| FORUM | ARCHIVE |                    | TOTAL QUIZ RESULT |


  New Posts New Posts RSS Feed - Was Paleolithic society violent?
  FAQ FAQ  Forum Search   Events   Register Register  Login Login


Welcome stranger, click here to read about some of the great benefits of registering for a free account with us and joining us in our global online community.


Was Paleolithic society violent?

 Post Reply Post Reply
Author
calvo View Drop Down
Chieftain
Chieftain


Joined: 20 May 2007
Status: Offline
Points: 1357
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote calvo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Was Paleolithic society violent?
    Posted: 21 Jan 2010 at 15:05
This is a question that has always intrigued me.

It is estimated that prior to the agricultural revolution at the beginning of the Neolithic, the human population was about a million worldwide spread across the 5 continents. Most people lived in small, migrating tribes that hunted over a large area.
Human density was so small conflicts over territory and natural resources could hardly take place because if one group's numbers become too large, they simply break up into several smaller ones and migrate to other areas. In fact, the chances of running into another human being that is not of your tribe must be very slim.

Therefore, I could not imagine that human society could have been that violent.
what do you guys think?
Back to Top
Sponsored Links


Back to Top
Goban View Drop Down
General
General
Avatar

Joined: 09 Mar 2006
Status: Offline
Points: 791
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Goban Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Jan 2010 at 16:54
Hi Calvo,
 
Even with your low estimates of population there is strong evidence for wide trading networks, even in the Lower Paleolithic. At least lithic raw materials throughout the paleolithic reaching hundreds of kilometers away from known sources that are well  beyond what is understood to be the maximum Hunter Gatherer round. This is probably due to a rich exchange network system based on generalized reciprocity (not conflict). Example, if I give you a piece of this very homogeneous chert (not all of it mind you just a piece) then you may help me and my tribe during lean times--particularly if you have only chunky lithics that are difficult to work with. I could also keep the source location from you and have you and others dependant on me to at least acquire this resource. But you also may have resources that I cannot get (like maritime resources) that I am now fond of... or maybe need..
 
Also, the trading may in many cases involve large communal gatherings (perhaps annually) where the trading of goods took place and also the important finding of new mates (if you keep your genes within your family things can get weird). Actually, there is evidence of this even in the Lower Paleolithic too (H. erectus).
 
So, undoubtedly there was conflict. If you subscribe to the "upper Paleolithic Revolution" then humans had the cognitive capabilities like you and me and everyone else 50 thousand years ago (maybe 40KYA). If not, then perhaps as much, much longer. So, it is reasonable to say that conflict was present just like we can see today. But, it may have been more important to stay on good terms with your neighbors for resources, marrying off your daughters (sons), and helping during lean times.  
Back to Top
Dolphin View Drop Down
Caliph
Caliph
Avatar
Teaman to the Society of Dilettanti

Joined: 06 Feb 2007
Location: Lindalino
Status: Offline
Points: 2766
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dolphin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Jan 2010 at 17:35
To add to the general question: is there any evidence of how women were treated? One would imagine a more primitive society would use physical force as a more primary determinant of authority.
Back to Top
calvo View Drop Down
Chieftain
Chieftain


Joined: 20 May 2007
Status: Offline
Points: 1357
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote calvo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Jan 2010 at 17:47
As far as most anthropologists conclude, women held a relatively high status in paleolithic societies, as reflected in the hunter-gatherer tribes today of the Amazons and Central Africa.
Although physical force was a major determinant in hunting, the fact is that gathered fruits and vegetables contributed more to the diet.

In the edition of National Geographic last month there was a report on one of the last hunter-gatherer tribes in Tazania who still live very much in the paleolithic, and an important social aspect (compared to neighbouring farming communities) was the great deal of freedom that women enjoyed (although society was patrilineal). Most of the women who married out of the community got divorced because they were incapable of "obeying" their husbands.

Violence between hunter-gatherer tribes today are rather common, but the same scenario could hardly be applied to the Paleolithic age because most of these tribes today occupy a very small territory, not enough for them to feed on so conflicts over limited resources would be frequent. 
Imagine if we had 1 million people spread all over the globe, the situation would have been very different.

As Goban has mentioned, trading networks did exist. I could imagine that tribes usually obeyed the consistent migration routes so that they could always expect to meet up with other populations at a given time and place every year.
Regarding conflicts, they probably did exist, but I couldn't imagine it to have happened on a large scale because people were very few and everyone strongly depended on the others.

Back to Top
Goban View Drop Down
General
General
Avatar

Joined: 09 Mar 2006
Status: Offline
Points: 791
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Goban Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Jan 2010 at 17:58
These 'primitive' societies were more often egalitarian, so a dominant authority can perhaps be out of context as we define it. It is also difficult to tease out of the archaeological record just how women were treated with any precision-the most we can offer is to make inferences about possible sexual division of labor (much of which is inferred from historic ethnographic accounts of contemporary hunter and gatherer populations).
 
