Hunter-gatherer

Hunter-gatherer

Overview
A hunter-gatherer or forage society is one in which most or all food is obtained from wild plants and animals, in contrast to agricultural
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

 societies which rely mainly on domesticated
Domestication
Domestication or taming is the process whereby a population of animals or plants, through a process of selection, becomes accustomed to human provision and control. In the Convention on Biological Diversity a domesticated species is defined as a 'species in which the evolutionary process has been...

 species. Hunting and gathering was the ancestral subsistence mode of Homo
Homo
Homo may refer to:*the Greek prefix ὅμο-, meaning "the same"*the Latin for man, human being*Homo, the taxonomical genus including modern humans...

, and all modern humans
Anatomically modern humans
The term anatomically modern humans in paleoanthropology refers to early individuals of Homo sapiens with an appearance consistent with the range of phenotypes in modern humans....

 were hunter-gatherers until around 10,000 years ago.
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Encyclopedia
A hunter-gatherer or forage society is one in which most or all food is obtained from wild plants and animals, in contrast to agricultural
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

 societies which rely mainly on domesticated
Domestication
Domestication or taming is the process whereby a population of animals or plants, through a process of selection, becomes accustomed to human provision and control. In the Convention on Biological Diversity a domesticated species is defined as a 'species in which the evolutionary process has been...

 species. Hunting and gathering was the ancestral subsistence mode of Homo
Homo
Homo may refer to:*the Greek prefix ὅμο-, meaning "the same"*the Latin for man, human being*Homo, the taxonomical genus including modern humans...

, and all modern humans
Anatomically modern humans
The term anatomically modern humans in paleoanthropology refers to early individuals of Homo sapiens with an appearance consistent with the range of phenotypes in modern humans....

 were hunter-gatherers until around 10,000 years ago. Following the invention of agriculture
Neolithic Revolution
The Neolithic Revolution was the first agricultural revolution. It was the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture and settlement. Archaeological data indicates that various forms of plants and animal domestication evolved independently in 6 separate locations worldwide circa...

 hunter-gatherers have been displaced by farming or pastoralist
Pastoralism
Pastoralism or pastoral farming is the branch of agriculture concerned with the raising of livestock. It is animal husbandry: the care, tending and use of animals such as camels, goats, cattle, yaks, llamas, and sheep. It may have a mobile aspect, moving the herds in search of fresh pasture and...

 groups in most parts of the world. Only a few contemporary societies are classified as hunter-gatherers, and many supplement, sometimes extensively, their foraging activity with farming and/or keeping animals.

History


The earliest humans probably lived primarily on scavenging, not actual hunting. Early humans in the Lower Paleolithic
Lower Paleolithic
The Lower Paleolithic is the earliest subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age. It spans the time from around 2.5 million years ago when the first evidence of craft and use of stone tools by hominids appears in the current archaeological record, until around 300,000 years ago, spanning the...

 lived in mixed habitats which allowed them to collect seafood, eggs, nuts, and fruits besides scavenging. Rather than killing large animals themselves for meat, they used carcasses of large animals killed by other predators or carcasses from animals that died by natural causes.

Hunting and gathering was presumably the subsistence strategy employed by human societies beginning some 1.8 million years ago, by Homo erectus
Homo erectus
Homo erectus is an extinct species of hominid that lived from the end of the Pliocene epoch to the later Pleistocene, about . The species originated in Africa and spread as far as India, China and Java. There is still disagreement on the subject of the classification, ancestry, and progeny of H...

, and from its appearance some 0.2 million years ago by Homo sapiens
Archaic Homo sapiens
Archaic Homo sapiens is a loosely defined term used to describe a number of varieties of Homo, as opposed to anatomically modern humans , in the period beginning 500,000 years ago....

. It remained the only mode of subsistence until the end of the Mesolithic
Mesolithic
The Mesolithic is an archaeological concept used to refer to certain groups of archaeological cultures defined as falling between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic....

 period some 10,000 years ago, and after this was replaced only gradually with the spread of the Neolithic Revolution
Neolithic Revolution
The Neolithic Revolution was the first agricultural revolution. It was the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture and settlement. Archaeological data indicates that various forms of plants and animal domestication evolved independently in 6 separate locations worldwide circa...

.

