Plant food was so plentiful that the Hadza made no attempt to preserve it

Plant food was so plentiful that the hadza made no

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hungry, said Woodburn, was almost inconceivable. Plant food was so plentiful that the Hadza made no attempt to preserve it. Physicians who examined Hadza children in the 1960s found them in good health by tropical standards, and Woodburn says that from a nutritional viewpoint, the Hadza were better off than their agricultural neighbors. The Ju/wasi peoples of the Kalahari Desert, in Namibia in southwest Africa, are another hunting and gathering society that has contributed extensively to what anthropologists have learned about small-scale societies. Lorna Marshall, assisted by her children Elizabeth and John, began research among the Ju/wasi in the 1950s. Their work, along with later studies by Richard Lee and others, has provided us with a good description of Ju/wasi hunting and gathering activities. There is some
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controversy in anthropology over whether the Ju/wasi have always been hunters and gatherers, but that was the way they lived when they were visited by the Marshalls and Lee through the 1960s. Ju/wasi groups lived around waterholes, from which they would wander as far as six miles in search of plant and animal foods. Their groups numbered from 30 to 40 people during the rainy season, when waterholes were full and plentiful, and increased from 100 to 200 during the dry season, when only the larger holes retained water. Lee found that the food quest was constant among the Ju/wasi, as it was among the Hadza. They did little food processing, so they had to get food supplies every third or fourth day. Vegetable foods constituted 60 to 80% of the diet, and women gathered most of it, producing two to three times as much food as men. Lee reports that the Ju/wasi never exhausted their food supply. The major food source was the mongongo nut, which is far more nourishing than our own breakfast cereals and contains five times the calories and 10 times the protein of cooked cereals. Mongongo nuts provided more than 50% of the Ju/wasi caloric intake; there are 1,260 calories and 56 grams of protein in 300 nuts. Ju/wasi territory contained more than 80 other species of edible plants—most of which they did not even use—although they did eat about 20 species of roots, melons, gums, bulbs, and dried fruits. In addition, an occasional giraffe, antelope, or other large game and the more usual porcupine, hare, or other small game provided meat. Their meat intake was between 175 and 200 pounds per person per year—an amount comparable to the meat consumption in developed countries. Readily available plant foods, such as the nutrient-rich mongongo nut, were the mainstay of the Ju/wasi diet. Here, Ju/wasi women return to camp after foraging for mongongo nuts to feed their families. Marjorie Shostak/Anthro-Photo In other words, Lee found that the environment of the Ju/wasi provided ample readily accessible food. Their diet
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consisted of some 2,300 calories a day, with a proper balance of protein, vitamins, and minerals. If the Ju/wasi diet was deficient, it was in carbohydrates because there was no equivalent to our white bread, pasta, rice, or sugar.
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