Anthropology论文模板 – Hunter and Gatherer Communities (Bushmen and Inuit)

Recent and historical hunter-gatherers have had a significant impact on the development of archaeological theories. The consistent rise provides a primary source of data useful for understanding history. The general pattern in hunter-gatherer adaptations to varied environments is vital to archaeologists across the globe. The type of food that these communities take also vary depending on the environmental condition of the regions they inhabit. For instance, those living at the poles consume meat and fish mostly (Sirina, 2004). Others who live in moderately warmer areas such the Sahara region also consume plants and meat products. Hunter-gatherers live in societies where that feed mostly on wild plants and wild animals. Often, women collect wild plants while men hunt wild animals. Most of the modern societies base their roots in hunting and gathering (Ndlovu, 2009). However, this has changed because of the invention of agriculture and climate change. Still in the contemporary world, there are a few cases of hunter-gatherer societies across the globe. The ensuing discussion examines two modern hunter-gatherer societies, that is, the Bushmen of South Africa and the Piraha of the Amazonia.


The Bushmen are approximated to have lived in southern Africa as 20,000 years ago. They occupy the larger expanse of the Kalahari Desert. Robins (2001) notes that they are the closest survivors of the Homo sapiens and are small in stature with yellowish skin which starts to have wrinkles very early in their life. These people initially occupied Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, South Africa, Angola, and Zimbabwe but currently they are scarce in the southern region. The Bushmen no longer live entirely through hunting and gathering because of their interactions with other communities. Some of the Bushmen had become farmers and pastoralists when the Bantu and the white farmers immigrated into Southern Africa. Bushmen use a variety of languages all of which include ‘click’ sounds (Nevins, Pesetsky & Rodrigues, 2009).

Traditionally, Bushmen were hunters and gatherers with about three-quarters of their food consisting of plant food, which was majorly gathered by women while men hunted game. They used poisoned arrows and spears to kill their prey, especially antelopes that could last for several days. The society lived in temporary homes that they built from wood (Robins, 2001). They applied the persistence technique of hunting. The preceding entails chasing an animal until exhaustion overruns it. Persistence method was most applicable during the hottest part of the day when animals were suffering from the intense heat. Bushmen, conversely, could keep their bodies cool by sweating while still running. Bushmen hunting and gathering practice remained unaffected for several years during their evolution until recently. The European colonists, however, treated them as a threat to the settlers and their livestock. They then killed them in great numbers and made many others their slaves working on white farms others were also enslaved by the cattle-owning Bantu people.

It is believed that one of the Bushmen’s advantages over other societies is their ability to survive for long without surface water. Their knowledge of gathering liquid-filled melons and tubers and their art of storing water in buried ostrich eggs enabled them to live where other tribes could not survive (Charlson, et al., 2010). However, the interaction of the Bushmen with other communities was not entirely in vain. In the 1950s, their lives were transformed by the introduction of wells in the Kalahari, which enabled them to access surface water. However, the wells opened the Bushman land to pastoralists who dispossessed them (Dowson, 1994).

The social structure of the Bushmen is not tribal as they had no paramount leader and their kinship is rather relaxed. In their family setups, decisions are arrived at by universal discussion and agreement is by mutual consensus (Warner & Grint, 2006). Individual opinion is considered according to that level of knowledge and experience in the subject matter of discussion. Families within a clan share a common language but slightly differ with neighbouring groups, although there are a fair similarity and understanding between them (Robins, 2010). Bushmen are nomadic within reasonably smaller boundaries, based on the proximity of other neighbouring families and clans. The territory covered by one family may stretch to a 25-mile circle. However, if there are no other surrounding tribes or people, the territories may extend to ensure adequate food and water sources.

Men and women roles were distinctively different, and they rarely overlapped. Men were hunters. They travelled to long distances in search and pursuit of prey while women were gatherers, which enabled them to stay close at home to take care of the family. Bushmen respect the role of women and their opinion usually took precedence particularly those concerning food (Parthasarathy, 2011, p.57). Girls were considered women after they shed their first menstrual blood. Likewise, boys became men only after killing a dangerous animal. Afterwards, they were treated as members of the clan and could take part in decision-making.

