Origins of Farming

Taking inspiration from Barbara Justham‘s talk at the Future Science Leaders workshop, I did a post-it question during my recent Origins of Farming lecture.

A post-it question session, for clarification, is when each student gets given a post-it, and writes a question that they have about the lecture on the back of the post-it (sticky side). All the students leave their post-its on the table as they leave, and thus no-one can see if you’ve asked a question on not. The idea is that it’s an easy and non-embarrassing way for students to say that they haven’t understood something, or bring up any issues.

There was about a 50% response rate, which I was pretty pleased with. Quite a lot were about technical issues that we just didn’t have time to cover in detail during the lecture. But some were a bit more thought provoking, and I’ve provided a selection of them here:

It seems that ‘evidence’ for dates/sites/societies etc is always being changed and rebutted – can we be sure of any of the ‘evidence’ or is everything open to debate? Different authors have very different timing for ‘first’ events – is this just due to different dating methods? Is there any evidence of networking as the reason for multiple centres of agriculture? Were there distinct similarities in the way in which domestication began across the different areas of the globe and what the suggested main factors are? How can you be sure, when deciding why to farm, that farmers crops didn’t fail for the first few years of their attempts? How can we assume instant success?

I was really pleased that the students had started grappling with some of the multi-faceted, unresolved issues about the origins of farming. It was definitely a worthwhile exercise, for me at least, and I’ll be doing it again.

And one more question that I received:

What’s your favourite domesticated animal??

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Answer: My cat, Buster.