000 BCE or so, so it predates all the accepted starts of agriculture. Was it a meeting place for HG tribes? Was there an earlier agrarian culture that simply left no other traces? Hard to say, but it certainly seems like HG tribes were able to muster the resources necessary to camp out there long enough to build quarried stone structures and carve them. But this means they could lift multi-ton stone, and fit it into structures. More importantly, they had a reason to do so, which implies a pretty complex level of organization, design, construction tech (even if the tools and materials were left on site while the tribes moved on for another year), and motivational drive to build this thing year after year. Someone or a small group of people were probably responsible for this site and could leverage the tribes into working on it, which means there must have been a very influencial and powerful religious foundation around to do it.

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  • $\begingroup$ as has been mentioned elsewhere, fishing communities are neither farming NOR animal domestication, but they DO have stable non-nomadic communities. As someone else mentioned, does clearing land around the shrubs so wild berries can grow better constitute 'farming'? Is 'herding wild animals'and using herding dogs during the hunt considered domestication? $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Aug 31 '17 at 17:15
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Hunter-gatherers do have complex civilizations, in terms of social structure and the allocation of social power. The studies on the very few hunter-gatherer societies that still exist reveal that. If you are asking if they have technology, no; they don't need it. I am not sure what the question is.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site, Wastrel. Please note that the Worldbuilding SE is dedicated to providing detailed answers to specific questions and is not a general discussion forum. Answers are expected to answer the question that was asked; this is more suited for a comment, though you can't comment until you've collected 50 reputation. Barring an edit to expand on the ideas you've presented here, this is likely to be deleted as inadequate. Feel free to take the tour to get a better understanding of the site. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Aug 31 '17 at 3:32
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    $\begingroup$ Actually, I'm inclined to feel that this is an answer. It's a short answer, and not very detailed, but it does argue that there are real world examples of what the OP asks if it is possible, which we have on several occasions decided is an answer. It would be a better answer, however, Wastrel, if you edit to expand on it. For example, can you link to some of these studies and discuss the main conclusions as relevant to this question of those studies? $\endgroup$ – a CVn Aug 31 '17 at 9:21
  • $\begingroup$ I also consider this to be a valid answer, though one that could be improved with examples. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Aug 31 '17 at 10:22
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Advancing to farming is not the determinant of advancing civilization. That's a capitalist bias. The development of artistic expression and culture, knowledge and science, is why our civilization developed. And the pressures of population expansion. The more humans, the more smart people are around, the faster civilization develops. The availability of resources are the limit to population expansion, not the means of obtaining them.

Civilization advances on the back of its culture - the arts. As culture develops, so to does the level of civilization. Irrespective of the means of production of food, the advancement of art and culture - theater, writing, entertainment, leisure, discovery, knowledge, philosophy, the pursuit of happiness - will push civilization. The limitation on the advance of civilization is the availability of resources, the depths of the educational system, and the advancement of science.

Hunter-gatherers from 8,000 BC, plunked from their cave and dropped into a home in the mid-1800's, would really have no problems adjusting. Everything was done, basically the same way. Food was cooked with fire, water was drawn by hand, and people still traveled by foot or by animal. The tools were just stronger, sharper variations of what they had in the cave, but they did the same job in the same essential way. Some skills re-training and familiarization would be all that was involved. Farming or hunter-gathering made no difference. But only 150 years later? Nothing was done the same. It was science and technology, not any change from hunter-gatherer to farming, that made the difference.

In fact, when cultures do not need to worry about survival, when food and shelter are plentiful, humans spend more of their time and energy on cultural pursuits. Just look at the rich people of today.

