Anthropology -- CHAPTER 12
- Presentation handout -
- Food getting activities take precedence over other activities.
- No other activities such as reproduction, social control, defense against external threat, or whatever else
could take place without energy derived from food.
- The way a society gets its food, strongly predicts other aspects of that culture, from community size
and permanence of settlement to type of economy and political system and even art styles & religious
- For millions of years, humans obtained their food by gathering wild plants, hunting or scavenging wild
animals and fishing.
- Agriculture is a relatively recent phenomenon. (starts only about 10,000 years ago)
- Generally defined as all forms of subsistence technology in which food getting is dependent on naturally
occurring resources that is wild plants and animals.
- This was the only way humans got their food for most of human history till about 10,000 years ago.
- Food collectors – foragers or hunter-gatherers
- Still live in the present world where have been called the marginal areas – deserts, the Arctic and dense
- Anthropologists are interested in studying this still available food collecting societies because observations
may help to understand some aspects of the human life in past, when all people were foragers.
- While doing these observations, we must cautious about 3 reasons when drawing inferences between past
and recent foragers.
1 .Early foragers lived in almost all types of environments, including very bountiful ones.
Recent and contemporary foragers only found in marginal areas.
2 .Contemporary foragers are not relics of the past; which means they are not behaving or acting same
as the early foragers. They have evolved and are still evolving.
3 .Intersociety relationships in recent may be different from intersociety relationships in the past.
Recent and contemporary foragers have relationships with other kind of societies that did not exist
until after 10,000 years ago. (agriculturalists, pastoralists and other state societies)
Case Study: Forager - the Inuit of Alaska (Eskimo)
- Recent and contemporary forager
- Most hunter-gatherers collect wild plant foods as the most important part of their diet.
But Inuit used to depend on almost entirely on sea and land mammals and fish because plants are too
- Usual technique to hunting sea mammals is to hurl a toggle harpoon into the sea mammal.
- When the sea is frozen, different technique is used. A hunter locates a breathing hole in frozen sea and
then waits until a Seal comes up for air.
- Fishing is also take place with various techniques as hook and line, spearing and ambushing with nets and
- Related families usually lived together and move their camps into the best place to intercept migrating
animals and fish.
General features of Food Collectors
- Most live in small communities in sparsely populated territories
- Follow a nomadic life style; no permanent settlement.
- Not having individuals’ land rights.
- Do not have different classes of people and social inequality is very low.
- Division of labor based on age & gender: men do hunting and most of the fishing and women usually
gather wild plant foods.
- Gathering is the most important food getting activity for some food collectors.
- Men usually contribute more to food getting by hunting and fishing.
- Food collecting way of life is difficult because moving their camps and walk long distances through out
- Foragers seem to have more leisure time than Agriculturists.
: Pramuka Amarakeerthi
- About 10,000 years ago, people began to cultivate and then domesticate plants and animals.
- With this domestication of food sources, people try to control over natural processes, such as animal
breeding and plant seeding.
- Three major types of food production systems:
- Not the vision of home gardening or growing orchids and flowers in green houses.
- In Anthropology, Horticulture means growing crops of all kinds with relatively simple methods and tools,
in the absence of permanently cultivated fields.
- Usually hand tools and simple methods (digging sticks, hoe, axe)
- Not using fertilization, irrigation or other ways to restore soil fertility
- Two kind of horticulture:
● Shifting cultivation – slash and burning technique
Land is worked for short period and then left idle for some years.
● Long growing tree crops –
Getting food by cultivating long term harvesting fruit or ground crops.
- Horticultural societies do not rely on crops alone for food.
- Hunting, fishing and raising small domestic animals such as chickens, pigs, goats and sheep are also take
- Some horticultural societies are nomadic for part of the year.
Case Study: Horticulturalist – the Yanomamö of Brazilian-Venezuelan Amazon
- Living middle in dense tropical forest.
- Getting most of their food from garden procedure.
- Use combination of both horticulture techniques. Mostly slash and burn horticulture.
- Cultivate various kinds of crops – plantains, maniocs, sweet potatoes, and herbs.
- Men do the heavy clearing work and women usually plant, weed, and harvest.
- Villages are moved about every five years due to gardening needs and warfare.
