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Subsistence Systems: Food Producing Systems


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Describes the three food producing systems: horticulture, intensive cultivation, and pastoralism. Discusses briefly the implications of all five systems on cultural materialism.

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Subsistence Systems: Food Producing Systems

  1. 1. Subsistence Systems Food Producing Societies
  2. 2. Food Producing Societies: An Overview <ul><li>Food producers are those peoples who domesticate plants or animals or both. </li></ul><ul><li>They work much harder than simple foragers, though not necessarily more so than complex foragers </li></ul><ul><li>Agriculturalists have to prepare the soil, plant their seeds or cuttings, weed the field, remove the pests, and finally harvest and process the crops. </li></ul><ul><li>Herders have to control or confine the animals, assist the birth of the young, feed the animals, milk them (and some draw their blood for consumption), shear the coats of some species, and slaughter them for meat and hides. </li></ul><ul><li>That means we have to explain what compels the producers to do so much more work than the simple foragers. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Food-Producing Societies: Their Beginnings and Consequences <ul><li>First indications of domestication came in the Neolithic at about 10,000 BP I n the Fertile Crescent, including Israel, Lebanon, Syria, southern Turkey, and western Iran in the Near East (map, upper left) </li></ul><ul><li>Characteristics of the Neolithic included the domestication of plants (such as emmer wheat, lower photo) and animals, such as cattle, pigs, sheep, and goats. </li></ul><ul><li>Advantages consisted of human control over food production, greater quantities of food compared with simple foragers, and settled communities </li></ul>
  4. 4. Food-Producing Societies: Secondary Consequences <ul><li>The greater productivity of agriculture allowed for greater time in various non-agricultural crafts and labor </li></ul><ul><li>Economic specialization meant that a system of exchange would arise: administered trade and markets </li></ul><ul><li>Population increase meant that complex social control mechanisms would arise. </li></ul><ul><li>This would mean that society would become more complex, more stratified, and more centralized. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Typology of Food-Producing Systems <ul><li>However, not all the food producing systems are the same. We look at three different types </li></ul><ul><li>Horticulture: the cultivation of crops using hand tools such as the hoe and digging stick. </li></ul><ul><li>Pastoralism: The herding of animals, such as goats, sheep, cattle, horses, even camels. </li></ul><ul><li>Intensive Cultivation or Agriculture: Cultivation involving higher technology, such as irrigation or animal (or tractor) driven plows, resulting in higher yields. </li></ul><ul><li>Some of these systems exist at the exclusion of others, but most combined the main subsistence strategy with others. </li></ul><ul><li>Example: The Aztecs used both irrigation and hoe cultivation. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Horticulture <ul><li>Horticulture may be defined as the cultivation of crops carried out with hand tools, such as digging sticks, hoes, machetes and a specialized tool in Mesoamerica as the coa. </li></ul><ul><li>Neither plows nor irrigation systems are used. </li></ul><ul><li>A field usually lies unused for a period of time to enable it to regain its fertility </li></ul><ul><li>The best known type of cultivation involves use of slash-and-burn or swidden cultivation, and we will focus on this system. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Basics of Slash-and-Burn Cultivation <ul><li>In slash and burn, a site is cleared of brush and trees; trees are felled, and brush is cut and stacked </li></ul><ul><li>This phase is completed usually at the beginning of the dry season </li></ul><ul><li>Once dried, usually at the end of the dry season, the brush and trees are set afire (top photo). </li></ul><ul><li>Planting begins at the beginning of the rainy season and usually different species of crops are planted together, or interplanted. </li></ul><ul><li>Once soil is exhausted, site is abandoned (bottom photo) and a new site is cleared </li></ul>