Starting at the transition between the Middle to Upper Paleolithic period, some 80,000 to 70,000 years ago, some hunter-gatherers bands began to specialize, concentrating on hunting a smaller selection of (often larger than had previously been hunted) game and gathering a smaller selection of food. This specialization of work also involved creating specialized tools like fishing nets and hooks and bone harpoons. The transition into the subsequent Neolithic
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 period is chiefly defined by the unprecedented development of nascent agricultural practices. Agriculture originated and spread
Neolithic Revolution
The Neolithic Revolution was the first agricultural revolution. It was the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture and settlement. Archaeological data indicates that various forms of plants and animal domestication evolved independently in 6 separate locations worldwide circa...

 in several different areas including the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

, Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

, Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica is a region and culture area in the Americas, extending approximately from central Mexico to Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, within which a number of pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas in the 15th and...

, and the Andes
Andes
The Andes is the world's longest continental mountain range. It is a continual range of highlands along the western coast of South America. This range is about long, about to wide , and of an average height of about .Along its length, the Andes is split into several ranges, which are separated...

 beginning as early as 10,000 years ago
10th millennium BC
The 10th millennium BC marks the beginning of the Mesolithic and Epipaleolithic period, which is the first part of the Holocene epoch. Agriculture, based on the cultivation of primitive forms of millet and rice, occurred in Southwest Asia...

.

Many groups continued their hunter-gatherer ways of life, although their numbers have perpetually declined partly as a result of pressure from growing agricultural and pastoral communities. Many of them reside in arid regions and tropical forests in the developing world. Areas which formerly were available to hunter-gatherers were—and continue to be—encroached upon by the settlements of agriculturalists. In the resulting competition for land use, hunter-gatherer societies either adopted these practices or moved to other areas. In addition, Jared Diamond
Jared Diamond
Jared Mason Diamond is an American scientist and author whose work draws from a variety of fields. He is currently Professor of Geography and Physiology at UCLA...

 has blamed a decline in the availability of wild foods, particularly animal resources. In North and South America, for example, most large mammal species had gone extinct by the end of the Pleistocene
Pleistocene
The Pleistocene is the epoch from 2,588,000 to 11,700 years BP that spans the world's recent period of repeated glaciations. The name pleistocene is derived from the Greek and ....

, according to Diamond, because of overexploitation
Overexploitation
Overexploitation, also called overharvesting, refers to harvesting a renewable resource to the point of diminishing returns. Sustained overexploitation can lead to the destruction of the resource...

 by humans, although the overkill hypothesis he advocates is strongly contested.

As the number and size of agricultural societies increased, they expanded into lands traditionally used by hunter-gatherers. This process of agriculture-driven expansion led to the development of complex forms of government
Form of government
A form of government, or form of state governance, refers to the set of political institutions by which a government of a state is organized. Synonyms include "regime type" and "system of government".-Empirical and conceptual problems:...

 in agricultural centers such as the Fertile Crescent
Fertile Crescent
The Fertile Crescent, nicknamed "The Cradle of Civilization" for the fact the first civilizations started there, is a crescent-shaped region containing the comparatively moist and fertile land of otherwise arid and semi-arid Western Asia. The term was first used by University of Chicago...

, Ancient India
History of India
The history of India begins with evidence of human activity of Homo sapiens as long as 75,000 years ago, or with earlier hominids including Homo erectus from about 500,000 years ago. The Indus Valley Civilization, which spread and flourished in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent from...

, Ancient China, Olmec
Olmec
The Olmec were the first major Pre-Columbian civilization in Mexico. They lived in the tropical lowlands of south-central Mexico, in the modern-day states of Veracruz and Tabasco....

, Sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa as a geographical term refers to the area of the African continent which lies south of the Sahara. A political definition of Sub-Saharan Africa, instead, covers all African countries which are fully or partially located south of the Sahara...

 and Norte Chico
Norte Chico civilization
The Norte Chico civilization was a complex pre-Columbian society that included as many as 30 major population centers in what is now the Norte Chico region of north-central coastal Peru...

.

As a result of the now near-universal human reliance upon agriculture, the few contemporary hunter-gatherer cultures usually live in areas unsuitable for agricultural use.

Americas


See also: Paleo-Indians period (Canada) and History of Mesoamerica (Paleo-Indian)
History of Mesoamerica (Paleo-Indian)
In the History of Mesoamerica, the stage known as the Paleo-Indian period is the era in the scheme of Mesoamerican chronology which begins with the very first indications of human habitation within the Mesoamerican region, and continues until the general onset of the development of agriculture...