However, the civilization will certainly take on a different direction. Look towards ancient Rome for your answer (not primitive societies). When resources are abundant, fighting for territoriality is lessened, and so the developments in civilization will be in the direction of artistic expression instead of weaponry and defense. Jewelry and adornment. Creativity, writing, philosophy, housing, theater, entertainment, dancing, schooling, teaching. Even hunter-gatherers require religious comfort, a sense of belonging, companionship, communication. Human knowledge and intelligence was an evolutionary biological trend. The fact that its evolutionary path lead to farming and cultivation is an artifact. What is oft forgotten is that when the hunter-gatherers returned from their quests, they celebrated in a community, and artistic expression and communication survived even in caves. Humans started farming BECAUSE we were a social, communal animal, NOT the other way around. We would have developed our culture with or without farming. It would just be different.

Farming allowed humans the freedom to pursue artistic expression once our needs were satisfied. One could easily make the claim that we pursued farming in order to allow us the time to pursue artistic expression. If our needs were satisfied WITHOUT the need for farming, we would have gone in the same direction anyway.

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  • $\begingroup$ 'Farming' is just an advanced, organized form of hunter-gathering. You still go out and 'hunt and gather', you just do it in a more organized. localized fashion. The distinction between hunter-gatherers and farmers is far too overstated. If rabbits were so prolific they came to you instead of you chasing them, and plants were so prolific they grew wild in your own back yard, instead of you having to fertilize and tender them, what would the necessity be to cultivate and herd? The necessity for cultivating and herding is just an artifact of plant and animal morphology and behavior. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Aug 30 '17 at 16:49
  • $\begingroup$ I think you're greatly undervaluing farming. Farming is a technology and real skill. You have to know how to propagate your plants, tend to them, and preserve what they produce. There is an enormous difference between collecting food stuffs where you find them and actually actualising the production. Not having to move while having plentiful food stuffs is ideal, but it requires direct input and thought it is hardly passive. $\endgroup$ – Quaternion Aug 30 '17 at 21:46
  • $\begingroup$ The second issue would be with the evolution of such a planet which somehow sets an intelligent being well outside of its food chain. If you throw most humans into the wilderness on earth without support most would probably not survive for very long. A world with such bountiful resources would beg for that to be spoken to. Was the world engineered? $\endgroup$ – Quaternion Aug 30 '17 at 21:51
  • $\begingroup$ Then there is the issue of progress by need. There have been arguments that northern climates lead the development in technology (Iron to earlier in modern age) because they had to overcome significant agricultural challenges. Producing and saving enough food over the winter being a major concern. But just as no man is an island, neither is technology it is a great interconnected web, and farming is a good start to the process of trial and error for which the scientific method extends. While arts are nice, that which produces utility can hardly be discounted! $\endgroup$ – Quaternion Aug 30 '17 at 21:58
  • $\begingroup$ @quaternion or it could have nothing to do with climate. It could be that the continental land mass was so huge, that it could support a widely-dispersed population, and so a critical mass was reached. The more people looking for a solution, the more likely a solution is going to be discovered. The European-Asian-Middle East land mass provided every resource necessary for technological development, albeit spread out. Everything was there, they just had to have the population large enough to find it all. Other agricultural societies didn't cross the technology boundary. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Aug 31 '17 at 16:45
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Depending on what you mean by a "complex civilization", absolutely.

The primary driving force behind civilization in our world was agriculture, correct. However in this world you describe where enough resources are provided that agriculture becomes unnecessary, wouldn't a nomadic lifestyle also be unnecessary?

There would be no reason to constantly move in search of food and resources if they are plentiful around you. If an environment is rich enough to support a group of peoples more or less perpetually, over time their structures will become more permanent.

Populations will grow (so long as resources remain plentiful) and with this growth in population comes the need for (and increased opportunity for) innovation. People will naturally want to make things easier for themselves and so technology will develop (Think Maslow's hierarchy of needs, if my main concern is finding berries, I'm not thinking about inventing the pulley). Cities will spring up in areas where these natural resources are concentrated.

Imagine for example a tribe who's main source of food was fishing (I believe the act of fishing pre-dates agriculture and would count as 'hunting'.) If the river they set up their camp at NEVER runs out of fish, why would they move? Given that they have unlimited food, why WOULDN'T they expand?

