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42 Chapter 1 BECOMI NG HUMAN

North African Cave Painting.

This cave painting comes from
Tassili nAjjer, highlands in the
Sahara Desert, and dates from
the second millennium BCE.
In this illustration, early men
and women covered the walls
with pictures of daily life:
children tending calves
tethered to a rope. The white
ovals to the left represent

and more arid. Small lakes dried up, and so did rivers and tools, which they could trade to farmers and pastoralists
streams. The largest lakes did survive, but they lacked the for food. Craft specialization and the buildup of surpluses
fish stocks that had fed expanding human populations. Apart contributed to early stratification, as some people accumu-
from the extraordinary visual record that they left, Africas lated more land and wealth while others led the rituals and
first settled agrarian and fishing communities disappeared sacrifices.
virtually without a trace, only to be discovered 11,000 years
later at the hands of ingenious archaeologists.
The earliest dwelling places of the first settled communities
were quite simple structureslittle more than circular pits
S O C I A L O R G A N I Z AT I O N with stones piled on top of each other to form walls, above
which was stretched a cover that rested on poles. Social
structures were equally simple; they were clanlike and based
 How did agricultural revolutions foster new communal on kinship networks. With time, however, population growth
enabled clans to expand their size. As the use of natural re-
hierarchies and interaction?
sources intensified, specialized tasks evolved and divisions of
labor came into being. Some members of the community pro-
With the domestication of plants and animals came settle- cured and prepared food; others built terraces and defended
ment in agricultural villages. These villages were near fields the settlement. Later, walls were built and clamped together
for accessible sowing and cultivating, and pastures for herd- with wooden fittings. And as construction techniques
ing livestock. Villagers worked together to clear fields, plant changed, the shape of the houses altered from the traditional
crops, and celebrate rituals in which they sang and danced circular plan to a rectangular one. The rectangular shape is
and sacrificed to nature and the spirit world for fertility, not found in nature, and it is thus a truly human mark on the
rain, and successful harvests. They also produced stone landscape. Certainly this new shape reflected new mental at-
tools to work the fields and clay and stone pots or woven titudes and social behaviors. In rectangular houses, walls did
baskets to collect and store the crops. As populations rose, more than support and protect: they also divided and sepa-
and lands yielded surplus food, some villagers stopped rated. Because it was easier to build interior walls leaning
working the fields to become specialized craftworkers, de- against flat surfaces, privacy improved and family members
voting their time to producing pottery, baskets, textiles, or were physically parted. Human relations would never be the
 How did agricultural revolutions foster new communal hierarchies and interaction?

