Paleolithic (Old Stone Age):

  • 5 MYA

Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age):

  • 15,000 YA
  • ***14,000 YA, we as a species, in some regions, began to stop depending on herds of animals for hunting, and began to try and stay in one place (stationary food sources - shellfish, fish, small animals, wild plants) - more settled way of life

o Europe and Middle East - settled into broad spectrum collecting (foraging) o During Mesolithic (middle stone age)

Neolithic (New Stone Age):

  • 11,000 YA

Ecological Anthropology:

  • Sub-discipline of anthropology that focuses on subsistence strategies and how people exploit and adapt to their environment
  • It looks at how people meet their needs and make their living - and how those strategies shape their society and culture

Understanding Human Subsistence Patterns:

  • Subsistence: refers to the basic methods of obtaining food within a society
  • Subsistence patterns: the methods of obtaining food using the available land and resources, available labour, and technology
  • The idea here is that resources + labour + technology = food & goods
  • Two basic modes of subsistence involve finding food known as foraging (hunting and gathering) and growing food (food production)
  • Food production involves and efficient adaptation to a specific environment
  • Food producers transform and maintain the environment in order to obtain food
  • The three major types of food production are:

o Pastoralism: raising and caring for large herds of domesticated animals o Horticulture: small-scale farming using relatively simple technology o Agriculture: intensive farming investing a great deal of time, energy, and technology

Ecosystem, Adaptation, and Carrying Capacity:

  • Adaptation to environments

o Possibilities and challenges

o Available resources, land, water, labour supply

  • Carrying capacity

o Number of people who can be sustained by resources in a given environment o NOT a fixed number

o Varies with subsistence techniques, labour expenditure, technology

Subsistence and Settlement Patterns:

  • A settlement pattern refers to the way people distribute themselves in their environment

o Where dwellings are located

o How dwellings are grouped into settlements

o Permanent of transitory

Subsistence and Population:

  • The population of a community depends on

o Available resources

o Subsistence strategies used

  • Food producers generally have larger populations than foragers
  • Population may fluctuate with season

o Particularly true of those who practice foraging

More Subsistence Patterns:

  • Work and the division of labour
  • Social relations

o Interpersonal and intergroup relations

  • Cooperation or competition
  • Reciprocity - mutual gift giving
  • Redistribution - system of collection and reallocation of resources

n Ex:taxes

More About Foraging:

  • There are several factors that affect foraging practices, some are ecological while others are dependant on population
  • Ecological factors include nomadism, practiced by nomads, people who do not have permanent homes but travel to sources of food as the food becomes seasonally available
  • Population factors revolve around the fact that many foraging societies have small populations and utilize strategies to curb the population (think about how this relates to the notion of carrying capacity)

San of the Kalahari:

  • A meal, laid out for cooking: wildebeest meat (gnu), wild watermelon, wild cucumber, nuts, jewel beetles, and a tortoise shell bowl

Even More About Foraging:

  • There are also social and cultural factors associated with foraging:

o Little property

o Territorial flexibility

o Communal sharing o Social equality

Foraging Sounds Simple:

  • But it can get complex

o Especially in marine environments with abundant resources such as the pacific northwest

o Storage technologies are a main reason for this occurrence

o This can lead to more complex societies which feature permanent settlements, large(r) populations, complex societies with social divisions and the accumulation of wealth and prestige items


  • Pastoralism is a subsistence strategy and way of life that focuses on raising and caring for large herds of domesticated animals
  • Pastoralism is rarely self-contained; in most instances it is combined with another subsistence strategy such as foraging or small-scale farming
  • In most pastoralist societies, there are rules of ownership and control of the animals
  • In pastoralism, do not kill your animals, instead, grow a big herd of live animals

o Worth so much more to you alive than dead

  • Pastoralism is also less egalitarian than foraging societies

o This means that while the men and the boys generally tend to the animals, women and children tend to related tasks

  • Customary rights allow groups of pastoralists to share certain plots of land for grazing purposes
  • To prevent overgrazing, pastoralists take their herds to different grazing areas throughout the year in a pattern known as transhumance


  • Horticulture is a subsistence strategy that focuses on small-scale farming using a relatively simple technology (digging sticks, hoes, and other handheld tools)
  • This is different from agriculture, which focuses on large-scale farming and relatively complex technology
  • Horticulture allows the formation of long-term permanent settlements which we refer to as sedentism
  • By-products of this way of life includes food storage and the accumulation of property
  • Horticulture often involves the technique of slash and burn (also known as swidden)

o Slash all the vegetation off the land, then burn and the ashes are used as a fertilizer (very efficient way of using the land when done correctly)

  • This involves a cycle of cleaning the land, burning the cuttings, growing and harvesting crops (2-3 years) and then long periods of leaving the land fallow in order to regenerate the forest
  • In horticulture societies, the gendered allocation of work varies by society and the ownership of land is generally corporate - it is owned by kin groups

o Corporate ownership is barbarian in Morgan's hierarchy, company owned and run (private ownership would be civilized)


  • Agriculture is another subsistence strategy that focuses on intensive farming, investing a great deal of time, energy, and technology

o Main characteristics of agriculture:

  • Continuous cultivation of land
  • Private ownership
  • Increased yields
  • Irrigation, draft animals, ploughs
  • Large, dense populations
  • Private ownership (civilized)
  • Use of fertilizers, pesticides, genetically modified seeds

Industrialization and Globalization:

  • Industrial revolution
  • Rural-to-urban migration
  • Market economy - commodification of resources, land, labour

o Commodification: taking something with no value/abstract value, and make into a commodity to sell

  • Individualism
  • Industrial agriculture and commercialized farming

A (not so green) Green Revolution in India:

  • Pesticides + chemical fertilizers = higher crop yield
  • They also create land degradation, chemical toxicity, the depletion of ground water
  • The largest wave of suicide in history: more than 17,500 farmers a year killed themselves between 2002-2006

o Killed themselves because of the green revolution

o “Suicide genes” were what the seeds called

o Farmers: growing cotton, make money, go buy seeds, but then crop failure and cant buy seeds the next year, so they go to the bank and ask for a loan (not getting one), then money lender, buy their seeds, but debt increases because they were not selling their crops (no money, no crops) so they killed themselves (out of desperation)

o Drank pesticides to kill themselves

  • Deccan Development Society (India) - where professor did his work

o Hard to grow stuff there

o NGO - trains women to be farmers and self-sufficient

o Grow an indigenous grain (millets?, mallets?) - don't need water

o Women are illiterate and cannot write (make videos of their lives)

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