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  • $\begingroup$ Weather or not technology develops has nothing to do with the way food is gathered and produced, but in the availability of materials. Iron, copper, and other elements have to be apparent before they can be used. You can't mine for something you do not know exists. Metalworking arose in areas of Asia where the materials were readily available from open seams on the ground. This led to the knowledge of their existence. I am sure that hunter-gatherer societies would learn how to use copper and such if it were available. In fact, metal use preceded farming. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Sep 1 '17 at 2:17
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Some posters have made some very good points.

However, all have missed the point that the adoption of farming didn't do the peoples of Central America and western South America any good. They still got whomped by the technology of the Europeans. So there HAS to be something more at play than just the development of farming and domestication of animals. link 'Map of the world showing approximate centers of origin of agriculture and its spread in prehistory: the Fertile Crescent (11,000 BP), the Yangtze and Yellow River basins (9,000 BP) and the New Guinea Highlands (9,000–6,000 BP), Central Mexico (5,000–4,000 BP), Northern South America (5,000–4,000 BP), sub-Saharan Africa (5,000–4,000 BP, exact location unknown), eastern North America (4,000–3,000 BP).[12]'

It is not hunter-gathering or farming per say that is important, it is the degree to which people decide to divide the labor. There is very good archaeological evidence for your 'spear' idea @grimm the opiner, - that one person became adept at making very good spear heads for the tribe. It is not the form of food collection and production that is important, it is the population size. There is a critical mass at which people can start specializing. It is this specialization that leads to development and improvement. Someone who specializes in making good spears gets better and better, and passes it on to others. Education, learning, passing on knowledge. Guilds and craftsmen. That is what is important. Farming, after all, is just a form of specialization in food gathering, and herding is just a specialization of hunting. For small populations, farming just does not make any sense. No advantage over hunter-gathering. It takes a critical mass for farming and domestication to be efficient. In the Middle East, the population had reached a critical mass. They had a head start on population growth. Specialist food producers took care of the food, specialist clothing producers took care of garments, specialist builders took care of housing, and so on and so forth. But again, this takes a critical mass of population

My vote goes for fishing. as an alternative to farming. It leads to boat-building guilds, craftsmen for making fishing nets. Bigger and better boats, so fewer fishermen can provide food for many others, allowing for greater specialization. The indigenous peoples of the West Coast never made it to a critical mass for technological development. Had the West Coast peoples reached such a critical mass, and developed such specialist skills, they too would have become technologically advanced.

it was the discovery of metal working and forging that lead to our current technology, not the means of food gathering. These developments were made possible because the population had reached a critical mass that could support specialized trades, and allowed individuals to develop technology instead of having to spend their time on subsistence food collecting. Had the West Coast peoples reached such a critical mass, and developed such specialist skills, they too would have become technologically advanced. link

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  • $\begingroup$ [Not disagreement just some insight] What may be of interest, there is strong evidence the people of the Central Americas were in decline before the Europeans arrived. There are various theories but bad luck with disease is one of the leading theories. Given the size of their cities and dating them, they had significantly larger populations well before the Europeans arrived. I doubt the Europeans would have been beneficial (I'm largely ignorant of that history) but my gut would tell me the colonials were probably as terrible there as they were everywhere else. $\endgroup$ – Quaternion Aug 31 '17 at 20:57
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    $\begingroup$ I can't see fishing leading to advanced technology on earth (if we were to forgo farming) In my mind the mental framework that would be established during farming (sitting in one place and reshaping nature) would lead to faster advancement. A fish hook can be made out of many materials, a good plow blade... agriculture places a much higher demand on metal. Something that could change is the nature of the people, a book that I liked had an aquatic life form, they developed advanced communication quickly but had a hard time with the combustion engine. Assuming humans could be a limiting factor. $\endgroup$ – Quaternion Aug 31 '17 at 21:11
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    $\begingroup$ @Quaternion it is the fishing BOAT that would evolve technologically, providing that the resources (iron, copper, etc.) were available to produce it. The faster and more powerful the boat, the more fish and the greater range. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Sep 1 '17 at 2:04
  • $\begingroup$ @Quaternion you are correct in that the archaeological record shows Central American societies were in decline before Europeans arrived. It highlights that agriculture is not the defining factor. The Central American societies never reached a critical mass of population that was distributed widely enough, nor did it go beyond metallurgy from adornment to machine. They had the lever but not the wheel. They also did not progress to chemistry. 'While Mesoamerican civilization did know of the wheel and basic metallurgy, ....[3] 'link $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Sep 1 '17 at 15:53
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You may be interested in the following