same as they had been in the highly egalitarian arrangements teracting with each other according to rituals that defined
of the mobile hunters and gatherers. their place in society.
Although the food-producing changes were gradual and After 5500 BCE, people began to move into the river val-
widely dispersed, a few communities stand out as pioneers in ley in Mesopotamia (in present-day Iraq) along the Tigris and
the long transition from hunting and gathering to agrarian Euphrates rivers, and small villages began to appear. They
and pastoral life. Around Wadi en-Natuf, located about ten began to work together to build simple irrigation systems to
miles from present-day Jerusalem, a group of people known water their fields. Perhaps because of the increased demands
historically as Natufians began to dig sunken pit shelters and for community work to maintain the irrigation systems, the
to chip stone tools around 12,500 BCE. Over the course of communities in southern Mesopotamia became stratified,
the next two millennia or so, these bands stayed in one place, with some people having more power than others. We can
improving their toolmaking techniques, building circular see from the burial sites and the large number of public build-
shelters, and developing a variety of ways to preserve and pre- ings uncovered by archaeologists that for the first time, com-
pare food. They dwelled in solidly built structures, buried munities had people who were born into a higher status
their dead, and harvested grains. Although they did not plant rather than acquiring high status through the merits of their
seeds and did not give up hunting, their growing knowledge work. A class of people who had access to more luxury goods,
of wild plants paved the way for later breakthroughs. and who lived in bigger and better houses, now became part
It was only a matter of time before the full transition to of the social organization.
settled agriculture and full-scale pastoralism took place. As The agricultural revolution created farmers and herders
noted above, the agricultural revolution spread in all direc- where once there had been only hunters and gatherers. Agri-
tions. In the highlands of eastern Anatolia, the area that culture required settled communities and because it provided
encompasses modern-day Turkey, large settlements were surplus food, populations could easily increase. As popula-
arranged around monumental public buildings with impres- tions grew, they eventually began to concentrate in ever larger
sive stone carvings that attest to the complexity of social or- centers, where they formed the first towns. Settled agricul-
ganization. In central Anatolia, at the site of atal Hyk, a tural societies could finally produce enough sustenance to
dense honeycomb of settlements was filled with rooms that feed large numbers of people who did not themselves have
were covered with wall paintings and sculptures of wild bulls, to produce food and could move from the countryside to
hunters, and pregnant women. The use of art and imagery to urban settings. The next chapter will explore early urbaniza-
provide identity and to master the powerful forces of the cos- tion in more detail. What is important for us to emphasize
mos is a human characteristic continued unbroken from the here is that changes dependent on agriculture enabled larger
time of the early cave artists. The difference now was that numbers of people to live together in denser concentrations.
men and women made their own structures, where they gath- Rapid population expansion also followed in the wake of agri-
ered to worship the forces of nature and the spirit world, in- culture and herding. By 1000 BCE, the worlds population had
reached 50 million, and the household, with its dominant
male, had replaced the small, relatively egalitarian band as
atal Hyk. Discovered in 1958 by the British archaeologist the primary social unit.
James Mellaart, this site is notable for providing information on
the global transition from hunting and gathering to urban
dwelling. atal Hyk is located in modern Turkey and dates from M E N, WO M E N, A N D T H E
the eighth millennium BCE.
Over the 4- to 5-million-year-long history of humans and
their hominid ancestors, one of the fundamental divisions
manifest in the fossil remains of early hominids and humans
is that between males and females. The existence of this di-
vision naturally raises questions about what relationships be-
tween the two sexes were like in prehistoric times. Certainly,
for millions of years, basic differences in biology affected dif-
ferences in the roles played by men and women. The fact that
females gave birth to offspring and that males did not was
the driving force that determined female and male actions
and behaviors and attitudes toward each other, at least up to
the appearance of Homo erectus. Thus, it is a mistake to think
of male-female interactions as gender (social and cultural)
relations when, in reality, they are biologically based sexual
Primary Source
One of the dividing lines among all animals, humans included, involves child rearing and the di-
vision of labor between mothers and fathers. In this text, the renowned primatologist Sarah Blaffer
Hrdy argues that breast-feeding among mammals was a major factor shaping womens fortunes.

