A Summary and Assertion in Response to a Reading Having thought through the information appearing elsewhere in this guide, an instructor is ready to decide which assignments to choose for the semester.
Very large in size, some numbering millions of people though small compared with larger industrialized societies. Some cities exist, in which trade and manufacturing are concentrated. Major inequalities exist among different classes.
Distinct apparatus of government headed by a king or emperor. Compared with larger societies—particularly modern societies such as the United States—there was little inequality in most hunting and gathering groups; everyone lived in what would today be regarded as extreme poverty.
Because necessary material goods were limited to weapons for hunting, tools for digging and building, traps, and cooking utensils, there was little difference among members of the society in the number or kinds of material possessions; there were no divisions between rich and poor.
Differences in position or rank were based on age and gender; men were almost always the hunters, while women gathered wild crops, cooked, and brought up the children. The oldest and most experienced men usually had an important say in major decisions affecting the group, but differences in power were much less distinct than in larger types of society.
Hunting and gathering societies were usually participatory rather than competitive: All adult male members assembled in the face of important decisions or crises. Hunters and gatherers moved about a good deal within fixed territories, around which they migrated from year to year.
Because they lacked animal or mechanical means of transport, they could take very few goods or possessions with them. Many hunting and gathering communities did not have a stable membership; people often moved between camps, or groups split up and joined others within the same territory.
Hunters and gatherers had little interest in developing material wealth; their main concerns were with religious values and ritual activities. Members participated regularly in elaborate ceremonies and spent time preparing the dress, masks, paintings, or other sacred objects used in such rituals.
Hunters and gatherers are not merely primitive peoples whose ways of life no longer hold interest for us. Studying their cultures demonstrates that some of our institutions are far from natural features of human life. Pastoral societies relied mainly on domesticated livestock, whereas agrarian societies grew crops practiced agriculture.
Some societies had mixed pastoral and agrarian economies. Depending on the environment, pastoralists reared cattle, sheep, goats, camels, or horses.
Some pastoral societies exist in the modern world, especially in areas of Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. They are usually found in regions of dense grasslands or in deserts or mountain regions. Such regions are not amenable to agriculture but may support livestock. At some point, hunting and gathering groups began to sow their own crops rather than simply collect those growing in the wild.
This practice developed as horticulture, in which small gardens were cultivated by the use of simple hoes or digging instruments.
Like pastoralism, horticulture provided a more reliable food supply than hunting and gathering and therefore could support larger communities. Because they were not on the move, people who practiced horticulture could develop larger stocks of material possessions than people in either hunting and gathering or pastoral communities.
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