  8. 8. Slash-and-Burn Cultivation: Adaptive Significance <ul><li>Most slash-and-burn cultivation is practiced in the tropics. </li></ul><ul><li>Tropical climate is extremely hard on soils because of the intense heat from the sun, the heavy rainfall, and the chemical reaction called laterization in soils containing minerals caused by the heat and moisture. </li></ul><ul><li>Slash-and-burn is best adapted to this climate--which the following slides will show. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Constants of Tropical Rainforest: Intense Heat <ul><li>Plant and animal matter decompose to form humus or topsoil, the organic accumulation of soil in which all plants grow. </li></ul><ul><li>Humus formation virtually stops if topsoil reaches 77 degrees Fahrenheit. </li></ul><ul><li>At that temperature, decomposition of humus exceeds formation, while humic materials break down to gases: ammonia, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide. </li></ul><ul><li>These gases escape into the atmosphere, leaving little nitrogen left for the topsoil. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Constants of Tropical Rainforest: Rainfall <ul><li>Rainfall acts on the soil in two ways </li></ul><ul><li>Erosion, whereby rainfall carries away soil particles. The particles themselves scour the surface, and the abrasion carries off even more soil </li></ul><ul><li>Leaching is the other process: the warm water dissolves water-soluble nutrients, whereby the nutrients seep into subsoil away from the roots of the plants. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Constants of Tropical Rainforest: Laterization <ul><li>Laterite is a compound comprising the oxides of minerals, such as the iron oxide at the top layer of this soil (photo) </li></ul><ul><li>The combined heat of the sun and moisture of the rain create these oxides </li></ul><ul><li>Once started, the process is irreversible. </li></ul><ul><li>The process removes phosphorus, an essential nutrient, and the laterite cannot absorb other nutrients </li></ul>
  12. 12. A Long-Term Constant: Age of Soil <ul><li>In the Amazonian region of South America, this process has been going for centuries. </li></ul><ul><li>The soil composition is mostly clay and sand, neither of which is high in content or calcium </li></ul><ul><li>Because calcium if limited, plant and animal life in Amazonia is limited in protein content </li></ul><ul><li>Seed reproduction required high levels of protein, so that most plants in Amazonia reproduce by daughter shoots sprouting form parent plant, called vegetative </li></ul><ul><li>Animals that feed on these plants are generally small, such as this woolly monkey, and live in isolation rather than groups. </li></ul><ul><li>Gregarious (herding) animals are rare </li></ul>
  13. 13. Adaptation of Tropical Rainforests <ul><li>Natural selection pressures have favored vegetation protective of the soil. </li></ul><ul><li>The first feature is that trees develop a protective canopy of thick leaves aided by epiphytic plants, plants that receive their nutrients from rainfall and the atmosphere. </li></ul><ul><li>The second feature is the high rate of growth of the trees, which involve a rapid utilization of the nutrients in the soil. </li></ul><ul><li>The third feature is the juxtaposition of different types of trees, which have different nutrient requirements, in the same location so that all nutrients are utilized. </li></ul>
  14. 14. Protective Canopy <ul><li>Mature forests contain trees with thick foliage at their tops, made up of their leaves and supplemented by epiphytic plants. </li></ul><ul><li>They have several protective functions: </li></ul><ul><li>First, they provide protective shade from the sun, cooling the soil below 77 o F and so allowing humus to accumulate. </li></ul><ul><li>Second, they screen the rain so that it falls in a fine spray. </li></ul><ul><li>Third, the epiphytic plants absorb some of the rainfall, so the amount reaching the forest floor is 70% of the total rainfall . </li></ul>
  15. 15. Rate of Growth <ul><li>Rate of growth is spectacular </li></ul><ul><li>Enables rapid use of nutrients before they disappear through erosion or leaching </li></ul><ul><li>Litter fall of animal remains and dead vegetation </li></ul><ul><li>Is four times of woodland in New York state </li></ul><ul><li>Rainfall also captures nutrients from air </li></ul><ul><li>75% of potassium in soil, 40% of magnesium, and 25% of phosphorus come from rainwater </li></ul>
  16. 16. Species Juxtaposition <ul><li>Different tree species have different nutrient requirements, and so grow in the location </li></ul><ul><li>Some trees require more phosphorus than others, while other trees other require more potassium. </li></ul><ul><li>Nutrients left by one tree is taken by others </li></ul><ul><li>In the meantime, trees of the same species are dispersed, so the dispersal inhibits the spread of pests and diseases that infect that species . </li></ul>