Is sex destiny? When this question is posed, its a safe baby at a time. These singletons were born mature enough
bet that the underlying agenda has to do with what women to cling to their mothers fur, to be carried by her right
should be doing. Should they be home caring for their chil- from birth and for months thereafter. Whether or not this
dren or off pursuing other interests? A comparative look intimate and prolonged association is the mothers destiny,
at other creatures that (like humans) breed cooperatively sex is not the issue. Lactation is.
and share responsibilities for rearing young with other
group members reveals that sex per se is not the issue. Lac-
tation is.
What Is Lactation About?
Caretakers of both sexes, wet-nurses, even daycare Other forms of caretakingfathers brooding eggs, bring-
none of these are uniquely human, nor particularly new. ing food, protecting babiesare not nearly so sex-specific.
They are standard features of many cooperatively breeding Even gestation is a function that in rare cases (for exam-
species. As we saw, cooperative breeding is exquisitely well ple, the sea horse) a male takes on. But not lactation.
developed in insects such as honeybees and wasps. Shared Whywith the sole exception of one rare fruit batdoes
provisioning is also common among birds such as acorn lactation appear to be exclusively female? How did these
woodpeckers, bee-eaters, dunnocks, and scrub jays. Al- curious secretions get started?
though cooperative breeding is uncommon among mam- At first glance, a mother sea horse might seem to have
mals generally, it is richly developed in species such as a sweet deal. She sallies up to her mate, injects her eggs
wolves, wild dogs, dwarf mongooses, elephants, tamarins, into his belly pouch, and then, carefree, propels herself
marmosets, and humans. In all these animals, individuals off to feed and make more eggs. Meanwhile, back at the
other than the mother (allomothers) help her provision males pouch, the sea-mares last batch is fertilized, toted,
or otherwise care for her young. Typically, allomothers will and kept safe in the ballooning brood chamber of the now
include the mothers mate (often but not necessarily the extremely pregnant male. At birth, as many as 1,500 fully
genetic progenitor). Individuals other than either parent formed but still minuscule and defenseless sea-foals are
(alloparents) also help. These helpers are most often re- sprayed out into the open ocean. The sea around them
cruited from kin who are not yet ready to reproduce them- teems with predators and competitors, many bigger than
selves, or from subordinates who do not currentlyor may they are. Forced to fend for themselves immediately after
never havebetter options. In the human case, the most birth, almost all starve.
important alloparents are often older, post-reproductive Viviparity means keeping infants safe inside some
relatives who have already reproduced. sealed chamber within the parents body till they can be
Among mammals, the trend toward having young who born alive, as opposed to protected in an egg fill hatching.
require costly long-term care began modestly enough. It But by itself, viviparity offers tiny, still helpless creatures
probably began with an egg-laying brooding reptile that only the slimmest toehold on posterity. Why not linger in
started to secrete something milklike. Such egg-layers the womb longer, and grow bigger before venturing into
gradually developed glands especially equipped for milk the world?
production. Only among mammals did one sex come to
specialize in manufacturing custom-made baby formula,  How does human child rearing affect mothers differently
to provide something critical for infant survival that the from fathers? Why is the difference more marked among
other sex could not. This peculiarity has had many ramifi- humans than other species?
cations, especially as infants became dependent for longer
periods in the primate line. Source: From Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and
The ante was upped substantially when primate moth- How They Shape the Human Species (New York: Ballantine Books, 2000),
ers, instead of bearing litters, began focusing care on one pp. 12123.

relations. One can speak of the emergence of gendered re- cially along gender lines, and patriarchy, or the rule of sen-
lations and roles only with the appearance of modern humans ior males within households, began to spread around the
(Homo sapiens) and perhaps Neanderthals. Only when hu- globe.
mans began to think imaginatively and in complex symbolic
ways and when they gave voice to these perceptions in a spo-
ken language, perhaps no sooner than 150,000 years ago, did
such true gender categories as man and woman crystallize.
As these cultural aspects of human life took shape, the dis-
tinction between men and women, rather than between Over thousands of generations, African hominids evolved
males and females, began to be made, and culture joined from other primates into Homo erectus hominids, who then
biology in governing human interactions. wandered very far from their native habitats to fill other
Gender roles became more pronounced and fixed in the landmasses. They did so in successive waves, each re-
stages leading up to and during the food-producing revolu- sponding to worldwide alternations of glaciation and melt-
tion. As human communities became larger, more stratified, ing. These predecessors of humans had some common
and more powerful following the transition to an agricultur- features with modern humans. They stood erect, made stone
ally based way of life, the rough gender egalitarianism of tools, lived in extended families, and, to a certain extent,
hunting and gathering societies eroded. An enhanced human communicated with each other (by means other than lan-
power over the environment did not confer equal power on guage). An ability to adapt to environmental change was
all. In one view, women were the net losers of the agricul- what increasingly separated humans from other animal
tural revolution. Womens knowledge of wild plants had con- species. Homo sapiens, who had larger brains than other ho-
tributed decisively to early settled agriculture, but women did minids and are what we know as modern humans, also
not necessarily benefit from the transition to which their ex- emerged in Africa and trickled out of the worlds largest
pertise contributed. Indeed, a well-known student of primate landmass about 100,000 years ago. Since Homo sapiens had
behavior, Sarah Hrdy, has called the settled agricultural trans- greater adaptive skills, when a cooling cycle returned they
formation a Great Leap Sideways, because advances for were better prepared to face the elements, and eventually
some people meant losses for others. they eclipsed their genetic cousins. One critical variable was
Advances in agrarian tools, notably the plow, made heavy their ability to use language, to engage in abstract, repre-
work much more onerous for some people than for others, sentational thought, and to convey the lessons of experience
especially undermining the status women had held as farm- to their descendants and neighbors. Thus it was that mod-
ers. Men, who had been more involved in hunting and gath- ern humans stored and shared knowledge, thereby enhanc-
ering, took charge of yoking animals to plows, leaving to ing their adaptive abilities.
women the backbreaking and repetitive tasks of planting, While modern men and women share a recent African
weeding, harvesting, and grinding the grain into flour. Thus, heritage, people adapted over hundreds of generations to the
although agricultural innovations augmented productivity, specific environments that they encountered as they began
they also increased the drudgery of work, especially for to fill the earths corners. Some settled near lakes and took to
women. The unequal effects on men and women are visible, fishing, while others hunted large mammals in northern
for instance, in fossils found in Abu Hureyra, Syria, where steppes. But everywhere, the dependence on nature yielded
the bones found by archaeologists displayed the evidence of broadly similar social and cultural structures. It took another
a harsh working life. Damage to the vertebrae, osteoarthritis warming cycle for people from Africa to the Americas slowly
in the toes, and curved and arched femurs suggest that the to put down their hunting weapons and begin to domesticate
work of bending over and kneeling in the fields especially took animals and plants.
its toll on female agriculturalists. These maladies do not usu- The changeover to settled agriculture was not uniform
ally appear among the bone remains of hunters and gatherers. across the world. There were some basic commonalities:
The stratification of men and women during this era also reliance on wood, stone, and natural fibers to make tools,
affected power relations within households and communi- shelter, and materials for cultural expressions, as well as in-
ties. The senior male figure became the dominant figure in creasing social hierarchies, especially a status differential be-
these householdsand even beyond, in the new political and tween men and women. But with time, the social geography
cultural hierarchies, where societies favored males over fe- of the worlds regions began to vary as communities became
males in leadership positions. The agricultural revolution more settled. The process of divergence between the worlds
marked a greater division among men, and particularly be- parts gathered speed as humans learned to modify nature to
tween men and women. Where the agricultural transforma- fit their needs. The varieties of animals that could be do-
tion was most widespread, and where population densities mesticated, as well as differences in climatic conditions and
especially began to grow in Afro-Eurasia, the social and po- topography, all shaped the early ways in which people drifted
litical differences created inequalities within society, espe- apart in spite of their recent common origins.
46 Chapter 1 BECOMI NG HUMAN