 
Edit: I posted this without seeing your post Calvo sorry about that Smile


Edited by Goban - 21 Jan 2010 at 18:01
Back to Top
Mixcoatl View Drop Down
King
King


Joined: 02 Aug 2004
Location: Poyais
Status: Offline
Points: 5042
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mixcoatl Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Jan 2010 at 15:25
Originally posted by calvo calvo wrote:

Human density was so small conflicts over territory and natural resources could hardly take place because if one group's numbers become too large, they simply break up into several smaller ones and migrate to other areas. In fact, the chances of running into another human being that is not of your tribe must be very slim.

Any idea what they did against inbreeding?
Back to Top
Goban View Drop Down
General
General
Avatar

Joined: 09 Mar 2006
Status: Offline
Points: 791
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Goban Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Jan 2010 at 15:38
Originally posted by Mixcoatl Mixcoatl wrote:

Originally posted by calvo calvo wrote:

Human density was so small conflicts over territory and natural resources could hardly take place because if one group's numbers become too large, they simply break up into several smaller ones and migrate to other areas. In fact, the chances of running into another human being that is not of your tribe must be very slim.

Any idea what they did against inbreeding?
 
Read my posts..
Back to Top
fantasus View Drop Down
Arch Duke
Arch Duke
Avatar

Joined: 07 May 2009
Location: Denmark
Status: Offline
Points: 1943
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Jan 2010 at 18:10
Some reasons to doubt the above "picture" of palaeolithic period.
While it is reasonable to think populations may have been low, and human impact on environment too we should not on the other hand forget the uncertaqinty of the material.
1: A smaller proportion of human remains and artefacts may  have survived untill today.
2: If they still exist there may be many layers above them, making discovery more unlikely.
3: Population distributions may have been more different from today than at later times, making discovery less likely and more difficult because of natural changes in climate, unexpected distribution of food ressources and similar factors.
4: Changing coastlines, making an extremely different geography. Perhaps an area not very different in size of Africa came under seawater level after iceages. Once rivers, lakes and fertile areas were not distributed as now. Perhaps research under water, especially arcchaeology, may change our view soon?
 
Back to Top
calvo View Drop Down
Chieftain
Chieftain


Joined: 20 May 2007
Status: Offline
Points: 1357
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote calvo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Jan 2010 at 18:42
The estimation of 1 million isn't based on archaeological evidence, but rather a mathematical assumption on how many people an area of forrest or steppe could feed on by the hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

From 60000 years ago, human beings expanded from their original habitat in East Africa to colonise the rest of the world. By 20000 years ago, most of the Eurasian, African, and Australian continents had already been settled by humans.
As hunter-gatherers, a large extension of land could only feed a small number of people. Most tribes were nomadic, and when the fruit and game in one area ran scarce they would move on to the next.
Considering that all the habitable land had been settled by humans, the population could only reach an average of 1 million.
Of course, during the ice age the number would have been smaller, and during wetter and warmer periods the population could have been larger.

It wasn't until the agricultural revolution of the Neolithic age that human populations began to rapidly expand, because a same extension of land could feed a population 100 times larger if it was cultivated. This was when large settlements of 5000-10,000 appeared, paving the way to the first cities.

Back to Top
fantasus View Drop Down
Arch Duke
Arch Duke
Avatar

Joined: 07 May 2009
Location: Denmark
Status: Offline
Points: 1943
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Jan 2010 at 19:40
Originally posted by calvo calvo wrote:

The estimation of 1 million isn't based on archaeological evidence, but rather a mathematical assumption on how many people an area of forrest or steppe could feed on by the hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

From 60000 years ago, human beings expanded from their original habitat in East Africa to colonise the rest of the world. By 20000 years ago, most of the Eurasian, African, and Australian continents had already been settled by humans.
As hunter-gatherers, a large extension of land could only feed a small number of people. Most tribes were nomadic, and when the fruit and game in one area ran scarce they would move on to the next.
Considering that all the habitable land had been settled by humans, the population could only reach an average of 1 million.
Of course, during the ice age the number would have been smaller, and during wetter and warmer periods the population could have been larger.

It wasn't until the agricultural revolution of the Neolithic age that human populations began to rapidly expand, because a same extension of land could feed a population 100 times larger if it was cultivated. This was when large settlements of 5000-10,000 appeared, paving the way to the first cities.

Perhaps, but I think there is very great uncertainty.
I have seen estimates of Australian population prior to european colonisation of about three hundred thousands. And that continent is perhaps about 5 % of earths land, and full of desserts and little fertile land, and untill recently neither agriculture nor domesticated animals.
And, as I wrote much could be hidden under shallow waters, perhaps some of the most ferile and populated areas, since they are often coastal lands and rivermouths.
Today the most fertile lands are occupied for agriculture or other human use, with the result the world today must miss much wild animals and plants, the basic ressource for hunters and gatherers.  Sea ressourcess are strained by overfishing etcetera.
All this make me think there could have been much greatwer popultations at that time.
 
Back to Top
 Post Reply Post Reply
  Share Topic   

Forum Jump Forum Permissions View Drop Down

Forum Software by Web Wiz Forums® version 11.10
Copyright ©2001-2017 Web Wiz Ltd.

This page was generated in 0.078 seconds.