Evidence suggests big-game hunter gatherers crossed the Bering Strait
Bering Strait
The Bering Strait , known to natives as Imakpik, is a sea strait between Cape Dezhnev, Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, Russia, the easternmost point of the Asian continent and Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska, USA, the westernmost point of the North American continent, with latitude of about 65°40'N,...

 from Asia (Eurasia) into North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 over a land bridge (Beringia), that existed between 47,000–14,000 years ago. Around 18,500–15,500 years ago, these hunter-gatherers are believed to have followed herds of now-extinct pleistocene
Pleistocene
The Pleistocene is the epoch from 2,588,000 to 11,700 years BP that spans the world's recent period of repeated glaciations. The name pleistocene is derived from the Greek and ....

 megafauna
Megafauna
In terrestrial zoology, megafauna are "giant", "very large" or "large" animals. The most common thresholds used are or...

 along ice-free corridors that stretched between the Laurentide
Laurentide ice sheet
The Laurentide Ice Sheet was a massive sheet of ice that covered hundreds of thousands of square miles, including most of Canada and a large portion of the northern United States, multiple times during Quaternary glacial epochs. It last covered most of northern North America between c. 95,000 and...

 and Cordilleran
Cordilleran Ice Sheet
The Cordilleran ice sheet was a major ice sheet that covered, during glacial periods of the Quaternary, a large area of North America. This included the following areas:*Western Montana*The Idaho Panhandle...

 ice sheets. Another route proposed is that, either on foot or using primitive boats, they migrated down the Pacific coast to South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

.

Hunter-gatherers would eventually flourish all over the Americas, primarily based in the Great Plains
Great Plains
The Great Plains are a broad expanse of flat land, much of it covered in prairie, steppe and grassland, which lies west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains in the United States and Canada. This area covers parts of the U.S...

 of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, with offshoots as far east as the Gaspé Peninsula
Gaspé Peninsula
The Gaspésie , or Gaspé Peninsula or the Gaspé, is a peninsula along the south shore of the Saint Lawrence River in Quebec, Canada, extending into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence...

 on the Atlantic coast
Atlantic Coast
The Atlantic Coast is any coast fronting the Atlantic Ocean. The term differentiates the coasts of countries or continents with coastlines on more than one body of water, such as North America, South America, Africa and Europe.-See also:*Indian Ocean...

, and as far south as Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

, Monte Verde
Monte Verde
Monte Verde is an archaeological site in southern Chile, located in the northern Patagonia near Puerto Montt, Chile, which has been dated to 14,800 years BP . This dating adds to the evidence showing that settlement in the Americas pre-dates the Clovis culture by roughly 1000 years...

. American hunter-gatherers were spread over a wide geographical area, thus there were regional variations in lifestyles. However, all the individual groups shared a common style of stone tool production, making knapping styles and progress identifiable. This early Paleo-Indian period lithic reduction
Lithic reduction
Lithic reduction involves the use of a hard hammer precursor, such as a hammerstone, a soft hammer fabricator , or a wood or antler punch to detach lithic flakes from a lump of tool stone called a lithic core . As flakes are detached in sequence, the original mass of stone is reduced; hence the...

 tool adaptations have been found across the Americas, utilized by highly mobile bands consisting of approximately 20 up to 60 members of an extended family.

The Archaic period in the Americas  saw a changing environment featuring a warmer more arid
Arid
A region is said to be arid when it is characterized by a severe lack of available water, to the extent of hindering or even preventing the growth and development of plant and animal life...

 climate and the disappearance of the last megafauna. The majority of population groups at this time were still highly mobile hunter-gatherers; but now individual groups started to focus on resources available to them locally, thus with the passage of time there is a pattern of increasing regional generalization like, the Southwest, Arctic
Paleo-Arctic Tradition
The Paleo-Arctic Tradition is the name given by archaeologists to the cultural tradition of the earliest well-documented human occupants of the North American Arctic, which date from the period 8000–5000 BC...

, Poverty
Poverty Point culture
Poverty Point culture is an archaeological culture that corresponds to an ancient group of Indigenous peoples who inhabited the area of the lower Mississippi Valley and surrounding Gulf coast from about 2200 BCE - 700 BCE...

