There are certain primary and secondary characteristics that can help to define a state. We have compared and contrasted many of these characteristics in each of the states over the course of the semester, but there is one defining primary characteristic that I believe stands out among the rest. Of the six primary characteristics of statehood, agriculture, or intensive agriculture is probably one of the most important for a few different reasons which I will explain.
When comparing the six primary characteristics (urbanism, agriculture, specialization, complex economy, stratification, and state authority) and the numerous secondary characteristics there is a way you can see patterns in and tie together these characteristics through the primary of agriculture. Agriculture is really the dominating factor based on what I have learned not only in Dr. Watrall’s class, but also in European archaeology with Dr. Lovis. Agriculture can be argued to be one of the most important if not the most important because it allows for all or most all of the other characteristics to develop.
Looking at this more in depth, if we are looking at small bands of people using hunting and gathering as the main mode for subsistence in many climates, especially those not tropical with vast resources, there is more of a struggle to produce vast surpluses of food. I am not saying that surplus cannot be done, because there are numerous archaeological instances that show hunting and gathering groups with surplus, but I am talking about vast quantities of surplus that would allow for a dramatic population expansion not capable from hunting and gathering subsistence.
Surplus of food as a result of agriculture allowed for occupational specialization because not everybody needed to be tending the fields working as a farmer or searching for food. People would be able to focus on production of specialized goods that they would be able to exchange for food as an example. This gets into the thought of complex economy. The economy would develop from this surplus and ability to exchange products tied in with specialized production. This production would also make social differentiation or social stratification because some people would not have what others have. People with power and influence would allow for the social differences and that stratification leads ultimately to state authority an urbanism. Once people didn’t need to constantly be working for subsistence, they would be able to live in the city or concentrate together more so than before. The greater production of food would allow for a major increase in population density. This is the point where many of the secondary characteristics come into play like: tribute/taxation, mass production of goods, state religion and art, epidemic disease and malnutrition, and finally monumental public works.
As you can see, without me going into extreme levels of detail, they all seem to be tied to agriculture and the ability of people to produce food from the land! It is for these reasons why I regard agriculture as one of the most important factors to being the development of the state.