- Burned fields are easier to plant and organic matter that is burned provides necessary nutrients for a good
yield. If Horticulturalists come back too quickly to a spot with little plant cover, a garden made there
will not produce a satisfactory yield.
- The Yanomamö crops do not provide much protein, so hunting and fishing are important.
General features of Horticulturalists
- Simple farming techniques to yield more food from given area.
- Consequently, able to support more population.
- More sedentary camps than food collectors.
- Move their villages after some years to farm a new series of plots.
- Some have permanent villages because they depend on food from trees that keep producing for long time.
- Exhibit the beginnings of social differentiation. – Part-time craft workers or political officials.
2. Intensive Agriculture
- Use techniques to cultivate fields permanently.
- Using fertilizer which may be organic or inorganic material to restore soil fertility.
- Use irrigation from streams and rivers to supply waterborne nutrients.
- Crop rotation and plant stubble to restore nutrients to the soil.
- Rely on mechanization rather than hand labor.
- More complex methods, tools and technology in use of Intensive Agriculture.
Case Study: Agriculture – the Mekong Delta in Vietnam
- Tropical climate, with rainy season that lasts May to November.
- Rice cultivation is the principal agricultural activity.
- Complex system of irrigation, variety of specialized equipments and clearly defined set of socioeconomic
- Well organized & timed procedure of rise cultivation
- Hired labor, fertilizing, using machinery
- Harvest used as payment for hired labor, use by household and for cash sales on the market.
- Cultivating vegetables, raise pigs, chickens and fishing also take place.
- Full-time implement makers and carpenters.
: Pramuka Amarakeerthi
General features of Intensive Agricultural Societies
- Complex political organization, large difference in wealth & power, craft specialization, settled in towns
- Work longer than simple agriculturalists.
- Generally more productive than horticulturalists.
- Producing for market and focus on one crop which gives more yields or need less capital.
- Face famines and food shortages. (Fluctuation in weather, plant diseases, price falls for that crop)
Commercialization and Mechanization of Agriculture
- Worldwide trend to produce more and more for market – called commercialization.
- Increasing commercialization of agriculture associated with several other trends.
Farm work become more and more mechanized due to hand labor becomes scarce or too expensive.
Emergence and spread of Agribusiness – large multinational corporations owned operate farms.
Agribusiness, including animal raising, reduce the no of people engaged in food production.
- depend directly or indirectly on domesticated herd of animals for their living.
- Pastoralists often get animal protein from as milk or blood, barely as meat.
- Indirectly provide food by trading animal products for plant foods and other necessities.
- A large proportion of their food may actually come from trade with agricultural groups.
Case Study: Pastoralists – the Saami of Scandinavia (Lapps)
- Practice reindeer herding intensively or more often extensively.
- Intensive system – accustomed to human contact, not very large in number.
- Extensive system – large herds, migrate over a large area.
- Milk, meat and hides are used or frequently sold.
General features of Pastoralism
- Practiced mainly in grasslands and semi arid habitats, that are not really comfortable for cultivation.
- Most are nomadic and usually small in community.
- Individuals may own their own animals, but decisions about when and where to move the herds are made
by the community.
- A great deal of interdependence between pastoral and agricultural groups.
- Trade is usually necessary for pastoral groups to survive.
- More vulnerable to famine and food shortages.
Environmental restraints on Food getting
- Physical environment affects on food getting strategy.
- ‘We know that food collection has been practiced at one time or another in all areas of the earth. The
physical environment does seem to have some effect on what kind of food collection is practiced, that
is, on the extent to which food collectors will depend on plants, animals or fish. Farther away from the
equator, food collectors depend much less on plants for food and much more on animals and fish.’
Origin, Spread and Intensification of Food production
- Today most people are food producers rather than food collectors.
- Why people started to produce food, when it causes to more work and more risk than food collecting?
1 . Population growth in bountiful areas pushed people to move to marginal areas.
2 . Global population growth filled up the world’s habitable regions and forced people to utilize a
broader spectrum of wild resources and domesticate plants and animals.
3 . Climatic changes
- Food Production is generally more productive per unit of land.
- Competition for land between food producers and food collectors. (Food producers have more people in
given area, so forager groups more likely to lose out.)
- Population growth may lead to intensification.
: Pramuka Amarakeerthi