, Dalton
Dalton Tradition
The Dalton Tradition is a Late Paleo-Indian and Early Archaic projectile point tradition. These points appeared in most of Southeast North America around 8500-7900 BC.-References:*Fagan, Brian. Ancient North America. Thames & Hudson Ltd: London. 2005...

 and Plano
Plano cultures
The Plano cultures is a name given by archaeologists to a group of disparate hunter-gatherer communities that occupied the Great Plains area of North America during the Paleo-Indian period in the United States and the Paleo-Indian or Archaic period in Canada....

 traditions. This regional adaptations would become the norm, with reliance less on hunting and gathering, with a more mixed economy
Economy
An economy consists of the economic system of a country or other area; the labor, capital and land resources; and the manufacturing, trade, distribution, and consumption of goods and services of that area...

 of small game, fish
Fish
Fish are a paraphyletic group of organisms that consist of all gill-bearing aquatic vertebrate animals that lack limbs with digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and cartilaginous and bony fish, as well as various extinct related groups...

, seasonally wild vegetables
Vegetable
The noun vegetable usually means an edible plant or part of a plant other than a sweet fruit or seed. This typically means the leaf, stem, or root of a plant....

 and harvested plant foods.

Common characteristics




Habitat and population


Hunter-gatherer societies tend to be relatively mobile, given their reliance upon the ability of a given natural environment to provide sufficient resources in order to sustain their population and the variable availability of these resources owing to local climatic and seasonal conditions. Individual band societies
Band society
A band society is the simplest form of human society. A band generally consists of a small kin group, no larger than an extended family or clan; it has been defined as consisting of no more than 30 to 50 individuals.Bands have a loose organization...

 tend to be small in number (10-30 individuals), but these may gather together seasonally to temporarily form a larger group (100 or more) when resources are abundant. In a few places where the environment is especially productive, such as that of the Pacific Northwest coast or Jomon-era Japan, hunter-gatherers are able to settle permanently.

Hunter-gatherer settlements may be either permanent, temporary, or some combination of the two, depending upon the mobility of the community. Mobile communities typically construct shelters using impermanent building materials, or they may use natural rock shelters, where they are available.

Social and economic structure


Hunter-gatherer societies also tend to have relatively non-hierarchical, egalitarian social structures. This might have been more pronounced in the more mobile societies.

Full-time leaders, bureaucrats, or artisans are rarely supported by these societies. In addition to social and economic equality in hunter-gatherer societies there is often, though not always, sexual parity
Gender equality
Gender equality is the goal of the equality of the genders, stemming from a belief in the injustice of myriad forms of gender inequality.- Concept :...

 as well. Hunter-gatherers are often grouped together based on kinship
Kinship
Kinship is a relationship between any entities that share a genealogical origin, through either biological, cultural, or historical descent. And descent groups, lineages, etc. are treated in their own subsections....

 and band
Band society
A band society is the simplest form of human society. A band generally consists of a small kin group, no larger than an extended family or clan; it has been defined as consisting of no more than 30 to 50 individuals.Bands have a loose organization...

 (or tribe
Tribe
A tribe, viewed historically or developmentally, consists of a social group existing before the development of, or outside of, states.Many anthropologists use the term tribal society to refer to societies organized largely on the basis of kinship, especially corporate descent groups .Some theorists...

) membership.

In a few groups, such as the Haida of present-day British Columbia
British Columbia
British Columbia is the westernmost of Canada's provinces and is known for its natural beauty, as reflected in its Latin motto, Splendor sine occasu . Its name was chosen by Queen Victoria in 1858...

, lived in such a rich environment that they could remain sedentary ort semi-nomadic, like many other Native American
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

s of the Pacific Northwest coast. These groups demonstrate more hierarchical social organization
Social stratification
In sociology the social stratification is a concept of class, involving the "classification of persons into groups based on shared socio-economic conditions ... a relational set of inequalities with economic, social, political and ideological dimensions."...

.

Violence in hunter-gatherer societies is usually rare, caused by grudges and vendettas. ref name=Kiefer/> Warefare over land was common, but with few fatalities as tribes could easily move to unoccupied or easily invaded areas. The land was seen as belonging to all and owned by none.