Still, there was one important commonality: the scale and 4. List the nine regions where agricultural production first
complexity of settlements and communities across the world emerged. What common factors existed in all of these places
had a limit. The vast majority of people in the age before the that allowed for the domestication of plants and animals?
agricultural revolution continued a life of foraging for food 5. Explain the conditions that allowed agriculture to emerge first
supplies. Villages grewbut they did not become cities. More- in Southwest Asia.
over, although fishing and farming enabled settled communi- 6. Analyze the advantages and disadvantages of agricultural
ties to spring up, pastoral communities that followed moving production versus nomadic foraging. How were agricultural or
herds of animals or migrating schools of fish also spread. These pastoral communities different from those of hunters and
peoples moved across mountains or deserts to find fresh pas- gatherers?
tures for their animals or seek waters where fish were spawn-
ing. Around the world, the remains of rudimentary pottery,
stone tools, and rustic adobe and stone villages give us pic-
tures of worlds that were almost exclusively rural, largely hor- F U RT H E R R E A D I N G S
izontal in social structure, and still very much dependent on
the natural flow of fresh water and fertility of soils. As we will Arsuaga, Juan Luis, The Neanderthals Necklace: In Search of the
see in the next chapter, another round of technical advances First Thinkers, translated by Anthony Klatt (2002). A stimulat-
would be necessary before humans in some areas could further ing overview of prehistory that focuses on the Neanderthals and
change their relationship to nature and in so doing create the compares them with Homo sapiens.
foundations for the worlds first highly complex societies. Barker, Graeme, Agricultural Revolution in Prehistory: Why Did For-
agers Become Farmers (2006). The most recent, truly global, and
up-to-date study of this momentous event in world history.
Bellwood, Peter, First Farmers: The Origins of Agricultural Societies
S T U DY Q U E S T I O N S (2005). A state-of-the-art global history of the origins of agri-
culture including recent archaeological, linguistic, and micro-
A W W N O R T O N . C O M / S T U DY S PAC E
biological data.
1. Explain how evolutionary biologists and archaeologists in Bogucki, Peter, The Origins of Human Society (1999). An authori-
recent decades have transformed our understanding of human tative overview of prehistory.
origins. What tools and discoveries led them to their Cauvin, Jacques, The Birth of the Gods and the Origins of Agricul-
conclusions? ture, translated by Trevor Watkins from the original French pub-
2. Describe the evolutionary process through which Homo lished in 1994 (2000). An important work on the agricultural
sapiens emerged. Was it a linear progression? revolution of Southwest Asia and the evolution of symbolic
3. Analyze the advantages that art and language gave Homo thinking at this time.
sapiens over other species. How did art and language Cavalli-Sforza, Luigi Luca, Genes, Peoples, and Languages, trans-
contribute to the domestication of plants and animals and the lated by Mark Selestad from the original French published in
spread of agriculture? 1996 (2000). An experts introduction to the use of gene re-