  17. 17. What Would Happened if Trees in the Tropics Were Cleared? <ul><li>In the absence of trees, the soil would soon be compacted and become infertile. </li></ul><ul><li>Humus would not form, especially in the absence of litter from tree leaves and animal droppings. </li></ul><ul><li>Erosion via runoff would increase, and the soil would be leached to infertility. </li></ul><ul><li>All the topsoil would be converted to laterite </li></ul><ul><li>Overall, soil fertility would decrease or disappear entirely. </li></ul>
  18. 18. Slash-and-Burn Cultivation Techniques: The Munduruc ú <ul><li>This section explains how the Munduruc ú practice slash and burn cultivation. </li></ul><ul><li>First, they select a sloping, well-drained area, so that excessive water does not destroy the crops </li></ul><ul><li>They then start clearing the brush and small trees at the beginning of the dry season. </li></ul><ul><li>They fell the trees by cutting through most of the trees to be cleared </li></ul><ul><li>Then fell a tree that knocks over the others and clear the trees left standing. </li></ul>
  19. 19. Slash-and-Burn Cultivation Technique: Burning and Planting <ul><li>The vegetation is allowed to dry for 2 months </li></ul><ul><li>Next, the fire is set when there is a slight breeze to fan the flames </li></ul><ul><li>Planting begins at first rains: a hole is made with a digging stick and cuttings or seeds are inserted and covered </li></ul><ul><li>Manioc and sweet potatoes are planted in the center; other crops are planted at the edges. </li></ul>
  20. 20. Slash-and-Burn Cultivation: Weeding and Harvest <ul><li>Weeding is done twice in the growing season. </li></ul><ul><li>There is no set planting or harvesting season; planting and harvesting are both staggered </li></ul><ul><li>Individual crops are harvested as the need arises, so that the entire crop is not removed all at once. </li></ul><ul><li>When one manioc root is taken, a manioc cutting is planted immediately after harvest to ensure permanent supply </li></ul><ul><li>Therefore, cover crops protect the soil the entire period. </li></ul><ul><li>In this photo, manioc is interplanted with banana plants, typical of horticulture </li></ul>
  21. 21. Slash-and-Burn Cultivation as Imitation of Rainforest <ul><li>Crops are intermixed, each with different nutrient requirements. </li></ul><ul><li>This reduces competition for the same nutrients. </li></ul><ul><li>Dispersal of same-species plants retard disease and pests that attack that species. </li></ul><ul><li>Staggering planting and harvest minimizes soil exposure. </li></ul><ul><li>Burning slash returns the nutrients to soil. </li></ul>
  22. 22. Slash and Burn Cultivation as Imperfect Imitation of Rainforest <ul><li>Decomposition of stumps and branches </li></ul><ul><li>Attract pests away from crops </li></ul><ul><li>Supply added nutrients </li></ul><ul><li>Weeding of mixed value </li></ul><ul><li>Minimizes competition for nutrients </li></ul><ul><li>Reduces shade and protection from erosion </li></ul><ul><li>Imitation not the real thing </li></ul><ul><li>Yield declines by 3rd year--time to move </li></ul>
  23. 23. Yanomamo Variations <ul><li>Yanomamö horticulture is essentially the same as that of the munduruc ú </li></ul><ul><li>Plantains augment manioc as the staple crop. </li></ul><ul><li>When soil deteriorates, thorny shrubs grow, scratching bare skin, telling the cultivators it is time to move. </li></ul><ul><li>Some plants continue yields, such as the much-valued peach palm and still-viable plantains. </li></ul><ul><li>New clearing is made adjacent to old site, and is done so over the years. </li></ul><ul><li>Entirely new sites are cleared only if there is a compelling reason to do so, such as attacks by neighboring tribes. </li></ul>
  24. 24. Slash and Burn Cultivation is Adaptive Unless. . . <ul><li>Slash and burn cultivation works only if the population is in balance with the environment </li></ul><ul><li>Today in Brazil, tropical horticulture no longer restores the soil. </li></ul><ul><li>The deforestation in photo is the product of slash-and-burn cultivation. </li></ul><ul><li>Population increase plus the loss of land to ranchers is leading to rapid deforestation </li></ul>
  25. 25. Intensive Cultivation <ul><li>This form of cultivation is highly productive and involves relatively small areas compared to simple foraging, which is an extensive process. </li></ul><ul><li>Melvin and Carol Ember define intensive cultivation as food production characterized by the permanent cultivation of fields </li></ul><ul><li>Primary attributes are advanced technology, such as the use of irrigation, animal-driven plows, use of fertilizer, and others. </li></ul><ul><li>Staple crops predominate—rice , corn, wheat, potatoes—making for a monocrop system </li></ul><ul><li>Risks of famine are high because of diseases and pests that have an easier time in attacking the same crop at one place. </li></ul>