A vast amount of ethnographic and archaeological evidence demonstrates that the sexual division of labor in which men hunt and women gather wild fruits and vegetables is an uncommon phenomenon among hunter-gatherers worldwide. Although women usually gather more a society in which men completely abstained from gathering easily available plants has yet to be found. Generally women hunt the majority of the small game while men hunt the majority of the large and dangerous game, but there are a few documented exceptions to this general pattern. A study done on the Aeta
Aeta
The Aeta , Agta or Ayta are an indigenous people who live in scattered, isolated mountainous parts of Luzon, Philippines. They are considered to be Negritos, who are dark to very dark brown-skinned and tend to have features such as a small stature, small frame, curly to kinky afro-like textured...

 people of the Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

 states: "About 85% of Philippine Aeta women hunt, and they hunt the same
quarry as men. Aeta women hunt in groups and with dogs, and have a 31%
success rate as opposed to 17% for men. Their rates are even better when they
combine forces with men: mixed hunting groups have a full 41% success rate among
the Aeta."

It was also found among the Ju'/hoansi people of Namibia that women helped the men during hunting by helping them track
Tracking (hunting)
Tracking in hunting and ecology is the science and art of observing animal tracks and other signs, with the goal of gaining understanding of the landscape and the animal being tracked...

 down quarry.
Moreover, recent archaeological research done by the anthropologist and archaeologist Steven Kuhn from the University of Arizona suggests that the sexual division of labor did not exist prior to the Upper Paleolithic
Upper Paleolithic
The Upper Paleolithic is the third and last subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age as it is understood in Europe, Africa and Asia. Very broadly it dates to between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago, roughly coinciding with the appearance of behavioral modernity and before the advent of...

 and developed relatively recently in human history. The sexual division of labor may have arisen to allow humans to acquire food and other resources more efficiently. It would, therefore, be an over-generalization to say that men always hunt and women always gather. It is more of a relatively recent human "invention" that by increasing efficiency was beneficial to both sexes.

At the 1966 "Man the Hunter
Man the Hunter
"Man the Hunter" was the name given to a 1966 symposium organized by Richard Lee and Irven DeVore. The symposium resulted in a book of the same title and attempted to bring together for the first time a comprehensive look at recent ethnographic research on hunter-gatherers.The symposium was held...

" conference, anthropologists Richard Borshay Lee
Richard Borshay Lee
Richard Borshay Lee is a Canadian anthropologist. Lee has studied at the University of Toronto and University of California, Berkeley, where he received a Ph.D. Presently, he holds a position at the University of Toronto as Professor Emeritus of Anthropology...

 and Irven DeVore
Irven DeVore
Irven DeVore is an anthropologist and evolutionary biologist, and Curator of Primatology at Harvard University's Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology...

 suggested that egalitarianism
Egalitarianism
Egalitarianism is a trend of thought that favors equality of some sort among moral agents, whether persons or animals. Emphasis is placed upon the fact that equality contains the idea of equity of quality...

 was one of several central characteristics of nomadic hunting and gathering societies because mobility requires minimization of material possessions throughout a population; therefore, there was no surplus of resources to be accumulated by any single member.
Other characteristics Lee and DeVore proposed were flux
Flux
In the various subfields of physics, there exist two common usages of the term flux, both with rigorous mathematical frameworks.* In the study of transport phenomena , flux is defined as flow per unit area, where flow is the movement of some quantity per time...

 in territorial boundaries as well as in demographic
Demography
Demography is the statistical study of human population. It can be a very general science that can be applied to any kind of dynamic human population, that is, one that changes over time or space...

 composition.

At the same conference, Marshall Sahlins
Marshall Sahlins
Marshall David Sahlins is a prominent American anthropologist. He received both a Bachelors and Masters degree at the University of Michigan where he studied with Leslie White, and earned his Ph.D. at Columbia University in 1954 where his main intellectual influences included Karl Polanyi and...

 presented a paper entitled, "Notes on the Original Affluent Society
Original affluent society
The "original affluent society" is a theory postulating that hunter-gatherers were the original affluent society. This theory was first articulated by Marshall Sahlins at a symposium entitled "Man the Hunter" held in Chicago in 1966...

", in which he challenged the popular view of hunter-gatherers living lives "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short," as Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury , in some older texts Thomas Hobbs of Malmsbury, was an English philosopher, best known today for his work on political philosophy...

 had put it in 1651.
According to Sahlins, ethnographic data indicated that hunter-gatherers worked far fewer hours and enjoyed more leisure
Leisure
Leisure, or free time, is time spent away from business, work, and domestic chores. It is also the periods of time before or after necessary activities such as eating, sleeping and, where it is compulsory, education....

 than typical members of industrial society, and they still ate well. Their "affluence" came from the idea that they are satisfied with very little in the material sense. This, he said, constituted a Zen
Zen
Zen is a school of Mahāyāna Buddhism founded by the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma. The word Zen is from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word Chán , which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna, which can be approximately translated as "meditation" or "meditative state."Zen...

 economy. These people met the same requirments as their sedentary neighbors through much less complex means.

