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Hunting And Gathering Vs Agriculture Essay, Research Paper

Hunting and Gathering VS Agriculture

From the early prehistoric society until now, we often heard the word “adaptation”, which means the process of changing something or changing our behavior to deal with new situations. The ways people adjust their natural environment varies according to time, place, and tribe. Foraging is common way of adaptation that people uses for most of human history; however because of the population pressure, some people adopt agriculture to fulfill their need. This essay, will discuss the positive and negative aspects of life in hunting and gathering societies compared to the agricultural societies based on Martin Harris’ article “Murders in Eden” and Jared Diamond’s article “The Worst Mistake in the History of Human Race.”

Hunting and gathering is the longest-lasting lifestyle for most of human history. In addition to their way of life, hunter-gatherers are often regarded as “nasty, brutish, and short” (Diamond 114). Progressivists also suggested our hunter-gatherer ancestors adopt agriculture because of “its efficient way to get more food for less work”(Diamond 114). However, as archaeologists observe in some aspects of their lives, hunter-gatherers societies are not necessarily “nasty, brutish, and short.” Some issues that we need to compare between hunting and gathering and agricultural societies include workloads, nutrition, production, starvation, infanticide, health and disease, and differences in wealth.

From the work loads, it shows that in the barren environment of the Kalahari dessert, the present day Bushmen need only 12 to 19 hours per week to obtaining a diet rich in protein and a high nutritional standard, while their farmer neighbors, the Hadza nomads of Tanzania, need 14 hours per week and get less protein. It also takes more additional hours of food preparation to make it is suitable for consumption. It appears that hunter-gatherers have more leisure time than farmers. On the other hand, an agricultural system absorbs more labor and increased workload per capita.

Based on the output of production, agriculture is perceived as an advance because farmers can produce more food within a smaller area than they could possibly obtain as hunter-gatherers. Harris says that this situation happened since farmers control “the rate of plant reproduction” (Harris 219), which means that immediate adverse consequences could be prevented with the intensification of production. On the other hand, hunter-gatherers, which depend on the availability of natural plants and animals; consequently, can raise their output very little. However, although farmers can produce more food than hunter-gatherers do, the numbers of crops are limited; therefore, when the crops failed, there is risk of starvation.

In order to keep their standard of living, hunter-gatherers have to keep their population low. They use many ways to prevent pregnancy, such as herbal contraceptives, plant and animal poisons, and many mechanical techniques for abortion. Hunter-gatherers are also likely to use infanticide and geronticide, which means the killing of infant and old people. Commonly, the mothers executed infanticide by neglecting their babies. On the contrary, people who adopt agriculture do have this practice; they do not keep their population low, conversely, they need more population to help their relatives to plant and harvest their crops.

This high population density, however, has its downside. People in agricultural societies tend to bear the risk of infection by many diseases. It happened because they have to trade with other crowded societies in order satisfy their needs. In contrast, hunter-gatherers who live in dry land and with low population, have less risk to contaminate disease because epidemics is less likely to occur in a small population.

Agriculture also brings class divisions because farming introduced the concept of land ownership and thereby, there is a division among labor and owner, and on the one hand, it causes the elite become wealthier, but on the other hand, most people become poorer. In hunting and gathering society, which store little food; people have equal social standing.

Both Hunting and gathering as well as agricultural societies have their positive and negative sides. Archeologists; however, tend to think that hunting and gathering is better. I, myself, as a woman, prefer to live in agricultural society, which I think is more civilized, in the sense that they do not have the practice of infanticide and geronticide. Furthermore, I consider this practice of favoring male babies over female, and even killing or abandoning female babies is very cruel and brutal. In fact, people of this modern day society, tend to choose agriculture over hunting and gathering because it is steadier, calmer, and less risky.


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