  26. 26. Intensive Cultivation: Secondary Attributes <ul><li>As intensive cultivation develops, the following accompany such intensification </li></ul><ul><li>Permanent settlements of high density—known as cities </li></ul><ul><li>Emergence of full-time nonfarm occupations, from common labor to specialized crafts and trades. </li></ul><ul><li>As occupations become specialize, trade and markets develop. </li></ul><ul><li>Societies become more complex, social stratification develops, and states with codified law reinforced by the military become widespread. </li></ul>
  27. 27. Intensive Cultivation: Mesoamerica <ul><li>Intensive cultivation in Mesoamerica began with squash, cultivated not so much for its flesh as for its seeds. </li></ul><ul><li>At the Tehuacan Valley and elsewhere, a grass known as teosinte was cultivated </li></ul><ul><li>Through several generations of hybridization, it developed into the maize, or corn, we know today </li></ul><ul><li>Like many domesticates, corn cannot reproduce without human assistance. </li></ul><ul><li>As the next diagrams show, corn is encased in a husk and the grains are themselves tightly packed. </li></ul>
  28. 28. Teosinte to Corn <ul><li>Left: Teosinte and Corn Stalks </li></ul><ul><li>Right: Teosinte Ear (left), Hybrid (center), and Maize ear (right) </li></ul><ul><li>Note the fragile stalks of teosinte and the tightly packed grains (i.e. seed) of maize. </li></ul>
  29. 29. The Aztec and Intensive Cultivation: Background <ul><li>Some background is in order: according to combined legend and history, the Aztecs migrated from the north into the Valley of Mexico </li></ul><ul><li>Their belief was that they were to found a city where they saw an eagle perched on a nopal cactus devouring a serpent (see left diagram, next slide) </li></ul><ul><li>Based on this legend, the migrants founded a village in a swamp near Lake Texcoco, near the present site of Mexico City </li></ul><ul><li>From there, the Aztecs founded an empire centered around the capital Tenochtitl á n (see right diagram next slide) </li></ul>
  30. 30. Tenochtitlán <ul><li>Left: Founding of Tenochtitlán according to Myth—Artist’s Conception </li></ul><ul><li>Right: Panorama of Tenochtitlán: Note location on Lake Texcoco with causeways </li></ul>
  31. 31. The Agricultural Foundation of the Aztec: Chinampas <ul><li>Swamps make for poor agriculture </li></ul><ul><li>The Aztecs worked around it by constructing raised fields from the swamp, using layers of vegetation and swamp mud. </li></ul><ul><li>The platforms, called chinampas, provided a rich soil for their staple, corn, and other crops. </li></ul><ul><li>Because of the surplus, the Aztecs were able to marshal its labor force for luxury crafts, construction, road building, and eventually an army. </li></ul><ul><li>Eventually, an imperial market linked all conquered peoples into a functioning economy </li></ul><ul><li>Hereditary traders, known as Pochteca, traded in luxury goods and also provided the emperor with news about the colonies. </li></ul>
  32. 32. Aztec Chinampas and Central Market <ul><li>Chinampas (left) produced enough surplus food to sustain the Aztec empire </li></ul><ul><li>The market in Tenochtitlán provided the economic cement to maintain the empire at its height </li></ul>
  33. 33. Agricultural Foundations of Other Empires <ul><li>Mesopotamia, lacking basic resources, developed an irrigation system supporting a grain-based economy and trade with other empires </li></ul><ul><li>Egypt relied principally on flood plain agriculture for its empire and a labor force for pyramid construction when the fields were flooded </li></ul><ul><li>Central China developed an irrigation system and terraces for which rice was its main staple </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusion: Intensive cultivation is the only subsistence system capable of supporting states, a matter we look at later in this course. </li></ul>
  34. 34. Pastoralism <ul><li>Cultures from many East Africans to the Mongols relied almost entirely on pastoralism, or herding of large animals </li></ul><ul><li>Animals are principally cattle (East Africa), horses (Mongols of the Asian steppes), sheep and goats (the Bakhtiari of Iran); camels (parts of North Africa and Afghanistan) and yak, a cold country ox in Tibet </li></ul>
  35. 35. Pastoralism: Utilization of the Animals <ul><li>All parts of animals is consumed or otherwise used </li></ul><ul><li>Often, the renewable products of animals are consumed: milk and its derivatives, such as cheese and yogurt, and in East Africa, blood. </li></ul><ul><li>Meat is not renewable and is usually consumed when the animal ages or on special occasions such as a wedding or rite of passage. </li></ul><ul><li>Hides, bone, and horn may be used as clothing, tools, and containers </li></ul><ul><li>Even dung is for fire (as in Tibet and the Asian steppes) and as building material (East Africa). </li></ul>