Mutual exchange and sharing of resources (i.e., meat gained from hunting) are important in the economic systems of hunter-gatherer societies.

Variability


Hunter-gatherer societies manifest significant variability, depending on climate zone/life zone
Life zone
The Life Zone concept was developed by C. Hart Merriam in 1889 as a means of describing areas with similar plant and animal communities. Merriam observed that the changes in these communities with an increase in latitude at a constant elevation are similar to the changes seen with an increase in...

, available technology and societal structure.

One way to divide hunter-gatherer groups is by their return systems.
James Woodburn uses the categories "immediate return" hunter-gatherers for egalitarian and "delayed return" for nonegalitarian.
Immediate return foragers consume their food within a day or two after they procure it.
Delayed return foragers store the surplus food (Kelly
Robert Laurens Kelly
Robert Laurens Kelly is an anthropologist who is currently a Professor at the University of Wyoming. As a professor, he has taught introductory Archaeology as well as upper-level courses focused in Hunter-Gathers, North American Archaeology, Lithic Analysis, and Human Behavioral Ecology. Kelly’s...

, 31).

Hunting-gathering was the common human mode of subsistence throughout the Paleolithic
Paleolithic
The Paleolithic Age, Era or Period, is a prehistoric period of human history distinguished by the development of the most primitive stone tools discovered , and covers roughly 99% of human technological prehistory...

, but the observation of current-day hunters and gatherers does not necessarily reflect Paleolithic societies; the hunter-gatherer cultures examined today have had much contact with modern civilization and do not represent "pristine" conditions found in uncontacted peoples
Uncontacted peoples
Uncontacted people, also referred to as isolated people or lost tribes, are communities who live, or have lived, either by choice or by circumstance, without significant contact with globalized civilisation....

.

The transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture is not necessarily a one way process.
It has been argued that hunting and gathering represents an adaptive strategy
Adaptation
An adaptation in biology is a trait with a current functional role in the life history of an organism that is maintained and evolved by means of natural selection. An adaptation refers to both the current state of being adapted and to the dynamic evolutionary process that leads to the adaptation....

 which may still be exploited, if necessary, when environmental change causes extreme food stress for agriculturalists.
In fact, it is sometimes difficult to draw a clear line between agricultural and hunter-gatherer societies, especially since the widespread adoption of agriculture and resulting cultural diffusion that has occurred in the last 10,000 years.
This anthropological view has remained unchanged since the 1960s.

Modern context



In the early 1980s, a small but vocal segment of anthropologists and archaeologists attempted to demonstrate that contemporary groups usually identified as hunter-gatherers do not, in most cases, have a continuous history of hunting and gathering, and that in many cases their ancestors were agriculturalists and/or pastoralists who were pushed into marginal areas as a result of migrations, economic exploitation, and/or violent conflict. The result of their effort has been the general acknowledgement that there has been complex interaction between hunter-gatherers and non-hunter-gatherers for millennia.

Some of the theorists who advocate this "revisionist" critique imply that, because the "pure hunter-gatherer" disappeared not long after colonial
Colonialism
Colonialism is the establishment, maintenance, acquisition and expansion of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. It is a process whereby the metropole claims sovereignty over the colony and the social structure, government, and economics of the colony are changed by...

 (or even agricultural) contact began, nothing meaningful can be learned about prehistoric hunter-gatherers from studies of modern ones (Kelly, 24-29; see Wilmsen)

Lee and Guenther have rejected most of the arguments put forward by Wilmsen.

Many hunter-gatherers consciously manipulate the landscape through cutting or burning undesirable plants while encouraging desirable ones, some even going to the extent of slash-and-burn
Slash and burn
Slash-and-burn is an agricultural technique which involves cutting and burning of forests or woodlands to create fields. It is subsistence agriculture that typically uses little technology or other tools. It is typically part of shifting cultivation agriculture, and of transhumance livestock...

 to create habitat for game animals. These activities are on an entirely different scale than those associated with agriculture, but they are nevertheless domestication on some level. Today, almost all hunter-gatherers depend to some extent upon domesticated food sources either produced part-time or traded for products acquired in the wild.