In the Bushmen culture, when a child is born, the mother and the community as a whole receive it with care and love. In severe conditions, the mother is required to relieve quietly the child of the harsh future suffering by ending the child’s life (Belcher, 2014). The preceding was believed to be acceptable behaviour in the society when in lean years, the mother is suckling another baby and hence, she could not feed both children sufficiently. The practice ensured that the life of the older child is protected against that of the new born is in any case most likely to die.

The issue of death is regarded as a natural thing among the Bushmen. If someone dies at a particular place, the clan will move away from such a camp and will never camp there again. Bushmen will never intentionally cross a grave where someone was buried. However, under any compelling circumstances that one has to pass near such a place, they throw a small stone to the grave and mutter silently to invoke the spirits to ensure good luck (Reagan, 2016). It is an abomination to step on a grave as the spirits stay active on above the grave, and they never want to offend them

Traditionally Bushmen women went out in groups to in search of edible or medicinal plants. They spent up to 3-4 days a week gathering wild plants. It is believed that there were about 400-500 local plants that Bushmen were conversant with, and some were used for medical purposes. Some of the herbs collected were used to heal wounds, illnesses, snake, and animal bites. Some plants and animals were used for healing ceremonies, that is, invoking the gods of rain to bring rain to the land, or perform a charm to bring fertility to barren women (Dowson, 1998). Their diet and relaxed way of life protect them from stress-related diseases facing the world today.

Bushmen believe in a supreme deity. They also believe in a lesser god and other supernatural beings and the spirits of the dead. The Supreme Being created himself and then created them, then their land which e blessed with food. He is commonly referred to as a real power that protects them from evil. However, if angered, he can send bad luck, and he can be appeased by offerings (Lancy, 2015). The lesser god is evil and a bearer of bad luck. Bad luck is believed to be caused by spirits of the dead who wants to take the living to the same place they are.
The Bushmen have suffered a great deal through their history because of the interaction with other communities. The cattle –herding Bantus and the white colonists over the last few hundred years ago, invaded their homelands. The latter led to widespread discrimination, evictions from their lands, murder leading to a drastic reduction in their population to a few thousand. Even now, they are perceived as a primitive people who need to change their lifestyle to conform to other surrounding communities. However, through the help of some Bushman organizations, a few groups of Bushmen have secured land rights even though others remain with no claim to any land whatsoever.

The Inuit

The Inuit who used to be called Eskimos meaning eater of raw meat form the people of Canadian Arctic. They inhabit the Arctic regions of Alaska, Greenland, Siberia, and Northern Canada (Kelly, 1995). They are indigenous people with cultural similarity and the major languages spoken Inuit Aleut family.  The sub languages for the entire Inuit family comprise; the Inuktitut language of Canada, the Kalaallisut in Greenland and the Inupiaq in Alaska. The word Eskimo is a Native American name and were the last natives to arrive in North America (Panter-Brick et al., 2001). They are believed to be the descendants of the Thule culture who came from western Alaska and migrated eastwards across the Arctic. Anthropologists note that they displaced the primary Paleo Eskimo culture known as the Dorset culture in Tuniit. Researchers refer to the Dorset culture as dwarfs and are believed to have lacked larger weapons, dogs and other artisanship that Inuit possessed and this provided an upper hand to the latter group, facilitating the displacement (Kelly, 1995). This Inuit rapidly expanded and this facilitated their growth and therefore by around 1300 hundred, they settled in West Greenland and in 1400, they had occupied the East Greenland.

The population pressure by the Inuit forced the Tinuit to extinction by 1500 although, recent anthropological studies indicate that the Tinuit were not completely erased as a sub tribe known as Aleut and Sadlermiut survived the geographical isolation and they only got extinct by around 1900s when they contacted infectious diseases from engagement with Europeans (Bicchieri, 1972).

