October 1, 2008
Humans and Culture
In an attempt to separate the cultures of the world into easier modes of study, anthropologists created set
categories based on subsistence patterns, derived from the methods by which societies obtain their food
and other provisions.
The four categories of most interest to our class discussions are foraging,
pastoralism, horticulture and intense agriculture.
Industrialism is also a category of division, however this
is outside the bounds of our class for all people under our study have been primitive to our own
Each type of division has their own unique characteristics, and even though some
features seem to merge between categories, there certainly is a foundation of relatedness between each
culture per category.
It is with this foundation of similarity, from population sizes to politics, that I will
attempt in the following to classify the societies discussed in class into their respective subsistence
Once the basic means by which humans exploited their environment, Foraging, also known as hunting
and gathering, is the system based on acquiring wild plant and animal resources.
With foraging being the
oldest subsistence system, the people who have utilized this mode have done so in a wide range of
environments, although, as time has passed the few remaining foraging societies have been forced into
extreme environments unwanted by agricultural and industrial societies.
Nevertheless, even though the
amount of cultures and types of environments still today involved in foraging have dramatically reduced
in size and quality, respectively, there are still features and distinctions that are similar between all
The first society we discussed in class, the Arunta, is an example of such a foraging culture.
Based in the
arid mid-south region of Australia, the Arunta society is made up of small migrating families that still
consider themselves part of a larger group, which anthropologists call a band.
These nomadic people
exploit the land on a seasonal basis, continually moving to new areas in order to gather new resources and
also leave their wastes behind.
Because of the low population density and nomadic nature of their
society, the Arunta have very little material culture.
No ornate clothing or rituals are to be found within
the Arunta society, and an egalitarian political structure prevails.
All these characteristics may seem to be
dependent on the fact that the Arunta live in a harsh desert environment, but in fact the basic foundation
of these characteristics can be used to describe all foraging societies even before they were forced to
dwell in marginal environments.
The !Kung of the South African Kalahari Desert, and the Nootka of the
Canadian Southwest Coast are such other foraging cultures that have been discussed in class.
society is almost exactly the same as the Arunta, being that they maintain a high frequency of migration,