Chronology 15 mya* 10 mya 5 mya 1 mya

Global climate cooling; apes move down from trees and become bipedal, 1015 mya
Orrorin tugenensis appears, 6 mya
Australopithecus africanus hominid species appears, 3 mya
Homo habilus appears, 2.5 mya
Homo erectus appears, 12.5 mya
Beginnings of Ice Age across the Northern Hemisphere
Homo erectus migration across Afro-Eurasia

*millions of years ago


search for revealing new information about the evolution of examination of prehistoric hunting practices in the North Amer-
human beings in the distant past. ican Great Plains and Rocky Mountains.
Childe, V. Gordon, What Happened in History (1964). A classic work Gebauer, Anne Birgitte, and T. Douglas Price (eds.), Transition to
by one of the pioneers in studying the early history and evolu- Agriculture in Prehistory (1992). Excellent essays on the agri-
tion of human beings. Though superseded in many respects, it cultural revolution, especially those written by the two editors.
is still an important place to start ones reading and a work of Johnson, Donald, Lenora Johnson, and Blake Edgar, Ancestors: In
great power and emotion. Search of Human Origins (1999). A good overview of human
Clark, J. Desmond, and Steven A. Brandt (eds.), From Hunters to evolution, with insightful essays on Homo erectus and Homo
Farmers: The Causes and Consequences of Food Production in sapiens.
Africa (1984). Excellent essays on the agricultural revolution. Jones, Steve, Robert Martin, and David Pilbeam (eds.), The Cam-
Coon, Carleton Stevens, The Story of Man; from the First Human to bridge Encyclopedia of Human Evolution (1992). A superb guide
Primitive Culture and Beyond, 2nd ed. (1962). An important to a wide range of subjects, crammed with up-to-date informa-
early work on the evolution of humans, emphasizing the dis- tion on the most controversial and obscure topics of human evo-
tinctiveness of races around the world. lution and early history.
Cunliffe, Barry (ed.), The Oxford Illustrated Prehistory of Europe Ki-Zerbo, J. (ed.), Methodology and African Prehistory, vol. 1 of the
(1994). The definitive work on early European history. UNESCO General History of Africa (1981). A general history of
Ehrenberg, Margaret, Women in Prehistory (1989). What was the Africa, written for the most part by scholars of African descent.
role of women in hunting and gathering societies, and how Klein, Richard G., and Blake Edger, The Dawn of Human Culture
greatly were women affected by the agricultural revolution? The (2002). A fine and reliable guide to the tangled history of human
author offers a number of stimulating generalizations. evolution.
Ehret, Christopher, The Civilizations of Africa: A History to 1800 Leakey, Richard, The Origin of Humankind (1994). A readable and
(2002). Although this is a general history of Africa, the author, exciting account of human evolution, written by the son of the
a linguist and an expert on early African history, offers new in- pioneering archaeologists Louis and Mary Leakey, a scholar of
formation and new overviews of African peoples in very ancient equal stature to his parents.
times. Lewin, Roger, The Origin of Modern Humans (1993). Yet another
Fagan, Brian, People of the Earth: An Introduction to World Prehis- good overview of human evolution, with useful chapters on early
tory (1989). An authoritative overview of early history, widely art and the use of symbols.
used in classrooms. Loewe, Michael, and Edward Shaughnessy (eds.), The Cambridge
Fage, J. D., and Roland Oliver (eds.), The Cambridge History of History of Ancient China: From the Origins of Civilization to 221
Africa, 8 vols. (19751984). A pioneering work of synthesis by B.C. (1999). A good review of the archaeology of ancient China.
two of the first and foremost scholars of the history of the Mellaart, James, atal Hyk: A Neolithic Town in Anatolia (1967).
African continent. Volume 1 deals with African prehistory. A detailed description of one of the first towns associated with
Frison, George C., Survival by Hunting: Prehistoric Human Preda- the agricultural revolution in Southwest Asia.
tors and Animal Prey (2004). An archaeologist applies his knowl- Mithen, Steven, The Prehistory of the Mind: The Cognitive Origins
edge of animal habitats, behavior, and hunting strategies to an of Art and Science (1996). A stimulating discussion of the impact

