Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Egalitarian mobile hunter-gatherers

Aeon has an article saying the evidence for that as the primitive human condition isn't overwhelming. The Calusa were an empire without substantial agriculture (though some of their subjects ate some roots). One eyewitness' account is interesting, and his suggestions jarring.

One famous "mobile hunter-gatherer" culture, very heavily studied, is not quite so primitive:

!Kung society was less a pristine surrogate and more the product of a ‘long interaction between foragers, farmers, and herders’. The !Kung started trading with Bantu agriculturalists between 500 and 1,500 years ago. In the 1920s, Bantu farmers and herders entered !Kung lands so that, by the 1950s, the !Kung were incorporated into a larger pastoral economy. When the Harvard Kalahari Project was set up in 1963, 20 per cent of young !Kung men were working with cattle at any time. During his 1967-69 field trip, Lee recorded 51 per cent of !Kung men planting fields.

Or in Bolivia

Take the SirionĂ³ of Bolivia, who were studied by the anthropologist Allan Holmberg in 1940-42. Living in small bands and lacking such basic innovations as traps and canoes, they seemed, in the words of the Cornell anthropologist Lauriston Sharp, ‘a still-living Old Stone Age people’ – ‘survivors who “from the beginning” retained a variety of man’s earliest culture.’ But the SirionĂ³ of 1940 were not prehistoric relicts. They were refugees. Decades before Holmberg studied them, smallpox and influenza laid waste to their villages, levelling their population from 3,000 people to a mere 150. ... In 2012, the anthropologist Robert Walker and his colleagues showed that, at some point in their history, the SirionĂ³ suffered a devastating cultural collapse, losing canoes, shamanism, complex social structure and most of their agricultural lifestyle.

How many of us would be able to maintain knowledge of even fairly simple things if reduced to such a population?

UPDATE: AVI has more, and more links


Assistant Village Idiot said...

Definitely in the territory I am currently listening and reading about. I will be linking back and discussing. Thank you.

RichardJohnson said...

Speaking of tribes in the Bolivian jungle, I am reminded of clearing out my grandmother's stuff after her death. I ran across a missionary magazine that told of a minister in Bolivia. The minister talked of the "noisy native tongue" that the locals spoke in. Oh well.

RichardJohnson said...

The magazine was from the '40s.