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Cultural Anthropology: Stone Age - Essay Example

Hunter gatherers had few possessions, and lived in small family groups with few children, because they had to carry all their possessions from place to place, seeking the different foods and raw materials that they used. The seasons dictated their movements, and this was a sustainable lifestyle, because it had low impact on the natural resources available. A huge challenge in this early period was presented by climate change, which could happen in long spells such as an ice age of a thousand years, or a sudden warming that occurred over the course of a single generation. Later stone age societies, which depended on agriculture, developed building technologies that enabled storage of food, to sustain their larger family unites, and irrigation, that enabled them to maximize yields. The greater security that this food storage provided was an important advance, because it allowed societies to have specialized trades, and to compartmentalize different activities into separate buildings, thus creating greater efficiency. The agricultural lifestyle is vulnerable to climate change too, since the plants that are grown for food need to have specific conditions in terms of soil, water and sunlight. The challenges that humans themselves introduced into the mix include the practice of using domesticated animals, because hunting soon exhausts the local wildlife if it is done by a large and settled group. Another impact of agriculture can be seen in the increasing size of family groups, and of villages

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and towns. These two developments had both positive and negative effects. Domestic animals provide much needed protein in their milk and meat, and larger numbers are able to harvest more food and work on mega-projects which benefit the whole community. The social complexity that arises from large scale collaboration led to the development of political systems which in turn guaranteed stability and mutual support. These are all useful developments. On the negative side, goats and other domestic animals destroyed the saplings and caused deforestation and erosion, while humans living together in close proximity found themselves prey to many diseases, as well as coming into conflict over scarce resources. This is the negative side of an agriculture based lifestyle. The people and the land are linked very closely and the film shows how at first people were subdued and constrained by nature, but in time they learned to subdue nature for their own purposes. Unfortunately, there appears to be a tipping point, beyond which natural forces reassert themselves, and human beings find themselves once more having to move to new areas, or adapt their habits in order to deal with adverse environmental change. Many human endeavors such as smelting, travel on horseback and using the wheel to carry heavy loads, arise as solutions to particular problems. Even advanced ideas like writing and counting appear to be the result of the need to record business transactions. This shows that adversity has a positive side: it can cause hardship, but it provokes human inventiveness at the same time. One insight that the film illustrates very well is the importance of networks between groups which facilitated trade in scarce goods like salt or copper. It is well known that stone age people traded many goods, because archaeologists find objects dispersed


Cultural Anthropology: Stone Age. The main challenges of the Stone Age appear to lie in two separate areas. The first is a number of natural events and environmental conditions which are beyond the control of human beings. The second area is a set of problems which arise out of the way that human beings themselves choose to live…
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