In Greenland Alaska and Canada, the Inuit occupied the southern region of the Arctic and the most globally recognized southern Inuit in the society are the Rigolets. They had relations of trade with the southern communities and occasional boundary disputes that culminated to aggression between the communities (O’Connell & Bird, 2006). They engaged in warfare especially the Nunatamuit Inuit who lived in Mackenzie area in River Delta. The engagement in warfare was prompted by huge population as the central Inuit who inhabited the central Arctic rarely engaged in the same due to their low numbers.

During the little ice age period, the Arctic climate grew cold and the inhabitants of Alaska neglected their whaling ways due to the weather (Binford, 2001). The Inuit of the area however abandoned the hunting activities including the whaling as the whales had migrated from high Artic areas of Greenland and Canada. The resultant diet that the Inuit survived on was poor and they lost the architecture they had developed from the whale hunting and the missed on the essential raw materials for their tools and crafts. The low quality diet changed from the highly nutritious diet of bowhead whales to poorer diet.

The Inuit traditionally are fishers and gatherers and hunt bowhead wales birds, and fish, and Arctic fox, which they consumed less (Cummings, Jordan & Zvelebil, 2014). Their diet is highly protein and very high fat content. The fat content forms high parts of the daily content of food consumed. They are not farmers due the climate at the arctic and gathered much of their consumed farm products. These were the natural available ones and consist of tubers, grasses, berries and different types of stems that existed within their locality.

Anthropological studies indicate that the low carbohydrate diet had little effect on their health and they were able to gain valuable diet from their traditional diets that had developed from the Arctic activities. The vitamin supplements did not spring from plants and thus formed a vital part of the sectional gathered diet (Bicchieri, 1972). Ringed meat from the traditional diet provided sufficient vitamin C that sustained their valuable roster from the whale skin. The life span of Inuit in Canada is lower by between twelve to fifteen years which is reported to be the limited access to medical services but speculation as to the low carbohydrate diet indicate the limitation could be realistic.

The Inuit constantly hunted sea creatures including whales and other sea animals that informed their choice of diet. Their transport mechanism related to the sealskin boats, which was later developed, by the Europeans and Americans as kayak. They used dog sleds during winter to navigate the areas that pertained their way of life. The dogs were incorporated as a team and pulled a sled made of wood, animal bones and whale supplements. The Inuit industry relied majorly on animal skins and bones. They made knives from walrus ivory and art was part of the common seal of the community and still do (Bicchieri, 1972). Their foot wears and general clothes was chiefly from the animals supplements for example sinew and anorak. During winter some members of the Inuit community lived in Igloo, huts made from snow.

The men in the Inuit tradition confirmed hunting and gathering activities while the women took care of their homes and supported the children to sustain the family. Marriage was embraced at puberty and the young men gradually graduated to hunters and gatherers at the same time. The Inuit traditionally raided the native communities and even fellow Inuits (Cunningham & Benoit, 2011). The essence of the raid subsisted mainly on the notion of pride. Anthropologist as subsist for superiority and pride reports sense of violence. Their general inhabitation was guided on the customary practices that generated the peace within the groups.

Foraging theory                                         

Optimal foraging theory is a model that helps anticipate the behaviour of an animal when it is searching for food. Even though getting food provides the animal with energy, time and energy are still required in searching and capturing the food. The animal needs to get the most benefits of such food against the energy spent in acquiring it. It helps in the evaluation of factors that influences a decision and facilitates the process of comprehending animal adaptations (Thomason, 2007). Cost-benefit models obtained from evolutionary ecology have led to the general expectation that territoriality will be found where resources are in plenty and predictable. For humans, feeding is usually associated with pleasure.