200,000 ya** 150,000 ya 100,000 ya 50,000 ya 1 CE

Cave art develops in Europe, 30,000 ya
Climate and environmental shift in Africa
Human migration from Afro-Eurasia to Americas begins, 18,000 ya
Neanderthal evident in Europe, 200,000 ya
Ice age, 16,00010,000 BCE
Homo sapiens emerges in Africa and migrates Beginnings of agricultural revolution in Southwest Asia, 9000 BCE
to other regions, 120,00050,000 ya Millet cultivation in Yellow River valley develops, 6500 BCE
Rice cultivation in Yangzi River valley develops, 5500 BCE
Domestication of plants and animals begins, 67002000 BCE
Agricultural settlements using Southwest Asian domesticants emerges, 6000 5000 BCE
Pastoralism begins in Inner Asia, 3000 BCE
Maize cultivation emerges in central Mexico, 2000 BCE
**years ago
48 Chapter 1 BECOMI NG HUMAN

of biological and cultural evolution on the cognitive structure (1993). Up-to-date research on the earliest history of human
of the human mind. beings in Africa.
Olson, Steve, Mapping Human History: Genes, Race, and Our Com- Smith, Bruce D., The Emergence of Agriculture (1995). How early
mon Origins (2003). Using the findings of genetics and attack- humans domesticated wild animals and plants.
ing the racial thinking of an earlier generation of archaeologists, Stringer, Christopher, and Robin McKie, African Exodus: The Ori-
the author writes powerfully about the unity of all human gins of Modern Humanity (1996). Detailed data on why Africa
beings. was the source of human origins and why Homo sapiens is a re-
Price, T. Douglas (ed.), Europes First Farmers (2000). A discussion cent wanderer out of the African continent.
of the agricultural revolution in Europe. Tattersall, Ian, The Fossil Trail: How We Know What We Think We
Price, T. Douglas, and Anne Birgitte Gebauer (eds.), Last Hunters- Know about Human Evolution (1995). A passionately written
First Farmers: New Perspectives on the Prehistoric Transition to book about early archaeological discoveries and the centrality
Agriculture (1996). An exciting collection of essays by some of of Africa in human evolution.
the leading scholars in the field studying the transition from Van Oosterzee, Penny, Dragon Bones: The Story of Peking Man
hunting and gathering to settled agriculture. (2000). Describes how the late-nineteenth-century unearthing
Scarre, Chris (ed.), The Human Past: World Prehistory and the De- of sites in China containing fossils of animals used for medici-
velopment of Human Societies (2005). An encyclopedia and an nal purposes led to the discovery of the fossils of the Peking Man.
overview rolled up into one mammoth volume, written by lead- Weiss, Mark L., and Alan E. Mann, Human Biology and Behavior:
ing figures in the field of early human history. An Anthropological Perspective (1996). The authors stress the
Shaw, Thurstan, Paul Sinclair, Bassey Andah, and Alex Okpoko contribution that biological research has made and continues
(eds.), The Archaeology of Africa: Food, Metals, and Towns to make to unravel the mystery of human evolution.
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About the Cover Image: This sculpture of the Buddha developed in the Gandharan style during the first
millennium comes from the region that today is known as Afghanistan and Pakistan. Part of the
Kushan empire, Gandhara maintained close contact with Rome and incorporated many Greco-Roman
motifs into its Buddhist art. In this representation, although the iconography remains South Asian,
Buddha appears as a youthful Apollo-like figure.

ISBN: 978-0-393-11355-6

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