'Stratification and social structure The Northwest Coast was the outstanding exception to the anthropological truism that hunting and gathering cultures—or, in this case, fishing and gathering cultures—are characterized by simple technologies, sparse possessions, and small egalitarian bands. In this region food was plentiful; less work was required to meet the subsistence needs of the population than in farming societies of comparable size, and, as with agricultural societies, the food surpluses of the Northwest encouraged the development of social stratification. The region’s traditional cultures typically had a ruling elite that controlled use rights to corporately held or communal property, with a “house society” form of social organization. The best analogues for such cultures are generally agreed to be the medieval societies of Europe, China, and Japan, with their so-called noble houses.'

From link

and

'Property owned by a lineage included rights to certain salmon streams, trapping sites, patches of edible plants and tobacco, stands of cedar, bird rookeries, stretches of coastline and house sites in the winter village. Management of the lineage's property was in the hands of the lineage chief.'

link

But no metallurgy, chemistry, or wheel. It was the discovery of these three, not the means of food production, that determined technological development. The wheel lead to screws, pulleys, gears, and mechanical advantage, all necessary for machines. And none of them relied on farming to be developed.

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This is a chicken and egg kind of problem. Civilization allowed for more efficient farming and the development of technology, but agriculture was necessary for civilization, at least as we know it. It was not merely a factor of how plentiful food is. Hunter gatherer societies were very labor intensive societies. This left very little time for thought, experimentation and invention. A good hunt meant down time for the hunters, but that down time was invested in tanning hides, scouting the next camp location, preparing for the next hunt and resting. Hunting in those days could often entail days of tracking, and a return trip carrying a very heavy load of meat. That's when a hunt was successful. Not all hunts are. So there were lean times, hungry times.

Even if food was plentiful, the necessary proteins for intellectual development in the young and to feed those big brains of ours requires meat.The Winter especially since there was no such thing as a supermarket and few plants could be saved to get through the winter until we started harvesting grain and turning them into flour.

As such, no. Hunting required a very mobile society. Mobility meant sacrificing the kinds of tools necessary to develop metals, glass, and similar crucial technological breakthroughs needed to develop a complex society. Gathering alone would not provide sufficient nutrients. Even if a gatherer group were given sufficient plant varieties and a means to grow plants year round, the work required to harvest the plants and turn them into food prior to technological advancements was a heavy investment. Without domesticated animals, even more difficult. Without agriculture there was no way to feed the domesticated animals. Imagine spending 12 hours a day just to feed yourself then needing to devote yet more hours to find food for your animals. It is just not practical with most species.

Without hunting, the skills necessary to capture and the travel necessary to provide exposure to young orphans of those species would not have happened. Agriculture and the domestication of animals were two interlocked and necessary steps to build civilization. If you look at regions in the world where complex societies never developed, each of them failed to domesticate animals for work or did not domesticate many animals. Europeans and Asians and the Middle East domesticated an array of species. Not just horses and cattle, but also dogs, cats, geese, sheep, goats, oxen and others.