Some agriculturalists also regularly hunt and gather (e.g. farming during the frost-free season and hunting during the winter). Still others in developed countries go hunting, primarily for leisure. In the Brazilian rainforest, groups which recently did or continue to rely on hunting and gathering techniques seem to have adopted this lifestyle, abandoning most agriculture, as a way to escape colonial control and as a result of the introduction of European diseases reducing their populations to levels where agriculture became difficult.

There are nevertheless a number of contemporary hunter-gatherer peoples who, after contact with other societies, continue their ways of life with very little external influence. One such group is the Pila Nguru or the Spinifex People
Spinifex people
The Spinifex people, or Pila Nguru, are an Indigenous Australian people, whose traditional lands are situated in the Great Victoria Desert,, The Sydney Morning Herald, 2002-08-03. Retrieved 2007-04-21. in the Australian state of Western Australia, adjoining the border with South Australia, to the...

 of Western Australia
Western Australia
Western Australia is a state of Australia, occupying the entire western third of the Australian continent. It is bounded by the Indian Ocean to the north and west, the Great Australian Bight and Indian Ocean to the south, the Northern Territory to the north-east and South Australia to the south-east...

, whose habitat in the Great Victoria Desert
Great Victoria Desert
The Great Victoria Desert is a barren and sparsely populated desert area of southern Australia.-Location and description:The Great Victoria is the biggest desert in Australia and consists of many small sandhills, grassland plains, areas with a closely packed surface of pebbles and salt lakes...

 has proved unsuitable for European agriculture (and even pastoralism). Another are the Sentinelese of the Andaman Islands
Andaman Islands
The Andaman Islands are a group of Indian Ocean archipelagic islands in the Bay of Bengal between India to the west, and Burma , to the north and east...

 in the Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

, who live on North Sentinel Island
North Sentinel Island
North Sentinel Island is one of the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal. It lies to the west of the southern part of South Andaman Island, and has an area of 72 km². Most of the island is forested...

 and to date have maintained their independent existence, repelling attempts to engage with and contact them.

See also

  • Modern hunter-gatherers and other Nomads
  • Anarcho-primitivism
    Anarcho-primitivism
    Anarcho-primitivism is an anarchist critique of the origins and progress of civilization. According to anarcho-primitivism, the shift from hunter-gatherer to agricultural subsistence gave rise to social stratification, coercion, and alienation...

  • Human migration
    Human migration
    Human migration is physical movement by humans from one area to another, sometimes over long distances or in large groups. Historically this movement was nomadic, often causing significant conflict with the indigenous population and their displacement or cultural assimilation. Only a few nomadic...

  • History of the world
    History of the world
    The history of the world or human history is the history of humanity from the earliest times to the present, in all places on Earth, beginning with the Paleolithic Era. It excludes non-human natural history and geological history, except insofar as the natural world substantially affects human lives...

  • Indigenous peoples
    Indigenous peoples
    Indigenous peoples are ethnic groups that are defined as indigenous according to one of the various definitions of the term, there is no universally accepted definition but most of which carry connotations of being the "original inhabitants" of a territory....

  • Neolithic Revolution
    Neolithic Revolution
    The Neolithic Revolution was the first agricultural revolution. It was the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture and settlement. Archaeological data indicates that various forms of plants and animal domestication evolved independently in 6 separate locations worldwide circa...

  • Origins of society
    Origins of society
    The origins of society — the evolutionary emergence of distinctively human social organization — is an important topic within evolutionary biology, anthropology, prehistory and palaeolithic archaeology. While little is known for certain, debates since Hobbes and Rousseau have returned again and...

  • Paleolithic
    Paleolithic
    The Paleolithic Age, Era or Period, is a prehistoric period of human history distinguished by the development of the most primitive stone tools discovered , and covers roughly 99% of human technological prehistory...

  • Prehistoric music
    Prehistoric music
    Prehistoric music is a term in the history of music for all music produced in preliterate cultures , beginning somewhere in very late geological history...

  • Primitive skills
    Primitive skills
    Primitive skills refers to prehistoric handicrafts and pre-industrial technology. Primitive skills are those skills that relate to living off the land, often using handcrafted tools made from naturally gathered materials...


Groups or societies

  • Batek
  • Bushmen
    Bushmen
    The indigenous people of Southern Africa, whose territory spans most areas of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, Botswana, Namibia, and Angola, are variously referred to as Bushmen, San, Sho, Barwa, Kung, or Khwe...

