Category Glass and Energy

Example of Mass Harvesting/Storage: The Varanger Sami

The Coastal Sami of Varanger fjord in north Norway are today largely assimilated into the modern society and economy of Norway. They are farmers, com­mercial fishermen, and reindeer herders rather than hunters and gatherers. In the past, however, this large, treeless Arctic fjord, with its hinterland of stunted birch forests and mountain tundra, was the site of one of Europe’s last hunter-gatherer societies. Their seasonal pattern of resource use has been reconstructed by the archaeologist Knut Odner (Fig. 3).

Until the 1700s, the main basis for both sub­sistence and lifestyle was fishing (cod, coalfish, and haddock), hunting wild reindeer, and hunting whales and seals...

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Coping with Extreme Seasonality in Energy Resources

2.1.4 General Principles

Higher levels of risk are typical of more seasonally fluctuating environments, especially where winter conditions of darkness and extreme cold make hunting difficult and the option of constant mobility becomes extremely arduous. Midwinter sedentism is virtually obligatory in sub-Arctic and Arctic environ­ments, where food storage is not so technically difficult (stored food will not spoil in the freezing conditions), but where substantial quantities of food energy must be amassed if the group’s winter survival is to be safeguarded. HG societies in such environ­ments typically invest much energy in strategies that enable them to cope with extreme seasonality—in particular, mass harvesting and mass storage.

2.1.5 Mass Harvesting

To exploit seasonal gluts of ani...

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The Original Affluent Society?

For HG groups, any risk of subsistence crisis will be reduced where (1) food energy derives from a diverse set plant and animals and (2) aggregate food resources are continuously available during the year, even if certain foods are more abundant in certain seasons. If a preferred food such as meat is temporarily scarce, then, through more intensive efforts and high spatial mobility, other less desirable foods (e. g., edible plants) can usually be accessed elsewhere. As a result of these strategies, basic supplies of food energy can be secured throughout the year, and what is produced is almost immediately shared and consumed.

Both the Anbarra Gidjingali (Section 4.1.2) and the Dobe! Kung San (Section 4.2...

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Example: The Dobe! Kung

The Dobe subgroup of the! Kung San were studied by Richard Lee in the 1960s, and provide an example of these interacting constraints. For the Dobe, water is the overriding factor that dictates the location of camps. The camp serves as the home base for 30-40 people, who move out each morning in groups of 2 or 3 to collect plant foods (especially mongongo nuts) or hunt game. All groups must return before evening if they wish to share the common meal. After moving to a new camp, the food resources of the local area (defined by the Dobe as the area within a 2-hour hike) are exploited first. By fanning out in all directions and moving at about 5 km/hour with pauses for rest and work, an area within a 10-km radius can be worked in the space of a 6-hour day.

Once the low-productivity/low-risk re...

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Managing the Energy Cost of Mobility

2.1.3 General Principles

Rather than managing plants and animals to achieve a spatially focused concentration of food energy, which is the strategy of agriculturalists and pastoralists, hunter-gatherers must depend on the natural distribu­tion patterns in time and space of the resources on which they depend. In circumstances in which there is a natural concentration of resources in time and space, sedentism is encouraged, so that people and their possessions do not have to keep shifting from place to place...

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Managing the Daily Risks of Energy Shortage

2.1.1 General Principles

In some societies, it might make sense to understand behavior in terms of profit or surplus (i. e., maximiz­ing energy output), but most anthropologists now believe that for HG societies maximizing security (i. e., minimizing risk) makes more sense. Security is increased when the risks of food shortage are successfully managed. From her studies of the San in southern Africa, Polly Wiessner identified four general ways in which risk is reduced: (1) prevention of energy deficit, (2) transfer of deficit, (3) pooling of resources, and (4) storage strategies...

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The Skewed Distribution of HG Societies Today

Using ethnographic sources, we can map the distribution of 115 HG societies that existed in the 20th century (Fig. 2). Based on the environments they occupy, five groups can be distinguished:

The Skewed Distribution of HG Societies Today
Hot deserts and tropical savannas (19 societies).

• Tropical rain forests and coral reefs (30 societies).

• Boreal forest and tundra zone (38 societies).

• Cool temperate maritime regions (13 societies).

• Other environments (15 societies).

It is apparent that in modern times HG societies have been absent from almost all environments that are prime farming land. Therefore, those that still survive are a very biased sample of the HG mode of the past...

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1.2 Can We Extrapolate from HG Societies to Hominids?

There has been much interest in the possibility that studies of energy flow in HG societies can be used to achieve an understanding of our hominid ancestors. As Robert Foley put it, ‘‘until very recently being a hominid, being a human and being a hunter-gatherer were very nearly the same thing...

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