However, on the part of the Bushmen, most of the Bushmen groups inhabit a territory that is characterized by sparse and erratic resources. The Bushmen have a unique way of monitoring territorial assets. Arguably, the manner of territorial defence may vary as it is influenced by environmental variables and territorial costs and benefits. It can be argued that the Bushmen spend more energy and time in acquiring food than the benefit they may get from such food as the food is found in far-away places and small quantities coupled with intense heat in their habitat (Lomax, 1968.). This situation may thus go against the analogy of optimality model that is because the sole purpose of an animal for foraging is to optimize the benefits from such food.

The view of the optimal foraging theory that humans’ feeding is normally associated with pleasure does not necessarily apply in the Bushmen feeding pattern. Due to the scarcity of food in their locality, the little they manage to get is usually shared and used sparingly to ensure that everyone get something for their survival and not for the mere fact of prestige (Hall, 1984). Even though they possess the advantage of being able to chase their prey to exhaustion, and then capturing it, but the total energy used does not consummate to the benefits that will be acquired from such prey.

The theory of optimal foraging addresses the types of decisions faced by the Bushmen. Despite on whether their foraging has a direct impact on their survival or death, or it has more collective or long-term effect on reproductive success. The Bushmen have to make decisions in the face of constraints especially, during the dry season (Rollefson, 2011). Temporal constraints are couched in the terms of the cost of foraging per unit time. In our case of the Bushmen, they have scanned their environment, and they know the distribution of their food, which enables them to make appropriate decisions when faced with starvation (Kafarowski, 2006).

Conversely, the Inuit are located in an area with plenty of resources. Their feeding is in such a way that they feed for pleasure and not to avoid starvation. Despite the low carbohydrate content in their diet, they have enough resources to survive. They must choose their food carefully to ensure that they optimize the benefits the food has to offer against the energy and the time spent in searching for such food. Their gathering ability ensures the quality and energy spent in the same relate in equal measure.

Hunter-Gatherer Societies Conformity to Hayden’s Model

The Bushmen’s hunting tactics are in line with the Hayden’s model. They only hunt and kill and collect what they can consume at any particular time. The preceding is because the food in their ecological setup is very limited and they cannot afford to waste it. Any extra food acquired is carefully stored and preserved for future use.

Their food collection and hunting techniques are well crafted in a way that will ensure no wastage is experienced (Swatuk, 2005). Food gathering and hunting is a communal affair. It is done by a group of people who split and head to different directions for food collection. They also have a clear line of division of labour in that women’s and men’s roles are clearly stipulated. Men take the roles of hunting while their wives are allocated the roles of collecting food and taking care of children at home while men have gone far in search of animal to hunt (Nielsen & Tomaselli, 2010). The same model applies to the Inuita community who clearly stipulate the role of women and men in their different actions of responsibility.


Living in the jungle is not an easy undertaking. Hunters and gatherers are prone to attacks from all sorts of wild animal and dangerous food staffs. Living together in communities and sharing almost all possessions is their strength. The latter promotes peace at all times and across the entire living band. They improvise methods that are tricky and that makes them use less energy when catching their prey. Most of their food comes from plants and animals. The type of animal they feed on depends on the region and climate of their residence. The Inuita gather and hunt whales mostly while the Bushmen hunt wild animals from the bush.  Their cultures tend to be similar in many aspects despite existence of slight ecological and weather differences. The Bushmen live in relatives that may not have any formal structure of leadership while the Inuita experience leadership changes and constraints. Everyone tends to understand what is expected of him or her. To be able to communicate well, they use language that has been used repeatedly over the years. The roles of men and women are separated. Women mostly deal with matters concerning children and food preparation and gathering vegetables. Men mostly do hunting for Bushmen while they hunt whales and arctic animals and gather. Boys mature to join them in the hunt while girls learn from their mothers and marry at puberty. The natural food staffs that they consume make them less prevalent to chronic diseases such as obesity and cancer mostly for Bushmen while the Inuit are subject to diet changes and have low life expectancy due to low carbohydrate diet. Research should be done further on the values they enjoy that make them stick to their traditional lifestyles. The traditional effectiveness of their way of life denote their adaptations and inform the differences between these communities and other common people with adaptations presenting promising understanding of these people.


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