Domestication of animals were necessary to provide the meat component of the diet and the muscle to exponentially increase our work output. Even more importantly was the acquisition of the ability to digest cheese. The Roman empire was only possible because of cheese and grain. That was the staples of Roman soldiers, merchants, messengers, and citizens who traveled. Cheese kept through the winter and was an invaluable source of nutrition. Grains also stored for long periods. Gatherers would have to rely on seasonal sources. Feast and famine would stunt growth, brain development, cognitive functioning at times in the year as well as leave them vulnerable to deadly famines as the gatherers exhausted entire species of plants in a region. Agriculture allowed for controlled expansion of the plant species populations. If you want more wheat, plant more, more barley, plant more. The limits were manpower, land and water.Gatherers lacked such control. If they exercised it they would become an agrarian society.

This answer is only applicable to humans and similar species. A species which makes it's own food. For example mobile plants, that is a more interesting question. If these critters did not need to hunt for food, then the development of intelligence would likely be slower. Intelligence and an omnivorous or carnivorous diet almost go hand in hand. Very few herbivores develop anything approaching sentience, at least on Earth. Admittedly this is a very small sample of the likely countless species scattered throughout the universe. Having to out think prey however is the primary driver in intelligence. As such it is unlikely many plant species evolved rapid intelligence. In particular the kinds of intelligence we prize and accept as measures of sentience. There has to be an evolutionary driver to make intelligence a valuable survival trait.

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  • $\begingroup$ +1 an intriguing observation. One that I have not heard before. it makes sense. Hunting takes a lot more intelligence than farming. With farming, you do not have a prey to out think, and the consequences of a lapse in concentration are not immediate death. Survival of the fittest applies far more to hunting than to farming. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Oct 9 '17 at 3:02
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Well our civilisation is a producer civilization. But I think even If you begin in a hunter gatherer civilization , it would soon become a producer of the meat which it is what it's like now in a way. So it's a great hypothetical question with many ways of branching storyline. In my opinion I guess yes. Hunter gatherer civilisation can develop into complex civilisation with advanced technology to zap cows with a gun for instant delicious BBQ. Yum!

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  • $\begingroup$ I don't think humanity counts as a hunter-gatherer society; we didn't start developing civilization as we know it until after we stopped being hunter-gatherers and started static farms instead. $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy Aug 30 '17 at 15:25
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah you are kinda right that way. $\endgroup$ – BLACKBURNER Aug 30 '17 at 15:26
  • $\begingroup$ This is a really short answer without much substance. It's currently at risk of being deleted for being very low quality. Elaborating on your answer would greatly improve it's quality. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Aug 30 '17 at 15:51
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    $\begingroup$ Added explanation $\endgroup$ – BLACKBURNER Aug 30 '17 at 15:59
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IMHO, our cultural is the result. The H-G life style did not fit for complex structure as the dependence of nature provide. For larger community, it require manage and independence which lead to our agricultural revolution. For more detail, please read "Homo sapien" by Yuval Noah Harari

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Robert J. Sawyer's Neanderthal Parallax series explores just such a society: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Neanderthal_Parallax I don't know how plausible it is, the Author is definitely applying what I consider to be wacky social/ideological assumptions, but I didn't find the world obviously implausible on reading.

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  • $\begingroup$ I quite enjoyed the series, though I also had issues with some of the assumptions. The population (millions over the entire earth instead of billions) did allow for much more wilderness, but most everyone was still grouped into "cities". $\endgroup$ – Michael Richardson Aug 31 '17 at 14:41
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YES. Any Civilization player will understand this.

Imagine you re playing a game of civilization where each tile produces an infinite amount of food. You ll still evolve your civilization to an advanced level. Because if food is not a problem, then the problem becomes other humans/tribes/civilizations.

If the population grows exponentially, eventually people will start fighthing for land/ressources.

Conflict triggers technological advances. Technological advances need specialized workers. You ll end up with war,cities,trade, science culture,religion,industry,etc...

I think that even if you handwave how food/water can be magically mass produced without farming you ll end up with a society pretty similar to the Western industrialized civilization where food production is a minor concern.

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  • $\begingroup$ Civilization is a game, not reality. Might just as well base reality on the rules and tactics of Monopoly. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Sep 1 '17 at 15:38

protected by James Sep 6 '17 at 2:27

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