Hunting and Gathering Societies
At present. fewer than 250.000 people support themes dissolve through hunting. fishing. and gathering WIld plant foods (Haviland. 1999). However (rom the origins of human existence (several million years ago) until about 10.000 years ago. hunting and gathering societies were the only type of human society that existed. Hunting and gathering societies use simple technology for hunting animals and gathering vegetation.The technology in these societies is limited to tools and weapons that are used for basic subsistence. including spears. bows and arrows. nets. traps for hunting. and digging sticks for plant collecting.
All tools and weapons are made of natural materials such as stone. bone, and wood. In hunting and gathering societies. the basic social unit is the kinship group or family. People do not have private households or residences as we think of them Instead. they live in small groups of about twentyfive to forty people. Kinship ties constitute the basic economic unit through which food is acquired and distributed. With no stable food supply. hunters and gatherers continually search for wild animals and edible plants. As a result. they remain on the move and seldom establish a permanent settlement (Nolan and Lenski, 1999).
Hunting and gathering societies are relatively egalitarian. Because it is impossible to accumulate a surplus of food. there are few resources upon which individuals or groups can build a power base. Some specialization (division of labor) occurs. primarily based on age and sex. Young children and older people are expected to contribute what they can to securing the food supply. but healthy adults of both sexes are expected to obtain most of the food. In some societies. men hunt for animals and women gather plants; in others. both women and men gather plants and hunt for wild game. with women more actively participating when smaller animals are nearby (Lorber. 1994;Voln, 1995).
In these societies. education. religion. and politics re not formal social institutions. instead. their functions take place on an informal basis in the kinship group. which is responsible for teaching children basic survival skills such as how to hunt and gather food Religion is based on animism. the belief that spirits inhabit virtually everything in the world. There is no organized religious body; the shaman, or religious leader. exercises some degree of leadership but receives no material rewards for his duties and is expected to work like everyone else to obtain food (Nolan and Lenski, 1999). Contemporary hunting and gathering societies are located in relatively isolated geographical areas. However. some analysts predict that these groups will soon cease to exist, as food producers with more dominating technologies usurp the geographic areas from which these groups have derived their food supply (Nolan and Lenski, 1999).