  36. 36. Pastoralism: Secondary Characteristics <ul><li>Environmental setting is principally grasslands; the sod renders it unusable for agriculture without plows capable of turning the soil.: </li></ul><ul><li>Because of the changing seasons, pastoralists are typically nomadic, migrating seasonally between different environmental zones. </li></ul><ul><li>Property and valuables are portable </li></ul><ul><li>Because they cannot meet all their needs, they tend to be dependent on settled communities for agricultural and manufactured products. </li></ul><ul><li>If the pastoralists also cultivate, they are less dependent on settlements. </li></ul>
  37. 37. Pastoralism: Secondary Characteristics (Continued) <ul><li>Warfare has been commonly observed among pastoralists, involving raids of villages or of other nomadic pastoralists </li></ul><ul><li>Predatory states have often arisen from pastoralists; the Mongols under Genghis Khan is a historical example. </li></ul><ul><li>Warrior age grades, which are distinctive in East Africa, include warriors, who may not marry until they reach age 30. </li></ul><ul><li>Male dominance is widespread, inasmuch as warfare requires male cooperation. </li></ul><ul><li>Not surprisingly, cattle is male property, residence is patrilocal (bride joins the groom and his kin), and women have few rights. </li></ul>
  38. 38. Pastoralism: Conclusion <ul><li>Because they do not grow domesticated crops, pastoralists are often called incomplete food producers </li></ul><ul><li>Archaeological evidence suggest that pastoralism might have come after intensive cultivation. </li></ul><ul><li>In other words, they may have left settled regions by choice or were banished. </li></ul><ul><li>Contrary to intuitive reasoning, pastoralists probably were not a transitional form of subsistence between foraging and agriculture . </li></ul>
  39. 39. Subsistence, Adaptation, and Evolution <ul><li>Cultural materialism is a research strategy that is derived from the study of subsistence systems. </li></ul><ul><li>This model holds that causal explanations for similarities and differences among human groups can best be addressed by studying the harnessing of energy through interaction between existing technology and environmental limitations. </li></ul><ul><li>This reasoning is not surprising, given the technological capacities and limitations of each of the five subsistence systems we have covered. </li></ul>
  40. 40. Subsistence Systems and Models of Adaptation and Evolution <ul><li>Simple foragers: The technology is of low productivity and the environment tends to be stingy, so groups are small and nomadic </li></ul><ul><li>Complex foragers: The food-getting technology is relatively sophisticated and the environment is usually rich: bison, salmon, other game. </li></ul><ul><li>Horticulture: The need to move agricultural plots every two or three years discouraged development into larger villages. </li></ul><ul><li>Pastoralism: Grasslands are more suitable for animal herding in the absence of intensive cultivation technology, and changing seasons require nomadism. </li></ul><ul><li>Intensive Cultivation: Productive agricultural technology allow support for non-agricultural craftspersons and laborers, and pave the way for more complex societies. </li></ul>
  41. 41. Unilineal and Multilinear Evolution <ul><li>Models of Cultural Evolution </li></ul><ul><li>According to the Unilineal Evolution model (Left). all societies go through set stages (foraging, square; horticulture, triangle; agriculture, circle). </li></ul><ul><li>According to the Multilinear Evolution model, societies adopt different evolution strategies according to their environment and techniques of subsistence. </li></ul>
  42. 42. Technology, Environment, and Society <ul><li>This model suggests the leading role played by subsistence system in forming and maintaining society </li></ul><ul><li>Environment: Limits and Potential to Energy </li></ul><ul><li>Technology: Known Techniques for Energy Capture and Use </li></ul><ul><li>Social Interactions: Derivative Family/Kinship, Economic, Political, and Legal Institutions </li></ul><ul><li>Ideology: Psychological State, Supernatural Beliefs, The Arts </li></ul>
  43. 43. Comparison and Evaluation <ul><li>We have Examined five broad subsistence systems and suggested the implications of each system for a society and culture </li></ul><ul><li>We have traced their significance in local and regional adaptations (cultural ecology) and the universal and multilinear processes of cultural evolution. </li></ul><ul><li>Do these hypotheses work? The next topics will suggest the issue to be highly complex in this regard. </li></ul>