  • Cimba people
  • Cro-Magnon
    Cro-Magnon
    The Cro-Magnon were the first early modern humans of the European Upper Paleolithic. The earliest known remains of Cro-Magnon-like humans are radiometrically dated to 35,000 years before present....

  • Hadza people
  • Homo erectus
    Homo erectus
    Homo erectus is an extinct species of hominid that lived from the end of the Pliocene epoch to the later Pleistocene, about . The species originated in Africa and spread as far as India, China and Java. There is still disagreement on the subject of the classification, ancestry, and progeny of H...

  • Indigenous Australians
    Indigenous Australians
    Indigenous Australians are the original inhabitants of the Australian continent and nearby islands. The Aboriginal Indigenous Australians migrated from the Indian continent around 75,000 to 100,000 years ago....

  • Inuit
    Inuit
    The Inuit are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic regions of Canada , Denmark , Russia and the United States . Inuit means “the people” in the Inuktitut language...

  • Man of Flores
    Homo floresiensis
    Homo floresiensis is a possible species, now extinct, in the genus Homo. The remains were discovered in 2003 on the island of Flores in Indonesia. Partial skeletons of nine individuals have been recovered, including one complete cranium...

  • Mbuti
    Mbuti
    Mbuti or Bambuti are one of several indigenous pygmy groups in the Congo region of Africa. Their languages belong to the Central Sudanic and also to Bantu languages.-Overview:...

  • Neanderthals
  • Nukak-Makú
    Nukak
    The Nukak people live between the Guaviare and Inírida rivers, in the depths of the tropical humid forest, on the fringe of the Amazon basin, in Guaviare Department, Republic of Colombia. They are nomadic hunter-gatherers with seasonal nomadic patterns and in addition they practice a shifting...

  • Pirahã
    Pirahã people
    The Pirahã people are an indigenous hunter-gatherer tribe of Amazon natives, a subgroup of the Mura, who mainly live on the banks of the Maici River in Brazil's Amazonas state, in the territory on Humaitá and Manicoré municipality....

  • Pygmies
    Pygmy
    Pygmy is a term used for various ethnic groups worldwide whose average height is unusually short; anthropologists define pygmy as any group whose adult men grow to less than 150 cm in average height. A member of a slightly taller group is termed "pygmoid." The best known pygmies are the Aka,...

  • Sentinelese
  • Spinifex People
    Spinifex people
    The Spinifex people, or Pila Nguru, are an Indigenous Australian people, whose traditional lands are situated in the Great Victoria Desert,, The Sydney Morning Herald, 2002-08-03. Retrieved 2007-04-21. in the Australian state of Western Australia, adjoining the border with South Australia, to the...

  • Uncontacted tribes
    Uncontacted peoples
    Uncontacted people, also referred to as isolated people or lost tribes, are communities who live, or have lived, either by choice or by circumstance, without significant contact with globalized civilisation....

  • Yupik

Social movements

  • Anarcho-primitivism
    Anarcho-primitivism
    Anarcho-primitivism is an anarchist critique of the origins and progress of civilization. According to anarcho-primitivism, the shift from hunter-gatherer to agricultural subsistence gave rise to social stratification, coercion, and alienation...

    , which strives for the abolishment of civilization and the return to a life in the wild.
  • Freeganism
    Freeganism
    Freeganism is the practice of reclaiming and eating food that has been discarded. One third of the world's food is wasted —in shops, restaurants, farms, factories and homes—and freegans aim to expose and protest against this, arguing that it contributes to environmental degradation, resource...

     involves gathering of food (and sometimes other materials) in the context of an urban or suburban environment.
  • Gleaning
    Gleaning
    Gleaning is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers' fields after they have been commercially harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest...

     involves the gathering of food that traditional farmers have left behind in their fields.
  • Paleolithic diet
    Paleolithic diet
    The modern dietary regimen known as the Paleolithic diet , also popularly referred to as the caveman diet, Stone Age diet and hunter-gatherer diet, is a nutritional plan based on the presumed ancient diet of wild plants and animals that various hominid species habitually consumed during the...

    , which strives to achieve a diet similar to that of ancient hunter-gatherer groups.
  • Paleolithic lifestyle
    Paleolithic lifestyle
    A paleolithic lifestyle refers to living as humans did in the paleolithic era , or attempting to recreate such a lifestyle in the present day. The rationale for such an approach is that humans have evolved for millions of years in a paleolithic environment...

    , which extends the paleolithic diet to other elements of the hunter-gatherer way of life, such as movement and contact with nature

External links