Of Giants and Meat

Pondering the obvious can sometimes produce fruits.

Civilization—if we wish to call it that—could not have taken place without the development of agriculture.  People started living more in fixed places.  Also agriculture required the collective efforts of a good number of people.  Social forms—heretofore unknown—called “laws” had to be developed to organize the work force.  Also the rulers built monuments to scare the people into submission.

Regarded from the point of view of calories, agriculture is relatively inefficient.  One had to expend many calories to get the calories derived from grains. 

Before the end of the last ice age, about 11,000 years ago, big meat, in the form of your mastodon, or bison, and even your woolly rhinoceros, not to mention your poor, defenseless flightless birds, was abundant.  Sure hunting could be risky business, but the payoff in calories gained over calories expended was enormous compared to the payoff from agriculture.  As a result, these early human beings, if they did not die at birth, or were not carried off by some disease, or were not killed in a hunting accident, grew to be quite large.  Homo Erectus, one of the early meat eaters, may have been on average six feet tall.

When human beings however began to cultivate grain because of the calorie reduction, they shrank, so the fossil record suggests, by at least four inches, and continued to shrink well into modern times.  Modern times, in this case, being the Romans, whom, I have read, were about five feet tall.



Which got me to thinking.  The Greeks were not the only people to develop myths that included as an integral part: Giants.  Perhaps in some dim historical way—and perhaps too through oral tradition—the Greeks and other peoples “remembered” that time before agriculture, when human beings lived high off the hog and grew to be quite huge.  Perhaps they even came upon skeletons of these meat eaters, and began to imagine a previous time when Giants roamed the earth, and people lived hundreds of years.

Also could it be that these meat eaters provided the archetype for the Greek Gods.  These Gods, as I remember it, were not at all civilized.  They were arrogant, arbitrary, rapacious, and lawless.  May we find in them the nostalgic musings of your humble grain eater, more and more fettered by laws, working his or her life away in the burning sun for a few paltry grains of tasteless wheat or cracked corn, yearning for the time of Meat?